Gideon Rose celebrates the winners of this year’s Arthur Ross Book Award: Chris Miller, Susan L. Shirk, and Daniel Treisman.
The program includes an award ceremony with each winner, and a discussion with Chris Miller on how critical technology is shaping the global balance of power.
FROMAN: Well, good evening. Welcome, everybody. My name is Mike Froman. I’m president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And it’s a great honor to welcome you here for the Twentieth Annual Arthur Ross Book Award Ceremony. We’ve got about 120—maybe 140 people in this room, and another two hundred actually listening on Zoom—or, watching on Zoom. This award, of course, was endowed by the late Arthur Ross in 2001 to honor nonfiction works that change our understanding, offer insights, and help resolve serious and critical foreign policy problems.
This is only one of many causes that Arthur Ross supported. He was a successful financier, a U.N. delegate. He also supported arboretums and greenhouses in Central Park, Barnard College, and the New York Botanical Garden, galleries at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia, the Center on U.S.-China Relations at our rival the Asia Society up the street, and also helped to strengthen UNESCO and the World Federation of United Nations Associations.
He represented a true renaissance man and the basis—the best spirit of American philanthropy. And he made New York and the world a better place to live in. We’re very grateful that Arthur’s wife, Janet, is here with us. And we look forward to grandchild Adrian and his wife Alice also being with us. And to show our thanks, on the twentieth occasion of these events, we’d like to present you all with copies of the winners’ books tonight. You are not expected to read them before the end of the evening. (Laughter.)
Now, these awards ceremonies—this is a highlight of the CFR calendar, particularly as they resonate deeply with CFR’s overall mission of delivering high-quality, independent, nonpartisan content to help our members, other interested citizens, policymakers, and the general public understand the complex foreign policy issues facing the United States. And this year’s winners certainly further that mission. From dealing with the issues of an aggressive China, to the CHIP competition, to modern authoritarianism, these are some of the most critical problems that we face today.
And addressing these problems are made all the more difficult by the fact that they’re taking place with the most complex international and domestic environment that we’ve seen in decades, the return of great-power politics and war, multifaceted global rivalry, existential transnational risks like pandemics and climate, and emerging technologies. Issues that require international cooperation precisely at a time when those habits of cooperation and the international institutions meant to generate that cooperation are particularly weak.
These complexities require nuanced argument. And nuance is something that’s become increasingly rare, as our discourse has become defined by social media, a 24-hour news cycle, and a human attention span which approximates something like that of a goldfish. But it’s in the spirit of nuance, of complexity, that we celebrate these books. Each of these authors have made a major contribution to the kind of nuanced argument that is so needed today. So I hope you’ll take time to enjoy the books, to read them, to digest them. And I want to congratulate the three winners here tonight.
Now, with that, let me turn it over to our intellectually indefatigable Gideon Rose. Welcome Gideon. (Applause.)
ROSE: Hi, everybody, and welcome. When Arthur endowed this award a couple of decades ago, it was a measure of confidence, and optimism, and concern. In retrospect, it was almost, perhaps, the peak of American hegemony, but things seemed to be going in a positive direction. And it was a mark of confidence in the United States trying to meet, understand, and accept, and rise to the challenges of the world that it was increasingly leading into the 21st century, and of an intellectual community of people who wrote, and read, and discussed books to be the crucible for the discussions that would help the United States move forward in this century, and make the world a continuously better, more stable, more prosperous, more peaceful, more democratic place.
Over the last—(laughs)—couple of decades, much of that confidence has been shaken. The United States is no longer bestriding the world like a colossus. We no longer seem to be on an upward trajectory of ever-greater peace, ever-greater prosperity, ever-greater democracy. And the idea that sort of the place to go for discussions of whatever the trends are going on are long collections of physically bound dead trees with print put on them seems as outdated as the notion of America as a benign, hegemon.
And yet, there are—like Wile E. Coyote running off the cliff but not realizing he’s fallen down—there is a community of people from the old country, the past being another country, who still believe in the power of words and arguments to shed light to illuminate the problems we have, and perhaps even to sketch out solutions or potential ways of dealing with those problems. And the confidence that Arthur had, both in U.S. foreign policy—to make it worthy of intellectual engagement—and of books to be the drivers of that deserve to be honored precisely because they are now minority views. Precisely because we’re no longer in the heyday. We are back to a time more like that when the Council was founded, over a century ago, in an era in which the United States was turning inward, in an era in which intellectual engagement was not necessarily appreciated or understood.
And the Arthur Ross Book Award has never been more important and significant than it is now. And what is fabulous to reflect on is that however much the broader culture has gone in a different direction, there still every year are scores of people turning out extraordinary intellectual accomplishments of major books that illuminate the challenges we face and that educate all of us. We are always very fortunate to have a number of really great books to choose from for this award. And this year, we had seven finalists that were really just a superb batch.
Pekka Hämäläinen’s Indigenous Continent: The Epic Contest for North America. It’s a wonderful history of U.S. relations with indigenous peoples over the entire course of the American experiment. And I recommend it highly. William Inboden’s The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War and the World on the Brink. A serious study of Reagan’s foreign policy that puts it in an intellectual and practical context and rescues it from the caricatures of left and right that so often have accrued to Reagan over the years.
Michael Mandelbaum’s The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy: Weak Power, Great Power, Superpower and Hyperpower. I just put it on a recommended reading for a foreign policy course I’m teaching at Columbia, because you can’t really understand the present of U.S. foreign policy without knowing how we got here. And Mandelbaum’s book is a sweeping, wonderful history of that, that recaps everything and brings us to the present. Stacy Schiff’s The Revolutionary Samuel Adams, another gloriously, beautifully written book by Stacy that takes a historical figure from the dim mists of memory and makes him irrelevant and obvious to us now, present and important.
All of these were wonderful books. Three others rose to the top in the judging, and we’re here to celebrate them today. Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman’s Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century. Susan Shirk’s Overreach: How China Derailed its Peaceful Rise, and Chris Miller’s Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology. Before we get to the discussion of the books, I just want to thank my fellow jurors, who every year devote much of their summer to reading very long, very serious books and then debating what qualities make a great book and how each of these actually fulfills those.
And we have—I really think it’s the—we could never do it if it wasn’t confidential—but I really think every year I look forward to the discussions because they represent the best of intellectual life. Everybody comes and brings to the table their own thoughts and argues for their positions. We have different positions, but we come to a collective agreement on the rankings. And everybody signs on to it. And it feels like they’ve been heard and they’ve achieved a consensus. And it’s a wonderful democratic deliberation on a serious intellectual subject that could otherwise be fraught, or rancorous, or shallow. And it’s none of those things. And so I’d like to really thank all of our fellow jurors—Lisa Anderson, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Sumit Ganguly, Michelle Gavin, Paul Golob, Calvin Sims, Andrew Ross Sorkin, and Sue Mi Terry. It’s a wonderful group and they do great service every year.
The books we have in front of us today are the Guriev and Treisman Spin Dictators, Susan Shirk’s Overreach, and Chris Miller’s Chip War. They represent a survey of the problems we have now. What is going on in China, and how did it go so wrong? What is going on in Russia, and China, and elsewhere, and how did it go so wrong? What the hell is going on in industrial policy, and the chip market, and technology, and how can it go right? They illuminate the challenges we are currently facing. And they do so in a way that makes them explicable and understandable, and leaves you not necessarily heartened but at least knowing that you know the lay of the land and you know the challenges that are coming forward at us. And leaves us better prepared to face those challenges. And that’s what we’re going to talk about tonight.
So our first discussion will be with Dan Treisman to discuss his and Sergei Guriev’s book, Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century. And at this point, I’m going to go here, and Dan’s going to come online, correct? He’s going to be on the screen, so I’m just going to stay here. OK, I will stay here.
Dan, how are you? Welcome.
TREISMAN: Hi. Good to see you, Gideon.
ROSE: I first met Dan Treisman across a seminar table in Cambridge first year of grad school when, with typical type-A male doucheiness I recognized a fellow potential apex predator and was very jealous of him. (Laughter.) And because his—
TREISMAN: Fortunately, that’s long past, Gideon.
ROSE: His answers were smart and serious. This, shall we say, was back when there was a Soviet Union. And it has been a distinct pleasure to watch his work evolve. I soon realized that I wasn’t going to be able to compete with him and I should just listen to and learn from him. And that’s what I’ve been doing for three decades now, plus. And, very simply, Dan, what is the new face of tyranny today?
TREISMAN: Well, thank you, Gideon. It’s really a tremendous pleasure and an honor to be here with you today, both with you and with Chris and Susan. What an incredible set of books. I’ve learned so much from those two, for sure.
So what is—what is the new type of authoritarian government that our book is about? Well, I should say, we got started, Sergei and I, around 2015. We had both spent a great deal of time watching how the Russian system was evolving under Putin. And it became clear to us that Putin was establishing control over society, over the political realm, in a way that was quite different from the techniques that we associate with the big dictators of the twentieth century. He was very effectively, very systematically, gathering up all the levers of power.
But at the same time, he was pretending to be democratic. He was manipulating the media, in large part from behind the scenes. He allowed a small, dissident, liberal media to survive for a very long time. He was pretending to be a benevolent, competent, democratic leader. And he seemed to be, for a long time, genuinely popular. These days, it’s pretty hard to tell just how Russians really feel about him. But for a long time, I think he was genuinely, clearly popular.
So this style of controlling—establishing really a very tight control that was far from democratic, but without using the kind of mass violence that we saw in so many bloody regimes in the twentieth century, this seemed something new. He wasn’t putting tens of thousands of political prisoners in jail. He wasn’t executing large numbers of political opponents. And when there was some violence used, the regime was very careful and deliberate about denying that it had any part in those violent acts, or in violent events. So it struck us that this was something different.
And as we looked around the world, we saw a lot of other cases that were surprisingly similar. So in Hungary under Viktor Orban, in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, even Peru under Fujimori to some extent, and in Singapore. Authoritarian leaders were basically pretending to be democrats, but using a common set of levers and techniques to make sure that they never actually lost power, while controlling the population indirectly by manipulating information. So instead of bloody repression, a lot more subtle manipulation, propaganda—but not the old style of heavy-handed, in-your-face propaganda. Rather sophisticated PR, something much closer to the kind of political advertising you see in the West.
So the book’s about that. The book was our effort to—or, came out of our effort to try and understand all these regimes that had these strikingly similar features, that were really governing their countries in a way that was quite authoritarian and allowed very little say for the population in how they were governed. But which looked pretty different from Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, Idi Amin in Africa, or Mobutu, and generals and juntas in Latin America. So the sort of classic dictators, although there were some and there still are a few of those left. We see old fear dictatorship, as we call it, in North Korea and in Syria, for instance, in Egypt. There still are some, but the balance has shifted towards this new, more sophisticated model.
ROSE: OK, great. So why? Tell us about the modernization cocktail and why this kind of tyranny is the new bottle that holds the old one.
TREISMAN: Right. Well, we think it has to do with the process through which countries and the world, as a whole, have been modernizing, developing economically, and also becoming more integrated, more globalized. That context makes it harder, or more costly at least, to be an old-style dictator. So when you have a population that’s highly educated, that’s working in the knowledge economy, that’s made up of individuals who have connections to people in other countries who have skills in organizing, who have communications resources. It’s much harder to control them through brutal repression. And if you can do it, it’s more costly because it’s very hard to be an innovative, developing, modern economy if you are basically imposing fear and outlawing any kind of dissent.
So we think that this new, more sophisticated model is more in tune with the context of the modern world, where even if you—if you want to rule your country as a dictator, you still want to be able to go to Davos, you still want to be respected in the Western world, you still want open trade and foreign investment. You want your public to continue to believe that they are actually being ruled in a democratic way, strange as that might seem. You want the elections to look perhaps imperfect, but not that much worse than the kind of flawed elections that we see in genuine democracies very often. So in the modern world. spin dictatorship, as we call it, is better adapted. But that doesn’t mean that it’ll survive forever. And as countries continue to modernize even more, they often reach a point where the spin dictator starts to lose faith in—
ROSE: OK, so let’s actually turn to that briefly, just a final little point. Which is, I mean, at first it sounds like you’re telling a negative story—the rise of this new kind of dictatorship. And we had hoped the post-Cold War era would be better, and nicer, and work well. But in fact, it’s actually a positive story because however bad these dictatorships are, they’re less bad than the ones that came before a couple of generations ago, and they are that way because of the necessary compromises they have to make within an emerging modern and postmodern world.
So what is the future? Is this—will the positive trend continue and the next version of dictatorship be even nicer? Or is this going to sort of—have they successfully figured out how to remain in charge, even in a modernized setting?
TREISMAN: I think everything you said, Gideon, was right. They’re bad, but they’re not as bad as genocidal brutal regimes of the past. They are basically an adaption mechanism, an adaption strategy that allows dictators to survive, even at high levels of economic development and international integration. So that the great pioneer of this was Lee Kuan Yew. And we see in Singapore the model of how a regime can survive for decades never really sharing power broadly with the population, but doing very well in a modern world, nevertheless.
Can that go on forever? Well, the only—it’s extremely difficult. And it gets harder and harder as the country gets more modern. So what does that mean? It means, basically, apart from Singapore, no other country has managed to go that far, to become that wealthy and that successful, without running into a crisis at some point. What has happened in a number of other cases is the spin dictator comes to a point where, despite all these sophisticated techniques, he loses faith in the model. He stops thinking that it’s working.
And we saw this, I think, with Erdogan after the Gezi, Park protests and the failed coup attempt in 2016. We saw this with Putin in—around 2018-2019, when he really gave up on his political operatives who, up to then, had managed this sort of pseudo-democracy quite effectively. But they were failing to keep the people off the streets. There were these nationwide protests breaking out in support of Navalny and against Putin. And so Erdogan at a certain point, Putin at a certain point both decided they have to use more force.
And so one of the possible reactions to that crisis of continued modernization is to go backwards, and to revert to a fear dictatorship. And so, that’s a danger. So I’m not saying that this is a completely optimistic and reassuring story. What we’re saying is there is this quite new kind of authoritarian regime, which is better than, you know, Stalinist or Hitler-style mass repression, which—but which, nevertheless, can help to delay actual democratization, and which can revert to a more violent form of repressive rule.
But ultimately, it gets harder and harder as the country develops and as the world becomes less welcoming to authoritarian governments. And of course, underlying that is the question, what is going to happen to the world? And if the world were to de-modernize, which we think is extremely unlikely, or if the world were to deglobalize, which is perhaps slightly more possible but we certainly don’t see strong evidence of it yet—although many people are alarmed about that. But if those things were to happen, then the kind of environment that tends to push countries along towards more open government would stop.
ROSE: So there you have it, an optimistic look at very bad tyrannies in the present era. (Laughter.) Which is a real treat. Dan, thank you very much. I realized now we’re going to have to actually get two medals, one for you, and one for Andrei (sic; Sergei). But I put this on you in absentia.
TREISMAN: For Sergei.
ROSE: And we thank you and your coauthor for your service and look forward to discussing it more. And anybody who wants to hear more after that little tidbit, The Spin Dictators. Read it. And, actually, it’s a great guide to what’s happening now, and why you shouldn’t just go off and hang yourself in despair but actually understand some of the bad trends happening as something that the dictators themselves have been forced into because of the trends—of the tides that are flowing against them. So thank you for that perspective. Thank you, Dan Treisman and Sergei Guriev, for your book. (Applause.)
TREISMAN: Thank you.
ROSE: Susan Shirk, would you please come up here and we can discuss Overreach? So this is an excellent book. And, OK, I’m going to start with Fragile Superpower. A decade and a half ago-plus you published a book on China’s rise to date, Fragile Superpower. And the argument was, well, some people would say fragile, and Chinese would say superpower. But in fact, it was—(inaudible). For Rip Van Winkle, who had fallen asleep after Fragile Superpower was published, after they read it, and just woke up now, why did you need to write another book on Chinese development? Didn’t you just call everything properly the last time, and didn’t history play out the way you expected in 2008? (Laughter.)
SHIRK: Ah, great question. Of course, Fragile Superpower remains a book of value. (Laughter.) Because it highlights the growing nationalism in China, and the growth of commercial media and internet, and how it stimulated this nationalist sentiment among the public and put pressure on the government, especially in regard to relations with Japan and Taiwan. But in so much of the rest of Chinese foreign policy, the Chinese leadership at the time—Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao—just as Dan Treisman was saying, wanted to create a good environment for China’s own economic modernization.
So the reason I had—well, actually, I struggled, if I must confide in all of you, that I tried to update, Fragile Superpower, over a period of a few years without much success. It’s a miserable process, trying to keep up with what’s happening in China. It was so dynamic. And then around 2006, ’(0)7, and ’(0)8, I noticed that Chinese foreign policy becomes more aggressive, especially in the South China Sea. Which really changed the whole narrative about China’s peaceful rise, what kind of rising power China was. We saw that before the Olympics—and here, we’re talking even before the global financial crisis, there is a much more social control, grid management, and control of media. And also the economic side, after years, decades of decentralization to be more of a market economy, the Chinese government comes back in to take more of a role in driving the economy.
So I look at these changes. And I say, well, is public opinion causing this? Is it nationalism? What’s going on here? I couldn’t figure it out. And so I started doing the research for this book. And I—
ROSE: So, wait, you wrote the book to explain to yourself what was going on?
SHIRK: In real time, as I watched this in ’(0)6, ’(0)7, ’(0)8.
ROSE: Were you teaching at the same time?
SHIRK: Of course.
ROSE: And so were your students getting the benefit of this? Did, like, the classes become a sort of what’s going on in China?
SHIRK: Oh, yeah. Yeah, because I was I was really puzzled. And first I thought, well, like, OK, this is the Olympics. And in China before big events they often tighten up social control. And then after the event is over, things loosen up, they go back to normal. So that was one hypothesis. But then I watched. After the Olympics, things never loosened up ever again. And then we had the global financial crisis come in on top of that. And the other thing going on in China was that productivity increases and economic growth were declining as well.
So and then I started—I’m a comparative politics person, like Dan is. And I tried to figure out why the collective leadership of Hu Jintao was leading to these new, more aggressive and repressive policies. And what I discovered was that really it was the interest groups represented by different parts of the Chinese party state that were hyping the threat, both the domestic threat and the international threat, in order to get bigger budgets and more power for themselves.
So I think the most surprising thing that people find when they read my book is to learn that Overreach doesn’t start with Xi Jinping. It actually starts in this period of collective leadership. But then Xi Jinping has really taken things even further. And, of course, Overreach—I was thinking when Dan was speaking about the potential for U-turns back to a more fear-based authoritarian regime. And that’s what has happened under Xi Jinping, because Xi was able to make the case that this collective leadership was so corrupt that he needed to centralize power, have a stronger core leader. And introduces anti-corruption campaign, which has really become by now a permanent purge, and has imbued the whole Chinese decision-making process, the official party state bureaucracy, with so much fear, people maybe may disappear from one day to the next.
So what that does is it puts so much pressure on all of Xi’s subordinates, they can’t tell him the truth about the negative consequences of what he’s doing. And we see COVID—zero-COVID as a very clear case of that. But also that they may over-comply, implement his policies. They try—they’re competing with one another. They all want to jump on the bandwagon behind Xi Jinping to prove their loyalty to him. And therefore, they take the policies perhaps even further than he originally wanted.
ROSE: So is this a sustainable and successful strategy for managing China at home and abroad?
SHIRK: No. And what’s fascinating now is there appears to be, anecdotally as well as with some surveys data, we see that there’s a high degree of dissatisfaction in China growing both at the elite level and at the mass level. A lot of it is due, of course, to the economic problems—real estate, unemployment. But also the zero-COVID, searing experience of that. Look at these people in Shanghai. No matter how wealthy you were, you were struggling to get enough food to eat. So and there was no effort to vaccinate people and prepare for the shift from zero-COVID to opening up.
So then we had the white paper movement. That really surprised me. I would have thought that the greatest risk to Xi Jinping now is at the elite level, because there’s no power sharing. So many of the politicians, the intellectuals, the professionals are very resentful of Xi Jinping. But it turns out that even the general public is quite dissatisfied. So now there’s real loss of confidence. And so the future—you know, just as I could never have predicted in 2005 that we would have a China that looks like where we are today, I feel we can’t predict where China goes from here.
ROSE: OK, but I want to press you on that because that’s a little bit of a cop out, because if you can’t and we certainly can’t—(laughter)—because you’re the expert we’re all supposed to turn to and steal from, and then go off to cocktail parties and say: Well, you know, this is what’s going to happen in China. So if you have these three sort of futures, a of kind of muddling through, a return to internal reform in a positive direction, more liberalization of various kinds of things—economics, politics, et cetera—or some kind of explosion or foreign adventurism that sort of makes things really even worse, which of those do you think is likely? How scared should we be about number—you know, door number three, which is—
SHIRK: OK. Well, let’s start there. So the whole diversion—you’re going to teach international relations, right? Diversionary war theories, it turns out it very rarely happens. So I don’t think that it makes China more dangerous. You know, China’s economy may be struggling with a lot of problems. Maybe we’ve reached peak China. But I don’t think that China’s leadership is going to solve that problem by wagging the dog or diverting people to—
ROSE: So you don’t stay up at nights worrying about Taiwan?
SHIRK: I don’t.
ROSE: Good. That’s actually very good to hear.
ROSE: Because some of us—there are people in this room who stay up nights worrying about Taiwan. That’s good. What about positive domestic reform, a return to the good guys?
SHIRK: Well, I admit that I’m one of the few people around to still thinks it’s a possibility. Because I know that many of China’s experts—financial experts, economists, some of the scientists, the smartest people in China—are really quite dissatisfied with the way Xi Jinping is ruling China. And they would like to see a change. So I’m not predicting a coup necessarily. I recognize it’s very hard to pull that off. But I think that Xi Jinping may start to recognize that some of his policies really have failed. Look at his whole approach to Taiwan. Has that been so successful? No. And he may turn to some of these other folks and actually start listening to them and might moderate his policies.
Especially if U.S. opens the door to that by communicating through intensified diplomacy with China, combination of carrots and sticks, and—but just more communication, just as we had in Thailand this weekend between Jake Sullivan and Wang Yi, that, you know, we recognize if you were to—for example, if Xi were to resume dialogue with Taiwan now, even under a DPP president, think of how that might really change a lot of our perceptions about China. It would restore confidence that China is led by a leader and a system where they’re able to adapt pragmatically, which is what we always used to say about China. So I don’t think it’s impossible.
ROSE: From your lips to God’s ears, as they say. (Laughter.) This is a spectacular book, Overreach. Read it. We can wait another twenty years for the next one in the series that’ll tell us what happened. But it’s really—again, this is two for two out of optimism so far on some of the most depressing subjects, to a certain extent, on the contemporary agenda. And we’re going to have to rely on Chris to send us back into despair—(laughter)—by telling us why none of that stuff is actually going to happen with China.
SHIRK: OK. Thanks a lot.
ROSE: Hold on one second, Susan. Let me get you—Susan Shirk, we present a silver medal. We’re going to put this around you. (Applause.)
SHIRK: Thank you so much.
ROSE: Thank you very much. Congratulations. It would be really fun to be in your classes and follow these stories as they go on in real time. By the way, here’s your—here’s your case for your award, if you don’t want to wear it all the time every time.
Chris Miller, please come up. Tom Lehrer once introduced a song by saying: I got the idea for this song when I was reading a death notice. And it was the juiciest, raciest, sexiest obituary I’ve ever read. And it was a song about Alma Mahler, who had dated several different—several of the most impressive men in Central Europe, and went so far as to marry three of them, as he said. So I thought of that because this is the raciest, juiciest, sexiest book on industrial policy you will ever read. (Laughter, applause.) The author’s accomplishment is nothing short of fabulous.
We had a book a couple of years—we’ve had some—the privilege have some wonderful, beautifully written books over the years of the Arthur Ross Book Award. The most recent truly extraordinarily written one I thought was Patrick Radden Keefe’s book on the Irish Troubles, which was extraordinarily, heartbreakingly beautifully written. But, you know, writing about terrorism and sacrifice and betrayal. To be able to write about silicon chips and to write about, you know, microprocessors, and have it been something where you literally are following saying, well, I didn’t know that, how do we get to the next page?
And have it be also ratified by the current papers. Every single day, you see it. Literally, today in the Journal, I was reading here: Looking for economic wins, Biden will award chip cash. About how they’re now going to basically rely on the CHIPS Act. All of which is basically explained, and explained better than you could possibly imagine, in Chip War. So this is a truly extraordinary accomplishment in the assembly and presentation of information on a vital topic that nobody except internal professionals really knew much about, presented in a way that makes you actually want to read it.
And it’s so funny because you—whenever you—when you read a lot of these things you become proselytizers. You go to somebody and buttonhole them and say: Oh, have you read Susan Shirks? Have you read Treisman’s book? It’s really good. And when you talk about Miller’s book, the invariable response I get is: Well, of course. It’s fabulous. Isn’t it so great? I don’t know what the other ones are, but you should give that one the prize. Anyway, no, it’s very interesting. (Laughter.) So congratulations on this kind of thing.
MILLER: Thank you.
ROSE: But let’s get right to it. What—OK, there was a—there was—the Bush administration’s chairman of the Council on Economic Advisers 1990—early 1990s, Michael Boskin, was famously once quoted as having said: potato chips, computer chips, what’s the difference? They’re all chips. A hundred dollars of one, or $100 of the other, is still $100. Do you agree with Michael Boskin? (Laughter.) That it doesn’t matter whether you have $100 or buying or selling a potato chips or poppadom, as we now know, because they’re the same thing as the chips from a recent patent law thing, or silicon chips?
MILLER: Well, actually, I thought this quote was quite interesting when I was writing the book, and was planning to use it in the book. And I emailed Michael Boskin and said, you know, I’ve heard you quoted as saying this, but I could never find the original source. And he denies having said it.
ROSE: It was at a conference. And he was quoted as saying it. And it has denied it ever since.
MILLER: Yeah. Yeah.
ROSE: I would too, if I could—(laughter)—it doesn’t look that good in retrospect.
MILLER: So I don’t—I guess I trust that he didn’t say it. But it’s been quoted so many times he can’t shake it off at this point. I think there is a difference between semiconductors and potato chips. (Laughter.)
MILLER: Because compared to all other products ever invented in all human history, no other product has improved its capability at such a rapid rate for three quarters of a century. Hands down. Nothing comes close. And so if you think about Moore’s Law, which dictates the rate at which chips improved, it’s now given us a doubling every two years or so since 1916.
ROSE: OK. But that is—but that sounds like it’s a wonderful thing. Like in Li’l Abner, they had the Shmoos. You could turn into anything. And they were wonderful. You could—why doesn’t just everybody have a chip industry? And then it would grow, like Topsy, again and again and again?
MILLER: Yeah, well, indeed, they are wonderful things. We use more and more of them, of course, in all aspects of our life. The challenge is that if you take the phone out of your pocket, pop it open, just the primary chip inside—in order to have kept up with the doubling that Gordon Moore promised us—has fifteen or twenty billion transistors, each one of which is smaller than around half the size of a coronavirus. So this is the most complex manufacturing humans have ever undertaken, by a pretty wide margin.
ROSE: Say that again slowly. This is the most spectacular—what did you say?
MILLER: (Laughter.) So the primary chip in your phone has twenty billion coronavirus-sized transistors that are manufactured for you at a price of around $50 or $100.
ROSE: Twenty billion coronavirus-size—OK, this is a kind of—by the way, this is the kind of thing you read this book and go, holy shit. You try to get your mind around that. (Laughter.) And so is your point that it’s not just a great industry, but it’s one that you can’t—you can’t jump onto that escalator anytime, or start it once it’s been going. You have to basically have been the one running the—so there’s a great path dependency in the chip sector?
MILLER: There’s a huge path dependency. And if you look at the history, what you find is that there’s a very small number of countries and companies that have ever gotten to play any role in the chip industry, which is why when we use the—when we talk about tech, today, we talk about Silicon Valley.
ROSE: Hold on one second. On that point, if you were to put all the truly significant chip countries—chip companies—
MILLER: Silicon chips, not potato chips.
ROSE: Silicon chips. (Laughter.) If you were to put all the significant players in important silicon chips—if you were to put them in different chairs, how far back would you have to go in this room?
MILLER: The United States, Japan, Europe—
ROSE: How many companies?
MILLER: Oh, companies. Well, there’s many different types of chips.
ROSE: The highest end, most important ones.
MILLER: The most important, high-end processor chips are produced by two or three of them.
ROSE: So you wouldn’t even get to the second row, because the only people capable of producing the super high-end chips that everybody needs to make everything work at the top and are only literally a handful of companies.
MILLER: That’s right. And the most advanced processor chips, 90 percent of them are produced by one.
ROSE: Which is?
MILLER: The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.
ROSE: OK. And what—now they produce different chips than NVIDIA produces, correct?
MILLER: NVIDIA designs the chips, but they’re all manufactured in Taiwan by TSMC.
ROSE: So each sector—not only is there a great path dependency, but different—and not only are there very few companies, that we talk about in the book, but they each control different parts of the ecosystem.
MILLER: That’s right. The only way you’re capable of manufacturing devices with such extraordinary complexity is to have each company focused on one specific part. And so we’ve got a supply chain that is full of almost oligopolistic or monopolistic concentration at every single step. And it’s technologically dictated that that must be the case.
ROSE: OK. So where is—where are the stops on that supply chain?
MILLER: Well, the good news is that they’re mostly in the United States, the Netherlands, and Japan. If you’re talking about designing chips, the software used to design chips, the chemicals used to produce chips—which must be ultra-pure—99.999 percent. The machines that are capable of moving materials at basically the atomic level, those are produced in the U.S., Japan, the Netherlands. The only slight complication is that the chips are actually manufactured in Taiwan.
ROSE: And why can’t we just set up fabs here to produce the chips so that they’re not manufactured in Taiwan, right in China’s backyard? Why can’t China just create fabs to produce the chips so that they don’t have to rely on Western chips?
MILLER: Yeah, well, China’s been trying. They’ve been trying for some time. And they’ve had some success, but they still remain somewhat far behind TSMC in Taiwan. And TSMC right now is in the early stages of trying to build facilities outside of Taiwan—in Arizona, in Japan, in Germany. But it’s going to keep, at least for now, all of its R&D and all of its cutting-edge production in Taiwan, because they believe that their R&D processes work best when they’re all happening right next to the manufacturing. They don’t want to split up the process of R&D from manufacturing because every single year they need to turn a new R&D process into a manufactured good, with basically perfect reliability. There’s a really deep interrelationship between the R&D and manufacturing.
ROSE: OK. So the book has this kind of geography inherent to the chip industry in it. There are these key nodes in these odd places. How does that map onto not just the world of the global economy, but the world of the global international division of power? You know, there’s—Taiwan, that seems to be in a kind of tricky place. Europe, OK, it’s not as tricky. There’s some in the U.S. There’s some in different other places, China. How does the chip industry’s weird path-dependent geography, necessitated by the technology as you say, map on to other kinds of economics and political struggles that are going on in the world?
MILLER: Well, there’s a lot of ways historically the industry has mapped on to political struggles. It’s been central to geopolitical competition since the first ships were invented for missile systems. Missile guidance systems were the origins of all chip technology. But today, the primary fault line is over the future of AI, because both the U.S. and China, and every other military, are trying to deploy AI to defense and intelligence use cases. And they’re all turning to the exact same semiconductor supply chain to provide them the chips that make AI possible.
ROSE: So everybody competing for market share economically, and competing for profits, and competing for power and military technology, are all reliant on the same damn supply chain, dominated by the same companies, for the same chips?
MILLER: Yeah. This is a unique moment in world history where all of the great powers—United States, Russia, China—have predominantly components produced by the same supply chain. They’re all—
ROSE: Which nobody can duplicate even though they’re trying to.
MILLER: Thus far, yes.
ROSE: OK. So you, you write this book. You explain all this. And then the Biden administration reads it and goes, you know what? We’re going to get on top of this and, you know, establishes—the U.S. Congress establishes a new industrial policy to try to screw China and deprive it of high-end chips, while boosting American production of those high-end chips itself. To get out of the bind, right?
MILLER: I think correlation versus causation we can debate, but, yes, that chronology is true. (Laughter.)
ROSE: Does the unique, weird structure of this industry allow for industrial policy of the kind that is currently U.S. policy?
MILLER: So I spent a lot of time thinking about the question of industrial policy, included I don’t know what it means. Nor do I think anyone else does either. (Laughter.)
ROSE: How about a government attempt to shape the economic markets and outcomes?
MILLER: Yeah. So I think, you know, if you look at the chip industry, there was an extraordinary study the OECD did in 2018 or 2019, I forget which year. And they found that there were U.S. companies—U.S.-headquartered companies that were receiving more money in subsidies from foreign governments than from the U.S. government. And so it doesn’t take a skilled economist to guess where those companies will build manufacturing facilities. And if you want to look at the CHIPS Act, it’s not a question of—you don’t have to believe in industrial policy. It’s about the world we live in, and the fact that the biggest subsidizer also happens to be America’s primary strategic competitor. And that’s China.
ROSE: So why can’t China just buy itself a chip industry?
MILLER: Well, it’s trying. (Laughs.) It’s trying hard. And it has made some progress over the past decade. We must admit that. And I think, left unimpeded, it would have made more progress than it’s made thus far. I think if you look at the steps the U.S., Japan, the Netherlands have taken over the past five years now, they’ve been an effort to slow China’s progress. And I think they’ve had some effect of slowing it.
ROSE: And do the export controls and sanctions, the attempts to try to essentially cut China out of the high-end chips that are produced outside China, will that effort work?
MILLER: Well, if—so I think if you asked the Biden administration, I think they’ll say, working is defined as throwing sand in the gears of China’s AI industry. And that’s the metaphor you should think of. And so if you ask yourself, do we have evidence yet of sand in the gears being thrown into—of sand being thrown into the gears? I think it’s probably too soon to tell. That’s the answer. But doesn’t seem plausible to me that if you restrict access to compute, you force Chinese companies to move to second-best solutions, you drive up the price of computing power, is it plausible that AI research becomes harder, more expensive, more inefficient? Seems like a plausible case.
ROSE: OK. At the same time, we’re trying to throw sand in the gears of the Chinese chip industry, they’re also saying we don’t really want to be reliant on Taiwan, or we don’t want to rely on Europe. And so they’re trying to build up and incentivize an American domestic—purely domestic industry.
MILLER: I don’t—I think the Biden administration, nor key voices in Congress, have said nothing about not relying on Europe, or nothing about being purely domestic.
ROSE: So this doesn’t have the Buy America provisions that some of the other things—
MILLER: Correct, yeah.
ROSE: OK. So what are the—what about the—what are the prospects for success of the attempt to build a non-Chinese, non-Taiwanese high-end chip?
MILLER: Yeah. Critical distinction. I think Bloomberg put out a study two weeks ago saying the cost of a Taiwan crisis would be $10 trillion. Maybe that’s a little bit high, maybe it’s low. I’m not sure. But no one’s run the numbers and found a number that doesn’t start with a trillion. And if you ask yourself, where does that cost come from? It largely comes from losing access to semiconductors. There are knock-on effects, but semiconductors are the first and most direct impact of the Taiwan crisis on U.S. GDP, and European GDP, and Japanese GDP.
I think there is an active effort underway via the U.S. CHIPS Act, the European chips act, Japanese efforts which they don’t call the chips act but it’s basically a Japanese CHIPS Act, to provide more supply of the types of semiconductors that would be needed. Not a perfect supply, but provide a bit more margin of error in case something goes wrong in the Taiwan Straits, so that the GDP impact would be less than it would. And so, you know, industrial policy—again, I’m not sure—I’m not sure what that means. I think insurance policy is the right phrase. And am I willing to buy some insurance? I am.
ROSE: What reason do you have to believe that if we couldn’t build them originally we’ll be able to build them now? Like, why will just—we haven’t been able to do that with much of the rest of manufacturing. Why will it work for chips?
MILLER: Well, I think—have we not been able to build them originally? I think they were invented in California. Many chips are still producing in the United States. There are highly profitable U.S. chip makers. Texas Instruments, for example, has been proving producing profitably in Texas now for eighty years. I think there’s lots of reasons to think why it’s viable to produce not just in the U.S., but in Europe, and Japan, and Korea, and elsewhere. I think if we were to single-mindedly focus on building everything at home, that would be the wrong way to focus the problem. I think we were to ask ourselves: Do we want to be so reliant on a geography that all of our intelligence officials, all of our political leaders, all of our great analysts say is more at risk today than it was ten years ago? Doesn’t seem like a wise bet.
ROSE: So friendshoring into secure places is the way to go if possible, while also building domestic stuff?
MILLER: Yeah, I mean, as a writer, phrases like “friendshoring” really grate against me.
ROSE: Which is why his book is so good, because they don’t actually have phrases like “friendshoring.” (Laughs.)
MILLER: But yes.
ROSE: OK. So let’s go to another question that I asked Susan. Which is, if I’m China and I’m facing the kind of problems and headwinds that she was talking about, and I’m hearing your Taiwan situation, and now you’re actually excluding me from the U.S. chip market and trying to throw sand in my gears, why don’t I mess with Taiwan? Why isn’t what we’re doing—you know, Norman Angell might say, oh, the integration of the global economy will bring peace. But it didn’t in the first half of the twentieth century. Why isn’t what we’re doing with China equivalent to what the U.S. did with Japan and oil in the late 1930s?
MILLER: Yeah, that analogy, I think, falls apart pretty quickly once you dig. And so the U.S. sanctions on Japanese oil would have made it impossible to drive a car in Tokyo had they been pursued to their fullest limit. By contrast, the U.S. export controls on AI chips to China will have an imperceptible impact on Chinese GDP this year. China imports more chips than it spends importing oil every year. It’s going to do the same thing this year despite the controls, because hardly any chips—or, only chips it’s only chips that are used for training the most advanced AI systems. Chips for phones, chips for cars, chips for medical devices, they’re all totally unimpacted. So that the idea that this is similar to the oil embargo, I don’t follow that argument.
ROSE: So it’s neither—so you’re buying a little bit of insurance and you’re slowing them down a little bit. And this will help reduce the reliance on Taiwan in this particularly critical area.
MILLER: Well, I think the two policies have different—they have different goals. I mean, the CHIPS Act is the insurance policy. If something goes wrong in the Taiwan Straits, do we have a bit more scope for domestic production? I think the export controls are saying, if you listen to defense officials in China, in the United States, in Russia and Ukraine right now—as they deploy ever more advanced drones—they’re all saying: Deploying AI systems as rapidly as possible is critical to next-generation military technologies. And it’s not a—this is not science fiction. This is already happening today. We already use computer vision algorithms to identify targets on the battlefield. That’s a fact.
ROSE: So, net-net, does this weird integration and dominance of the chip industry, with a few little suppliers that everybody depends on for the highest-end things, does this produce more risks or does it produce more pacific events?
MILLER: I don’t think it produces either. I think peace is guaranteed by deterrence. And the chip industry happens to sit on top of that.
ROSE: Interesting. OK. We have time for a couple of questions from the audience, our members here. Right over here. We have a microphone over here. Please rise and state your name and ask your question.
Q: Jason Forrester, a council member and a Fletcher grad, Professor.
Maybe it’s an unfair question. I’m only on chapter thirty—(laughter)—so I still have more to go. What comes after chips, after these chips? Any thoughts?
MILLER: Well, I think the standard answer is to say quantum computing comes next. But I think the reality is quantum computing is in its infancy still. And we’re going to be in a world defined by silicon chips for a very long time to come.
ROSE: You actually say—I heard you say in an interview that you felt that Moore’s Law would continue for another, you know, decade or so?
MILLER: Well, I think a decade is pretty straightforward. If you listen to what Intel, or TSMC, or Samsung have told us they’re already working on, there’s a clear pathway towards—that this current growth rate, for at least seven years, probably ten years. Beyond that, it’s very uncertain. But it’s always uncertain. Nobody knows. You can debate are we going to get the cost declines we had in the past? Will we need new architectures? Will we need new packaging techniques? The amount of money going into R&D and, more importantly, the financial incentive to get it right, is an overpowering law. And people forget, you know, Moore’s Law is not a law of physics. It’s not a law of anything except for economics.
ROSE: OK. We had a question from our digital audience.
OPERATOR: We will take our next question from Tara Hariharan.
Q: Thank you so much. My name is Tara Hariharan. I’m a hedge fund researcher based in New York.
Chris, loved your book. I wanted to ask you a question about a development that has happened since the book. And that is, I think, the latest U.S. concern, not just about making sure that we prevent advanced chip technology getting into Chinese hands, but now the concern that China is basically producing an overcapacity of the legacy chips, the older chips that basically go into our everyday appliances. How do you think the U.S. can address this? I know that some congressional members have suggested tariffs. But then wouldn’t tariffs ultimately just be raising costs for the American consumer and kind of be at the odds of the whole point of bringing down the cost curves for the chip sector? Thank you.
MILLER: Well, I don’t know if you planted this question, but I had an article this morning in the Financial Times under this very topic. (Laughter.) So if you did, I appreciate it. I think this is going to be a big issue this year and next year. I think European, Japanese, U.S. policymakers are focused on it. It has totally different dynamics than the high end of the industry, because at the lower end, foundational chips that can be produced by many different companies, there’s no technological edge in most cases. And so at the low end of the market, it’s a bit more commoditized. And so the challenge is going to be finding a policy response that addresses what will be—allegedly Chinese dumping of foundational chips. And if you look at the production estimates for increases in Chinese production capacity, they’re extraordinarily vast. And so I don’t know which exact segments of the market this may have the biggest impact on, but it seems implausible that this vast production capacity increase will impact prices up at the low end.
ROSE: OK. Another question from here. Yes.
Q: Max van Amerongen from Goldman Sachs. A corporate member.
If we could step away from the technical for a moment and look at the human terrain, what are some of the vulnerabilities and safeguards as it relates to critical human talent and personnel in some of those sensitive R&D positions? Thank you.
MILLER: Well, it’s an interesting question, because in the—in the defense sphere for critical technology you’d have security clearances or that, but in the chip sphere almost all of the key R&D happens in private companies that sell to smartphone makers, or PC makers. So it’s not sensitive technology. We all use it. And so that, I think, has been a source of extraordinary strength for the United States, that we’ve had the largest market. We’ve had many of the companies that have been bringing these products to market. But it does produce dilemmas if you say, let’s make sure we understand how technology is being transferred, how do you actually go about doing that?
I think other countries—Taiwan, South Korea—have been much more restrictive on this measure than the U.S. has. I think it’s very difficult for the U.S. to think about the right balance here, to find legal authorities to address the balance, and to make sure that if you do take measures to restrict tech transfer, you’re not also, at the same time undermining ultimately the source of your firm’s competitiveness. So it’s a complex balance that has to be struck here, I think.
ROSE: So it may be tough to do tech—to stop tech transfer abroad, but one thing you’ve written about or suggested is to attract intellectual power here through things like targeted visa openings for high-end tech, you know, workers in the chip industry and things like.
ROSE: Is that actually a plausible way, steal all the talent by just simply letting them become—be American citizens?
MILLER: Well, I think this has been basically America’s strategy for the past two hundred years, stripping our adversaries of their smartest minds. We did it with the Soviets—
ROSE: Have to go back six years, seven years ago? (Laughs.)
MILLER: Well, I mean, we did—I think, actually, the H-1B visa caps has been binding for longer than that. But I think if you look at strategic competition in the long run, this has basically been core to our success, and I do think it’s a good strategy. And so I worry a bit when people say, well, we need to completely limit tech transfer to China, and by that we need to stop educating smart people from China. I think let’s have more of them. I think the balance sheet is very much in our favor on that front.
ROSE: Actually, let’s stay with that for a second. Just one more thing. Did the domestic politics—your work, obviously, comes right at the center of lots of American domestic political debates about technology, about security, about China, about immigration. The China hawks presumably think this is a case for why—you know, for a lot of the positive things they would like, but the immigration—I mean, what is the domestic reaction, political reaction, to your book?
MILLER: On the immigration question?
ROSE: On all the things.
MILLER: On all the questions. (Laughter.)
ROSE: Are you—are you particularly fought over as a—as an expert for any particular camp, like—or do different groups try to claim you and your arguments? (Laughter.)
MILLER: I will let them comment on that. I mean, I think this is a work of history, not a work of recommendations per se, so I didn’t intend to push any given policy line. I mean, I think it does articulate the extent to which technology and geopolitics are inseparable, fundamentally inseparable. There are a lot of people in industry who would like to deny that fact. Some industry deny it even to themselves. But it’s a reality. And so I think you can’t understand the industry’s development without power politics being at the center.
ROSE: By the way, a plug for the Council here. I mean, that’s true for the academy—what he said about industry is also true for the academy. International political economy and trade policy are done by some people, and security policy are done by other people, and there’s no overarching set of theories or approaches. The Council has had a Geoeconomic Center for decades now, and we approach increasingly and—we have and do even more interdisciplinary connected/integrated approaches to some of these issues, which really is the only way to get at them. And I know this is a particular bugbear of our new dear leader, and I wanted to just highlight that, because if there’s ever an issue on which you can’t look at it with just economic goggles, you can’t look at it with just security goggles, you can’t look at it just with foreign policy goggles, it’s this one. And it's a—it’s a really cool kind of thing.
Another question from the floor here. Yes, in the back.
Q: Paul Sheard.
Chris, could you, if possible, for the layperson explain how you get 20 billion transistors—(laughter)—onto a chip the size of your fingernail. In other words, what’s the technology that lies behind Moore’s Law?
MILLER: Well, I’ll do the short version for tonight. Basically, what you do is you take a pattern of what you want the chip to look like and you shrink it down sort of like a microscope but backwards. Actually, the first chip technology was invented by a guy who turned his microscope upside down, and found a way to take a big pattern and print it in a small version. And we do a much more sophisticated version of that, sort of, today. And so you take the pattern. You shrink it down. You use some of the most complex and refined chemicals humans have ever devised. You remove them. You apply new chemicals. You remove them. You apply new chemicals. And eventually, you construct devices that are coronavirus-size, which means that they’re several tens of nanometers—that’s billionths of a meter—in size. Which means that misplacing at times a single atom can cause malfunctioning of your—
ROSE: I mean, just think. You heard that. We’re at the Council on Foreign Relations—(laughter)—and you just heard about, like, they key issue, which, you know, if you—if you—it’s not nuclear technology. It’s not like the bomb blows up. If you move the atom one spot over, you screw up the chip, which destroys the—it’s just—it’s—and the fact this is written about in ways that all of us can understand, even the jury members, is a real positive. (Laughter.)
One more. OK. One more. Yes, over here.
Q: Hi. (Off mic.) Thank you for your—(off mic).
ROSE: Hold on for the mic, please.
Q: (Comes on mic.) Thank you.
Rename your book not Chip War, but Chips—no fight, but trying to solve the world’s most critical problems. What would you do? And how would you have all the different countries of the world unite?
MILLER: Well, this is a question that I’m often asked by people in industry who are unhappy that politics has intruded on their businesses. I think I would say two things.
I think, first, the origins of the chip industry are in missile guidance systems. There is an—missile guidance systems. The first chips that were produced went into nuclear missile guidance systems. There is an inseparable relationship between computing technology and power politics for breaking codes, for guiding missiles, for electronic warfare systems, for military communications. And I think denying that, which is something that people in industry have an incentive to do often, is analytically dishonest. So I just don’t think we can separate them. If there had been no Cold War, the chip industry would have developed in a very, very different fashion than it did today. So I think that’s a wonderful world to wish we lived in, but it’s not the world we do live in. And it’s the case today that almost all of our big tech companies rely on a technological base that was largely funded by DARPA and first deployed at scale in military systems.
I think, second, technologies are—this is a lesson of history. If there are lessons of history, this is one: technologies are always used for competitive advantage by nations that are trying to gain an edge. That was true in the early stage of the chip industry. It’s true today with artificial intelligence. And so I think to hope that technology will be neutral is wrong. It will be used for good purposes when people are aligned in their—in their aspirations, and it will be used in competitive ways when people are not aligned. And I’m afraid that the key dynamic is today that we have a(n) international scene which has much more competition, as you referenced, than some time in decades. And so it’s just inevitable that technology will be one of the spheres that is wrapped up in that competition.
ROSE: We have another question from our online audience.
OPERATOR: We will take our next question from Steve Hellman.
Q: Chris, I very much enjoyed your book—in fact, so much that I gave it out to a bunch of relatives over Christmas. So really appreciate—really appreciate the work.
I have a question. My question is about TSMC and the Taiwanese government. It strikes me if I were—if I were TSMC and my interests were long-term self-preservation, then over time I would want to disseminate my DNA across the planet, kind of like what it’s doing, but also I would want to get the crown jewels away from danger in a place like Taiwan, for example. On the other hand, if I were the Taiwanese government, I would be holding onto TSMC for dear life because it’s, what do they call it, the silicon shield, as you reference it in the book. So my question really is, is that dichotomy of interest between TSMC and the Taiwanese government real, and am I characterizing it properly? And what do you think the outcome will be in terms of finding a world where the entire technology industry is not in jeopardy as a result of potential conflict in Taiwan?
MILLER: Well, I think it’s definitely right that the Taiwanese government values TSMC. It’s, depending on the year, 30 or 40 percent of Taiwan’s exports, the largest company by far, largest company on market capitalization in all of Asia. It’s the best job you can get out of college in Taiwan. So there’s no underestimating the importance of TSMC in Taiwan.
The company itself probably has interests that they conceptualize differently than was articulated. It’s a company largely staffed by people in Taiwan, from Taiwan, led by people in Taiwan, and so the idea of trying to move the core technology elsewhere is I don’t think something that is that appealing to the executives or to the workforce, nor would it be appealing to the Taiwanese government. And so I don’t think TSMC sees things in those ways. Their customers might to some degree. Their stockholders might to some degree. But I don’t think the company itself would articulate the same aspiration.
ROSE: You know, having jumped on Michael Boskin, and I’ll jump on Tom Friedman from the same era to a certain extent, the world—this is the best demonstration that the—that I’ve read recently of why the world is not flat, and that strategic geography and industrial geography matters. And it’s not something we really talk about a lot or study much. You go to an economics department, you’re not really going to be talking about the strategic geographic factors of different sectors as much in the general kind of talk, but this—couldn’t think of a more important topic, a more relevant topic. You must have been surprised by just how big everything blew up once the book was published. Is that fair?
MILLER: Well, thank you to the Biden administration for helping on that front. But yes. (Laughter.)
ROSE: You would have been a celebrity based on the book, but now that the front of the papers are all filled with everything and you’re everybody’s go-to expert, you’re even more so. You’re going to be back at the Council multiple times in recent—in coming years, I’m sure. Thank you for being with us tonight.
And thank all of you for taking part. (Applause.) And thanks to Arthur and to all the donors who make all of the intellectuals who do their work on their dime able to have places where we can write books, where we can read books, where we can discuss books. Thank you. (Applause.)