When the Microchips Are Down

Silicon chips are in almost all electronics, and access to them can make or break a country’s economic future. Their production relies on complex supply chains, and during the pandemic, the world learned just how fragile these supply chains are. Many countries, including the United States and China, are investing billions of dollars to develop the capacity to produce chips domestically, and some analysts see chip-related conflict on the horizon.

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Rafaela Siewert - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Don Clark
    Freelance Contributor, New York Times
  • Rebecca Heilweil
    Reporter, Vox
  • Ajit Manocha
    President and CEO, SEMI
  • David Sacks
    Fellow for Asia Studies

Show Notes

Chips, also known as microchips or semiconductors, are core components in nearly all electronics, from smartphones and laptops to fighter jets, refrigerators, and cars. Their importance has been highlighted over the past year as pandemic-related shortages fueled product delays, factory shutdowns, and trade disputes. At the center of it all is one company, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which manufactures more than 80 percent of the world’s most advanced chips. TSMC has emerged as a flash point in U.S.-China tensions, and could even play a role in sparking a conflict between the countries if Beijing attempts to reunify Taiwan with the mainland. 


In this episode, four expert guests break down the importance of chips to the global economy, innovation, and security, and assess the outlook for cooperation and conflict as countries attempt to secure their supplies. 


Dig Deeper


CFR Resources


The Time Is Now for a Trade Deal With Taiwan,” David Sacks and Jennifer Hillman


Why China-Taiwan Relations Are So Tense,” Lindsay Maizland


China’s Quest for Self-Reliance in the Fourteenth Five-Year Plan,” Lauren Dudley


Innovation and National Security: Keeping Our Edge,” Adam Segal and Anya Schmemann


Supply Chains and Demand,” Richard N. Haass


Is Industrial Policy Making a Comeback?” Anshu Siripurapu



From Don Clark


Despite Chip Shortage, Chip Innovation Is Booming,” New York Times


‘It’s a Roller-Coaster Ride’: Global Chip Shortage Is Making Industries Sweat,” New York Times


Read More


Semiconductors and the U.S.-China Innovation Race,” FP Analytics


How the global chip shortage might affect people who just want to wash their dogs,” Washington Post


Would China Invade Taiwan for TSMC?Diplomat 


Senate approves billions for US semiconductor manufacturing,” Verge

IBM’s first 2nm chip previews the processors of tomorrow,” Verge


Watch or Listen


How to Make the US Semiconductor Industry Boom Again (Podcast),” Bloomberg


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