China’s Integrated Circuits Imports and Exports Decline, Reflecting Sluggish Market and Growing Domestic Capabilities

China’s General Administration of Customs has released new data revealing a decline in both the quantity and value of China’s integrated circuits imports and exports for the full year of 2023. This decline is attributed to global economic headwinds, the ban on the sale of high-end AI chips to China, and the nation’s advancements in independent chip production.

An Overview of China’s Integrated Circuits Imports in 2023

In the full year of 2023, China imported a total of 479.56 billion integrated circuits, marking a year-on-year decrease of 10.8%, with a corresponding value of 2,590.7 billion yuan, reflecting a 10.6% decrease.

According to data released by the General Administration of Customs on the major commodities in China’s import and export for 2023, the total value of goods traded reached 17.98424 trillion yuan, with integrated circuits accounting for 13.6% of the total import value.

Despite a 10.6% year-on-year decline in the value of integrated circuits, it still surpassed the import value of crude oil during the same period, which was 2,373.27 billion yuan, maintaining its position as China’s largest imported commodity.

Since 2013, China’s imports of integrated circuits has exceeded that of crude oil for the first time. Integrated circuits have consistently ranked as the top imported commodity for ten consecutive years.

Examining the breakdown of imported components, the cumulative import value of central processing unit (CPU) parts in China showed a year-on-year increase of 54.9%, while the import value of storage components witnessed a decline of 33.0%. This suggests a higher external dependency on central processors.

Over the past three years, China’s import quantity of integrated circuits showed growth in 2021 but experienced its first decline in nearly two decades in 2022. In 2023, both import quantity and value continued to decrease.

Analyzing the Factors Behind the Decline in Integrated Circuits Imports

The decline in China’s integrated circuit imports is closely tied to the global economic headwinds and the semiconductor industry’s cyclical downturn led to a sluggish market. Despite a year-end market recovery, the overall downward trend throughout the year is evident.

The ban on the sale of high-end AI chips contributed to the initial decline in imports in 2022 due to a U.S. export embargo. However, in 2023, with the rise of generative AI, there was a renewed demand for various large-scale AI models, requiring increased computational power and chips, leading to a need for imports.

The increase in import unit prices is noteworthy, rising from around 4.3 yuan in 2021 to about 5.1 yuan in 2023 per unit. This reflects a willingness by domestic companies to pay higher prices for imports.

Another factor contributing to the decline in imports is the growth of domestic supply. According to the latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s integrated circuit production reached 351.4 billion units in 2023, a 6.9% year-on-year increase from 2022’s 324.2 billion units.

Despite declining demand in 2023, China’s overall capacity continued to grow, showcasing the robust development of the domestic integrated circuit industry. Many analysts are optimistic about China’s prospects in China’s domestic semiconductor capabilities.

The reduction in China’s integrated circuit imports in 2023 indicates progress in the country’s efforts to independently research and produce integrated circuits. As China strengthens investments and technological advancements in the semiconductor industry, domestic semiconductor production capabilities have significantly improved, leading to a gradual decrease in reliance on imported integrated circuits.

An Overview of China’s Integrated Circuits Exports in 2023

In 2023, China’s cumulative exports of integrated circuits reached 267.83 billion units, marking a 1.8% decline compared to 2022. The export value amounted to 956.77 billion yuan, reflecting a 5.0% year-on-year decrease, according to official data.

Examining the export quantity over the past three years, a downward trend in the export of integrated circuits has been observed since 2022.

The decline in exports is partly due to a decrease in market demand amidst an overall economic downturn that impacts the demand for integrated circuits. Increased competitive pressure arises as emerging technologies disrupt the traditional integrated circuit industry, coupled with rapid development in electronic manufacturing by other countries and regions.

Changes in the international trade environment, such as tariffs and trade restrictions, also impacted China’s export of integrated circuits.

Notably, from 2021 to 2023, the export unit prices were 3.2 yuan, 3.7 yuan, and 3.6 yuan, indicating a growth in unit value. This suggests a continuous improvement in China’s domestic integrated circuit industry technology and product quality.

Analyzing China’s Integrated Circuits Exports by Category

There has been a decline in the export of smartphones, tablets, and laptops. However, the decline in smartphones is relatively small, indicating a gradual recovery in the smartphone market after a significant downturn.

In contrast to the decline in consumer electronics, the export of automobiles and electric vehicles (EVs) experienced substantial growth in 2023. China’s automotive production and sales have consistently reached new highs.

In 2021 and 2022, China’s automotive exports consecutively surpassed the milestones of 2 million and 3 million units. In 2023, it leaped over two million-unit thresholds, exporting 5.221 million vehicles, a remarkable 57.4% year-on-year increase.

New energy vehicles (NEVs) are a bright spot in the automotive export industry. One in every three exported vehicles from China is an electric passenger vehicle, totaling 1.773 million units for the year, a 67.1% increase.

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