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China to Limit the Export of Solar Technology; Experts Express Concern

On December 30, 2022, China’s Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Science and Technology released a draft of the “Catalogue of China’s Prohibited and Restricted Technologies for Export” for public consultation. It includes “photovoltaic silicon wafer (solar silicon wafer) technology” in the list of restricted export technologies.

However, some experts have expressed concerns that limiting the export of solar technology could harm China’s related industries. Bai Chong’en, dean of the School of Economics and Management of Tsinghua University, who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, stated in his proposal that many overseas enterprises are already seeking alternative solutions to Chinese technology. In particular, companies in Europe and the United States are restarting the manufacturing of slicer equipment and the construction of solar rod pulling and slicing capacity.

Bai believes that foreign countries have been reducing their dependence on China’s energy sector in recent years and that restricting the exportation of solar silicon wafer preparation technology would be detrimental to China’s related industries. He also stated that the technological barrier for solar silicon wafer preparation is not high and that China’s solar industry mainly relies on the advantages of a mature supply chain and low labor costs to maintain its leading position. Moreover, other countries such as the United States, Europe, Japan, and Taiwan already possess semiconductor-grade monocrystalline silicon wafer production technology, which naturally equips them with the ability to produce solar silicon wafers.

Bai expressed concern that if China restricts the export of this technology, the prolonged approval process could make overseas cooperation and negotiations more uncertain, potentially missing the best opportunities for overseas deployment. Instead, foreign companies that master semiconductor silicon wafer technology, such as those in Europe, the United States, Japan, and South Korea, could quickly form a substitute for Chinese solar companies.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), March 6, 2023