US Commerce Secretary: Huawei's Chip Advancements are 'Incredibly Disturbing'

Huawei
(Image credit: Huawei)

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has voiced concerns over Huawei's latest advancement in chip manufacturing, which enabled the company to build a fairly high-performance HiSilicon Kirin 9000S system-on-chip for smartphones. The development underscores the challenge the U.S. faces in monitoring and regulating wafer fab equipment exports -- and Raimondo believes more resources and mechanisms are essential for stricter enforcement, reports Bloomberg

The Secretary's apprehensions stem from Huawei's usage of its Kirin 9000S SoC that was made by SMIC using its 2nd generation 7nm-class fabrication process and supplied to the tech giant in violation of U.S. sanctions. In response, she highlighted the urgent need for enhanced mechanisms and increased resources to reinforce the department's ability to oversee export-controls.

“We need different tools,” she told a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, according to Bloomberg. “We need additional resources around enforcement.”

The Commerce Secretary also alluded to a pending bill that would grant her department more control over tech deals perceived as security threats. Additionally, she acknowledged Senator Maria Cantwell's suggestion for a new structure to address potential tech supply chain risks.

Further emphasizing the department's stringent stance, Raimondo mentioned a precedent-setting $300 million penalty imposed on Seagate for trading with Huawei without the requisite permissions. Such stringent measures, she believes, are a testament to the department's commitment, but she also stressed the necessity for additional resources to bolster these efforts.

Raimondo's statements come in the wake of her diplomatic trip to China in August, aimed at smoothening the strained ties between the two nations. However, the launch of Huawei's Mate 60 Pro smartphone based on the Kirin 9000S SoC during her visit has ignited discussions in the U.S. capital. These debates question efficiency of American initiatives to decelerate China's technological prowess..

While the Commerce Secretary previously stated that she did not found proof of China's capability to produce these advanced chips in large quantities, she is under substantial political scrutiny. Many, particularly Republicans, urge her to act swiftly in imposing tighter regulations. Meanwhile, the tools that SMIC used to make the SoC were not banned and/or has been installed for a while. Meanwhile, the U.S. cannot physically prevent SMIC from supplying chips to Huawei. What it can do is put SMIC into the blacklist and essentially destroy this company. 

But the U.S. government is not inclined to do it now. The U.S. administration is endeavoring to improve relations with China, anticipating a potential summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in November.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • gggplaya
    Chinese College entrance is insanely competitive. Parents make their children study and do homework all day and night. Their engineers are getting better and better.

    Meanwhile, our schools are relaxing educational standards. Our children are getting lazier and lazier. They would rather stay home and be unemployed, than work in a job that's not socially relevant(a job they can brag to people for having). When I was young, you took whatever job payed the bills and you moved to a better job when you could. Today's youth, if they can't get the job they wanted, they just give up.

    In 20 years, it wouldn't be a surprise if China surpasses us in the tech sector.
    Reply
  • randyh121
    gggplaya said:
    Chinese College entrance is insanely competitive. Parents make their children study and do homework all day and night. Their engineers are getting better and better.

    Meanwhile, our schools are relaxing educational standards. Our children are getting lazier and lazier.

    In 20 years, it won't be a surprise is China surpasses us in the tech sector.
    I should really learn Chinese........
    Reply
  • vanadiel007
    I don't see the issue with this. You can't argue for free competition and then complain the competition is outperforming you.

    If you want to stop this, make Intel, Apple and AMD move all their facilities back over to North America and start producing products made in America again, instead of Vietnam or Indonesia or India.

    This is what happens when you outsource to increase profit margins. After all these years NA has put itself into a position where we cannot compete anymore with the outsourced countries because they have caught up and are overtaking us.
    Reply
  • vertuallinsanity
    vanadiel007 said:
    I don't see the issue with this. You can't argue for free competition and then complain the competition is outperforming you.


    This issue isn't about college, intelligence or "free competiton".

    It's about national security. Huawei was added to a US sanctions list in 2019. They were barred from procuring chipmaking tools from the US (because, generically, US citizens are all dumb I guess..).

    Following recent research it was determined Huawei still does not possess the capability to produce chips at the nanometer scale in question (7nm).

    This is not news as it's been presented. China is going through a lot of change in the post-covid Era and things will settle down once the present leadership in China evolves.

    In the meantime, Huawei has not made a move into the mobile chip space but they still continue to produce other products.
    Reply
  • egearbox
    gggplaya said:
    In 20 years, it wouldn't be a surprise if China surpasses us in the tech sector.

    It's not going to take 20 years. All the Chinese students that studied in American universities for the past 20 years have gone home and taken all their notes with them.

    I'll be surprised if it takes another five years.
    Reply
  • sstanic
    Growing up in the 80s in a then-communist country, then seeing the transition and following the development etc, it's obvious to me that ex-communist countries - China is different in many ways of course - lack the culture of appreciating individual talents and what they bring to the wider community and its future.

    The always not only present but prevalent primitive way of thinking is that economy and wealth is a zero-sum game, a pie, and if one person or group has more that must mean that I, or we, have less. In the old USSR they had an expression - uravnilovka - (leveller?) meaning everyone at the same level. It only partially corresponds to the modesty of northern Europe or the southern European Catholic countries, and mostly means don't work, or especially think, more than is necessary not to be above anyone else.

    That kind of culture is dramatically slowing down development. People go to university in a bandwagon kind of mentality, not because they want more, and also just to get the paper - diploma, not the actual knowledge. They want the same as everyone else, and later when they start working, they don't want to stick out, and fully expect someone else - the state - to take care of their career opportunities.

    After waiting for decades for some positive change, I'm fully certain change will arrive only when the political elite is dominated by the new generation, AND the voters are majority new generation. So that's at least 10 more years in Central Europe. And obviously communists are still in power in China.

    So although Americans for decades already like to promote that "we are somehow threatened by this or that" self reinforcing loop, I'm actually very sceptical that China is now somehow going to develop a creative culture just out of the blue. Just nope. In much the same way it was very obvious to me that Russia's army, although huge, was mostly a toilet paper...kitten, before it became obvious to even the smarter American ex-generals and the sort. The cultural difference is just so significant, and quantity doesn't replace quality.

    That all said, Huawei and some other Chinese companies did develop some creative thinking, and that will perhaps be a hub for more creative developments, but not for China as a society or for all other industries.

    And as a side note, Northwestern Europe, basically Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and upwards, don't really have youth unemployment, like ever. Kids get their first job usually around 16 or so, those who go to uni are very quickly employed afterwards, noone is getting their first job at 29, that just doesn't exist. For example, in Austria, if you work for 3 years, and then decide to go to uni, the state will subsidize you monthly. In Nordic countries it's similar, precisely because 19yo person can get a well paid job easily.

    In Southern and Central Europe industries and general development levels are different though, then around the Mediterranean tourism is just gigantic, more agriculture etc. But engineers of all kinds find employment basically immediately after university everywhere in Europe, and programmers and IT specialists even during uni, which often makes it difficult for them to actually finish it.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    There is a limit to what all these export controls can do. Against a big economy, it only delays the inevitable. Furthermore, they cannot limit talents in this field to work for Chinese tech companies. And I am pretty sure they are gaining expertise by aggressively hiring and training locals up.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    Please keep the off topic political posts out of this discussion or they will be removed and warnings / bans will be issued. They will be removed regardless of which side you are on. There are plenty of other places to discuss such matters.
    Reply
  • Matt_ogu812
    gggplaya said:
    Chinese College entrance is insanely competitive. Parents make their children study and do homework all day and night. Their engineers are getting better and better.

    Meanwhile, our schools are relaxing educational standards. Our children are getting lazier and lazier. They would rather stay home and be unemployed, than work in a job that's not socially relevant(a job they can brag to people for having). When I was young, you took whatever job payed the bills and you moved to a better job when you could. Today's youth, if they can't get the job they wanted, they just give up.

    In 20 years, it wouldn't be a surprise if China surpasses us in the tech sector.
    Chinese College entrance is insanely competitive. Parents make their children study and do homework all day and night. Their engineers are getting better and better.

    Was it not that way here in the US many years ago 50 -70 years ago?
    It was found to be discriminating so we lowered our standards to make it a level playing field.
    The US Military, among others, are on that same 'slippery slope' to make it a level playing field.
    "Be All You Can Be"?

    I'm not so sure the results are yielding their expectations for all institutions taking that route.
    Reply