The Chinese tech giant quietly launched its new Mate Pro 60 smartphone in late August. This device contains a custom-designed 5G modem chip, allowing Huawei to offer 5G connectivity despite stringent US export restrictions.

A Milestone for China’s Semiconductor Industry

According to early analysis, the Mate Pro 60 uses a 7nm system-on-a-chip (SoC) manufactured by China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC).

This represents a significant breakthrough – it’s the first time a Chinese company has produced such an advanced chip domestically. However, SMIC’s 7nm process likely lags several generations behind market leaders like TSMC and Samsung.

The Mate Pro 60’s modem appears able to deliver 5G speeds comparable to Qualcomm’s latest chips. But Huawei hasn’t explicitly confirmed 5G support, an odd omission for a flagship launch.

Several unknowns remain about SMIC’s capabilities. Firstly, production volumes, as the Mate Pro 60 quickly sold out. Secondly, manufacturing costs, which are expected to be higher than rivals. And finally, the lithography equipment used, as key Dutch and Japanese gear remains banned for export to China.

A Warning Shot for the US

The Mate Pro 60 poses questions about the effectiveness of US sanctions against Huawei. The company was blacklisted in 2020, blocking access to almost all semiconductor suppliers globally.

Washington further tightened restrictions last year, severely limiting shipments of advanced chips and manufacturing equipment to China. In response, Beijing has massively increased investments in its