Categories: ComponentsWorkspace

Raimondo Downplays Huawei Smartphone Chip

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Huawei’s latest flagship smartphone, with its advanced China-built processor, shows the company remains behind the US in technology and that sanctions are working.

In an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes, Raimondo downplayed the significance of the Kirin 9000s chip that powers the Mate 60 smartphone Huawei launched last August.

“What it tells me is the export controls are working because that chip is not nearly as good,” Raimondo said in the broadcast.

“It’s years behind what we have in the United States… We have the most sophisticated semiconductors in the world. China doesn’t. We’ve out-innovated China.”

The Kirin 9000s uses a 7 nanometre manufacturing process, which while far from the industry’s current cutting edge of 2nm, is also much more advanced than what US authorities had hoped Chinese firms would be able to produce with their existing semiconductor tools.

Intel chief executive Pat Gelsinger and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo hold a plaque commemorating the US CHIPS and Science Act during a visit to an Intel semiconductor factory in Chandler, Arizona. Image credit: Intel

Blacklist

The US placed Huawei on a trade blacklist in 2019 and imposed more general export restrictions on Chinese chip firms in 2022, tightening those controls last year.

Japan and the Netherlands have also put export restrictions in place for chipmaking tools, under pressure from the US.

SMIC, Huawei’s chip partner for the Kirin processor, manufactured the 7nm part by adapting older chip tools for the purpose, resulting in a lower yield rate, experts have said.

Raimondo also said chip export controls on Russia were proving effective, citing reports that Russians were taking semiconductors “out of refrigerators, out of dishwashers” to repurpose them for military equipment.

Chip grants

“It’s absolutely the case that our export controls have hurt their ability to conduct the war, made it harder,” Raimondo said.

The Commerce Department is also in charge of alloting grants and loans to chip firms to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing under the 2022 Chips and Science Act.

Intel, Taiwan’s TSMC and Samsung have received billions in grants this year under the act and Raimondo is set to announce a further award to Micron this week.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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