Taiwanese semiconductors in the crosshairs of China and the United States
This strategic industry is at the heart tensions between the island, China and the United States. Many experts and industry representatives are sounding the alarm: the whole world would suffer from a Chinese invasion affecting production.
Taiwan produces 60% of the world's semiconductors.
As if to demonstrate that the industry that drives the island's economy can overcome anything, Taiwan last week organized the largest gathering of the semiconductor industry in its history at the Nangang Convention Center.
Semicon was in its 27th year. More than 700 exhibitors presented their latest innovations and new trends in the smart world related to the faster 5G network.
This is an opportunity for companies from everywhere to do business in Taiwan. We meet a lot of people and customers, explains one of the vice-presidents of Win Way Technology, Jason Chen. It's a very big show this year, but wait until you see next year's!
This edition of Semicon took place at a time when the Taiwanese industry is trying to reassuring to maintain its leading position in the market. Uncertainty hangs over the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
More than 700 exhibitors participated in the 27th Semicon Expo, which was recently held in Taiwan.
If China starts a war against Taiwan, warned the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan, Joseph Wu, in an interview with Radio-Canada two weeks ago, and if the production of semiconductors is interrupted, the world will suffer.
Taiwan produces over 60% of the world's semiconductors, but most importantly, 90% of all of the world's most advanced microchips. These semiconductors, as small as two nanometers in some cases (two billionths of a meter, editor's note) are essential in computers, cell phones, smart home appliances, as well as cars, planes and defense equipment.
World leader and industry heavyweight TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) is seen as the gem for the industry to protect. The company operates two factories in China, and the United States is trying to lure it into a partnership in Arizona.
Since TSMC is based in Taiwan and the majority of TSMC's and the world's production is made in Taiwan, the dangers to the island are of concern to the entire industry, according to Harvard Kennedy School researcher and former Taiwanese politician Jason Hsu. . Taiwan's security is therefore an important issue for the United States, which wants to ensure its supply of microchips.
He also recalls that the Americans adopted the Chips and Science Act in July , a law to revive their own production and reduce their dependence on China and abroad. The United States is seeking to form partnerships with Taiwanese companies, including TSMC.
China's invasion of Taiwan wouldn't be good for anyone in the semiconductor industry, Dennis argues Chen, Chairman of Win Semiconductors Corp.
At the same time, China has also been looking to increase its production and to close its technological gap with Taiwan for the past few years. But some observers fear that it remains a motive to invade the island which China considers to be only a rebel province.
As the president of TSMC has already said, an invasion of Taiwan would not be good for anyone in the area. Even if China took over our factories, says Win Semiconductors Corp President Dennis Chen, they would not have access to our expertise.
Like other Taiwanese business leaders, he maintains that one of the solutions is precisely to relocate part of the production and form alliances with other companies. Dennis Chen says Win Semiconductors Corp remains on the lookout for business opportunities.
Burn Lin is rector of the semiconductor research college at Tsing Hua University, Taiwan.
Risks of Chinese invasion, increased production capacity in China, the United States and also in Europe. All of this is creating immense pressures for an industry already plagued by a shortage of skilled workers.
Taiwan set up five university semiconductor training departments last year to address this problem. It is a partnership between the government and 12 companies in the sector.
Taiwan set up five university semiconductor training departments last year to address the shortage of skilled workers.
These university departments and companies promise to step up efforts to attract foreign talent and offer incentives to keep local brains behind so that Taiwan maintains its leadership position in semiconductors. The island even promises to increase its production by around 20%.
Politics suck and hinder the development of technology, says Burn Lin, the rector of the college of semiconductor research at Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. Everyone is trying to work on their own now, whereas the creation and production chain was integrated before. Everyone had their area of expertise. It doesn't help anyone.
With the arrival of 5G and the promise of many new uses for new smart home devices as well as the creation of smart cities and neighborhoods, the semiconductor industry is more essential than ever. This makes the future of Taiwan a strategic issue of the first order.
Our correspondent in Asia Philippe Leblanc will be based in Taiwan for the next few months to help us discover this island of nearly 24 million inhabitants, its society and the challenges that animate it. And also to cover current issues from the entire Asia-Pacific region.