Morris Chang, the 91-year old founder and former chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), doesn’t seem particularly worried about the United States’ attempts to bring chipmaking home with subsidies, according to a profile in Politico, highlighting previously unreported comments about the attempts to bring more silicon production to the US.
Chang met Congresswoman Nanci Pelosi, then the Speaker of the House, during her visit to Taiwan last year, and reportedly surprised her with a backhanded compliment:
“Fifty billion dollars – well, that’s a good start,” Chang started, according to Pelosi’s memory in an interview with Politico. That’s in reference to the CHIPS and Science Act, a piece of signature legislation for President Joe Biden’s administration, which provides $52 billion in subsidies to chipmakers to increase production in the United States.
Since then, there have been a number of commitments to more chips being spun up on American soil, with new foundries from Intel, GlobalFoundries, Texas Instruments, and even TSMC itself.
According to Politico‘s sources, Chang was “pleased” that TSMC could receive a benefit for its fab project in Arizona. But you can’t just buy your way into being a chip powerhouse, he said in the meeting, and even if it could get there, the United States would have to keep spending to keep factories up to date.
Chang also questioned whether the US has the talent in its workforce to compete. That hasn’t prevented the company from moving forward with a massive fab in Arizona, which is expected to supply chips for Apple.
Chang reportedly told Pelosi that if the US wants a stable semiconductor industry, it should focus on keeping Taiwan secure. The possibility of conflict between Taiwan and China has been one aspect of moving production elsewhere in an attempt to ensure a stable supply chain.
In January, policymakers in Taiwan struck back to keep development in its borders, passing its own CHIPS Act-style policies that lets chip companies take 25% of annual research and development costs and turn them into tax credits. Chipmakers in Taiwan will also be able to file for tax credits on 5% of their yearly costs for purchasing equipment for advanced nodes, which can be some of the most expensive parts of building new fabs or upgrading older ones.
Other countries are also attempting to move manufacturing to their shores. Intel had planned for a “mega-fab” in Magdeburg, Germany, receiving roughly $7.3 billion in funds from the European Chips act. In December, Intel reportedly backed away from starting construction due to a “difficult market situation.”
Chang has a reputation of speaking his mind, but now he and TSMC are player in a field that long relied on Taiwan’s dominance. We’ll see how long everyone can play nice.