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

Reuters

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 manufacturing.

Annie Gugliotta.

The semiconductor battle is heating up

Global semiconductor supply chains have some big resistance points that threaten to make microchips a macro-geopolitical flashpoint. On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden will visit Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC’s facility in Arizona, where he'll spotlight the White House’s efforts to ramp up US chip manufacturing amid the US-China chip race.

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In technology, as in geopolitics, a little resistance can make all the difference. Consider semiconductors, the nearly invisible microchips essential for running everything from our computers to our cars to our cruise missiles. They work by doing something deceptively simple: They use carefully calibrated resistance to slow the flow of electricity through a circuit in ways that make computing possible. The smaller they get the more powerful our devices become.

The trouble is, global semiconductor supply chains have some big resistance points of their own, choke points that threaten to make microchips a macro-geopolitical flashpoint.

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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?

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