The retired founder of TSMC said on Thursday that even as he supported US efforts to slow China's advances in the semiconductor industry, the "bifurcation" of the global supply chain and the reversal of globalisation would increase prices and reduce the ubiquity of chips that power the modern world.
"There's no question in my mind that, in the chip sector, globalisation is dead. Free trade is not quite that dead, but it's in danger," Morris Chang said, speaking at an event hosted by Taiwan's CommonWealth Magazine.
"When the costs go up, the pervasiveness of chips will either stop or slow down considerably," said Chang, who at 91 remains an influential voice in Taiwan's chip industry. "We are going to be in a different game."
In Taiwan, TSMC Asia's most valuable listed company and a major Apple supplier, is widely regarded as the "sacred mountain protecting the country," because of its economic importance.
China has in recent years ramped up diplomatic and military pressure against Taiwan, which Beijing views as its territory, raising concerns about the fate of the chip fabs that dot Taiwan's western coast and produce the majority of the world's most advanced chips if China blockades or attacks the island.
US "onshoring" and "friendshoring" efforts to boost chip manufacturing stateside or in allied countries present a predicament for Taiwan.
"Friendshore does not include Taiwan. In fact, the commerce secretary has said repeatedly that Taiwan is a very dangerous place, we cannot - America cannot - rely on Taiwan for chips," Chang said. "Now that, of course, is I think Taiwan's dilemma."
TSMC is expanding its global production footprint, even as it keeps its most advanced technology in Taiwan.
Late last year, TSMC began construction of a second chip factory in Arizona which will start production in 2026, using advanced 3 nm technology. The company's total investment in the US project amounts to $40 billion (roughly Rs. 3,30,860 crore).
Meanwhile, the Chinese government is plowing billions into bolstering its chip sector, but Chang said China's chip manufacturing technology lags that of Taiwan by "at least five or six years".
© Thomson Reuters 2023
After facing headwinds in India last year, Xiaomi is all set to take on the competition in 2023. What are the company's plans for its wide product portfolio and its Make in India commitment in the country? We discuss this and more on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts. Affiliate links may be automatically generated - see our ethics statement for details.