China’s largest chipmaker SMIC chairman resigns amidst U.S. pressure

Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC), China’s leading chipmaker, faced another board-level departure as Chairman Gao Yonggang resigned.
SMIC at a trade eventGao Yonggang, who took on the role of chairman in March 2022 after serving as the company’s chief financial officer, also stepped down from his executive director position due to a “job adjustment,” as stated in a Monday press release by SMIC.

In Gao’s place, Liu Xunfeng, the vice chairman of the board, will assume the position of chairman. Notably, Liu also serves as vice chairman of the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park Development and is a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a prominent political advisory body to China’s parliament. Prior to joining SMIC, Liu held various roles at China Petroleum & Chemical, commonly known as Sinopec, and Shanghai Huayi Group, both significant players in the chemical industry.

SMIC has been at the forefront of China’s efforts to narrow the technology gap with chip manufacturing giants such as Japan, South Korea, and the United States. However, the company has encountered challenges due to U.S. export controls, which restrict its access to advanced manufacturing equipment.

This recent departure adds to a series of high-level resignations from SMIC in recent years. In 2021, then-chairman Zhou Zixue resigned for health reasons, and Taiwanese semiconductor industry veteran and former TSMC executive Chiang Shang-yi, along with three board members, also departed the company. Additionally, former Arm executive William Tudor Brown resigned as an independent non-executive director of the board last year.

As SMIC navigates the complex landscape of global chip technology competition and confronts U.S. pressures, the company faces significant challenges in maintaining stable leadership and further advancing its position in the semiconductor industry.