The ByteDance team will develop AI chips as China aims for self-sufficiency

BEIJING (Reuters) – ByteDance, Chinese owner of TikTok, is planning to develop semiconductors, according to the company’s job offers and a source familiar with the situation.

The plan is still in an early stage and the company is focusing on ARM-based server-side chips, the person told Reuters.

ByteDance, based in Beijing, has posted a dozen semiconductor-related job postings on its official website, based primarily in Beijing and Shanghai.

The company has created a team to explore the development of artificial intelligence chips, ByteDance told Chinese business magazine Caijing.

ByteDance did not offer immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

Chinese tech giants are stepping up efforts to design their own chips in sign of China’s ambitions to reduce its reliance on foreign manufacturers such as Qualcomm Inc and Nvidia Corp.

US sanctions imposed on hardware maker Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd prevented the Chinese telecom giant from sourcing components, including semiconductors, crippling its smartphone business.

China is the largest semiconductor buyer in the world, but its ability to produce chips domestically lags behind the United States, Japan and South Korea.

According to research firm ICInsights, of the $ 143 billion chips sold in China in 2020, only $ 22.7 billion were produced in China and only $ 8.3 billion were produced by Chinese-based companies.

Chinese search engine giant Baidu has completed a funding round for its AI chip unit Kunlun, which values ​​the unit at around $ 2 billion, Reuters reported on Monday.

Baidu is also considering making the unit a standalone company to commercialize its chip design capabilities.

Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant, unveiled an AI chip for its cloud computing products in late 2019.

Chinese artificial intelligence unicorn SenseTime began work on developing homemade AI chips after being added to a U.S. trade list by Washington in 2019, Reuters reported.

Reportage by Yingzhi Yang and Tony Munroe in Beijing; Editing by Stephen Coates