July 13, 2024

Taiwan to probe firms over Huawei chip plants in China

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Taipei has said it will investigate if Taiwanese firms that helped Huawei build semiconductor factories violated US sanctions against the Chinese tech giant.

Huawei, a leader in 5G telecom equipment, has been at the centre of the intensifying US-China rivalry over advanced tech in recent years.

The United States and its allies have curtailed its access to major markets and advanced tech — including chip making — over fears its products could allow China to spy on their networks.

Taiwan’s Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua agreed on Wednesday — during questioning by lawmakers — to launch a probe into four tech firms that collaborated with Huawei on chip plants.

The four Taiwanese companies are helping Huawei develop an “under-the-radar network of chip plants” in China, Bloomberg reported this week.

The companies were identified by Bloomberg as Topco Scientific Co., L&K Engineering Co., United Integrated Services Co. and Cica-Huntek Chemical Technology Taiwan.

Taiwan — which China claims as its territory — is a powerhouse for the design and production of semiconductors, the lifeblood of the modern global economy.

Despite growing Chinese diplomatic and military pressure on the island, Taiwan’s tech industry has had to tread a careful line to avoid angering Beijing and any export control violations.

Wang told lawmakers that the four companies had helped Huawei with “wastewater and environmental protection equipment” for its factories, and not with sensitive technologies that could impact national security.

Since last year, the United States has introduced sweeping restrictions to cut off China’s access to high-end semiconductors and chip-making equipment, citing national security concerns.

China has responded with similar curbs, including the introduction of a license requirement to export the rare minerals vital in the production of semiconductors.

In August, Huawei announced a phone model reportedly powered by an advanced chip that was manufactured in China, leading to questions in Washington about the efficacy of curbs against the company.

In Washington on Wednesday, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo described reports that Huawei is manufacturing advanced chips as “incredibly disturbing”.

During a Senate commerce committee hearing, she did not comment on any ongoing US probes but said her department investigates “to the fullest wherever we think there is some credible allegation” of an export controls violation.

Raimondo told a Congressional hearing last month that there was no evidence that Huawei could produce these chips at scale.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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