Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), “invited” by the US government on many occasions, on Friday last week announced plans to build a 5-nanometer fab in Arizona by next year.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the news immediately and the New York Times has called this development a victory for US President Donald Trump.
The Trump administration has, on many occasions, asked TSMC, considered the pride of Taiwan, to set up a fab in the US. Now that the idea is to be realized, it has been met with much approval in the US.
The project not only makes Taiwanese proud, but also highlights the pressure that many countries, and even companies, felt on being asked to choose sides in light of the US-China cold war.
Trump took office on the back of his slogan to “make America great again,” and this has remained central to his administration and for his re-election campaign. With this is mind, the US is determined to confront any forces head-on that challenge or hinder its dominance.
This is the reason behind a US-China trade war and the “free and open” Indo-Pacific strategy: It is clear for all to see that the US is intent on counterbalancing or weakening China’s influence.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, which started in China, spreading worldwide and causing millions of deaths or illness, the heavy price the US is paying has only made the Trump administration more determined to carry out its policy of decoupling from China. Urging TSMC to set up a fab in the US is part of this strategy.
Therefore, TSMC’s move to build a fab in the US is not just a matter of fulfilling financial or industrial supply chain needs. From the viewpoint of international strategy, it highlights the following aspects:
First, at the global level, the competition between the US and China, two major world powers, has entered the “Thucydides trap,” so it is foreseeable that the struggle between the two will continue. Under such circumstances, other countries and even international organizations would also be under pressure to choose a side.
Second, from the perspective of international competition, in order to compete for dominance, the US and China are taking all possible measures and policy tools to ensure their self-sufficiency in the supply chains of the scientific, technological, military and economic industries, and to weaken their counterpart’s advantages.
Third, at the individual level, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) both face challenges at home and abroad, such as economic downturns, and responsibility and accountability during the pandemic, and these will be key factors determining whether they can remain in power.
It is not surprising that Trump and Xi have continued their struggle for power. Following its establishment of a fab in China in 2016, TSMC is also to set up a fab in the US next year.
As the saying goes, “a falling leaf indicates the coming of the fall.” This is one concrete example of the confrontation between the US and China.
In the same vein, as some question President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration for being pro-US and for intentionally desinicizing Taiwan, instead of balancing the two powers, TSMC’s choice is self-evident.
Paul Lei is a veteran media worker and has a master’s degree from National Chung Cheng University’s Graduate Institute of Strategic and International Affairs Studies.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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