Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she was “upset” when China’s Huawei Technologies Co. released a new phone with an advanced chip during her visit to the country last month but noted that the US has no evidence China can make those components “at scale.”
(Bloomberg) — Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she was “upset” when China’s Huawei Technologies Co. released a new phone with an advanced chip during her visit to the country last month but noted that the US has no evidence China can make those components “at scale.”
“We are trying to use every single tool at our disposal to deny the Chinese the ability to advance their technology in ways that can hurt us,” Raimondo testified at a congressional hearing Tuesday.
The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security this month opened an investigation into Huawei’s phone and the “purported” 7-nanometer chip, made by China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., which was discovered in a teardown of the handset that TechInsights conducted for Bloomberg News. It is unclear whether SMIC has approval from Commerce to supply Huawei, which has been blacklisted by the US.
Raimondo said she won’t comment on any active investigations, but that the Commerce Department will investigate every time it appears a company may have violated US export controls.
Last week, a group of Republican lawmakers led by Representative Michael McCaul demanded that the Commerce Department fully cut Huawei and SMIC off from their US suppliers. They said Huawei’s new phone proves US sanctions are not effective and urged tighter restrictions.
Read more: US Probes Made-in-China Chip as Tensions Flare Over Technology
Huawei released its Mate 60 Pro phone with a new Kirin 9000s chip that was fabricated in China by SMIC, according to the Bloomberg teardown. The processor is the first to utilize SMIC’s most advanced 7nm technology and suggests the Chinese government is making some headway in attempts to build a domestic chip ecosystem, according to the research firm.
Huawei’s new phone went on sale during Raimondo’s visit to China for talks aimed at easing tensions.
The Mate 60 silicon raises questions about the efficacy of a US-led global campaign to prevent China’s access to cutting-edge technology, driven by fears it could be used to boost Chinese military capabilities.
With its export controls last year, the Biden administration tried to draw a line at preventing China from getting access to 14nm chips, or about eight years behind the most advanced technology. The US had also blacklisted both Huawei and SMIC.
Huawei is planning to build 15 million smartphones powered by its own Kirin chips in 2023, and in 2024 that number will go up to 70 million, according to recent estimates by Haitong International Securities analysts Jeff Pu and Anson Tong.
That volume is still small compared to more than 200 million iPhone chips that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s top chipmaker, makes for Apple Inc. annually. But Huawei seems to be swiftly ramping up its chip capacity with help from SMIC.
–With assistance from Debby Wu.
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