Arguments claiming that destroying TSMC’s manufacturing facilities in Taiwan will help avoid war with China are based on inaccurate assumptions about why imperialist nations go to war
On August 23, 1942, the German 6th Army reached the outskirts of Stalingrad, starting the long struggle there which ended in a catastrophic German defeat. The city was home to, among other things, the famous Stalingrad Tractor Factory, designed and built with American help and equipped by American and German engineers in the 1920s, but German interest in this factory was entirely tactical. The Germans did not invade Russia to obtain its factories, and their destruction or their moving east out of the Germans’ way – as well as the destruction of farms, stocks of grain, and other resources – did not prevented the Germans from continuing their advance.
Likewise, the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 did not happen because the Germans wanted the Skoda factories, a global company that made everything from pipes for canals and power plants to artillery for battleships. If the Czechs had completely demolished this sprawling company and its many facilities, German annexation would still have continued.
We could extend this observation to Citroën factories in France or Fokker factories in the Netherlands. The Germans did not annex these two nations, or even any other nation, in order to obtain its factories. Although the two centuries since the Industrial Revolution have seen countless imperialist wars, this author is unable to find an example of one nation invading another because it had a very large and productive factory in it. coveted, or that she was dissuaded from doing so by the owner. threatens to destroy these facilities.
Most sophisticated readers are aware of this. So, it will probably be shocking to learn that the most downloaded US Army War College article last year claimed that in the event of an invasion, the United States should destroy the semi- TSMC drivers in Taiwan, and that this threat would have a deterrent effect on Beijing: “Broken Nest: Deterring China from Invading Taiwan” by Jared McKinney and Peter Harris (Parameters, Winter 11-17-2021, downloadable free).
The authors conceive of this policy as part of a larger scorched earth program of “assuring China that an invasion of Taiwan would cause a major economic crisis on the mainland.” The key to all of this, they say, is to make the threat of destruction of TSMC’s facilities absolutely believable. The leverage for this comes from the fact that China, despite massive investments in semiconductors, “only 6% of semiconductors used in China were produced domestically in 2020”. Therefore, China, like the rest of the world, is heavily dependent on South Korean and Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturers. They even have the rarest of rare birds, a historical comparison, with Sweden during WWII, which they say “made a similar selective scorched earth threat during WWII in reference to its ore mines. iron “, which the exit from Nazi Germany desperately needed.
Suspect, I dug up the paper (actually the text of a speech) they cite for the Swedish comparison (“A Test of Neutrality: Sweden in the Second World War”, M. Gunnar Haggof, International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944) -), volume 36, n ° 2 (April 1960), pp. 153-167). The author states in it: “During the autumn of 1939, I had several occasions to tell the German delegates that, although the iron ore mines, as such, could not be destroyed quickly, it would be the action of an instant to breathe. essential power plants. However, nowhere does he say his warnings had an effect on the Germans, and he has no way of knowing if they did. Moreover, in a longer discussion in the diary, he notes that Sweden was saved from invasion during the critical period of the summer of 1940 to 1942, not because Germany was discouraged by its armed neutrality or threats against the iron mines, but because Hitler’s mind was concentrated elsewhere. . During this period, Germany could have taken Sweden at any time, if it wanted to spend the necessary resources to do so. He also notes that after Germany’s acquisition of the French iron mines, Sweden was less important. As for deterrence, if the Germans had won the war, how long would Sweden have been free?
It is highly unlikely that his comments about iron mines have had any deterrent effect. Compared to everything the Germans planned to rebuild in Russia if they had won and were doing it at home after the constant Allied bombing, repairing a few power plants in Sweden would have been a Sunday outing. Likewise, the Japanese knew that the Dutch would destroy the oil fields in Indonesia if they attacked them, but that did not stop Japan from taking it over. Either way, the reader has now realized that natural resources are totally different from factories.
The same is true of China. The authors of “Broken Nest” McKinney and Harris say their strategy is to turn Taiwan into an economic cornerstone for Beijing, “positively expensive to maintain.” In fact, the demolition of TSMC would likely reduce the cost of sustaining Taiwan, since the occupier would no longer have to transport raw materials to its factories and ship its finished products. Gutting TSMC would increase reconstruction costs, prompting China to rebuild the factories in China rather than continuing to operate them in Taiwan.
The truth is, you don’t have to destroy chip foundries to make Taiwan expensive to maintain: as this writer has already noted, Taiwan is totally dependent on food, energy, and raw materials. ‘outside. Simply owning Taiwan, even with all of its factories intact, will create major food and raw material supply problems for Beijing. Semiconductor factories in Taiwan run on raw materials from elsewhere, which Beijing will have to pass through an Allied blockade to reach Taiwan. The finished products will then have to be shipped through that same blockade, while waging war against, at a minimum, the United States and Japan.
The military are like centipedes, with a face full of vicious weapons but a long and vulnerable logistical tail behind. In Washington, Tokyo and Beijing, there is no doubt that many planners have simulated the amount of expeditions Beijing will need to keep Taiwan going, support itself and wage a major war, against expected losses, and said to themselves “no, I can’t do it.”
Two simple truths should rest on this bizarre McKinney and Harris fantasy. The first is that China wanted Taiwan long before TSMC produced crisps, and would want it even if TSMC never existed. He wants Taiwan because, like Nazi Germany, it is an expansionist power driven by racist ideologies and a racist history.
The other truth is that scorched earth responses to invasions do not deter invaders. Either the invader has invariably done his research and knows it will happen, and takes that into account in his logistical and economic calculations, or the invader just doesn’t care. In the China-Taiwan scenario, both likely apply.
Leave TSMC alone. If Taiwan is liberated the world will need it, and if we are occupied, a functioning economy that keeps Taiwanese employed will be an important foundation for resistance to Chinese rule.
Notes from Central Taiwan is a column written by longtime resident Michael Turton that provides incisive commentary informed by three decades of living and writing about his adopted country. The opinions expressed here are his.
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