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China’s 7nm Semiconductor Ambitions Face Hurdles Amid Dutch Export Limitations

The Netherlands has recently joined the United States in enforcing tighter regulations on semiconductor exports to China, a move that could potentially limit China’s ability to mass-produce advanced semiconductors. The Dutch government’s decision targets immersion deep ultraviolet (DUV) equipment, crucial for the production of cutting-edge 7nm semiconductors.

However, some experts argue that China may still have the capacity to mass-produce 7nm semiconductors, as select immersion DUV equipment was not encompassed within the newly announced restrictions. This could indicate that the US and the Netherlands are not seeking to entirely stifle China’s development of semiconductor technology, but rather leaving room for future political negotiations.

The new regulations primarily affect Dutch firm ASML, a prominent semiconductor equipment manufacturer. ASML previously decided in 2019 to limit the sale of its state-of-the-art extreme ultraviolet (EUV) equipment to China. Responding to the recent regulations, the company stated that certain products, such as the TWINCSCAN NXT:2000i and NXT:2050i, may be subject to restrictions. However, it also noted that customers utilizing older processes could continue to use its products without limitations.

Interestingly, ASML’s NXT:1980Di immersion DUV equipment could still be exported to China despite the new restrictions. All immersion DUV equipment possesses the same line width resolution, implying that China may still have the opportunity to implement the 7nm process.

The US is progressively increasing pressure on semiconductor export regulations, transitioning from EUV to immersion DUV while considering the potential adverse consequences for their own semiconductor equipment manufacturers. However, China might encounter challenges in implementing the 7nm process with immersion DUV equipment, given concerns about production efficiency and market competitiveness.

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