US authorities don’t believe Huawei or China at large can manufacture advanced semiconductors in high volume. “We don’t have any evidence that they can manufacture 7nm at scale,” said US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo at a congressional hearing Tuesday. The Commerce Department has been investigating the 7nm processor powering the smartphone launched by Huawei recently. The manufacturer of the chip, SMIC, possibly evaded US sanctions by supplying Huawei, a blacklisted company.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that SMIC can manufacture 7nm-class chips. This node is still accessible through DUV (multi)patterning, and only recently Chinese companies have been cut off from the associated lithography equipment. It’s unclear what SMIC’s manufacturing capacity is, at what yield the company churns out chips and whether it has a path forward to the next nodes.
According to an estimate by Haitong International Securities, Huawei is planning on releasing 15 million smartphones this year and 70 million in 2024, suggesting China’s chipmaking capabilities are ramping up.