Things are never quite clear when the U.S. and Huawei are involved. Take this weekend. The Financial Times reported Sunday that the U.S. pressured Taiwan to restrict chip exports to Huawei. But a few hours later, Bloomberg reported on Taiwan's denial of those claims.
This kind of back-and-forth has been going on for months. The U.S. added Huawei to the Entity List in May. But in the months since, the country's approach to regulating the Chinese telecommunications juggernaut has been inconsistent at best.
The last week has brought a similar lack of clarity to another company, semiconductor manufacturer TSMC. Bloomberg reported on October 31 that TSMC wouldn't shift production to the U.S. despite the U.S. government's apparent security concerns.
However, The Financial Times reported that the U.S. wasn't just concerned about the security of TSMC's chips--it was also worried about them being exported to China.
"Washington has over the past year repeatedly asked the government of president Tsai Ing-wen to restrain [TSMC], the world's largest contract chipmaker, from selling chips to Huawei, according to Taiwanese and U.S. government officials," the report claimed.
That pressure has reportedly increased recently. The Financial Times said that "last month, a U.S. official told Taiwanese diplomats in Washington that chips made by TSMC for Huawei were going straight into Chinese missiles pointing at Taiwan." This was said to be a "metaphor" about "illustrating the risks of supplying China," but it demonstrates the severity with which the U.S. is treating this issue.
Bloomberg took a different tack. Taiwan Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka reportedly said “Our government has not received any request from the U.S. government to stop TSMC from supplying Huawei." Bloomberg said TSMC and Huawei also denied that the U.S. government had attempted to stop TSMC's semiconductors from making their way into Huawei's various products.
So does the U.S. want TSMC to shift production to the U.S. for more security? Has it leaned on the Taiwanese government to have TSMC cut off its business with Huawei? We have two reports from reputable publications making opposite claims about these issues. But hey, at least Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei may have found a new commiserator in TSMC chairman Mark Liu.