Chip Wars Part Two: The US Strikes First
First let’s start with a startling fact: China spends more importing semiconductors than it does buying oil. According to Laura He of CNN Business, that adds up to $444 billion or 16% of China’s total imports. These are astonishing numbers and there are massive implications we can draw from this.
The US is the undisputed leader in chip design, advanced manufacturing, and intellectual property worldwide. We are the OPEC of semiconductors and those semiconductors are more critical to growth than oil. No modern technology, including AI, space, military equipment, vehicles, you name it, can run without them.
As of October 7, 2022, the Biden administration has levied severe restrictions on both the export of chips and their manufacturing equipment, and the ability of US citizens to work for firms in China that make them. Those citizens will now have to choose between their jobs and keeping their US citizenship.
This may be a bloodless war but it is war nevertheless. China is ruled by a dictator, Xi Jinping, with lifetime power, who wants his country to be entirely self-sufficient and able to cut itself off from the world. But no modern economy can survive without this technology.
These technological sanctions are no less powerful than the economic sanctions that are strangling Russia’s economy and their ability to wage war. Russia’s only source of advanced technology is China and we are shutting that capability down. As it is, there are stories that the basic chips Russia imports from China have a 40% failure rate, which makes them essentially worthless.
On top of all of this, Xi’s China is building a modern military with advanced air, sea, and land capability, in part to enable him to take over Taiwan, the world’s largest supplier of semiconductors. Their ships, missiles, and communications cannot work without our chips.
It may very well be that WWIII looks very different than we think, as we move to dominate this new critical global resource. The twentieth century has receded beyond comprehension due to technology, something you only perceive when you pull back and consider where we were in 2000.