The United States administration is reportedly probing further into the Huawei Mate 60 Pro, a smartphone originating from China and powered by a ground-breaking chip. This flagship device houses a pioneering 5G Kirin 9000s processor, specially designed for the Chinese manufacturer Huawei. This unexpected revelation bemused industry experts who were left wondering how such advanced technology could be developed amidst numerous attempts by the US to deter China from accessing foreign chip technology.
During a recent White House press briefing, Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Adviser, expressed the need for a deeper understanding of this chip, specifically its nature and composition. He noted this analysis is vital in ascertaining whether restrictions on American semiconductor exports were indeed bypassed in the creation of this chip.
In 2019, the US government imposed a prohibition on US companies, banning them from selling software and equipment to Huawei. This sanction further extended to international chipmakers with technologies originating from the US, restricting them from collaborating with Huawei. This prohibition was primarily based on potential national security threats such as cyberattacks or potential espionage by the Chinese government. The unveiling of a uniquely developed 5G chip, amidst such stringent sanctions, would be a significant milestone for Huawei as it grapples with the challenges imposed by these US restrictions.
Huawei has yet to respond to requests for comments. Yet, the release of Huawei’s latest smartphone seems to have generated massive excitement in China. According to David McQueen, a director at market research firm ABI Research, this enthusiasm stems from Huawei’s recovery efforts within the smartphone market through the use of homegrown silicon – all while echoing the ‘Made In China’ mantra. However, McQueen also raised questions regarding how Huawei managed to launch this smartphone during its four-year wrestle with the US restrictions barring access to 5G technology.
Although Huawei’s latest Mate 60 Pro promises a superior communication experience with a robust network connection, the company offered limited information about the chip on its product page. To glean more insight, consultant firm TechInsights conducted a detailed analysis of the Mate 60, observing that the chip appears to be a 7-nanometer processor made by China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC).
SMIC, partly owned by the Chinese state, was also included in the US government’s export restrictions imposed several years ago.
Sullivan underpinned the necessity for the US to persist with its ‘small yard, high fence’ technology restriction strategy, which is narrowly focused on national security concerns, irrespective of the outcome.