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China pursues tech ‘self-reliance,’ fueling global unease

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China pursues tech ‘self-reliance,’ fueling global unease

BEIJING (AP) — To help make China a self-reliant “technology superpower,” the ruling Communist Party is pushing the world’s biggest e-commerce company to take on the tricky, expensive business of designing its own processor chips — a business unlike anything Alibaba Group has done before.

Its 3-year-old chip unit, T-Head, unveiled its third processor in October, the Yitian 710 for Alibaba’s cloud computing business. Alibaba says for now, it has no plans to sell the chip to outsiders.

Other rookie chip developers including Tencent, a games and social media giant, and smartphone brand Xiaomi are pledging billions of dollars in line with official plans to create computing, clean energy and other technology that can build China’s wealth and global influence.

Processor chips play an increasingly critical role in products from smartphones and cars to medical devices and home appliances. Shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic are disrupting global manufacturing and adding to worries about supplies.

Chips are a top priority in the ruling Communist Party’s marathon campaign to end China’s reliance on technology from the United States, Japan and other suppliers Beijing sees as potential economic and strategic rivals. If it succeeds, business and political leaders warn that might slow down innovation, disrupt global trade and make the world poorer.

“Self-reliance is the foundation for the Chinese nation,” President Xi Jinping said in a speech released in March. He called for China to become a “technology superpower” to safeguard “national economic security.”

“We must strive to become the world’s main center of science and the high ground of innovation,” Xi said.

Beijing might be chasing a costly disappointment. Even with huge official investments, businesspeople and analysts say chipmakers and other companies will struggle to compete if they detach from global suppliers of advanced components and technology — a goal no other country is pursuing.

“It’s hard to imagine any one country rebuilding all of that and having the best technology,” said Peter Hanbury, who follows the industry for Bain & Co.

Beijing’s campaign is adding to tension with Washington and Europe, which see China as a strategic competitor and complain it steals technology. They limit access to tools needed to improve its industries.

If the world were to decouple, or split into markets with incompatible standards and products, U.S.- or European-made parts might not work in Chinese computers or cars. Smartphone makers who have a single dominant global operating system and two network standards might need to make unique versions for different markets. That could slow down development.

Washington and Beijing need to “avoid that the world becomes separated,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told The Associated Press in September.

China’s factories assemble the world’s smartphones and tablet computers but need components from the United States, Europe, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Chips are China’s biggest import, ahead of crude oil, at more than $300 billion last year.

Official urgency over that grew after Huawei Technologies Ltd., China’s first global tech brand, lost access to U.S. chips and other technology in 2018 under sanctions imposed by the White House.

That crippled the telecom equipment maker’s ambition to be a leader in next-generation smartphones. American officials say Huawei is a security risk and might aid Chinese spying, an accusation the company denies.

Huawei and some Chinese rivals are close to matching Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc., South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and Britain’s Arm Ltd. at being able to design “bleeding edge” logic chips for smartphones, according to industry analysts.

But when it comes to making them, foundries such as state-owned SMIC in Shanghai are up to a decade behind industry leaders including TSMC, or Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., which produces chips for Apple Inc. and other global brands.

Even companies such as Alibaba that can design chips likely will need Taiwanese or other foreign foundries to make them. Alibaba’s Yitian 710 requires precision no Chinese foundry can achieve. The company declined to say which foreign producer it will use.

“My country still faces a big gap in chip technology,” said industry analyst Liu Chuntian of Zero Power Intelligence Group.

China accounts for 23% of global chip production capacity but only 7.6% of sales.

Packing millions of transistors onto a fingernail-size sliver of silicon requires some 1,500 steps, microscopic precision and arcane technologies owned by a handful of U.S., European, Japanese and other suppliers.

They include KLA Corp. in California for super-precise measurement and Japan’s TEL for machines to apply coatings a few molecules thick. Many are covered by restrictions on “dual use” technologies that can be used in weapons.

China “lags significantly” in tools, materials and production technology, the Semiconductor Industry Association said in a report this year.

Washington and Europe, citing security worries, block access to the most advanced tools Chinese chipmakers need to match global leaders in precision and efficiency.

Without those, China is falling farther behind, said Bain’s Hanbury.

“The TSMC horse is sprinting away and the Chinese horse is stopped,” he said. “They can’t move forward.”

Washington stepped up pressure on Huawei last year by barring global foundries from using American technology to produce its chips. U.S. vendors can sell chips to the company, but not for next-generation “5G” smartphones.

For its part, the European Union said it will review foreign investments after complaints China was eroding Europe’s technology lead by purchasing important assets such as German robot maker Kuka.

Alibaba’s Yitian 710 is based on architecture from Britain’s Arm, highlighting China’s enduring need for foreign know-how. Alibaba said it still will work closely with longtime foreign suppliers Intel, Arm, Nvidia Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

T-Head’s first chip, the Hanguang 800, was announced in 2019 for artificial intelligence. Its second, the XuanTie 910, is for self-driving cars and other functions.

In November, Tencent Holding, which operates the WeChat messaging service, announced its first three chips for artificial intelligence, cloud computing and video.

Beijing says it will spend $150 billion from 2014 through 2030 to develop its chip industry, but even that is a fraction of what global leaders invest. TSMC plans to spend $100 billion in the next three years on research and manufacturing.

China is trying to buy experience by hiring engineers from TSMC and other Taiwanese producers. Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory and has threatened to attack, has responded by imposing curbs on job advertising.

Beijing encourages smartphone and other manufacturers to use suppliers within China, even if they cost more, but officials deny China wants to detach from global industries.

“We will never go back in history by seeking to decouple,” Xi said in a speech by video link to a November meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Malaysia.

The latest conflict is over photolithography, which uses ultraviolet light to etch circuits into silicon on a scale measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter.

The leader is ASML in the Netherlands, which makes machines that can etch transistors just 5 nanometers apart. That would pack 2 million into a space one centimeter wide.

China’s SMIC is about one-third as precise at 14 nanometers. Taiwan’s TSMC is preparing to increase its precision to 2 nanometers.

SMIC wants to upgrade by purchasing ASML’s latest machine, but the Dutch government has yet to agree.

“We will wait for their decision,” said an ASML spokeswoman, Monica Mols, in an email.

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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