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China unhappy with TSMC investment in US.

Published: 2022-12-10

On Friday, China's mainstream media, the Global Times, called TSMC's investment in the Arizona plant a "dark turn" in the global semiconductor industry and accused Washington of tricking the world's most advanced chipmaker into setting up a wafer processing factory in the US. Official Beijing has so far remained silent on this matter, but it is unlikely that they are happy with what is happening there.

Quite unexpectedly this week, TSMC management announced that investment in the construction of semiconductor factories in the US will be tripled to $ 40 billion. The company will produce about three times more chips than previously planned. If and when that happens, the US will become the world's largest chip manufacturing center. Given the more expensive labor force in the United States, this, at a minimum, means a sharp rise in the cost of semiconductor products - with all the ensuing consequences.

Global electronics manufacturers will be forced to purchase bundles at a higher price. In such a scenario, Taiwan will be completely excluded from the supply chain in one way or another, up to and including the evacuation of equipment and personnel to the United States. It can be imagined that this is already being considered, since there are hardly enough specialists in the United States to service two new TSMC plants, and the growing tension between Beijing and Taipei leaves no doubt that production should be kept away from China.

The Chinese authorities have not yet commented on changes in TSMC's plans. Beijing only spoke negatively about the restrictions imposed by the US and Taiwan on the location of advanced semiconductor plants in mainland China. TSMC's "flight" in the US changes the picture not only for Beijing, but also for the whole world.

According to TSMC's new plans, the first plant in Arizona will start producing 4nm products in 2024 and 3nm products in 2026. When they reach full capacity, both plants will produce over 600,000 300-mm wafers with chips each year. These are colossal volumes, and if they are “subtracted” from the Pacific region, then this will really be a blow to the world industry.

By the way, it is still impossible to say with certainty what equipment was installed at the first plant in Arizona - new or removed from factories in Taiwan. The resulting shortage of chips, as well as the limited ability of the same company ASML to produce EUV scanners, may serve as an argument in favor of the latter assumption, and developments in the world hint that over the next 12 months we may find out for sure.