Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) chairman Mark Liu (劉德音) said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would render the company’s plants inoperable, and that such a war would produce “no winners.”
Not only would Taiwan’s economy be destroyed in a cross-strait conflict, but the impact “would go well beyond semiconductors, and would bring about the destruction of the world’s rules-based order and totally change the geopolitical landscape,” Liu said in the interview, according to the Central News Agency.
Bloomberg columnist Hal Brands wrote on June 24: “A major war over Taiwan could create global economic chaos that would make the mess produced by Russia’s war in Ukraine look minor by comparison, for reasons going far beyond the nation’s crucial position in semiconductor supply chains.”
Brands said that fighting in the region would disrupt critical shipping lanes, and would result in accelerated decoupling of the US and Chinese economies. This could be followed by blockades, sanctions and seizing of each other’s assets.
US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen on April 6 confirmed Brands’ speculation in part when she said that the US would use all of its sanctions tools against China should it attack Taiwan.
Such sanctions would appear to have the support of the US public. A recent survey showed that a majority favored providing support to Taiwan in the event of a cross-strait conflict, with even those wavering on US military involvement supporting the severing of commercial ties with China, Morning Consult Holdings reported on Friday last week.
Beijing might have thought that sanctions imposed following an attack would be limited in scope, given the interdependence of the world’s largest economies. However, sanctions on Russia by the US and Europe — which is weaning itself off Russian energy — have shown otherwise. The effect of those sanctions has made it less capable of helping China in such an event by making up for other markets.
Russia’s economy is predicted to shrink by 10 percent this year, and Moscow has defaulted on its foreign debt. The country is unable to buy semiconductors, key auto parts such as transmission boxes and airbags, and other items that Russia is not easily able to make itself, economist Rachel Ziemba and journalist Adrian Ma said in a June 29 interview on National Public Radio’s The Indicator.
That last point relates to Liu’s comments regarding TSMC. China makes microchips, but it still relies on imports for the most advanced chips from Taiwan and South Korea. Liu said an invasion of Taiwan would render TSMC unable to produce chips “because of the extreme sophistication of TSMC’s plants, which require a real-time connection with partners across the world on matters ranging from raw materials and chemicals to spare parts and software.”
South Korea would also likely cut off the chip supply to China to comply with global sanctions on Beijing. Cutting off China and Russia from advanced microchips would put these allies at a major technological disadvantage.
There is no question that China would face crippling sanctions as a response to attacking Taiwan. Its economy would be left in tatters, but it might even face military action from nations concerned about the strategic impact of an attack on Taiwan.
A delegation by former Japanese defense officials arrived on Wednesday last week for four days of talks with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and other senior officials to discuss Taiwan-Japan security exchanges. The talks clearly spooked officials in Beijing, as they had their propaganda mouthpiece, the Global Times, write an op-ed the day after the delegation’s arrival to claim that Japan had nefarious intentions.
China needs no reminding that an attempted invasion of Taiwan — even if successful — would come at an insurmountable cost.
In the 74 years since its founding, the leaders of the People’s Republic of China have always seen the Republic of China in Taiwan as a thorn in their collective side. The Chinese Communist Party has wished for nothing more than to remove this thorn and fulfill its vision of communist revolution. During the Cold War, Beijing couched these ambitions in the language of “liberating” Taiwan. Now it strikes chords of national unity and sings the new propaganda line of unification of the motherland. But in those 74 years the Republic of China has undergone a revolution of its own: a
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