Boss of Chinese memory maker Yangtze departs for no obvious reason

No 'corruption' alleged, rumours of a big win selling to Apple make shunting a little odd

The CEO of Chinese RAM and SSD maker Yangtze Memory Technologies Company (YMTC) appears to have stepped down from his position, a move that follows the departure of several other senior Chinese chipmaking execs in recent weeks.

Reports appeared on Chinese media that the decision for CEO Simon Yang to step down and assume his new role as executive vice chairman was the result of a September 28 board meeting.

Yang, an industry veteran, will be replaced by Chen Nanxiang, a former general manager at China Resources Microelectronics. A reason was not given for the change and YMTC has not made an official comment on the move.

"Since [Simon Yang] took over [YMTC], he has led the company to achieve many successes in the field of 3D NAND flash memory, from 32-layer technology to the successful research and development of 64-layer chips, proposed the world's unique Xtacking technology, and then reached the world's advanced level of 128-layer flash memory chips, [Simon Yang], as the core of the team, is indispensable," according to local media outlet IC Rank.

YMTC is China's biggest memory maker and contributes to the nation's tech self-reliance goals. It is also around a quarter state-owned. Tsinghua Unigroup, Hubei provincial government and China's "Big Fund" founded YMTC in July 2016, the year Yang became CEO.

We have asked YMTC for comment.

The Big Fund, more formally known as the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, provides financing to Chinese semiconductor design and manufacturing capabilities. The Fund aims to improve China's competitiveness measured against the capability and output of the US, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Executives associated with the "Big Fund" have not had an easy time lately. Over the past two months, China's anti-corruption enforcers have investigated at least seven execs or former execs associated with management company, Sino IC Capital, and/or the Big Fund. The man who oversaw big investments to YMTC, Ren Kai, was placed under investigation last month.

Few Chinese careers survive a corruption charge, as the nation's government abhors actual corruption. Government officials are also not keen on those who amass sufficient power or influence to challenge the Communist Party, or who fail to achieve government goals. A corruption charge is felt to sometimes be a way of disgracing potential rivals, or punishing failed managers.

The troubles of Big Fund execs could be the result of either use of a corruption charge.

Which is what makes YMTC's actions different, because the company has reportedly score a gig providing parts to Apple's iPhone 14 , placing it alongside Samsung, SK Hynix and Kioxia. Global success of that sort is just the kind of win China craves.

US politicians, however, have pondered [PDF] whether Apple dealing with YMTC is a good idea. Some stateside lawmakers had previously advocated for YMTC to be placed on the US Bureau of Industry and Security's Entity List and requested a review of YMTC's potential as a national security threat. ®

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