The tech war between China and America took another leap: watch out for microchips


Milan. The “two sessions” of the pletorical legislative bodies of the communist regime begin today in China, the largest and most choreographed political event of the year in the most populous country in the world, where the great decisions on the future of China are not made (that is done in the Politburo, more intimate) but are announced to the world. The two sessions (for fetishists are the plenary session of the National Assembly of the People of China and the annual session of the National Committee of the Political Consultative Conference of the People of China) come at a fundamental moment: they have been postponed for two months due to Covid-19, and are held in the midst of the crisis, while the economy is stagnant and relations with the United States are at an all time low of the past 40 years. We will therefore talk about a pandemic and a GDP, but one of the focal points will concern technology, and in the preparatory documents of the sessions there is a lot of talk about the goal of making China independent in strategic technologies. China and the United States have been in the midst of a technological war for a couple of years now, and some news of the last few days suggests that things could get worse.

These news concern a company little known to the general public: the Taiwanese TSMC, which it is the best manufacturer in the world of advanced microchips. Now, we are used to thinking of microchips as the “brains” of computers and mobile phones, but in reality microchips are strategic for infinite other reasons: they are found in ballistic missiles, in war jets, in submarines. Controlling microchips is strategic, and this worries Americans a lot, because there are only three places in the world that currently have the capacity to produce the highest level chips: America itself with Intel, which however produces mainly for servers and computers. , South Korea with Samsung and Taiwan with Tsmc (China is advancing in the sector, but still is not able to produce the highest level microchips). Just look at the map to understand the problem: Tsmc and Samsung, which produce the strategic microchips, are located in the backyard of China, and this in case of conflict would become a devastating weakness. So this week the Trump administration made two moves: first it banned Huawei, the Chinese tech giant, from using American-designed microchips. Secondly, he announced that Tsmc, the Taiwanese company, will open a high-level microchip factory in Arizona. The intention is clear: to put strategic technological production away from Chinese missiles in case of conflict. This also means that American strategists believe that technology warfare can lead to something more serious.

And so in these days at the two sessions there will be a lot of talk about technology and Taiwan, the independent island that Beijing considers to be its property and which yesterday installed Tsai Ing-wen for a second presidential term, opposed to integration with China and near Washington. Taiwan, with its high-level technological production, is squeezed between the two giants, and in recent days on many unofficial Chinese blogs and social media it has been said that Beijing could even invade the island to take control of Tsmc, much the production of microchips is strategic. The analyst Bill Bishop, in his Sinocism newsletter, wrote that the possibility “seems crazy, but these are crazy times”.

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