Fifty years of ups and downs, out of the archipelago.

Editor’s note: This article is from WeChat public account “Brain polar body” (ID: unity007) , author I am a panda, reproduced with permission.

The recent news that Matsushita has sold its semiconductor business to Taiwanese company Nuvoton Technology once again reminds us of the decline of the Japanese semiconductor industry. You know, Panasonic has been involved in the semiconductor business since the 1950s, and it has been nearly 70 years.

Even with deep losses, Panasonic ’s semiconductor business last year had a turnover of nearly 6 billion yuan, which is 2.6 times that of Xintang ’s New Tang Technology. This shows that Panasonic ’s determination to stop meat loss. The Japanese government, which was rumored last year to push Renesas, Panasonic, and Fujitsu to talk about a merger of semiconductors, is now naturally broken.

From this acquisition news, we might as well try, besides the word “decline”, what else can we read from the Japanese semiconductor industry in recent years?

Fifty years of ups and downs

There has been much discussion about the rise and decline of Japanese semiconductors.

The rise of Japanese semiconductors is actually close to the logic of China’s development of science and technology industry today. Since the 1950s, the Japanese government has given great support to the semiconductor industry. Not only has the Provisional Measures for the Revitalization of the Electronics Industry been promulgated, the foreign capital has been solemnly restricted to protect local enterprises, the Industrial Technology Institute has also been established, and financial resources have been allocated to vigorously promote basic research.

With the support from the United States after the war, the Showa children were very enthusiastic. They first made rapid progress in the transistor industry, and bought the transistor integrated circuit manufacturing process from Fairchild in the United States through paid technology authorization. Continue to the terminal.

By the 1980s, Japan ’s technology reserve advantages in dynamic read-write memory (DRAM) were brought into full play, surpassing IBM, Intel and other companies and entering a heyday.

Especially the 1980s and 1990s coincided with the development boom of the PC, automobile and other industries, and the Japanese semiconductor industry was able to continue to gain revenue and then put it into production. At one time, six of the top ten semiconductor companies in the world were from Japan, and Japanese chips had a global market share of 53%.

The next story is familiar to everyone. The United States used political means to force the use of the “US-Japan Semiconductor Agreement” to open the Japanese market. The Japanese government has also implemented trade protection for a long time, forcibly pushing up production capacity and lowering profits, making semiconductor companies’ profitability not high, and naturally reducing R & D investment. Not only was it surpassed by Korean companies on its own good DRAM, but it also failed to catch up with the subsequent CPU boom.

Japanese semiconductors that break the Galapagos curse cannot be taken lightly < / p>

Especially in the development of the last ten years, the Japanese semiconductor industry has exhibited a unique “glorious isolation” temperament, severely fragmented from the global industrial chain, and a large number of product platforms use self-produced main control CPUs and operating systems, and even once worked The software abandons Office’s choice of its own “Itaro”.

The end result is just like what you see now. The collapse of the Japanese semiconductor business, the shutdown of the shutdown, and the prosperity of the day will never return.

The throat in the downstream of the industry chain

But it is worth noting that the Japanese semiconductor industry is only relatively isolated in the terminal field. If you trace back to the upstream of the industrial chain, you can find that Japanese semiconductors still dominate the world.

The trade war between Japan and South Korea has confirmed this year.

In July this year, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced that it will strengthen export control of three semiconductor materials such as “fluoropolyimide”, photoresist and “high-purity hydrogen fluoride” to South Korea. Among the materials, fluoropolyimide is an important material for the production of OLED screens, and photoresist is indispensable in the production of semiconductors. This move immediately caused a strong response from the Korean side, and even caused a surge in South Korea. Anti-Japanese goods trend.

Japanese semiconductors that break the Galapagos curse cannot be taken lightly

The reason why Japan can jam South Korea’s neck by restricting exports is because Japan is firmly dominating the upstream of the semiconductor industry chain-among the necessary materials such as field-control silicon wafers, photomask technology, and semiconductor wafer synthesis, Many of them are half occupied by Japanese companies. As for the equipment necessary for semiconductor production such as exposure equipment, cleaning equipment, and oxidizing furnaces, Japan also has more than 50% of the market share of ten equipment.

The research and development costs in these areas are extremely high, and there are strong technical barriers. At the same time, under the premise of stable demand, the overall profit level is relatively limited. Therefore, under the premise that the global industry chain has been running smoothly before, few people will spend time and money on breaking technical barriers. Japan invested heavily in R & D before the economic bubble burst and is still paying dividends.

So when China and the United States invested in research on carbon nanotubes intended to replace silicon semiconductors, Japanese scholars complained that “Japan’s absence of innovation research and insufficient government support” does not really mean that the Japanese semiconductor industry has fallen to the bottom, only This shows that the Japanese semiconductor industry knows the advantages of its upstream industrial chain and wants to seize it firmly.

Do we still have to determine the failure of Japan Semiconductor?

The reason why Japan can firmly hold the upstream of the industrial chain is because the world’s technology industry adopts a default industrial chain sharing system. Japanese production equipment and materials, South Korean and American chip products, and China are responsible for making products And sell it to the entire world. It is precisely because all parties in the industry chain can obtain sufficient benefits that they will not infringe each other. In particular, according to Soros’s theory, the market does not have a self-healing function, and can only repeat errors. What happened next is likely to be the chaos of the industrial chain as a whole, with different roles of divisions rolling over each other.

Japanese semiconductors that break the Galapagos curse cannot be taken lightly

But whether it is the trade friction between China and the United States, or Japan ’s export restrictions on South Korea, all signs show that this industrial chain is no longer safe, especially in the face of upstream technologies such as equipment production and raw materials. Take it lightly.

If the industrial chain earthquake is regarded as the first change in the global semiconductor industry, the second change is that the demand pattern of the semiconductor industry is changing.

Since 2016, the pace of development of new technologies such as AI, 5G, and IoT is accelerating. The primary prerequisite for the development of industries such as the Internet of Everything, smart industries, smart cities, and autonomous driving is to drive the growth of chip demand. It seems that in the future, even a drinking glass will be equipped with a chip to exchange information with the kettle. Although Japan has not achieved much on IoT chips, AI chips or 5G chips, the demand for semiconductor raw materials and equipment alone may change the current industrial structure.

In this case, we are too arrogant to judge that Japan Semiconductor is still immersed in failure just because of an acquisition news.

Focus on what to sell, rather than what to buy

In many cases, we will treat the business of selling a company as a pawnshop. In fact, business behavior will never be based on “bankruptcy”, but to create more benefits to face the Japanese semiconductor industry. We can’t always look at what they sell, but alsoSee what they bought.

In fact, over the years, Japanese semiconductor companies have been selling and shutting down non-profit-making businesses, and the other side has not stopped buying. We can look at two typical acquisitions that took place this year:

From 2018 to 2019, Renesas, a Japanese semiconductor maker, has completed the acquisition of IDT, a company that supplies analog mixed-signal products mainly based on sensors, connected cars and wireless power supplies.The price is as high as 6.7 billion. The acquisition of the US dollar has set a new record for the Japanese semiconductor industry in the past decade. In August of this year, the American semiconductor wafer foundry company Grofonte sold its photomask assets to Japan’s Toppan.

Japanese semiconductors that break the Galapagos curse cannot be taken lightly

From this, we can find two points. First, from the perspective of stable business, semiconductor companies in Japan, the United States, and Taiwan are constantly selling their businesses and assets to their own cooperative companies. This sale is relatively opposed to the actual operation of the business. Smaller, more like a means for upstream and downstream companies in the industry chain to find balanced development. Furthermore, from a long-term perspective, Japanese semiconductor companies are brazen enough to buy and buy in the face of automotive / driving, a promising field in the future.

At the same time, in terms of technological research, Japan is also constantly looking for breakthroughs. Aside from the basic plan of “Innovation and Promotion Projects for Accelerating the Development of AI Chips” proposed by national R & D institutions, the Japanese academic community is also actively engaged with industrial industries in various countries. contact.

Take the Taiwanese semiconductor industry, which is also a “friend and friend” of Japan, the two sides have very close exchanges. TEEIA (Taiwan Electronic Equipment Association) organizes a delegation each year to visit Kyushu, Japan ’s semiconductor base, for exchanges and learning. University of Tokyo In November, it was proposed to form an alliance with TSMC to research advanced semiconductor technology. The degree of initiative of Japanese academics in semiconductor industry research is evident.

In this case, Japan is still a very strong player in the semiconductor industry. With the rise and fall of fifty years, the strength of the semiconductor industry has dissipated along with the Japanese economic bubble, but like the Japanese economy, it has left a solid foundation.

Speaking of the development curve of Japanese science and technology, people often like to use the Galapagos phenomenon to describe it. In this archipelago of the South Pacific, because the environment is too closed, the species has stopped evolving, so a large number of living fossils have been retained. . And because of the cessation of evolution, these living fossils have lost their ability to fight the outside world. But do n’t forget that in the thirty years of Japan ’s continuous economic invasion, semiconductor equipment and materials have moved out of the Galapagos Islands., Standing on the upper reaches of the world food chain.

Such creatures cannot be taken lightly. In the future reform of the semiconductor industry, Japan will still be China’s most valuable learning object and the most powerful opponent.