Taiwan's new president wants to upgrade from 'silicon island' to 'AI island'

Drone island too – in part to keep China at bay, and ensure TSMC's sweet silicon remains available

Taiwan's recently elected president, Lai Ching-te, has used his inaugural address to call for the island state to upgrade to an AI nation.

"As we meet the global challenges of adopting more and more smart technologies, we in Taiwan, a 'silicon island,' must do all we can to expedite Taiwan's transformation into an 'AI island'," Lai – who uses the Western name William – told citizens on Monday.

"We must adapt AI for industry and step up the pace of AI innovation and applications," he added, and "must also adapt industry for AI and use AI's computational power to make our nation, our military, our workforce, and our economy stronger."

He also called on Taiwan to make "bold investments" in quantum computing, robotics, the metaverse, precision medicine, and other advanced technologies.

"Our sights are set on making Taiwan the Asian hub of unmanned aerial vehicle supply chains for global democracies, and developing the next generation of medium- and low-orbit communications satellites, bringing Taiwan's space and aerospace industries squarely into the international sphere," he added.

That's part of an ambitious plan to make more military tech, and security and surveillance kit – two of five industries in which Taiwan excels and is trusted globally. Semiconductors is another, with AI and next-generation communications rounding out the list.

The mentions of military strength and serving like-minded democracies are notable, because elsewhere in his speech Lai called on China to "cease their political and military intimidation against Taiwan, share with Taiwan the global responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as well as the greater region, and ensure the world is free from the fear of war."

And if that doesn't work, he's prepared to fight.

"As we pursue the ideal of peace, we must not harbor any delusions," the incoming president warned. "So long as China refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan, all of us in Taiwan ought to understand that even if we accept the entirety of China's position and give up our sovereignty, China's ambition to annex Taiwan will not simply disappear."

"In face of the many threats and attempts of infiltration from China, we must demonstrate our resolution to defend our nation, and we must also raise our defense awareness and strengthen our legal framework for national security."

Lai suggested that defensive effort would be conducted on behalf of Taiwan's citizens, and those of the wider world.

"As we look toward our future, we know that semiconductors will be indispensable. And the AI wave has already swept in. Taiwan has already mastered advanced semiconductor manufacturing, and we stand at the center of the AI revolution," he boasted. "We are a key player in supply chains for global democracies. For these reasons, Taiwan has an influence on global economic development, as well as humanity's well-being and prosperity.”

To safeguard that prosperity, he called for solidarity at home and ongoing demonstrations of thanks for the support of foreign friends.

This is recognition that US support for Taiwan is a major deterrent to any Chinese effort to reclaim the island. One reason for that support is that the US can't do without silicon produced in Taiwan by TSMC if it is to continue enjoying superiority in that arena compared to China.

China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, dismissed Lai's speech and reiterated the CCP position that reunification is inevitable and the only way to guarantee peace across the Taiwan Strait.

"The Taiwan issue is China's internal affair, and the realization of complete national reunification is the unanimous demand of all Chinese people. It is also a historical trend that no force can stop," he declared. ®

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