Editor’s note for Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Dear Access member,

The silicon chips that make all your devices work are at the heart of the U.S.-China tech war, which continues to heat up: The world’s largest contract chip manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), “has indicated it will not exploit apparent loopholes in the latest U.S. restrictions on working with Chinese technology group Huawei and will comply with Washington’s intentions,” according to the Financial Times (paywall).

Analysts cited by Reuters estimate that “TSMC generates around 60% of revenue from the United States and 20% from China,” so it makes sense to keep the bigger customer happy. The news comes less than a month after the company announced plans to spend about $12 billion to “build and operate an advanced semiconductor fab” in Arizona.  

But TSMC is not going all in on the U.S. As Stratechery pointed out in May, when the company builds a plant in Taiwan, it does so in under 18 months, while the plant in Arizona won’t come online until 2024 — indicating it is symbolic and not a top priority. The tech will be very outdated by the time it’s live. So there may be more investment or cooperation between TSMC and the U.S. to come, but so far, the company is hedging its bets.

Meanwhile, back in China, Beijing Eswin Computing Technology, a Chinese startup “that supplies semiconductor designs and solutions,” has raised a new financing round of $283 million as China continues its quest to become self-sufficient. Smartphone maker Oppo also plans to “step up chipmaking plans and work with chosen suppliers to co-develop its own custom-made chips.”

It’s the one-year anniversary of the Hong Kong protests, which began over the city government’s attempts to pass a law that would allow extradition to China and morphed into a widespread movement against the Communist Party’s growing role in Hong Kong. There are reflections on the past year at the New York Times (paywall) and the Guardian. Samson Yuen, a professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, was also interviewed in Initium (in Chinese) about his survey of 6,000 protestors.

Our word of the day is outrageously absurd (出奇的荒谬 chūqí de huāngmiù) — see story 1 below.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief