China uses bizarre memes of US commerce boss to plug new phone

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Images of U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo have appeared on Chinese media in fake advertising campaigns for Huawei’s new smartphone, according to a report.

The Huawei Mate 60 Pro is being hailed in China as a symbol of the country’s technological progress in the face of what many Chinese say are Washington’s best efforts to restrict China’s access to sophisticated chips.

In an altered video posted by CCTV, the Chinese state TV network, Raimondo is seen saying: “No commerce secretary has been tougher than I on China.”

The video then shows altered images of her posing with the phone.

Other videos feature the phrase “far, far ahead,” which the head of Huawei’s smartphone business used 14 times in one 2020 presentation to describe its relationship to its peers.

Raimondo, who spoke at the Boeing hangar in Shanghai’s Pudong Airport last week as the new phone launched, is responsible for overseeing export controls that limit China’s access to chips and the ingredients to make them.

The phone relies on chips made by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), a company partly owned by the Chinese government, according to consultancy TechInsight. However, analysts have warned that its production probably involved American technology and machinery.

Chinese social media has been awash with posts hyping the phone’s capabilities and popularity, the Washington Post reported, with joke videos showing crowds of people rushing to stores to buy the phone with the desperation of someone grasping for water after wandering in a desert.

Chu Yin, a senior researcher at the Center for American Studies at Zhejiang International Studies University, told Phoenix Television that the new phone is a “resounding slap in the face to the trade bullying of American politicians.”

US sanctions, first implemented by the Trump administration and continued under President Biden, were put in place to prevent Chinese companies from buying or building the semiconductors used in advanced technologies with military applications.

Washington has also sought to block the export of the machines required to manufacture such semiconductors.

On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Gallagher, chairman of the House Select Committee on China, called for an end to all US technology exports to both SMIC and Huawei.

The Huawei Mate 60 Pro sold out across major Chinese e-commerce sites less than a week after its release.