RISC-V Chips Are China’s Trump Card in the Ongoing Tech Clash With the US

The US has recently tightened its regulations on selling sophisticated chip technology and equipment to Chinese organizations. Thus, China is placing its hopes in an open-source chip design architecture to enable the nation to attain semiconductor self-sufficiency.

RISC-V Architecture

As detailed by South China Morning Post (SCMP), 11 Chinese semiconductor firms showed off their newest processors based on the RISC-V architecture at an industry event this week.

The said event clearly indicates China’s escalating attempts to break away from mainstream chip design standards held by Western businesses.

As the China RISC-V Industry Consortium puts it, these chips “represent China’s advanced level of integrated circuit (IC) designs.” 

They were developed by a collection of RISC-V startups in Beijing and Shanghai, with IC design firm VeriSilicon Holdings.

The RISC-V computer, developed in 2010 at the University of California in Berkeley, is the fifth generation of reduced instruction set computers and is open-source. This means that anybody may access it for no cost.

However, British company Arm controls the design architecture of most smartphone processors worldwide. At the same time, American tech titan Intel Corp develops X86, the dominant chip design framework for desktop and laptop computers.

Also Read: China’s Semiconductor Industry Sees Huge Demand in Chip Industry for 2024: Here’s What The Nation is Doing to Solve it

Shanghai’s Participation

As part of the country’s effort to become less reliant on foreign technology, Shanghai has begun developing RISC-V. 

In July 2018, reports indicated that the city provided financial incentives to support the development of RISC-V processors and associated intellectual property (IP) cores as part of a broader package to enhance its semiconductor sector.

Some businesses claim to have made major technical advances with the new chips introduced on Wednesday, Nov. 30. 

These include a wide variety of applications, from personal computers (PCs) and automobiles to wireless communications and energy management.

Shanghai-based startup StarFive, formed in 2018 in collaboration with industry leader SiFive, has announced that its new RISC-V central processing unit (CPU) is intended to “directly benchmark” against Arm’s Cortex-A76, also released in 2018.

The Chinese manufacturer claims its latest offering is the world’s first RISC-V processor designed to work with mainstream laptop and micro PC programs – all thanks to 12-nanometer manufacturing nodes.

Another new firm in Shanghai, Artosyn, claimed the world’s first 150M-7GHz full-band wireless system-on-a-chip with the release of its latest communication chip, the AR8030. 

T-Head, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group Holdings, is responsible for developing the underlying RISC-V CPU core. 

Some of the RISC-V processors developed by Timesintelli Technology, another Shanghai-based chip design firm, have been touted as comparable to Arm’s Cortex M and Cortex R.

Future Prospects

Corporate leaders anticipate releasing a flood of these chips to consumers in 2023, said SCMP.

According to VeriSilicon founder and chairman Wayne Dai, the transition from research and development to mass manufacturing and dispatch is significant.

Dai claims that of the 10 RISC-V chips announced at last year’s meeting, eight have now entered mass production and shipped more than 10 million units combined.

Although RISC-V provides China with a chance to break into the market for CPU designs, the nation continues to rely significantly on IP cores made by companies in the US and Britain.

In the near future, RISC-V will be used primarily in high-demand Chinese markets, such as smart home appliances, wearables, surveillance cameras, automotive electronics, and industrial robots.

Also Read: EU Agrees with $44 Billion Plan to Fund Semiconductor Production, Reduces Reliance with US and Asian Manufacturers

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