More on China's chip scandal

Bruce Einhorn

Back in March, I blogged about Chen Jin, a professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University and head of the microelectronics school there. Chen had won acclaim a few years ago by leading a team that came up with China’s first home-developed digital signal processors (DSP), dubbed the Hanxin. For many years, China’s leaders have been eager to boost the country’s global standing in science and technology, so Chen’s achievement suddenly made him a hero. Late last year, after learning of accusations of fraud by Chen, Jiaotong University started an investigation. Within a few weeks several arms of the central government, including the Ministry of Science and Technology, started investigating Chen too. Preliminary findings weren’t favorable to Chen, and now the final results are in. Xinhua, the official news agency, reported on Friday that “the Hanxin computer chip series are [sic] fake and the state-funded chip research is fraudulent, and a leading scientist has been punished.” Chen’s lost his job at the university and now has to refund money invested in his research by the government.

No word on whether Chen has any possibility of appealing – or whether he will be facing criminal charges. It is interesting to see how the news agency goes out of its way to emphasize the thoroughness of the investigation: “Over the past two months, the investigation team has extensively interviewed Chen himself, whistle-blowers, research team members and other people who had access to inside information. They verified technical reports on the research, analyzed technical data and verified performance of the chips in the series from Hanxin I to Hanxin IV.” China’s government, of course, doesn’t have a reputation for owning up to embarrassing mistakes. Given the way Xinhua is reporting the news, the government seems intend on showing that it isn’t covering up this incident. But will Chinese journalists be allowed to look into this case more closely? Let’s hope so. But I think it’s far more likely that we won’t hear anything more in the Chinese media about one-time hero Chen Jin.

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