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Discover the jaw-dropping revelation that’s sending shockwaves through the tech world! China’s covert microchip advancement challenges US restrictions. Are we witnessing a game-changing shift in global tech supremacy?
China has achieved a significant milestone in microchip manufacturing, challenging the efforts of US President Joe Biden to restrict Beijing’s access to advanced technology. The latest Huawei smartphone, the Mate 60, appears to feature chips produced using cutting-edge techniques developed in Europe, despite the technology being subject to trade restrictions.
TechInsights, a research company, examined the Mate 60’s main processor chip and determined that it was manufactured using EUV (extreme ultraviolet lithography), an advanced manufacturing method used to etch a chip’s internal components into its silicon. EUV had been a closely guarded secret and was developed by the Dutch company ASML, which integrated it into its multi-billion dollar chip manufacturing machines. The US has led trade restrictions that largely prevent China from purchasing these machines.
The Mate 60’s processor chip was produced by China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), a partially state-owned foundry. While the chips used in the Mate 60 are not of immediate concern, the suggestion that Beijing now has access to this manufacturing technology raises alarm in Washington.
President Biden has been working to limit China’s access to cutting-edge chip technology due to concerns that it could have military applications. In 2020, SMIC was placed on a US “blacklist” due to concerns about the potential military use of its products, although SMIC denies any military involvement.
Dan Hutcheson, Vice-Chairman of TechInsights, stated, “It’s a significant development for China.” SMIC’s shares surged by 10% in Hong Kong following the report.
Last year, Huawei raised concerns that China had made progress in EUV technology when it filed a related patent. The Kirin 9000S chip in the new Mate 60 seems to use a “7 nanometre” process node, indicating the chip’s small size and high power. Current US sanctions prohibit China from importing manufacturing equipment for process nodes smaller than 14nm, a technology considered cutting-edge in 2015.
Mr. Hutcheson noted in a research note, “This raises questions about China’s ability to obtain the optics, materials, and light sources required for EUV capability in its fabs. SMIC’s technological advancements are progressing rapidly.” The Mate 60 was launched last week during a visit to Beijing by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.