Huawei Technologies’ breakthrough in making an advanced chip underscores China’s determination and capacity for fighting back against U.S. sanctions, but the efforts are likely very costly and could prompt Washington to tighten curbs, analysts said.
Huawei unexpectedly unveiled the latest Mate 60 Pro smartphone last week during U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit in China, as the government readies a new $40-billion investment fund to bolster its developing chip sector.
The Mate 60 Pro is powered by its proprietary chip Kirin 9000s and manufactured by the country’s top contract chipmaker SMIC (0981.HK) using an advanced 7 nanometre (nm) technology, according to a teardown by Ottawa-headquartered TechInsights.
Its findings and claims by early users about the phone’s powerful performance indicate China is making some headway into developing high-end chips, even as Washington has over the recent years ramped up sanctions to cut its access to advanced chipmaking tools.
It “demonstrates the technical progress China’s semiconductor industry has been able to make without EUV tools. The difficulty of this achievement also shows the resilience of the country’s chip technological ability,” TechInsights analyst Dan Hutcheson said.
EUV refers to extreme ultraviolet lithography and is used to make 7 nm or more advanced chips.
“At the same time, it is a great geopolitical challenge to the countries who have sought to restrict its access to critical manufacturing technologies. The result may likely be even greater restrictions than what exist today.”