Small Taiwan is threatened by giant China.
China and Taiwan will be reunited, Chinese President Xi Jinping said In October last year. Whether it happened peacefully or not.
And on Wednesday CIA Director William Burns said He believes that the risk of invasion will increase with time.
Taiwan had to think carefully about how to defend itself. The country’s population of 23 million can no longer compete with the formidable Chinese military power.
They have always been dependent on support from the United States. But it is not without reservation. After all, the United States and Taiwan are not officially allies.
So Taiwan built missile defenses, bought fighter planes, built military bases and trained hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Willing to be able to fully defend himself without assistance.
But perhaps the most effective defense is the screen you’re reading from now.
It is part of Taiwansilicon shield».
The dominance of the computer chip
The phone, PC or tablet you’re reading from is made of data chips. Computer chips that most likely come from Taiwan.
A lot of the best defense techniques are also based on small players.
The island nation of Taiwan controls more than 90 percent of the market for the more advanced variants, and 65 percent of Semiconductorsthe market in general.
Many thanks to the giant Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Corporation. (TSMC), which alone controls 55 percent of the market.
Little by little, the USA, China and the rest of the world are becoming dependent on these data chips.
It is very noticeable now. The semiconductor industry is already going through a shortage crisis that is causing huge price increases and waiting times. Also in Norway.
The Chinese may have become so addicted that they don’t even want to pay for the invasion.
According to a US Congress report, China accounts for 60 percent of the world’s semiconductor demand.
– China is the factory of the world, and the semiconductor industry is very important in this production. At the same time, the rest of the world depends on Chinese production. If Taiwan suddenly stops exporting semiconductors to China, this means, among other things, that Apple, German car companies, etc. will not be able to produce what they are supposed to produce. This is all connected, explains Professor in the Department of Defense Studies, Austin Tonsjo.
For the United States, dependency may mean that it is more willing to defend the island.
– This is not just a question of our financial security. Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-hwa added that it appears to have an obvious connection to our national security as well Reuters last year.
Factories on the front line
Part of what helps deter a Chinese invasion is the strategic location of TSMC’s factories.
They lie like pearls on a string along the western coast of Taiwan, some just 130 kilometers from China.
The most advanced factories are located in Taichung, Hsinchu and Tainan. They are all near the so-called “red beaches”.
These are the beaches where it would be easier for China to land soldiers if they invaded.
The headquarters of TSMC and many of the largest factories are located in Hsinchu, only 22 kilometers from the nearest “red beach”.
The vast majority of factories are located near military bases.
So the fear is great that the factories will be destroyed in the conflict.
The US position on Taiwan is somewhat unclear. In professional parlance, it is called “strategic ambiguity”.
This meant that the United States would be a safe supplier of arms to Taiwan, but left it up to the air as to whether to deploy its military forces if China attacked the island.
However, at the end of May, there was no ambiguity in President Joe Biden’s mouth.
He then stated, for the second time, that the United States would contribute militarily to the defense of Taiwan if it came to that.
Dr. Eli Ratner is one of the US Department of Defense’s leading experts on Taiwan. On December 8 last year, he offered a possible explanation for Biden’s shift in the pace of American foreign policy.
In front of the Senate Ratner just mentioned the reliance on the Taiwanese semiconductor industry as one of the reasons why Taiwan’s security is important to the United States.
– It’s not the most important thing
Admittedly, Professor Austin Tonsjo believes that Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is not the most important consideration when determining the likelihood of a Chinese invasion.
Of course, a certain kind of deterrence is that Taiwan has this ability to produce important technology that China needs. But the war between China and Taiwan is not about semiconductors. He says it has to do with China’s desire to control Taiwan.
Tunsjø believes that semiconductors will only be one of many concerns during what is likely to be a complete economic meltdown:
But the risk to China if it starts a war is much greater than losing access to semiconductors. This means a complete halt to trade with the United States, Japan and South Korea, and possibly also with the European Union.
At the same time, it is not clear whether it will stop China, says the professor:
There are many indications that China is ready to take this step in a few years anyway, and go to war. It reminds us a lot of the situation we are in in Europe now. Germany and the EU depend on Russian gas, Russia depends on the European market, but in the end it didn’t matter.
Breakout at the breakfast table
To understand how the Taiwan semiconductor adventure came to be, we need to go back in time a bit.
The breakthrough came in 1974.
Perhaps there was a bit of a slow atmosphere at that time in the capital, Taipei. Taiwan was losing its international recognition, and rising oil prices and inflation had dampened economic growth.
But according to the description of Industrial Archives of TaiwanAnd that’s when the big breakthrough came.
A group of Taiwanese ministers had breakfast in a cafe famous for its soy milk and steamed buns with an engineer from the United States.
The Taiwanese government wanted to develop the electronics industry, but did not know how.
The engineer suggested that Taiwan invest in semiconductors, and that is what happened. It wasn’t long before Taiwanese ministers sent promising young Taiwanese to the United States to learn how to do it.
It was this local Taiwanese knowledge that businessman Maurice Chang used when he founded TSMC in 1985. He had extensive experience with the American computer company Texas Instruments, and he knew what to do:
TSMC will specialize in making computer chips from scratch, and then sell them.
Until then, all the major computer companies such as IBM and Texas Instruments were making their own computer chips, which became more expensive as the chips became more advanced.
Commands started pouring in.
Today, TSMC has a market capitalization of $448 billion.
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