Morris Chang, TSMC founder, voiced his doubts toward the global trend of chip nationalism at a news conference after an informal Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. “If no one says anything about this, it could turn out to be terrible.” Chang said.
The founder of TSMC commented that the advancement of semiconductor technology has been aided by free trade over the last several decades, especially as the ever more complicated procedures would drive the supply chain offshore. Therefore, Chang argued that it would be highly impractical to try to turn back the clock. Chip nationalism, instead of boosting national competitiveness, would drive up the costs and slow technology advancement instead.
While Chang recognized the national security implications of achieving chip autonomy, he believed that it was only necessary to seek self-sufficiency for those chips relevant to national security. When it came to the significantly larger civilian chip sector, however, a supply chain based on free-trade would remain the best option.
Addressing Chang’s concerns, the leading experts in Taiwan generally believe that alliance building would be the best way for the Taiwanese semiconductor industry to adjust to such policy changes. At its online investor conference, TSMC already confirmed that it was evaluating where or not to build a fab in Japan
Echoing Morris Chang, Akira Amari, a Japanese politician and a prominent influencer of the country’s semiconductor policy, commented that self-sufficiency would be the wrong approach to strengthen Japan’s chip industry. Ruling out cooperations with China and South Korea, he advocated to combine Japan’s advantages in semiconductor manufacturing equipment and material with the strengths of TSMC.
However, whether or not TSMC will successfully set up a fab in Japan will depend on two decisive factors, according to experts: subsidies and a stable and sizable demand.