TSMC Chairman Warns of ‘Major Challenges’ for Semiconductor Industry Caused by China Tensions

In short: TSMC is once again warning of the challenges it and the semiconductor industry as a whole are facing as US-China tensions rise and a Chinese invasion of Taiwan becomes more likely.

TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, was at the center of a conflict between the US and China, which accounted for 13% of the company’s total revenue between April and June. This figure was on 17% for all of 2020, but US sanctions against Chinese companies such as Huawei and the country’s chip industry as a whole have affected the amount of revenue TSMC receives from Chinese customers.

Speaking at the annual convention of the Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association (via Reuters), TSMC Chairman Mark Liu said, “The trade conflict between the US and China and the escalation of tensions across the strait have created greater challenges for all industries, including the semiconductor industry.”

Liu added that the Chinese government has “never stopped promoting its domestic semiconductor industry,” including chip development, manufacturing, and packaging.

Liu’s speech came a week after the US granted TSMC a one-year license to continue ordering US chip manufacturing equipment, allowing it to expand in China. TSMC will be able to supply equipment to its manufacturing facility in Nanjing in the country.

Recent U.S. sanctions have restricted the supply of U.S.-made electronics or other goods that China can use to build tools or equipment for chip manufacturing. It also prohibits non-Chinese companies in other countries from using US equipment to serve Chinese customers unless the US grants a license.

In addition to the U.S. sanctions, China’s semiconductor industry continues to suffer from the effects of a tough Covid policy and economic turmoil. August marked the biggest monthly decline in integrated circuit production in an Asian country since registration began in 1997.

There have long been fears that China could take over TSMC if it ever invades Taiwan, a leading Chinese economist spoke earlier this year. There was even talk that the United States would destroy its facilities in such a case so that they would not fall into the hands of China. But TSMC says it’s not necessary given the company’s reliance on overseas organizations and supplies for its operations.

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