Microchip war. So the US tries to overtake China


->The American semiconductor industry recently proposed to boost federal government investment. A sector, that of microchips, of fundamental strategic importance in the race for technological supremacy in which the United States holds a significant advantage over China and other potential competitors.

In fact, the proposal must be placed in the broader context of the health crisis, which has accelerated a tendency to decouple the main global value chains. An often instinctive reaction, but now it has become more and more daughter of a consolidated perception by the policymakers Americans, of the risks associated with hyper-globalization.

From here came an increasingly shared discourse on the need for a more structured industrial policy and a paradigm shift in national security that can face the challenge launched by China with new tools and awareness. How much more in the technology sector, where the dependence of American industries in some manufacturing segments (in particular Taiwan, South Korea and of course in China) is increasingly perceived as a risk, since often these technologies have military implications.

Bringing back part, if not all, of production in America would respond to the needs of strengthening the perimeter of safety as well as further stimulating research and development. “It would represent a substantial reconfiguration of the entire industry,” he commented Scott Kennedy, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at the issuer CNN Business. “Semiconductors and the IT and communications sector are the most globalized industries in the world.”

That part of this reality is dictated by the escalation with China is rather obvious. In an interview with Fox News, Donald Trump has raised the need for a real decoupling from Chinese technology. In this way, new manufacturing activities in the United States would be galvanized, provided that the federal government laid the foundations and laid down the conditions for rebuilding a manufacturing made in America with high technological content. Rebuilding a new and consolidated public-private partnership, therefore, to win the race for technological supremacy with the weapons that the Chinese Communist Party has deployed in recent decades to subsidize its strategic industries. Which, compared to microchips, remain heavily dependent on the United States, South Korea.

There have been two tactics so far. A government, with the restrictions put in place by the administration to prevent the sale of microchips to Huawei last February, as reported by Formiche.net; the second commercial, following Trump’s checkmate with the announcement of the next installation of a Tsmc plant in Arizona. Now the American offensive is moving internally.

Last April 28 the Chief Executive from Intel, Bob Swan, in a reading at the Pentagon, noted that his company was “in a unique position” to be able to collaborate with the government in the semiconductor sector. “Thanks for […] the opportunity to discuss the possibility of maintaining American technological leadership and strengthening the home bases of microelectronics, “Swan acknowledged in the letter. “This is more important than ever given the uncertainty created in the current geopolitical scenario.”

Swan went on to suggest that Intel may act as an “American forge” in providing a wide range of microelectronics segments, both to the government and to other American companies. However, as some experts point out Intel has played a significant and dynamic role in design, but not in the production of microchips for other companies. Then there is a further obstacle to the possibility of coordinating the most important American realities, such as Qualcomm and Nvidia, as Scott Kennedy recalls: “There are few companies that could benefit extraordinarily, others instead that grow more in an innovation ecosystem and globalized production “.

Today, the scenario has become more interesting. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Semiconductor Industry Association has submitted a proposal to the government for a $ 37 billion plan, including subsidies for the construction of a new microchip manufacturing plant, aid to individual states to attract investments in the sector and greater research spending and development.

Growing tensions with China have led to more and more accepting the possibility of a “national industrial strategy”, he commented Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation on the pages of WSJ. “It used to be about protecting steel. Now consensus is much more convergent towards these promising industries “. The program would allocate 15 billion to states as non-repayable loans, while the remaining 17 would be divided between applied and basic research. “Our plan has important numbers, but the cost of inaction would be much higher for our economy, national security and leadership in the future of these critical technologies,” commented the president of Sia and Chief Executive John Neuffer.

Currently, the US counts about 13% of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing capacity, roughly the same share in 2015, as it claims Martin Chorzempa, research fellow from the Peterson Institute for International Economics interviewed at CNN. By contrast, China had 8% in 2015 and today has reached 12%. But more than reasoning about quotas, it will be decisive to dominate their “knowledge and process […] in the country and make sure that [gli Usa] have an understanding of the whole manufacturing process “, since the United States” dominates semiconductor design “and the production” of those that are used in East Asia “.

This is clearly a paradigm shift with significant repercussions in American industry, especially with regard to the rules antitrust and possible resistance within the US economic landscape. But in an increasingly incandescent climate compared to relations with China and the function of many of these technologies (from 5g to artificial intelligence) it is more than plausible that the discussion can continue in Congress, where there is already a bipartisan front on the need for a more incisive role of the government to support cutting-edge technology sectors. Saturday, a group of senators led by the Democrat Chuck Schumer and the republican Todd Young they proposed a $ 110 billion named initiative Endless Frontier Act to strengthen technology spending, including semiconductor research. Vannevar Bush, father of American scientific and technological research, would approve.


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