China buying more and more microchips from Taiwan, complicating invasion scenarios

Imports have risen since 2018, when the US imposed sanctions on Chinese companies. Taiwan announced military exercises based on lessons learnt from the Russian-Ukrainian war. A US warship sails through the Taiwan Strait, the second time this year.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – China is increasingly dependent on Taiwan’s high-quality microchips, which complicates possible future plans to invade the island, deemed a rebel province by the Chinese.

A study published on Monday by the Federation of (South) Korean Industries (FKI) shows that China increased the purchase of Taiwanese semiconductors between 2018 and 2021 after the US sanctioned Chinese hi-tech giants Huawei and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation.

During the period considered, the share China’s microchip market by Taiwanese companies rose by 4.4 per cent; above all, orders for memory chips produced on the island grew by 57 per cent.

China has never ruled out taking Taiwan by force. The island has been effectively independent since 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (nationalist) forces fled the mainland after losing the civil war against the Communists, retaining the name of the Republic of China founded in 1912.

According to several experts, taking over Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is one of the goals that could lead China to attack. In fact, if chip imports from the island continue to grow, Beijing might speed up its aggression plans.

However, as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict shows, a war in the Taiwan Strait risks disrupting supply chains while Chinese bombings could hit Taiwanese plants, damaging the production of irreplaceable microchips.

In view of China’s military threat, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defence announced today that the annual Han Kuang military exercises, the country’s largest, would focus on lessons learnt from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Taiwan’s armed forces will test their asymmetric capabilities, vet their ability to engage in cognitive warfare, and see how well they can mobilise reserve forces as well as civilian militias.

Analysts note that in case of an invasion, Chinese troops could face serious obstacles, especially logistical, similar to those faced by the Russians in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, to disprove those who fear that the Ukrainian crisis had diverted US attention away from the western Pacific, the destroyer USS Sampson sailed through the Taiwan Strait yesterday, an operation that will certainly elicit an angry response by China’s Foreign Ministry.

The US warship is part of the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group currently operating in the Philippine Sea.

This is the second time this year that a US warship transits in the waterway that separates Taiwan from China. The first time was on 26 February with the USS Ralph Johnson.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States pledged to defend Taiwan, mainly with military supplies.

Adopted in 1979 after the formal diplomatic recognition of Communist China, the law does not specify the actual nature of the US commitment. Such strategic ambiguity continues to generate tensions with the Chinese government.