Taiwan announced its intention to conduct an investigation, during which it will be established whether local companies are involved in violations of the United States sanctions regime against China by interacting with Huawei Technologies in the framework of assisting in the operation of chip manufacturing plants.
This Chinese firm is a kind of center of tension in the technological confrontation between Beijing and Washington. The American authorities have already restricted the access of companies from the mentioned Asian countries to advanced chips. Washington explained this decision by concerns that China could use next-generation technologies to strengthen its military potential. Beijing responded by restricting exports of germanium and gallium, minerals needed for the production of semiconductors.
Huawei has become a particularly sensitive point of tension within the framework of the aforementioned technological confrontation after a 7-nanometer Kirin 9000s chip made by the Chinese company Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation was discovered in the new smartphone of this brand, the Mate 60 Pro model. The presence of this microcircuit in the device was a signal that the sanctions regime of the United States does not limit China’s capabilities on the scale that the American authorities expected. The Kirin 9000s is also a testament to Beijing’s success in creating its ecosystem of chips.
Of particular contextual and symbolic significance is the fact that the Huawei Mate 60 Pro was presented during the visit to China by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Against this background, a group of Republican lawmakers led by Michael McCaul demanded that the aforementioned department stop the interaction of Huawei and SMIC with their American suppliers.
Gina Raimondo said that Washington is using all available tools to limit Beijing’s ability to promote its technologies in a way that could harm American interests. She also said that the United States has no evidence of the ability of Huawei and other Chinese companies to launch mass production of advanced chips for smartphones. But last Wednesday, October 4, Gina Raimondo stated at a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee that reports of the breakthrough of the mentioned brand in the sphere of microcircuits are disturbing. She also noted that her department needs more ways to ensure compliance with the export control regime established by the American authorities.
Taiwan’s Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua told lawmakers on October 4 that this department had decided to investigate, according to her, unusual relations between local firms and Huawei. This information became known as part of the response of the Minister to the request of the deputy from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party Lai Jui-lung.
This week, the media reported that a unit of the Taiwanese reseller of chip materials Topco Scientific, and a subsidiary of Taipei-based L&K Engineering participated in the construction of a facility in the city of Shenzhen, located in the southeastern part of China. It was found that Huawei was involved in the implementation of this project. The mentioned object will become a chip manufacturing plant after completion of the work. At the other end of Shenzhen, production facilities of the same functional purpose are being created. A subsidiary of United Integrated Services, based in Taiwan, participated in this project. Huawei is also involved in the second object.
The Taiwanese company Cica-Huntek Chemical Technology Taiwan announced on its website the victory in the selection for the conclusion of contracts for the creation of chemical supply systems for two Chinese microcircuit manufacturers, including Shenzhen Pensun Technology and Pengxinwei IC Manufacturing. The mentioned Chinese brands also cooperate with Huawei.
Lai Jui-lung asked for a preliminary report on the investigation into Taiwanese companies involved, according to media reports, in activities in China.
Huawei’s support, if the relevant information is confirmed at the official level, will become a serious precedent. Helping Beijing in its efforts to create a kind of shadow infrastructure for chip production may provoke an increase in tension between the island and the Chinese leadership, whose relationship is not an example of what can be described as a friendly existence. In the political context, the activities of the four companies can become something like a scandal.
Wang Mei-hua stated that the officially mentioned firms take part in wastewater treatment and environmental protection projects. The minister noted that these are not the technologies that the government of Taiwan restricts access to for China.
The media draws attention to the fact that Huawei is developing semiconductors to counter the American technological blockade at a time when Beijing is considering military action against Taipei as part of the implementation of its historical conceptual vision of the island as own territory.