TSMC is the most valuable company in Asia and one of the most valuable companies worldwide. However, its home of Taiwan has been in geopolitical uncertainty for decades, and the specter of war looms over Taiwan as Chinese saber ratting intensifies over perceived indignance. There are lots of reasons for China not to attempt to invade neighboring Taiwan, but today TSMC’s Chairman Mark Liu shared another, stating, “Nobody can control TSMC by force.”
US news channel CNN scooped a rare interview with Liu, with Fareed Zakaria leading the questioning. The interview takes place with the Chinese communist party displeased as US House Speaker Pelosi plans to visit Taiwan during her Asia tour. Pelosi is meeting leaders in various countries about “mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region,” and, of course, China doesn’t want Taiwan to be on the itinerary. China has even mentioned that it may react with “forceful measures.”
A US speaker visiting Taiwan isn’t unprecedented; Republican Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan in 1997 while holding the same position.
But with the above context, CNN’s Zakaria was quick to question Liu about the subject of a possible war. Liu seemed very reasoned and prepared with his answers, not going along with the questioner’s alarmist tone. The TSMC Chairman clarified that there would be no winners in a war. Taiwan’s people are used to democracy, said Liu, and want to choose their own leaders and way of life. In other words, the 23 million populace wouldn’t accept a forced change.
While the chip business is critical for the economy of Taiwan, it probably wouldn’t be the greatest concern in a war situation, said Liu. Instead, the people of Taiwan and the world should worry more about the destruction of the world’s rule-based order – and huge change in the geopolitical landscape, according to the TSMC Chairman.
“Nobody can control TSMC by force”
Addressing the prospect of a Chinese communist party takeover of the island, Liu inferred that such an act would destroy TSMC in Taiwan. “Nobody can control TSMC by force,” stated Liu. “If you take a military force or invasion, you will render TSMC factories inoperable.”
For those who might think Liu’s statements are hot air or posturing, he went on to explain, “because these are such sophisticated manufacturing facilities, they depend on the real-time connection with the outside world... from materials, to chemicals, to spare parts, to engineering software, and diagnosis.” We think he is illustrating that with so many diverse inputs and efforts needed to operate TSMC factories, they would quickly stop functioning if partners abroad, like those in Asia, Europe, and the US, withdrew support.
Another interesting point raised by Liu during the interview was about the futility of war. Liu admitted that the Russia-Ukraine war wasn’t a parallel, and wouldn’t be comparable to a China invasion of Taiwan. However, he said the result would be the same as what we are seeing now – with three sides experiencing a lose-lose-lose scenario. The three sides include the two parties directly in conflict, with the third party being allies of either side. Hopefully, despite the saber-rattling and threatening statements, officials in China will keep a lid on militaristic glory-seeking factions. As Liu concluded, war needs to be avoided, so the economy and fair competition can keep humming along for everyone’s benefit.
Despite TSMC building fabs outside of Taiwan, it intends to keep its leading-edge technology facilities on the island. The contract chipmaking firm recently unveiled its 3nm roadmap and details of its 2nm node.