China dumps dud chips on Russia, Moscow media moans

What? Sanctions-busting sellers aren't interested in your complaints? That's a shame

The failure rate of semiconductors shipped from China to Russia has increased by 1,900 percent in recent months, according to Russian national business daily Коммерсантъ (Kommersant).

Quoting an anonymous source, Kommersant states that before Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine the defect rate in imported silicon was two percent. Since that war commenced, Russian manufacturers have apparently faced 40 percent failure rates.

Even a two percent defect rate is sub-optimal, because products made of many components can therefore experience considerable quality problems. Forty percent failure rates mean supplies are perilously close to being unfit for purpose.

According to Kommersant, Russian electronics manufacturers are not enjoying life at all because, on top of high failure rates, gray market gear doesn't flow with the same speed as legit kit and supply chains are currently very kinked indeed inside Russia.

The newspaper lays the blame on economic sanctions that have seen many major businesses quit Russia. Gray market distributors and other opportunistic operators have been left as the only entities willing to deal with Russian businesses.

Gray market folks are not renowned for their sterling customer service nor their commitment to quality. They get away with it because buyers of products with – ahem – unconventional origins self-incriminate if they complain to authorities.

Perhaps they're even dumping dud product on Russian buyers, knowing that they can't easily access alternatives.

If 40 percent of silicon sourced from China is indeed kaput, it's an interesting expression of the "friendship without limits" that Moscow and Beijing declared in February 2022. It's also an oddity, given China's oft-stated ambition to crush corruption, modernize its economy, and focus only on quality development of world-leading products.

China has used diplomatic language that makes it plain it does not entirely approve of Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine – but the Middle Kingdom also doesn't entirely mind Russia's international isolation. It means Chinese companies' export prospects improve at a time when most of the world's liberal democracies have shut the door on Huawei, ZTE, and other high-tech Chinese companies.

Moscow, meanwhile, needs to pump out more kit to sustain its illegal invasion. Semiconductors are a critical element of that effort, so if failure rates are high whoever is sending dodgy products to Russia is hampering the not-a-war effort. ®

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