Before China decides to invade Taiwan, they have to think very carefully about one major factor: microchips.
While the Russian war in Ukraine keeps raging, half a planet away another, silent conflict is being conducted. Its actors are trying to avoid it escalating to a real fight as much as possible, as it would mean Third World War.
The conflict involves China, Taiwan and the United States. Indeed most of the American foreign policy towards Ukraine is decided with an eye on China.
Going even deeper, there is another, major actor regarding this conflict: microchips. They are the engine of the XXI century, a technology that runs our phones, laptops, electronic devices and a large share of advanced military equipment. In short, they are an integral part of our economy, and its disruption would wreck as much havoc as a disruption in oil supplies.
But what do microchips have to do with Taiwan, China and the United States? It’s very simple, really: China provides the necessary rare earths to make microchips, American companies offer their blueprints and Taiwan builds them.
Taiwan is the world’s largest microchip producer by far. 92% of the microchips’ global production is concentrated on Taiwan, which are then shipped to the Silicon Valley in California to be built inside our every-day products.
This extremely delicate balance is quite literally shaping global geopolitics today.
A difficult invasion
In the last ten years China has quite vocally declared its intention to reconquer Taiwan. They lay a claim on the island nation since 1949, when the Chinese Civil War split the country apart. However, Beijing cannot simply attack the island, and one of the reasons is precisely linked to microchips.
China has become the world’s second largest economy, and being a developed nation it relies very heavily on microchips. In fact, most of their modern military equipment (with which they are supposed to invade Taiwan) uses Taiwanese microchips to work.
An invasion of Taiwan would mean the immediate halt of microchip exports to China, and therefore an immediate halt to their economy.
And China cannot simply build microchip factories for themselves, and it’s not just because a single factory costs the equivalent of a small country’s GDP.
Building a microchip factory requires a level of expertise that only Taiwan managed to build over the years. Current microchips are as small as 10 nanometers, their construction are quite literally one of the most difficult industrial processes in history.
Furthermore, Taiwanese factories closely keep their construction process a mystery. While the chip’s blueprint is provided by American companies, the actual construction method is a closely guarded industrial secret.
And, finally, the Biden administration has made it completely illegal for American corporations to spill microchip blueprints over to China.
In conclusion, for China to invade Taiwan they’d have to first secure a microchip production at home. However, such a production has been rendered almost completely impossible.
If China will eventually decide not to invade Taiwan, this could be one of the reasons.