China has sought to “cheat” and “steal” its way to matching Taiwan in chip technology, but has yet to succeed despite investing huge sums, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to Washington said on Wednesday, while holding out the prospect of more Taiwanese semiconductor investment in the U.S.
In a wide-ranging interview with Reuters, Taiwan’s representative Alexander Yui cast doubt on reports that China’s chipmakers are on the cusp of making next-generation smartphone processors, and refuted charges by Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for the 2024 U.S. presidential election, that Taiwan was taking American semiconductor jobs.
Yui, who arrived in Washington in December, replacing Hsiao Bi-khim, now the island’s vice president-elect, also said he hoped the U.S. Congress would pass a supplemental security funding bill that would help Taiwan with its defenses.
But he played down prospects that Washington would stockpile weapons there to deter against any military actions by China, which claims the democratically governed island as its territory.
“They don’t really follow the rules. They cheat and they copy, etc. They steal technology,” Yui said of China’s chipmakers, adding he had doubts about whether they could make viable next-generation processors as early as this year amid U.S. efforts to curb Beijing’s development of advanced technologies.
China’s embassy in Washington did not respond immediately to a request for comment, but it routinely denies charges of economic espionage.
Washington says China uses its huge market and control over supply chains to coerce countries to transfer strategic technology, and that its extensive cyber theft makes it the top threat to U.S. technological competitiveness.
Taiwan’s spy catchers have investigated numerous Chinese companies suspected of illegally poaching semiconductor engineers and other tech talent.
U.S. companies are restricted by Washington from providing technology without a special license to certain Chinese chipmakers, including Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), over their alleged work with China’s military.
“Those [Chinese] companies that they have spent billions of dollars on have basically floundered,” Yui said.
‘MORE TO COME’
Trump told Fox News last year that Taiwan, which is the world’s leading producer of advanced chips, had taken away U.S. business in the industry and should have faced U.S. tariffs.
Some analysts have speculated that his comments reflected a desire to curtail U.S. support for the island should he be elected. Trump’s administration nonetheless approved billions in defense sales to Taiwan.
“Actually we are partners … and it’s not the way Mr. Trump has said,” Yui said. “Our companies are looking at new ways to strategically reposition themselves in different countries, and we were happy to see our companies are considering the United States, for example – TSMC in Arizona. And I think there will be more to come,” he said.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is the world’s largest contract chipmaker.
Yui declined to say whether Taiwan had sought to engage with the Trump campaign, but said the island enjoyed the friendship and support of both Democrats and Republicans.
A sweeping international security assistance package that includes billions of dollars for Taiwan has been stalled in the U.S. Congress by Republicans’ insistence that it also include an overhaul of U.S. immigration and border security policy.
“We welcome any help that comes from the United States, from Congress and the administration, to beef up Taiwan’s defense capabilities,” Yui said.
The U.S. military is looking to partners in the Pacific for secure locations to stockpile equipment and munitions in the event of any conflict with China.
While the U.S. president is permitted under law to create a regional contingency stockpile of munitions and defense articles for Taiwan, Yui downplayed the possibility they would be placed on the island.
“The stockpiles won’t happen in Taiwan, I think,” he said.