Washington says no to Taipei's independence, wages war with Beijing over microchips

The Biden administration wants to maintain the status quo, based on strong but informal relations. Island government: 'We are a sovereign nation'. The United States would like to block the expansion of Taiwan's TSMC, the world's leading microchip producer, into China.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - "Taiwan is a sovereign nation and not part of China. This is as much a fact as the current status quo". Yesterday's statement by the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry was not a response to Beijing's usual territorial claims on the island, but a veiled reply to the statements made by Kurt Campbell, Indo-Pacific coordinator of the US National Security Council.

In a video conference  on 6 July with the Australian think tank Asia Society Policy Institute, Campbell said that Washington was in favour of "a strong, informal relationship with Taiwan". He added that the US "does not support independence" for Taipei, but warned China that if it dares to do to Taiwan what it did to Hong Kong the results will be "catastrophic".

Beijing considers Taiwan a 'rebel province' and has never ruled out recapturing it by force. The island has been de facto independent of China since 1949; at that time Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists found refuge there after losing the civil war on the mainland to the communists, making it the heir to the Republic of China founded in 1912.

With the Taiwan Relations Act, the US promised instead to defend Taipei. Adopted in 1979 after the formal diplomatic recognition of communist China, the act does not specify the actual nature of Washington's commitment: a 'strategic ambiguity' that produces continuous tensions with the Chinese government.

In a more nuanced form than Campbell's words, the US State Department repeated yesterday that the use of force to change the status quo along the Taiwan Strait will be "a profound mistake", whoever is responsible.

According to the Pentagon, China does not currently have the military capability or intent to invade Taiwan. Analysts note that one of Beijing's goals is to recapture the island to take control of the local microchip industry, one of the most advanced in the world.

The pandemic has exploded demand for chips for electric vehicles, PCs and smartphones, leading to a shortage of semiconductors on the world market. Chien Shan-chieh, co-president of Taiwan's United Microelectronics Corp. (Umc), said yesterday that the shortage of microchips will last until 2023.

Umc is the world's second-largest producer of microchips, led by Taiwanese giant TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing). According to DigiTimes, Washington is putting pressure on Tsmc to abandon its expansion plan in China, estimated at .8 billion. The Biden administration fears that the Taiwanese company could help Beijing achieve self-sufficiency in the production of semiconductors, which are also strategic for the military.