Chinese meme-makers crown US Commerce Secretary as Huawei brand ambassador
Well, well, well, if it isn't the consequences of Uncle Sam's actions
Chinese netizens have been laughing at the expense of US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, who will be surprised to learn that she has been crowned unofficial Huawei brand ambassador despite her country's efforts to hobble the company and China's wider tech industry.
As noted by Huawei Central, the irony of US sanctions indirectly leading to the launch of a new Huawei 5G handset was not lost on social media users who took to photo editing software to place Raimondo as if she is endorsing the Mate 60 Pro.
Before 2019, Huawei was making serious headway into Western markets with its cellular networking technology. The company actually accounted for nearly a quarter of the handset market at one time but all of this changed with former US president Trump's Entity List, which restricted named Chinese companies' access to US technology, beginning with Huawei and ZTE, and their ability to sell tech in America.
It has also spurred the US and allies to rip and replace the Huawei infrastructure that was quickly becoming the backbone of 5G networks, all in the name of national security.
Uncle Sam believes its main rival superpower would use the proliferation of Chinese technology in the West to snoop and use that information against it, though claims of "backdoors" have been repeatedly denied by Chinese companies that would dearly like to sell into the global market.
However, espionage laws that compel domestic companies to share information with the Chinese Communist Party when asked do give some credence to US concerns.
The sanctions were disastrous for Huawei, which could no longer outfit its smartphones with advanced Qualcomm chipsets or Google's ubiquitous Android mobile services. The company, which was once in the top five for global smartphone manufacturers, dropped out of the top 10.
The Law of Inverse Consequences being in full effect, China's tech industry has not simply rolled over and died. Instead, it has sought to cut its dependence on foreign technology, and the Huawei Mate 60 Pro appears to be tangible evidence of this working.
The handset is powered by the homegrown HiSilicon Kirin 9000S system-on-chip believed to be made by China's Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) based on the company's otherwise unannounced 2nd generation 7nm-class fabrication process and stacking.
The best SMIC was previously able to do was 14nm due to sanctions dating back to 2020 preventing Dutch lithography specialist ASML from supplying the company with more advanced equipment. However, analysts have suggested that SMIC could have modified imports it was still able to freely buy to produce 7nm chips – a "slap in the face" of the US, TechInsights' Dan Hutcheson told Reuters.
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ASML has been granted permission by the Netherlands to continue shipping its most advanced immersion deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography systems to China, namely the Twinscan 2000 series, until January 1, 2024.
SMIC is offered as the culprit because Huawei formerly relied on chips from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the largest semiconductor contract manufacturer in the world, yet under US pressure to choke off the supply of advanced chips to China, that company also relented in dealing with Huawei.
Though it is also possible that Huawei manufactured the chip itself with help of its existing supply chain and a clandestine network of China foundries to work around US sanctions. Neither Huawei nor SMIC will say.
According to screenshots, the Kirin 9000S boasts four high-performance cores (1 x 2.62GHz, 3 x 2.15GHz) and four energy-efficient cores (1.53GHz) based on Huawei's TaiShan microarchitecture – but before we get too fixated on highly speculative specifications, the point is that Huawei has pulled off the very type of technology that US sanctions were designed to prevent, which obviously raises questions about their efficacy and whether it was worth tossing a match on a sensitive geopolitical situation in the first place.
As you might expect, the Mate 60 Pro has now become a source of national pride. Its quiet online launch last week, in contrast with Huawei's big-bang announcement events of yore, also happened to coincide with Raimondo's visit to Beijing and Shanghai, where she aimed to "open lines of communication between the two nations," according to CNBC.
Thanks to some rudimentary photo editing, she can now be seen giving the Huawei Mate 60 Pro the thumbs-up and holding the handset while sporting a toothy grin, neatly summarizing an outcome of this trade war that Uncle Sam would have rather avoided.
In the meantime, Beijing's pushback against American technology continues unabated, with Reuters reporting that officials at central government agencies have been ordered not to use Apple's iPhones and other foreign-branded devices for work or bring them into the office. ®