How Huawei made a cutting-edge chip in China and surprised the US

This ambition to escape dependence on foreign technology rests on the shoulders of Huawei and SMIC. The successful launch of the Kirin 9000S injected new vigor into the semiconductor industry, with executives reporting that chip start-ups are seeing a surge in funding.

But Huawei’s long-term ambitions are not limited to the markets in China’s orbit. The original nickname for the Kirin 9000S—Charlotte—is a symbol of these hopes. It was named not for an individual, but for the city in North Carolina. Other mobile semiconductors in development are also named internally for US cities, insiders say.

Using American names, says one Huawei employee, reflects “our desire to one day reclaim our place in the global supply chain.”

It’s amazing how without any official support and using cobbled-together outdated lithography machines, Huawei and SMIC have managed to make a reasonably competitive smartphone SoC. As I keep saying – Chinese chip makers have the full financial might of the Chinese state behind them, and they’ll stop at nothing to reduce their dependence on ASML, TSMC, Intel, AMD, and so on.

And they’re making progress.


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