Home Mobile Huawei’s 5G smartphone comeback, with advanced chip wrapped in secrecy, releases chokehold of US sanctions on China tech

Huawei’s 5G smartphone comeback, with advanced chip wrapped in secrecy, releases chokehold of US sanctions on China tech

by Maine Bacos

Huawei’s recent launch of new 5G handsets has ignited intense speculation about the manufacturing origins of its Kirin 9000s central processing unit (CPU) and the company’s ability to defy US trade sanctions. The Chinese benchmarking website AnTuTu first identified the CPU as being developed by Huawei’s chip design unit, HiSilicon. Both Huawei and semiconductor manufacturer SMIC have remained silent about the chip’s production. Nevertheless, Chinese netizens have celebrated the release of Huawei’s new smartphones and their advanced CPU as symbolic of China’s victory over the US sanctions. The controversy surrounding the made-in-China processor reflects Huawei’s efforts to rebuild its operations after years of struggles due to US trade sanctions. The company’s return to the 5G smartphone market marks a significant public relations win and has generated significant consumer interest. However, investors are keen to know more about the production capacity, supply chain players, and the impact of Huawei’s high-end devices on competitors like Apple. The manufacturing origin of the Kirin 9000s CPU has sparked further debate, with some experts suggesting that SMIC’s involvement indicates a major violation of US sanctions. Others believe that Huawei purchased SMIC technology and equipment to develop the chip. The trade sanctions have both incentivized innovation in China’s toolmaking sector and pushed companies like SMIC to expand their capabilities. Huawei’s ability to use advanced semiconductors in its products relies heavily on SMIC, alongside other external suppliers. While there have been discussions in Washington about imposing further controls on Huawei and SMIC, the Biden administration is unlikely to impose new restrictions due to ongoing efforts to improve US-China relations. Huawei’s success in sustaining its momentum in 5G smartphone sales will depend on its ability to secure stable and cost-effective supplies of key components and win back former users who switched to other brands in recent years.

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