The “Silicon Shield” strategy poses a threat to Taiwan and America

Day by day, tensions between China and Taiwan are escalating, and fears are mounting that Beijing will invade the island, and this possibility has increased to a large extent since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.

The essence of the conflict between China and Taiwan lies in the fact that Beijing considers Taiwan as part of the Chinese mainland, and a province that must be rejoined within the framework of the “one China” policy, while the people of Taiwan reject it and regard their island as independent.

It is believed that one of the important elements in the framework of the Chinese escalation is that Beijing also seeks to control one of the largest markets for technological industries in the world, in the context of the technological war between Beijing and the West. , and Washington in particular.

The American researcher at the Asia Society Policy Institute and the Belfer Center at Harvard University, Christopher Vasallo, said in an analysis published by the American National Interest magazine that the “silicone shield” – which is a strategy called which take into account China and America’s dependence. on the Taiwanese semiconductor industry is the bulwark of defense of the island – a concept. Outdated, it weighs on the US, strengthens Taiwan, but will not deter China, and a crisis may break out that shows the idea is outdated.

Extra shield

Author Craig Addison mentioned that the idea of ​​a “silicone shield” was first proposed in the New York Times more than two decades ago, where he explained that Taiwan has a shield in addition to the missile shield that Washington intended to settle in East Asia. At the heart of Silicon Shield is Taiwan’s massive share of IT products. Edison explained that the semiconductors and computer components manufactured by Taiwan are so important that the world can not afford to stop its flow or destroy its factories, as losses could amount to trillions of dollars.

Since the outbreak of the Russian war against Ukraine on February 24, Vasalu says, U.S. defense strategies have put Taiwan under pressure to modernize its military defenses. One of the main tasks was to align the supply of defense weapons with the needs of the Taiwanese army, and to purchase Stingers and Javelins, rather than Abrams tanks and Seahawk helicopters. In the process, U.S. strategists neglected the issue of accelerating the weakening of Taiwan’s “silicone shield.” The “silicone shield” refers to the protection that is supposed to be provided by the large semiconductor industry in Taiwan, where the island is the factory of the world’s chips, as it accounts for about 90% of the production of the most advanced chips in the world. provided, and 50% of all types of chips. Taiwan is the key to semiconductor supply chains that span many countries, and for tens of thousands of kilometers.

strategic value

Savalo says Taiwan derives strategic value from this hegemony, in theory, as it reaps a double deterrent that discourages China’s intention to invade it, and also guarantees US protection, if it fails.

The founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC), Taiwan’s largest chipmaker, described the industry’s foundries on the island as “a sacred mountain range that protects the country.”

Analysts at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) described the “silicon shield” as making the island “indispensable for both sides” in the context of US-China competition. The “Silicon Shield” strategy is for Taipei to seek security through its weaknesses, with the confidence that its customers in the West will protect it. For this double deterrent to work, however, Taipei bets on Beijing’s sufficient interest in stable supplies of chips from Taiwan, given its parallel belief that the island belongs to the heart of Chinese civilization. If it is a mistake, the result will not be a double deterrent, but rather a double disaster.

If this worst-case scenario happens, Savalu says, Taiwan’s vulnerabilities will trigger a Chinese attack and insufficient US intervention to protect the island, which has not invested its defensive potential.

Unrest Savallo said the “silicone shield” should make American policymakers extremely uneasy. He says China is already trying to dominate the semiconductor industry, and its stake in this industry has grown from 3% to 9% over the past year. Beijing’s pursuit of a “closed-loop ecosystem for semiconductor manufacturing” aims to hit the core of the “silicon shield itself” logic. To turn Taipei’s strategic calculation into Washington’s favor, America must emulate China’s efforts to strengthen its semiconductor capabilities and reduce its dependence on Taiwanese companies. Such an approach should also encourage Taiwan to strengthen its solid defensive capabilities. Fortunately, policymakers in Washington have a readily available mechanism to catalyze Taiwan’s shift from a “silicon shield” to a defense denial mechanism, that is, to ignore the reality of the situation, says researcher Savalo at the end of his analysis.

He added that the competition law with China, which is expected to be approved by Congress this year, will provide $ 52 billion to support the semiconductor industry in America. There is similar legislation in Europe, which includes the provision of $ 48 billion, so that the countries of the West together can provide $ 100 billion to locate the semiconductor research, design and manufacturing industries, in safer places, in addition to pushes Taiwan to be more serious on the issue of self-defense.

• The “Silicon Shield” strategy is for Taipei to seek security through its weaknesses, based on confidence that its customers in the West will protect it.

• One of the key elements of the Chinese escalation is that Beijing seeks to control one of the largest markets for technological industries in the world, within the framework of the technological war between China and the West, especially Washington.

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