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.

Play Button Pause Button
0:00 0:00
x
Host
  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting
Credits

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


 
 

Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Billions of people will take to the polls next year, marking the world’s largest-ever electoral field. But this historic scale is not the only thing that will make 2024 unique. As new threats like deep fakes become cheaper and more widespread, these upcoming elections could serve as a test run for democracy in the artificial intelligence (AI) era. What risks does AI pose to elections next year? And will a surge in AI-powered disinformation change the nature of democratic elections?

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Scenes from the Israel-Hamas war have reverberated across the world. In the United States, debate about the conflict has intensified, and it has resurfaced long-standing questions about policy toward Israel and the Palestinian territories. What is the U.S. goal for the region? And how is the United States responding to the war?

Trade

International trade has shaped the world for much of the past century. Countries benefited from the global flow of goods, and the world became richer and safer. At the same time, many Americans lost their jobs to cheaper overseas competitors. Now, a series of compounding challenges, including great power competition and climate change, have led U.S. officials to rethink trade policy. What's next for international trade? And can the United States retain the benefits of trade while protecting critical supply chains and fighting climate change?

Top Stories on CFR

Sanctions

The United States and its allies have imposed broad economic penalties on Russia over its war in Ukraine. As the conflict continues, experts debate whether the sanctions are working.

 

Palestinian Territories

The leading UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees is engulfed in allegations that twelve of its employees were involved in the Hamas attacks on southern Israel. The agency faces severe funding cutbacks, with huge consequences for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.