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A researcher wearing cleanroom suit displaying a wafer in the lab of Shanghai Microsemi Semiconductor Co., Ltd. in Shanghai, China.


Who’s winning the war over chips?

When it comes to semiconductor production, there’s just one superpower: Taiwan. The self-governing island produces more than two-thirds of the world’s chips, and almost all of the advanced ones.

But with Taiwan’s geopolitical fate uncertain, both Washington and Beijing are racing to build their own dominance and self-sufficiency in the chip industry.

We sat down with Eurasia Group geo-technology expert Xiaomeng Lu to learn more about where this battle is heading. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Semiconductor manafacturing require a lot of water.


Hard Numbers: Thirsty industry, global economic slump, China’s contraction, India enters the fray

264 billion: Semiconductor manufacturing is extremely water intensive. Consider that the industry consumes as much as 264 billion gallons of water per year, and by some estimates, a large chip plant can use up to 10 million gallons of water a day, equivalent to the water consumption of roughly 300,000 households.

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A US cellphone chip's global journey


The Graphic Truth: A US cellphone chip's global journey

Semiconductors bind the electrical circuits in the tech we use every day. In mid-2021, a global semiconductor shortage caused by COVID supply/demand issues and a drought in Taiwan made many devices hard to come by. But the self-ruled island in China's crosshairs is only part of the global chipmaking supply chain, which travels back and forth between Europe, Asia, and the US. We follow its steps for a smartphone.

Taiwan’s outsize importance in manufacturing semiconductor chips
Taiwan’s Outsize Importance in Manufacturing Semiconductor Chips | GZERO World

Taiwan’s outsize importance in manufacturing semiconductor chips

A big reason the Chinese leader is pushing harder than ever to annex Taiwan is actually quite small. The self-governing island has an outsize manufacturing capacity for semiconductors – the little chips that bind the electrical circuits we use in our daily lives. Cell phones, laptops, modern cars, and even airplanes all rely on these tiny computer wafers. Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC alone makes more than half of the chips outsourced by all foreign companies, which means your iPhone likely runs on Taiwanese-made semiconductors. What would happen to the world's semiconductor chips if China were to take control of Taiwan?

Watch the episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: What could spark a US-China war?

Midterms Meddling, Bloomberg, and Facebook's Global Affairs Head
Tech in 60 Seconds - October 26, 2018

Midterms Meddling, Bloomberg, and Facebook's Global Affairs Head

Midterms meddling, Bloomberg's microchip story, and Facebook's new global affairs head. It's Tech in 60 Seconds with Nicholas Thompson!

Ready? Let's go!

And go deeper on topics like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence at Microsoft Today in Technology.

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