Deng Zhonghan: Microchips for China


By staff reporter LI YUAN


I saw a parade of floats from the reviewing stand on Tian’anmen Square at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the PRC, and was impressed at the achievements they displayed in agriculture, national defense and education. But at the same time I felt ashamed at having made so many excellent microchips in Silicon Valley in the U.S., but none for my home country. It was then that I made the decision to come back to China.” Deng Zhonghan (John Deng), vice president of China Association for Science and Technology and academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, remembers clearly this moment of truth 14 years ago.

Deng, born in 1968 in Nanjing City of Jiangsu Province, took up postgraduate studies at the University of California-Berkeley in 1992. Having obtained a PhD in electronic engineering and an MSc in both physics and economics, Deng was one of the most outstanding students of UCB in its history of 130 years. After working for a year as a senior researcher at IBM, Deng established his integrated circuit company PIXIM Inc.

The Chinese government invited Deng Zhonghan, as a representative of overseas students in the U.S., to the 50th anniversary celebration of New China. While in the country he gave state leaders in charge of the hi-tech industry such as Li Lanqing a rundown on the world status quo and prospects for Silicon Valley and the IT industry generally.

On October 14 of 1999, Deng Zhonghan registered his Vimicro Corp. in Zhongguancun in Beijing – China’s own “Silicon Valley.” This signaled the onset of his career back in China.

Deng headed the team of like-minded overseas-returned Chinese scientists in the Starlight China Chip project. The aim was to develop China’s independent intellectual property rights in the chip industry.

Upon establishing his company, Deng Zhonghan chose the digital multi-media chip as its ascendant. He then introduced capital venture, executive stock options and other modern corporate management practices, and formulated global development strategies.

The year 2001 saw the creation of China’s first million-gate VLSI chip. It was taken up by international and domestic companies, such as Sony, Samsung, HP, Dell, Lenovo, Huawei, and ZTE, for use in desktop computers, laptops and cell phones. Today, chips that Vimicro produces occupy 60 percent of the global market in image input chips.

On November 15, 2005, Vimicro Corp. became the first Chinese mainland chip designer to be listed on NASDAQ. That day ended with Deng Zhonghan ceremoniously signing his Chinese name – the first Chinese CEO signature in NASDAQ history.

When asked about the future, Deng Zhonghan said, “Now that we have equipped China with its own chip, I have another big dream of China as a leader in science and technology.”

“Like its GDP, China’s input in science and technology is second in the world. Scientific achievements such as the atomic and hydrogen bombs and man-made satellites in the 1960s and 1970s, along with the recent Tiangong-1 and Jiaolong deepsea submersible, all constitute foundations for China’s international status. And there is far more to come.”

Deng Zhonghan sees the difference between the Chinese Dream and the American Dream as apparent in the latter’s focus on individual pursuits, as compared with the former’s quest to fulfill the ideals of the whole nation. While still in its development period, China needs strength and cohesion to achieve its dream of national rejuvenation.

“Experience has taught me that a worthwhile life with no regrets can only be achieved by combining one’s future with that of one’s country. I believe that China’s science and technology will rank first in the world one day. When that happens, I can say that my Chinese Dream has come true.”