Former Tech Exec Warns US Can't Halt China's Chip Advances

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Oct 27, 2023 - 03:50 PM

In a bold counter to the Biden administration's semiconductor restrictions aimed at curtailing China's development of sophisticated chips for potential military use, Huawei Technologies Co. struck back with a bang in late August, unveiling the Mate 60 Pro equipped with cutting-edge domestic chips. Now, a former high-level chip insider has revealed to Bloomberg, delivering a stark message: The efforts of Washington and Silicon Valley elites to limit China's rise in advancing chip technology will likely fail. 

Former vice president of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Burn J. Lin, said when Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. and Huawei unveiled the Mate 60 Pro with 7-nanometer technology, this development shook Washington at its core because the US has been hammering the world's second-largest economy with export controls aimed at hobbling chip development. 

The Mate 60 Pro is powered by a new Kirin 9000s chip that was fabricated in China by SMIC. Source: James Park/Bloomberg

Huawei's Mate 60 Pro sparked celebrations in China that Washington's chip restrictions were failing. Lin expects SMIC to develop the next generation of 5-nanometer chips using advanced extreme ultraviolet lithography systems from ASML Holding NV. For some context, the new iPhone 15 is running on 3-nanometer chips. 

Source: Bloomberg

In response to the Mate 60 Pro, the US Commerce Department announced earlier this month that it would significantly restrict exports of artificial intelligence chips to China. The new rules will make Washington's authority even greater to decide what products US companies can and can't ship to China in the name of national security. 

However, Lin explains in an interview this week at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, Taiwan, "It is just not possible for the US to completely prevent China from improving its chip technology." 

Lin added: "What the US really should do is to focus on maintaining its chip design leadership instead of trying to limit China's progress, which is futile as China is adopting a whole nation strategy to boost its chip industry, and hurting the global economy." 

Bloomberg noted Lin's comments were similar to Arm Holdings Plc boss Rene Haas earlier this month.

The Huawei breakthrough has US national security hawks losing their mind over the inability to inhibit China's chip accession. Washington might have a meltdown over a new report from Canadian research firm TechInsights Inc. that discovered some of the world's most advanced 3D NAND memory chips are coming from Chinese firm Yangtze Memory. 

"YMTC is quietly developing advanced technology despite being hampered by issues following sanctions," TechInsights wrote in the report. 

Perhaps these developments suggest China can overcome Washington's trade restrictions and beef up its domestic semiconductor supply chain.