Huawei and SMIC are the Chinese companies most concerned about the US. Both are clearly subject to its sanctions because they play a fundamental role in China’s semiconductor industry. And suspicion fell on both of them who found a way to bypass restrictions that the Government of Joe Biden and its allies are deployed with the aim of stopping the technological development of the country led by Xi Jinping.
“I will not comment on that particular chip until we have more information about its features and implementation, but what I can assure you is that despite everything, the United States will continue to maintain the packages of restrictions on field. of technology that is protected by our concerns for national security, and not the more ambiguous commercial decoupling. These statements by Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor of the Joe Biden Administration, show the concern of the US Government.
The chip Sullivan was referring to in his statement is the Kirin 9000S SoC that powers Huawei’s recently launched Mate 60 Pro smartphone. Currently this integrated circuit is in the spotlight in the US because, according to TechInsights, It is manufactured by SMIC uses its second generation 7nm integration technology. TechInsights is a Canadian communication platform closely linked to the semiconductor industry, so it has great credibility.
The effectiveness of sanctions by the US and its allies has been questioned
To complicate matters further, the US Government’s suspicions are not limited to the lithography that SMIC may have used to manufacture the Kirin 9000S processor; He was also surprised by the presence of 5G connectivity in this chip. And this is because the sanctions deployed by the US and its allies should in theory put the possibility of producing its own cutting-edge chips with 5G connectivity out of China’s reach, at least for now.
Some experts argue that it is possible that SMIC has found a way to optimize deep ultraviolet lithography equipment.
Currently there are a wide range of options on the table, although some semiconductor industry experts, such as Tilly Zhang, who is an analyst at the Chinese consulting firm Gavekal Dragonomics, argue that it is plausible that SMIC finds a way to optimize its equipment, deep ultraviolet (UVP) lithography for making cutting-edge chips. According to this expert, the UVP machines manufactured by ASML and present in some Chinese integrated circuit manufacturers can be used to produce 5 and 7 nm semiconductors.
If Zhang is right, this is a very commendable achievement for Huawei and SMIC engineers. And TSMC and Samsung use extreme ultraviolet (UVE) lithography machines, which are the most advanced available at ASML today, to make their cutting-edge chips. The possibility that SMIC technicians were able to produce integrated circuits nearly as sophisticated as the most advanced ones made by TSMC and Samsung with less powerful machines than those used by both companies supports their skills and technical capacity.
So far neither the US Government nor its allies know for sure how Huawei and SMIC will achieve these two milestones.
In addition, we cannot ignore the concern of the US about the implementation of 5G connectivity in the Huawei chip. So far neither the US Government nor its allies know for sure how Huawei and SMIC achieved these two milestones, but Sullivan confirmed that an investigation has begun which seeks to find out how China has managed to avoid sanctions. Meanwhile, if Tilly Zhang’s thesis is proven, Xi Jinping’s country can continue to produce cutting-edge chips to reduce its pressure until it has the capacity to produce its own EUV machines, something which may take it up to Two decades.