Tang Qi, a former phone dealer in Huaqiangbei, one of China's largest smartphone grey markets in Shenzhen, has witnessed the ups and downs of the handset industry. But one thing is certain: business has always hinged on semiconductor chips.
Now, with the golden years of globalisation seemingly in the rear view, the country's mobile phone industry is caught in the middle of a tech war that has seen the U.S. and its allies ban exports of semiconductors used to power advanced smartphones, leaving the outlook far from certain.
From the turn of the century well into the 2010s, Huaqiangbei—an electronics district of 1.45 sq km (0.56 square miles) in the heart of Shenzhen–was the city's most prosperous area. The latest mobile phones–genuine, smuggled or knock-off–could usually be found there, before being shipped all over the world.
Its fate, however, shows what can happen when access to high-end semiconductor chips becomes more difficult and domestic innovation falters.
From South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)
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