Sat, Mar 09, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Chipmakers and scholars to televise live chip debate

By Kevin Chen and Dan Nystedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

Hysterical reaction and irrational argument are seriously misinforming the public about the issue of whether or not Taiwan's semiconductor industry should be allowed to invest in China, the head of Taiwan's chip industry association said yesterday.

"For those outside the semiconductor industry, it is really a sector they don't know much about ... [So many] misunderstandings exist among the general public on the issue that we hope through debate we can help raise general awareness about the issue -- what problems the industry is facing and what it needs and wants [with relation to building factories in China]," said Gordon Chen (陳文咸), president of the Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association (台灣半導體產業協會).

Chen said people have been led to believe that allowing Taiwanese chipmakers to manufacture eight-inch wafers in China will cause a hollowing out of the industry, capital squeeze, spur unemployment and help Chinese companies catch up with their Taiwanese counterparts.

"Unfortunately, those concerns are not true," Chen said at a press conference yesterday.

Tonight, Chen is set to meet with five other academic and industry leaders -- including Frank Huang (黃崇仁), head of Powerchip Semiconductor Corp (力晶半導體), Lo Cheng-fang (羅正方), executive director of the Taiwan Thinktank (台灣智庫), and Wu Rong-i (吳榮義), president of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (台經院) -- in a live televised debate on the issue. It will be aired on Public Television Service (公共電視), channel 53 in most areas, between 7pm and 9pm this evening.

"We are now living in a society which is full of information, both useful and useless. But ironically knowledge of the IC industry is rather insufficient. Through the debate we want to help people understand the industry and help avoid a political confrontation in the country," Lo said.

Separately, the Taiwan Association of University Professors (台教會) and Taiwan Engineers' Association (台灣工程師協會) are scheduled to march on the Executive Yuan in Taipei today, demanding it to stop chipmakers from investing in China. The two groups will be supported by pro-independence factions and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), the political party formed by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

These groups believe the government is selling Taiwan out to China by allowing chipmakers to invest there. They say the government risks increasing unemployment and destroying Taiwan's technology advantage over China by allowing the companies to invest in Taiwan's political rival.

But Chen disagreed. "I think the Ministry of Economic Affairs has a better grasp of the chip industry than other government agencies. Some top-ranking government officials still lack a proper understanding of the industry," Chen said.

For Taiwan to retain its technological advantage under the opening-up policy, Lo urged the government to study the policy proposal very thoroughly before making a decision.

"We hope the establishment of an `effective management' mechanism will not just work to regulate the chip industry but also help set the rules for the petrochemical and TFT-LCD industries in the future. Bad policy is worse than no policy at all," he said.

Earlier this week, Lin Hsin-yi (林信義), vice premier and chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development, put his full political weight behind the IT sector by telling lawmakers chipmakers should be allowed to invest in China and that he is confident in the government's ability to oversee their activities.

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