To decide whether eight-inch silicon wafer foundries should or can be allowed to move to China is certainly under the jurisdiction of the Cabinet. But only after a scrupulous and comprehensive review can the Cabinet make its final decision. The key actually hinges on the task force consisting of representatives from industry, government and academia.
The core task of the team is to review on a regular basis the "the types of investment that can be allowed to be invested in China" and carefully evaluate "the transfer or loss of core technology caused by China-bound investment" in accordance with the "implementation plan" for the "active opening, effective management" consensus reached at the Economic Development Advisory Conference (EDAC, 經發會). The problem of the eight-inch silicon wafers moving west is a core issue to be reviewed by the task force. So far, it has not reached a conclusion on the matter.
Vice Premier Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) has said, "[The Cabinet] will make a resolution earlier than the end of this month as initially scheduled," while Minister of Economic Affairs Christine Tsung (宗才怡) said, "Opening up the eight-inch chip investments is of great urgency." We have also seen several other officials urge this "opening up" on the legislative floor. All of these examples have violated administrative procedures and made a mockery of the task force's authority.
The EDAC is a mechanism set up single-handedly by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). "Carrying out the EDAC's consensus" is also the promise Chen has always kept in mind. Despite the Cabinet reshuffle, the legal status and power of the task force remain unchanged and the question of whether eight-inch wafer fabs should be allowed to go to China is still being reviewed.
Only after the task force presents its report will the Cabinet have any basis for discussion and the possibility of making a decision. In their eagerness to declare their positions to the legislature and the public at a time when the task force is still debating the issue, Cabinet members have overstepped the task force's authority and violated the procedure.
The Cabinet has been dubbed a "combative Cabinet," but combat should not be without method. The task force has yet to offer its comments, but the Cabinet has hastily jumped to a conclusion. Haste makes waste. The problem will be really terrible if it sparks an "implosion."
Chin Heng-wei is editor in chief of the Contemporary Monthly magazine.
Translated by Jackie Lin