There are only three companies that can manufacture super-advanced chips in the world: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), California-based Intel and South Korea’s Samsung. State-of-the-art chipmaking is rare and specialized because it’s incredibly expensive to keep competing at the highest level.
Intel’s setback probably won’t spell its doom. The company has led the semiconductor industry for years and will likely get to manufacturing 7 nanometer at commercial levels “within fairly short order,” according to Bret Swanson, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
But TSMC’s successes right now -— and its position as the leading global supplier of chips — make it an enormously important company at a critical time. The United States and China are locked in a battle over who can more rapidly develop the technologies of the future, and both countries have partnerships with TSMC to supply them with the chips they need to power advanced technology such as artificial intelligence, 5G and cloud computing.
TSMC hedges against tensions with the United States, but risks angering China
But the fact that TSMC is helping the US shore up its chipmaking capabilities could upset China. TSMC has invested billions of dollars in manufacturing plants in mainland China. Should Beijing retaliate against TSMC and Taiwan, that would at the very least throw markets into turmoil.
“There has been concern in Taiwan about the potential for Beijing to nationalize TSMC fabs [plants that fabricate chips] in Nanjing and Shanghai,” said Paul Triolo, head of global tech policy at Eurasia Group.
Taking over TSMC’s mainland China plants, which are wholly owned, is highly unlikely, Triolo said. It “would be a major escalation and a huge blow to the business community. It is not clear what this would buy for Beijing other than major negative downsides,” he added.
“Beijing could argue that if TSMC is willing to [build] advanced fab in Arizona, it should be willing to do the same in China,” Triolo said.
Washington’s long-standing pressure campaign against Huawei underscores just how badly China needs to reduce its independence on foreign chipmakers.
The latest US sanctions announced in May cut the Chinese telecommunications maker off from TSMC. Even though TSMC is a Taiwanese company, it relies on American tech to manufacture chips. The US Commerce Department said TSMC and other chip makers that use US technology would now have to apply for a license to export products to Huawei and its chip subsidiary HiSilicon. Those applications would very likely be denied, given Washington wants to keep Huawei gear out of global 5G networks.
Aside from geopolitics, there’s also geography. Taiwan is the world’s top exporter of semiconductors, and the global supply chain needs more chip making capabilities spread out around the world.
Although Intel can design and fabricate its own semiconductors, it can only turn to TSMC when it falls behind on cutting-edge chips.
The concentration of so much advanced semiconductor manufacturing capacity on a tiny island just off the coast of mainland China has always been a supply chain worry, according to Swanson, of the American Enterprise Institute. “What if there’s a tsunami in Taiwan?” he said.
That again puts TSMC in a very strong position. “The West probably would like to help protect Taiwan not just geopolitically, but because of this technical prowess and technical capacity there,” Swanson said.
China is far behind when it comes to chipmaking
Taiwan has shared its technical know-how with China. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese engineers have gone to the mainland to help develop China’s domestic semiconductor industry, which Swanson notes has “made huge strides in the last two decades.”
Despite huge domestic support, semiconductors remain a key technology bottleneck for China.
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), the country’s largest chipmaker, remains stuck anywhere from three to five years behind industry leaders Intel, Samsung and TSMC, according to Triolo, of Eurasia Group.
SMIC is currently manufacturing 10 nanometer chips, while top players are already producing 7 nanometer chips, and racing to transition to 5 nanometer and eventually 3 nanometer chips.
To make 7 nanometer chips, however, companies need access to an extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machine. Such machines are capable of producing the complex patterns on cutting edge chips. They are also very difficult to operate, which is why Intel is having problems making 7 nanometer chips for commercial production, according to Triolo.
The problem for SMIC is the United States is pressuring the Netherlands to block the sale of EUV equipment to SMIC by Dutch company ASML, Triolo said. The technology is designed by ASML, but includes substantial amounts of US intellectual property.
The geopolitical situation could change. But given the time it takes to master EUV, any major delay would push SMIC’s commercial entry into today’s most advanced chips past 2023, Triolo said, and by then, industry leaders will be far ahead.
Australia’s coronavirus lockdown strategy worked. Could this be a model for the US?
“The Covid-19 epidemic in our country has gone through four waves,” Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Saturday. “Besides the first wave (in Wuhan), the other epidemic waves were clusters that were regional and small-scale and were effectively controlled.”
For some lockdown skeptics, China’s experience was easy to dismiss: the country is an authoritarian, one-party state, and its methods could not necessarily be applied in democracies.
But the situation in Victoria proves that the lockdown strategy does work elsewhere, and that, given the proper information and reassurances, people are willing to make the sacrifices required to contain the virus.
With the outbreak in Victoria contained, the number of cases throughout the rest of Australia has continued to trend down. On Sunday, New South Wales, which includes Sydney, reported four new cases, while Queensland state reported just one.
New Zealand too, which on Monday began reducing social distancing regulations after daily cases dropped to zero, has seen positive results from lockdowns, enabling the country to return to relative normality far faster than nations which did not take such measures.
The US, however, remains the worst hit country in the world, with more than 6.7 million coronavirus cases and almost 200,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. As those figures potentially rise through winter, and with less and less reason to go outside, some people may start to reconsider their anti-lockdown sentiment.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that authorities in Melbourne would consider lifting a nighttime curfew next week. The curfew is currently in effect until October 26.
CNN’s Angus Watson and Eric Cheung contributed reporting.
Cruz: Ginsburg was ‘one of the finest Supreme Court litigators to have ever lived’
“He obviously worked every day with Justice Ginsburg, and I will say he admired what a careful lawyer she was,” he said. “Consistently of the lawyers on the left, of the judges on the left. Chief Justice Rehnquist was always most willing to give an important opinion to Justice Ginsburg because she wrote narrow, careful opinions.”
Cruz also honed in on the importance of filling Ginsburg’s vacancy with a constitutionalist judge ahead of the November election. The senator had been on President Donald Trump’s shortlist of Supreme Court nominees.
“We’re one vote away from seeing our religious liberty rights stripped away, from our free speech stripped away, from our Second Amendment stripped away,” he added. “This election matters, and I think it is the most important issue in 2020 — electing presidents and a Senate who will nominate and confirm strong constitutionalists to the court.”
Matt Hancock Says “Everybody” Should Report Their Neighbours If They Flout Coronavirus Rules
3 min read
Matt Hancock has urged people to report their neighbours for flouting coronavirus rules as he announced heavy new penalties for those who fail to self-isolate when asked.
The health secretary said he would not hesitate to alert the authorities if he became aware of anyone breaking the new “rule of six” restrictions and that “everybody should” do likewise.
It comes after the government revealed new legal powers to hand out £10,000 fines to people who do not quarantine if they test positive for the virus, rates of which are rising rapidly across the country.
The measures also include a £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who have to self-isolate and cannot work from home, and a penalty for employers who punish employers for doing so.
Mr Hancock said the UK was at a “tipping point” and could face tougher national restricions if people fail to heed new guidelines.
“I don’t want to see more measures but unfortunately if people don’t follow the rules that’s how the virus spreads,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge.
“Everyone faces a choice and it comes down to individual moments – should I go to that party where there might not be social distancing?
“The answer is no, you should not.”
Mr Hancock said local lockdowns had brought cases “right under control” in parts of the country, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned the capital could be placed under additional curbs as soon as Monday.
And the health secretary said he would “not rule out” Londoners being asked to work from home, as he prepared to meet City Hall officials on Sunday.
He told Times Radio: “I’ve been talking to the Mayor of London over the weekend about what’s needed in London and that’s an example of local action in the same way that I was talking about the councils in the north east. And then we took action in Lancashire…and we had to bring in more measures in Wolverhampton.
“The conversation is…an ongoing one with the mayor.”
PoliticsHome is maintaining a live map of local lockdown restrictions across the UK, which is viewable here.
A source close to the mayor said on Saturday: “It’s clear that cases in London are only moving in one direction, we are now just days behind hotspots in the North West and North East.
“We can’t afford more delay. Introducing new measures now will help slow the spread of the virus and potentially prevent the need for a fuller lockdown like we saw in March, which could seriously damage the economy once again.”
Mr Hancock promised the UK has “got the cavalry coming over the next few months; the vaccine, the mass testing and the improvement in treatments”.
“But we’ve got to all follow the rules between now and then to keep people safe,” he told the BBC.
Asked what he expected the death rate could be if people failed to do so, the health secretary said: “It’s unknowable, because it depends on the behaviour of every single person in this country.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned new legal powers were not a “silver bullet” and urged ministers to fix the struggling test and trace programme.
He said Boris Johnson should apologise to the nation for the system’s failings and restart daily press briefings “so everybody knows what’s going on”.
“I don’t think a national lockdown is inevitable. I think it’s more likely because testing is all over the place,” he told Sky News.
“I think one of the conerns I have and a lot of people have is because the government has lost control of testing, it doesn’t know where the virus is.”
He added: “We are in this position just when we need testing to be at its best.”
The Labour leader also called for schoolchildren to be prioritised for testing to avoid mass school closures, with tests and results offered within a 48-hour period.
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