In a groundbreaking move that has left the tech world astir, Huawei Technologies recently unveiled its newest flagship smartphone, the Mate 60 Pro, powered by the cutting-edge Kirin 9000s chip, built on 7 nanometer (nm) technology. This technological feat, achieved despite US sanctions that have restricted the access of Huawei Technologies to advanced chipmaking tools, has garnered widespread attention and raised questions about the future of the US-China “tech war.”
The revelation of Huawei’s foray into 7nm technology was made possible by Ottawa-based TechInsights, a renowned technology analysis firm known for its teardowns of electronic devices. In its assessment, TechInsights lauded Huawei for its “technical progress” and marveled at the company’s ability to achieve such a milestone amid challenging circumstances. However, the firm also hinted at potential consequences, suggesting that this accomplishment could prompt the United States to tighten restrictions even further.
Experts, including analysts from Jeffreys, have posited that the US Congress may face increasing pressure to impose “even harsher tech sanctions” against China in response to the technological advancement of Huawei Technologies. This potential escalation in sanctions has raised concerns about the future of the US-China tech rivalry, with some fearing that it may reach a point of no return.
Despite the growing speculation and anticipation surrounding this development, Huawei has remained tight-lipped, declining to comment on the matter. Similarly, China’s top contract chipmaker, SMIC, and China’s State Council did not respond to requests for statements. The US Commerce Department, which has played a pivotal role in imposing restrictions on technology exports to China, also refrained from commenting when approached for a response.
Tilly Zhang, an analyst from Gavekal Dragonomics, has cautioned that while Huawei’s achievement is noteworthy, it may not translate into immediate success due to the low yield rate of the 7nm chips. This could necessitate heavy reliance on government subsidies to maintain competitive pricing for the Mate 60 Pro. The challenges faced by Huawei are exacerbated by the fact that SMIC, in the absence of an Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) machine from Dutch firm ASML, has been unable to produce chips more advanced than 14nm, resorting to modifying Deep Ultraviolet (DUV) machines to reach the 7nm mark.
In response to these hurdles, there is growing speculation that China may launch a substantial $40-billion fund aimed at further developing the domestic chip sector. Doug Fuller, a chip researcher from the Copenhagen Business School, expressed skepticism about the long-term viability of the Chinese chip sector under the weight of US restrictions, citing the “high costs” associated with acquiring restricted technologies as a significant hindrance to progress.
The question of whether Huawei can reclaim its former dominance in the global smartphone market remains unanswered. What is certain, however, is that US sanctions have undeniably slowed down and discouraged developments in China’s chip sector, even though progress is still attainable. The US Commerce Department faces the challenging task of evaluating whether these recent developments warrant additional restrictive measures to maintain its technological supremacy.
In the interim, Huawei’s remarkable achievement serves as a testament to the resilience and determination of Chinese firms in the face of both internal and external obstacles. The tech world watches with bated breath as the unfolding saga of Huawei’s technological prowess continues to shape the future of global technology dynamics.