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Huawei exec urges use of China's homegrown chips


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Huawei's rotating chairman, Xu Zhijun, emphasized the importance of using domestically produced chips, even if they lag behind foreign counterparts, reports UDN.com. The comment was made in the context of potentially poor yields of the company's Kirin 9000s chip that powers Huawei's Mate 60 Pro series of handsets. Despite China's inferior domestic chips, "if we don't use them, this gap will always be a gap, and lagging behind will always be lagging behind," said Zhijun.

Huawei's latest flagship smartphone, the Mate 60 Pro, has garnered attention for its use of the Kirin 9000s SoC produced in mainland China. Most analysts believe that the application processor is made by SMIC using its 2nd-Gen 7nm-class process technology, presumably called N+2, and supplied to Huawei in violation of the U.S. sanctions.

SMIC's original 7nm-class node called N+1 has only been used to make tiny chips for cryptocurrency mining, so it is generally believed that the yields of a large chip made using N+2 might be low. Furthermore, the performance of the application processor might be lower than competing chips designed in the U.S.

While Huawei and SMIC have managed to bypass the U.S. sanctions, some argue that the alleged 7nm process still significantly lags behind TSMC's, and the Kirin 9000s lags behind Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Despite these criticisms, Xu Zhijun remains steadfast in his belief that using these chips is essential for technological growth and bridging the existing gap.

During his speech at the 2023 World Computing Conference, Xu Zhijun highlighted the challenges in the computing industry. He pointed out China's previous struggles with producing certain chips and the achievements of Chinese semiconductor production.

"Previously, we could not even produce network card chips and RAID chips," said Xu Zhijun. "We also could not produce power management chips for a computer server. So, we need to return to the basics of the computing industry."

Xu Zhijun drew a stark comparison between the technological levels of domestic and foreign products. He likened foreign competitors to having doctoral-level expertise, while China's domestic products are at a primary school level. Despite this disparity, he stressed the importance of mainland China developing its tech infrastructure to prevent vulnerabilities and security breaches from external sources.

The backdrop to this emphasis on domestic production is the ongoing U.S. tech curbs against China. Over 600 Chinese entities find themselves on the U.S. government's entity list, affecting a broad spectrum of the tech sector, from design tools to chip products. Xu Zhijun warns of the long-term challenges for mainland semiconductor manufacturing due to these restrictions and advises against expecting the U.S. to ease its containment.

By: DocMemory
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