ⓒ JoongAng Ilbo / JoongAng Ilbo Japanese version2022.12.19 12:05
One of the most talked about papers on US-China relations this year was “Broken Nest: Deterring China’s Invasion of Taiwan.”
The article, which was published in the U.S. Army War College’s quarterly journal, “Parameters,” was provocative, arguing that China should threaten to blow up Taiwan’s TSMC if it tries to invade Taiwan.
The assertion that if China can believe that the world’s largest semiconductor foundry could disappear from its sights, whether it actually does or not, it will not be able to take half-hearted military action. is.
In Taiwan, which considers TSMC to be a sacred mountain to protect the country, it was immediately criticized as “absurd.” However, academic circles took notice of this claim, and since then it has been frequently cited in public forums and recorded the highest number of inquiries since Parameters was published.
Now that the year is over, the crisis over the Taiwan Strait has grown even bigger, and US intelligence agencies continue to warn that the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan has never disappeared.
In the meantime, TSMC has decided to build an additional factory in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, by investing $40 billion, which is three times more than the previous plan.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, TSMC’s largest customer, promised to use semiconductors made here in the future, and President Biden praised it, saying, “The manufacturing industry in the United States has been revived.”
On the 12th, I met with Jared McKinney, a professor at the U.S. Air Force College and co-author of “Broken Nest,” to hear about the relationship between the U.S. and China over TSMC. He said the investment was a “political decision, not an economic one” for both sides. Below are the questions and answers.
Q: You seem to have received a lot of criticism in Taiwan.
A: Not only Taiwan, but also the Taiwan Office of the State Council, which is China’s Taiwan business organ, called it “an ignorant and heretical idea.” Rather, the reaction from the US side before the publication of the paper was positive. There was no discussion of this before, but now you can find relevant papers everywhere. The mere fact that the story spread is significant.
◇ “TSMC is desperate for Chinese leaders”
Q: Will a “scorched-earth strategy” against TSMC really prevent China from aggression?
A: At present, deterrence based on military force is impossible in the Taiwan Strait. This is because the difference in air power and naval power on both sides of the strait is huge. This calls for a “scorched-earth strategy,” and a good example is the Soviet retreat during World War II, destroying all its own facilities, including trains, and slowing the German advance. In exchange for such a geographical advantage, Taiwan can use TSMC as a “lever of pain” against China. TSMC is desperate for China’s leaders. Without semiconductors, the innovation-driven development they advocate cannot be realized, and if they fall behind in terms of national economy and military power, the regime will be threatened. If China wages a war with Taiwan and gains are about 60 to 40, the threat of bombing TSMC will increase the cost by 5-10%. This is an extremely important variable. It’s a variable element.
Q: Do you think that TSMC’s decision to invest $40 billion in the US reflects this situation?
A: Arguments such as the “scorched earth strategy” could foster business uncertainty (of TSMC). TSMC is also currently considering investments in Europe. But such an extension is actually an unreasonable decision. From TSMC’s point of view, the cost of producing semiconductors in the US is 50% higher than in Taiwan. Both are political decisions with little to do with the economy.
◇ “A considerable number of US military weapons depend on Taiwanese semiconductors”
Q: President Biden called the TSMC investment a “game changer.”
A: Apple is not the only reason the United States is pleased with this investment decision. Rather, it may be the smallest percentage of US concerns. A significant portion of the U.S. military’s arsenal depends on semiconductors from TSMC. In the event of a war in Taiwan, the lack of semiconductor supplies could make it difficult to secure weapons. Therefore, the U.S. investment in TSMC is a good decision from the security point of view, as it can increase the military’s ability to respond to emergencies.
Q: Will the Taiwan War Really Happen?
A: 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and 2027, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, are suggested as the time of war. There is no clear evidence of when that will be, but there are very real reasons to worry about this over the next decade. The Chinese economy will obviously slow down due to the restraint by the United States, and as a countermeasure, there is no other choice but to increase nationalism within China. In the 2030s, the United States will be in an even stronger position than China, and China will look for excuses to justify their actions. Elections in Taiwan and the United States in 2024 and 2028 may be the trigger.
◇ “Military deterrence, South Korea and Taiwan are different”
Q: In the event of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula (Korean Peninsula), I am worried that even South Korea, where there is a semiconductor factory, will claim that it will be scorched earth.
A: South Korea is in a different geopolitical location. For the time being, deterrence by military force is possible. It has a well-trained South Korean military and a presence of US forces in South Korea, effectively preventing outside aggression. Most of all, there is no need for a semiconductor factory in North Korea, which currently has no semiconductor imports.
Kim Pil Gyu / Alabama correspondent