US to Probe Chips Used in Huawei's New Smartphone

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    The Facts

    • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the US is trying to obtain details about the computer chip powering Huawei's newly-released Mate 60 Pro smartphone, which has been touted as a PRC chip breakthrough despite US restrictions.

    • This comes as a third-party analysis claimed the device is powered by the Kirin 9000s chip, a new 7-nanometer processor made by China's top chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC).

    The Spin

    Pro-China narrative

    It's certainly too early to assert that Huawei's Mate 60 Pro shows that China will be able to continue bypassing US sanctions, but this latest smartphone does hint that the PRC's domestic semiconductor industry may have innovation capabilities to break new ground. US tech sanctions have failed to curb Chinese tech development while simultaneously harming American companies.

    Anti-China narrative

    Though indeed a breakthrough, this latest development doesn't come as a surprise given that older manufacturing tools are still capable of making more advanced semiconductors. Given the current restrictions, US export curbs related to China's chip industry will likely prevent its chipmakers from going beyond 5-nanometer processors while foreign rivals will advance. If not, the West must further tighten up its chip-related sanctions on the PRC.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 50% chance that chips covered by the 2022 US export controls will be exported to China before 2032, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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