Tencent founder vows to support China's chip development

Pony Ma, founder and CEO of Tencent, said the company will utilize its popular messaging app WeChat to support the development of Chinese chips after ZTE's woes.

Founder of Chinese technology giant Tencent Pony Ma has vowed to advance development of the Chinese semiconductor industry following the US government ban on ZTE.

Speaking during the Future Forum X Shenzhen Summit in China, Ma said the recent ZTE woes represent a cruel reality that a country will fall behind without key technologies in chips and operating systems, even if it already leads mobile payments globally, according to a NetEase report. Ma described the ZTE incident as a "wake-up call".

"Although the ZTE stunt is on the progress to reach an resolution, we should never let down guard. Instead, we should pay more attention to the research of basic sciences which remain very weak throughout China," Ma said.

ZTE was hit with a ban by the US Commerce Department preventing US companies from selling hardware and equipment to the Chinese telecom equipment maker for seven years. The export restrictions were imposed after it was alleged that ZTE lied to the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in relation to the discipline of senior staff apparently involved in illegal trade deals with Iran and North Korea.

Ma advised Chinese governments, relevant industry, academia, and research agencies to work together to lift the level of research on basic sciences in the country. He also said domestic enterprises should consider funding scientists to return home to work at domestic universities.

Ma added that Tencent is studying how to support the development of China's chip industry. Admitting that chip research and development not be a strength of application-oriented Tencent, Ma said Tencent's massive applications, users, and datacentres could provide an incentive for China's semiconductor industry to design and develop chips to feed Tencent's services and demand.

Also, Tencent will explore the opportunities to better support the operations of its applications and mini-apps on domestic chips, according to Ma. Tencent's popular messaging app, WeChat, active monthly users of which have almost topped 1 billion worldwide, could also be utilized to support the development of Chinese chips, he added.

Chip development is one of the key parts of its Made in China 2025 plan, which aims to bolster the country's technology strengths against other developed rivals, especially the US. The Chinese government wants local chips to make up at least 40 percent of China's semiconductor needs by the middle of the next decade, Reuters reported last month.

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