Published in PC Hardware

Yangtze Memory Technologies forces US employees to leave

by on24 October 2022

US export controls mean losing your job or your citizenship

The Financial Times claims that Chinese chipmaker Yangtze Memory Technologies [YMTC] has asked American employees in core tech positions to leave.

It is unclear how many US citizens and green card holders would be forced to leave YMTC, but several in China had already left the memory chip producer.

A senior YMTC engineer said some of the Americans were key to the company’s breakthroughs on Nand memory chip production. “But there’s no other way around [them leaving],” the person added.

For those who came in late, the US has been acting tough on Chinese chip makers and bought in tough export restrictions which are so tough that they make Chuck Norris look like a weak liberal.

Leading US chip equipment suppliers Lam Research, Applied Materials, and KLA Corporation have suspended sales and services to semiconductor manufacturers in China. Netherlands-based ASML has told its US staff to stop serving all Chinese customers while it assesses the sanctions.

The new rules require any US citizen or entity to seek permission from the Department of Commerce for providing support to fabrication plants, or fabs, upending a key pipeline of talent for China’s chip industry that relies in part on American engineers and scientists’ expertise to advance its tech. This includes hundreds of ethnic Chinese who were educated and trained in the US before returning to their country of birth.

YMTC’s longstanding chief executive Simon Yang, a US passport holder, stepped down from his post just ahead of the sanctions announcement, in a move two people said was triggered by Washington’s increasing pressure on the company.

It appears that the US has placed its citizens in the position of saying either lose your job or you lose your citizenship. 

A person briefed on the turmoil at YMTC said Washington’s export controls left the company with little choice. “Asking staff to resign is necessary for the company and the right move for employees’ personal risk as well,” the person said.

A different Chinese executive at a Shanghai-based state-backed chipmaker said the company was negotiating the exit of several Americans who were unwilling to give up their US passports.

“For now we’ve asked our US staff to work from home until everyone’s situation is finalised,” the person said, noting they had also rescinded a job offer to an American passport holder.

“Now we are not just trying to build up ‘US-free’ manufacturing lines but also de-Americanise the teams,” said the executive.

Industry headhunters said the rules would cut down the pool of talent available for Chinese semiconductor companies, which are already struggling to find experienced staff.


Last modified on 24 October 2022
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