China’s New Huawei Mate 60 Pro Phone Signals Major Semiconductor Breakthrough

Huawei Launches Phone with Chinese-Made 7nm Chip

Huawei launched its new Mate 60 Pro smartphone this week, featuring the company’s first flagship processor since US sanctions cut it off from foreign chip supplies. The Kirin 9000s chip inside the phone was designed by Huawei and manufactured by Chinese firm SMIC using a 7nm fabrication process.

This marks a major milestone for China’s semiconductor capabilities. Just a year ago, experts believed China was still stuck at 28nm fabrication, but this launch proves the country can now mass produce advanced 7nm chips domestically.

While the new Huawei chip is made with second-generation 7nm technology and may still lag 1-2 years behind rivals, it signals astonishingly rapid progress given US sanctions aimed at crippling China’s chip industry.

New Phone Sends Powerful Message

The Mate 60 Pro launch coincided symbolically with the China visit of US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who has pledged to “slow China’s innovation rate.”

Huawei didn’t even publicly announce the phone. It simply appeared in stores, leaving customers to discover its Kirin 9000s processor. This subtle launch delivered a bold message about China’s semiconductor achievements in the face of US obstructionism.

The phone is positioned to steal market share from rivals like Apple, especially among patriotic Chinese consumers who want to support domestic brands. Huawei held huge phone market shares before US sanctions kicked in.

Major Strategic Defeat for US Chip Sanctions

China’s 7nm breakthrough represents a major defeat of the US strategy to use sanctions to undermine the country’s semiconductor progress. The sanctions aimed to make China technologically reliant on foreign firms so it could be controlled.

Instead, Huawei and SMIC now appear more resilient, and China has built an entire indigenous chip ecosystem. Other nations are taking notice too, realizing reliance on Western chip firms leaves them vulnerable to US geopolitical whims.

Sanctions Backfired Badly

Rather than crippling China’s chip industry, US sanctions have:

  • Forced China to double down on self-sufficiency
  • Strengthened domestic firms like Huawei and SMIC
  • Accelerated China’s progress by years through necessity
  • Created a formidable new semiconductor competitor
  • Inspired other countries to turn to China to diversify supplies

China has gone from lagging badly in semiconductors to attaining 7nm in around a year. This rapid response reveals the sanctions have backfired badly against US interests.

The High Costs of Tech Cold War

China’s semiconductor advance is a clear example of how tech “cold wars” hurt all sides. Had the US stayed engaged with China’s tech sector instead of declaring “extreme competition,” both countries would be better off.

The US assumed China’s chip industry could be destroyed quickly. This arrogant underestimation has resulted in strategic failure. China’s resilience shows the immense costs of weaponizing interdependent tech sectors.

Time to Rethink Strategy

Rather than admit failure, the US may double down on sanctions. But further attempts to suppress China’s tech progress will likely backfire again.

The wiser move is rethinking this zero-sum cold war mentality before the US compounds its losses. However, recognition of strategic errors may be unlikely given the current climate of hubris.

China’s semiconductor breakthrough makes the costs of tech decoupling clearer than ever. Unless the US is willing to take a more flexible approach, this cold war will continue harming the interests of both nations.

Source: Washington Post

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