Marking 20 years on the mainland, Santa Clara-based Applied Materials, the world's largest semiconductor equipment vendor, predicted China would eventually be its biggest customer because it stood to be the world's leading chipmaker. CEO Mike Splinter said China was already the company's fourth largest customer, thanks to local players like Grace Semiconductor and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co (SMIC) and big foreign chipmakers like Japan's NEC and Taiwan's TSMC, which have set up production lines on the mainland. Splinter predicted many more fabs, or chipmaking plants, would be established to drive industry growth, which is projected to rise in output terms to US$41.3bn by 2010 from US$6bn in 2003.
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