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Crisis in Taiwan: Is there a risk of a shortage of microchips? – RTVE

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“It would seem that we have nothing to do with an island of twenty-some million inhabitants, small and far away. However, it is an oversight of the West that so much technology is concentrated there. The president of the Spanish Association of the Semiconductor Industry (AESEMI), Danny Moreno, observes “with concern” the development of the crisis unleashed in Taiwan, where the Chinese army is carrying out military maneuvers after the visit of Nancy Pelosi. The deployment by sea and air has raised alarms about a possible blockade of exports from a country that produces 60% of cutting-edge microchips. With less than seven nanometers, this technology is essential for mobile phones, computers and other digital devices that we use on a daily basis. “We would go back 50 years ago, where televisions were tube, we did not have cell phones, transportation was rudimentary and there were no electric cars,” warns Moreno. The hypothetical situation would be “a catastrophe”, he says, but like the rest of the analysts consulted by RTVE.es, the businessman believes that the stoppage of trade is non-existent and very unlikely at this time. Now, the current uncertainty is also seen as a warning, one that the European Union should not ignore. “Cutting-edge technology determines the art of war and also human development,” recalls Miguel Otero, principal investigator at the Elcano Royal Institute. What is the economic interest of the United States in the visit to Taiwan? The United States and China have been battling each other for years in a technological race, but this summer the pulse for the microchip industry has been shown without modesty with Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. Beyond her political intentions, the president of the US House of Representatives has not hidden her economic interests by meeting, during her express visit, with the largest semiconductor function company in the world, the Taiwanese TSMC “US it has a vested interest in keeping Taiwan in its sphere of influence, independent and freely accessible. In that case, any collaboration is possible, including with a TMSC factory being built in Arizona. But it will not be in operation until 2024 and there is still a long time. I imagine that Nancy Pelosi, in addition to her geopolitical messages, also wants to ensure the supply of semiconductors by the Taiwanese company, ”explains Otero. At the same time, Washington conveys with her gesture that she “will be there to protect them” against China. In this trade war, other movements have been more silent, such as the recent pressure from Washington on the Netherlands to prohibit the Dutch company that makes the machines to produce microchips (ASML Holding NV) from selling its technology to Beijing. 14 Hours – Tension China – Taiwan: fear of a global shortage of semiconductors – Listen now Is a Chinese blockade of Taiwan’s exports likely? Despite threats from China and warnings from the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, for now No serious problems have been reported in the departure of exports from the island due to military maneuvers, as confirmed by Alicia García-Herrero, chief economist for Asia-Pacific at the French investment bank Natixis, although some planes have had to modify their routes. “For the moment, the risk of a blockade taking place and that having an inflationary impact on the world, production chains, etc., is low,” she says. For the analyst, the question now is how Western countries will react and Japan, which could lead to an escalation. “My impression is that nobody is going to do anything. Maybe they will complain, there will be another statement from the G7, but nobody is going to retaliate,” she points out. It would be about maintaining the story that the reaction is just a “tantrum from China”. And in the line of “thrashing” and the “cosmetic measures” of Beijing, Enrique Fanjul, editor of Iberchina.org and professor of the Master’s degree, has also influenced of International Relations of the San Pablo CEU University, in RNE. “The economic interrelation between China and Taiwan is very strong: China imports chips from Taiwan, there are thousands of Taiwanese companies that have invested in China. I do not think that Beijing is going to carry out important commercial and economic blockade measures,” she maintains. Pelosi denies that they want to change the ‘status quo’ of Taiwan. What impact can China’s sanctions have on Taiwan? While Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan authorities, China suspended exports of natural sand to the island and stopped some imports of fruit and fish. It was one of the first reactions of the Asian giant, after multiple threats, however, the measure does not seem very forceful.” We have calculated it and it does not reach 2% of Taiwan’s imports. It is not a problem and surely there are also ways to avoid the ban. With sand (which is used in the manufacture of microchips for silicon), the same, that The production of semiconductors is not going to stop,” says Alicia García-Herrero, from Natixis, after analyzing the details of the Chinese retaliation for investors. President Xi Jinping has his hands tied in terms of commercial measures. because it can’t afford to do without Taiwan’s microchips either. “China acts as an assembler of electronic products and cannot impose sanctions on that supply chain. It would not make any sense if there were suddenly a chip from Taiwan that they could not import,” economist Alberto Lebrón, a researcher at the University of Beijing. In this sense, China and the United States share a destiny: the two superpowers depend on the Taiwanese industry to obtain the latest generation semiconductors. Can economic measures escalate? García-Herrero previously pointed out how a misstep by Japan could result in an escalation of tension in the Strait of Formosa, but most of the responsibility falls on the Chinese side. protests in China because it is believed the government has not done enough. And beware, they might feel compelled [a responder con más contundencia]”, warns the expert economist in Asia-Pacific. But she adds another relevant circumstance: “we are about to enter a key political moment for Xi Jinping. I think he doesn’t dare let something go wrong, à la Putin. That is to say, that something that could be a walk, is twisted”. Thus, both García-Herrero and Lebrón, from China, trust that the crisis in Taiwan will dissipate with the end of the military maneuvers this Sunday, although the tension can stand tall between the parties. The economic consequences will then be more subtle for the West. In this sense, the analyst does not rule out that companies begin to look for alternatives to avoid supply problems due to a conflict in Asia: “it may not be today, but we all know that at some point we will be in that situation.” How will it affect the European Union? Like the war in Ukraine, the crisis in Taiwan is showing the seams of the European Union due to its dependence on strategic sectors. Energy, semiconductors… While the Twenty-Seven work against the clock to save a winter with less gas, the shortage of microchips shows the leg. It is the second time this has happened, after the bottlenecks in international trade due to the pandemic. The supply crisis has weighed down the automobile industry in Spain and threatens the competitiveness of companies in northern Europe, warns Miguel Otero, a researcher director of the Elcano Royal Institute, although he considers that there is “clear evidence” in Europe that it has to start developing its own technology industry. “There is recognition that we have fallen behind and now there is a whole range of initiatives and legislative actions to change that”, he says, referring to the European Chip Law, with a fund of 2,000 million euros. Spain also launched its strategic project in the Recovery Plan after the health crisis. But the European figures pale in comparison to those of the superpowers. For example, US President Joe Biden will sign an aid package of 52.7 billion dollars next Tuesday to strengthen the national microchip sector. In addition, the researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute explains that the change in dynamics is deeper. It is not a crisis in a single sector. From a globalized world with value chains spread all over the world, we have moved on to the need for strategic autonomy. “From just in time, from arriving on time, to just in case. That is to say, to diversification, to have a plan B”, he summarizes. And in these new waters, according to Otero, the difficulty for Brussels is in combining its values ​​of “interdependence, multilateralism, supranationality and rules of the game” with survival in a wilder world All this without causing, in addition, “a greater spiral towards that current”. She has to “not be naive and arm herself for what may come, but insist on her own DNA”. The president of the Spanish Association of Semiconductors (AESEMI), Danny Moreno, trusts that this will be the case and “the West will open its eyes” in time.

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