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Mark Liu, the Chairman of Taiwan Semicondictor Manufacturing Company(TSMC), the most valuable company in Asia, and tenth in the whole world, appeared on CNN’s GPS show (07/31/22) to discuss the growing global shortage of semiconductor chips, and efforts by his company to ramp up production in the United States. TSMC is building a $12 billion advanced chip manufacturing plant in Arizona, thanks in large part to subsidies from the recently passed Chips Act. As expected, the interview also delved into growing global concerns about a possible invasion of Taiwan by China, especially given what is currently happening in Ukraine.
As it currently stands, the whole world relies on TSMC for the supply of advanced semiconductor chips, and as concerns grow about a possible invasion of Taiwan by China (especially after Russia-Ukraine), many in the tech world fear that their industry could be turned upside down without a free TSMC.
Asked what would happen to the chip industry if China were to invade Taiwan, Chairman Liu said even though the production of advanced semiconductor chips is critical to the Taiwanese economy, the chip industry/economy would be their least concern because such an attack would upend the world’s rules-based order, and dramatically change the geopolitical landscape.
Asked whether China may be interested in invading Taiwan so it can have total control of TSMC, one of the world’s most valuable assets, Chairman Liu responded (video at 3:15): “Nobody can control TSMC by force. If you take a military force, or invasion, you will render a TSMC factory non-operable because this is such a sophisticated manufacturing facility, it depends on the real time connection with the outside world–with Europe, with Japan, with the U.S., from materials, to chemicals, to spare parts, to engineering software diagnosis, and it is everybody’s effort to make this factory operable, so if you take it over by force, you can no longer make it operable.”
Asked about the so-called “TSMC shield”–this notion that because mainland China relies heavily on TSMC for it’s high end chips, it may be hesitant to invade–Chairman Liu responded (video at 4:45): “Our[TSMC] interruption will create great economic turmoil on either side–in China because, suddenly their most advanced components supply [will have] disappeared…it is an interruption, I must say, so people will think twice on this.” It appears Chairman Liu agrees with the “TSMC shield” theory. He then added that we should draw lessons from the Russia-Ukraine war because as we can see, there are no winners. Russia is suffering, Ukraine is suffering, and the rest of the world is suffering as a result of the war. China’s invasion of Taiwan would be no different.
Asked to explain how Taiwan has managed to grow at 5% per year for five decades straight–the so-called “Taiwan miracle”, Chairman Liu said a lot of it had to do with the fact that the Taiwanese are generally, very peaceful people. He said that since 1949, when the island transformed from authoritarian rule, they have managed to live peacefully. He also added the education system as another reason for the “Taiwan miracle.” Apparently, university education in Taiwan is available to anybody who wants it. As a result, 80% of adults in Taiwan are college educated.
Bottom line folks, as host Fareed Zakaria correctly put it, Chairman Liu is probably the most important man in the world, that you don’t know about. All in all, a fascinating interview, with a fascinating business leader, from a fascinating island, which I hope, the world does everything, to shield from an invasion by China.
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