US Army journal's top paper from 2021 says Taiwan should destroy TSMC if China invades

No more chip factories would surely change Beijing's mind about unification

A top US Army War College paper suggests Taiwan should credibly threaten to eradicate its semiconductor industry if threatened by China so that Beijing would no longer be interested in unification.

The US Army War College showed the paper was its most popular of the year, when it revealed it topped a list of the most downloaded papers of 2021 from its quarterly academic journal Parameters.

The bright idea comes from two American scholars. Their reasoning goes:

Potential war with the US over Taiwan is no longer a deterrent for China as Beijing believes its military would dominate. Therefore, to make the island unappealing, it needs to be perceived as presenting an "unacceptable economic, political, and strategic costs upon Beijing." As it currently stands, Taiwan appears to be an enticing technology powerhouse ripe for absorption. However, destroying TSMC, an important supplier for China, would create a desperately unwanted major economic crisis on the mainland and make China chipless while it was also engaged in a war effort.

"If done correctly, such a strategy could discourage a Chinese invasion of Taiwan while simultaneously lessening the chances of an unwanted great-power conflict, especially if combined with good-faith efforts by the United States to make the status quo more tolerable for both China and Taiwan," wrote [PDF] the authors.

The boffins say that in order for this to succeed, China really does have to believe Taiwan will go through with the threat and suggests designing an automated mechanism to destroy the foundries if China were to invade. And if Taiwan really wants to prove a point, they could create a defensive plan to blow up Chinese chip maker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Company (SMIC) if they are attacked too.

Unfortunately for those interested in moving forward with the plan, Beijing has already heard about the paper. The Chinese State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office responded on 23 December by denying that TSMC was the reason the country was seeking reunification with Taiwan.

But the plan's not that crazy for two reasons: China is desperate for the computer brains and the tactic has been used before. Sweden made a similar threat during the Second World War regarding iron ore mines to keep the Nazis out.

As for China's struggle in the global chip drought, the US has continually found ways to starve China of semiconductor technology, including trade sanctions and blocking mergers involving Chinese companies.

The plan seems to be working. China decided it wanted to be 70 per cent self-sufficient when it comes to semiconductors by 2025. In February 2020, less than 6 per cent of the silicon the Middle Kingdom needed was made domestically.

Although the paper may be an endorsement of this strategy from the two authors, it is not one from the US military. The publication is described as "a refereed forum for contemporary strategy and landpower issues" that "furthers the education and professional development of senior military officers and members of government and academia concerned with national security affairs."

The second through 10th most downloaded papers for the year can be found here.

Finally, we note TSMC is building chip fabs in the United States. ®

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022