Taiwan’s APEC envoy at center of processor chip tension

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s special envoy to a gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders is a 91-year-old computer chip manufacturing giant that has been operating behind the scenes for decades before being thrust into the center of tensions between the United States and China. Year-old billionaire founder. About technology and security.

Morris Chan’s hybrid role reflects Taiwan’s status as one of China’s top tech suppliers and the 22 million-person autonomous island that the mainland’s ruling Communist Party says is part of its territory. It highlights the conflict between China and Beijing’s threat to attack its democracy.

Taiwan’s decision to send Chan in place of a political leader to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APAC) summit in Thailand reflects Taiwan’s unusual status. The U.S. and other governments have agreed to China’s demands not to have official ties with Taiwan or allow Taiwan’s leaders to meet with the president.

Mr. Chan founded Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. in 1987 and transformed the semiconductor industry by becoming the first foundry to produce customer-specific chips without designing their own chips. did. This allowed smaller designers to compete with industry giants without spending billions on building factories.

TSMC has grown to become the largest chip maker, supplying customers such as Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc., and turning Taiwan into a global tech center. Chips made at TSMC power millions of smartphones, cars and high-end computers.

Despite this, TSMC ranks high on the list of the largest companies not known outside the industry.

A veteran of Texas Instruments, Mr. Chan, who served as chairman of TSMC until 2018, represented then-president Chen Shui-bian at the 2006 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference. He was reappointed to the same position in 2018, 2019 and 2020. By President Tsai Ing-wen.

“Taiwan’s semiconductor industry, especially TSMC, plays a vital role in the domestic and even global economy,” Tsai told reporters on October 20. leader.

UK Trade Minister Greg Hands said during a visit this month that London wanted closer cooperation with Taiwan on semiconductors. The UK is home to leading chip designer Arm.

Taiwan is in a “very difficult environment” and APEC is “the most important international conference venue for Taiwan,” Chan said during a briefing with Tsai on October 20.

“Taiwan needs to build a secure and resilient supply chain, especially in the electronics sector, with reliable partners,” he said.

Mr. Chan warned last year that the support for globalization and free markets that made TSMC so prosperous was fading.

“Globalization seems like a bad word and ‘free market economy’ is starting to bring the situation,” Chan said while accepting the award from the Asia Society.

“Many companies in Asia and America are facing challenges of how to operate in the new environment,” Chan said. “Nevertheless, I am confident that we will find a solution.”

In 2020, TSMC announced that then-U.S. President Donald Trump would buy chips for Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies, which makes smartphones and networking gear for phone and internet carriers, as well as other vendors using U.S. technology. became embroiled in geopolitics when it stopped them from manufacturing the U.S. officials have said Huawei is a security threat and could enable China to spy on it, a claim the company denies.

Most of the world’s smartphones and other consumer electronics are assembled in factories in China. But they need components and technology from suppliers in the US, Europe and Asia, especially Taiwan, the largest chip exporter.

Huawei, China’s first global technology brand, designs chips but has to rely on TSMC and other contractors to manufacture them. Their foundry needs American manufacturing technology, which will help Washington destroy China’s high-tech industry.

Processor chips are China’s biggest import at $300 billion a year, surpassing oil. The ruling Communist Party sees it as a strategic weakness, spending billions to create its own chip producer, but generations behind TSMC and other world leaders.

Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, left Trump’s regulations intact and imposed more restrictions that extended to other Chinese companies.

TSMC, headquartered in Hsinchu, adjacent to Taiwan’s capital Taipei, said it manufactured 12,302 different products for 535 customers last year. The company last year reported a profit of $18.7 billion on revenue of $49.8 billion.

Zhang was born in Ningbo, south of Shanghai, and moved to Hong Kong after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, ending the civil war on the mainland.

The former ruling Kuomintang on the mainland fled to Taiwan. Since then, the two sides have been ruled separately. They have no official relationship but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.

Chang attended Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his Ph.D. In 1964, he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

After spending a quarter of a century at Texas Instruments, where he rose to the position of vice president of the semiconductor business, Mr. Chan was invited to Taiwan in the 1980s to lead the company’s technology research institute.

In 1988, TSMC became the first company in Taiwan to list on the New York Stock Exchange. Chan’s shares in the company are worth $1.6 billion.


McDonald’s reports from Beijing.