Chinese social media users are having fun teasing the U.S. government and the (in)effectiveness of its technology sanctions on chipmaking equipment. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo has been a particular target, as her visit to China coincided with the Huawei Mate 60 Pro launch, a smartphone packing new cutting-edge Chinese technology that was produced exclusively by heavily sanctioned Chinese chipmaker SMIC.
Raimondo has been memed into a Huawei brand ambassador, notes Huawei Central in its coverage of this story outlining the tumultuous few years Huawei has been through. The meme fun stems from Huawei’s success in developing the sanctions-defying Kirin 9000S SoC, the power behind the new Huawei Mate 60 Pro, and various related technological breakthroughs. Significantly, much of this advanced new tech may never have been developed and produced in China if the US hadn’t imposed its far-reaching sanctions.
Huawei’s convincing recovery from several years of U.S. sanctions-induced pain will cause celebration in China. The major telecoms and devices firm went through a rough time as one of the first and most US-technology-dependent firms to have its commercial activities hobbled by U.S. sanctions and China trade restrictions, which began in 2018.
Until then, Huawei had been confidently making deep inroads into Western consumer and commercial markets. After it was blacklisted in 2019, things became much more difficult for the firm. In the smartphone business, for example, it couldn’t use U.S. hardware like Qualcomm SoCs or modems, and it couldn’t use Google’s Android. In effect, its smartphone market share quickly diminished outside China.
However, as you already know, this story has a twist. As a field grows fertile after a bloody battle or a phoenix rises from the ashes – Huawei has achieved the kind of comeback that nobody would have expected a few years ago.
As reported over the weekend, Huawei has a breakthrough SoC with the Kirin 9000S. This purportedly 3D stacked advanced packaged chip is claimed to be full of homegrown CPU and GPU cores (but we think the CPU uses the Armv8a ISA).
Additionally, US-sanctioned Chinese chipmaker SMIC has been under more pressure than ever to develop and refine its semiconductor manufacturing. SMIC’s manufacturing line is also based on new tech, namely Twinscan NXT:2000i deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography scanners. We hear the Kirin 9000S is manufactured by SMIC using these machines on its 2nd generation 7nm fabrication process. However, it is thought the process has poor yields and thus high costs at this time.
In China, this vlogger took apart a Huawei Mate 60 Pro #smartphone, and all components are 100% developed/made by China (from #Kirin9000S chip to the camera)! This is proof that US tech blockade against Huawei failed! #China #HuaweiMate60Pro#Huawei @DongshengNews #TechNews pic.twitter.com/Ozw0fF5SmhSeptember 5, 2023
In summary, governments have to ponder more carefully over potential unintended consequences. Sanctions might have a place to retain advantages over rivals, but nuances of their application must be learned from the newfound vitality of blacklisted firms like Huawei and SMIC.