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March 24, 2017

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Ex-chief of Taiwan chipmaker takes senior role at Chinese rival

By Christine Chou -- Chinese semiconductor giant Tsinghua Unigroup (紫光集團) has appointed the former CEO of leading Taiwanese chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC, 聯電) as global vice president, high-level executives of the Chinese company confirmed Monday.

Sun Shih-wei (孫世偉), UMC's former chief executive officer, is the latest in a string of heavyweights in the local semiconductor industry who have accepted offers to work for mainland rivals.

Sun is expected to help Tsinghua Unigroup's efforts in building a 12-inch memory-chip factory in Chengdu and in logic IC production.

According to local media, the state-controlled chipmaker sought Sun for his extensive experience in chip production and foundry planning.

The firm recently invested US$20 billion to construct the Chengdu foundry, with the hope of turning the city into a key manufacturing hub for logic ICs.

Sun's appointment was confirmed by Charles Kau (高啟全), dubbed the godfather of the local DRAM industry, who assumed a high-ranking executive role at Tsinghua Unigroup after retiring from Nanya Technology (南亞科).

Already the world's largest consumer of semiconductors, China is aiming to boost its national self-sufficiency rate for ICs to 70 percent by 2025, for its homegrown semiconductor industry to catch up technologically — in the design, fabrication and packaging of chips — with the world's leading firms by 2030.

Data from the International Trade Administration, an agency under the U.S. Commerce Department, shows China accounted for over half of global consumption in 2015, and that it relied on imports to meet 91 percent of its semiconductor needs in late 2014.

Last month, Tsinghua Unigroup and another mainland Chinese semiconductor company, Hefei Chang Xin (合肥長鑫), sent shockwaves through the market after reports revealed they had been offering ever more lucrative salaries — up to a three-fold increases — to recruit Taiwanese talent.

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