Report: US will destroy Taiwan's chip factories if China annexes the island

Robert O'Brien, Donald Trump's former national security adviser, has said the U.S. will destroy Taiwan's highly developed semiconductor industry so that China cannot take it over if it succeeds in annexing the island of Taiwan.

Robert O'Brien said during a conversation broadcast today at the Global Security Forum organized by the Soufan Center for Security Affairs in Doha, Qatar, that "the United States and its allies will not let those factories fall into the hands of the Chinese."

The bulk of the world's most advanced microchips are produced at Taiwanese-owned facilities owned by TSMC. O'Brien said controlling those factories would make China "like the new Silicon Chip OPEC" and allow it to "dominate the global economy."

"Now let's face it, this will never happen."

O'Brien compares to Britain's destruction of the French naval fleet after France's surrender to Nazi Germany, killing more than 1000,<> sailors in the process. He recounted how Winston Churchill entered the House of Commons "with tears streaming down his face because it was the hardest decision he had ever made in the war", but he received unanimous applause.

But Taiwanese officials said there was no need for that, because for various reasons China would not be able to operate the factories after taking over.

According to the report, O'Brien did not explicitly say that there was a military plan for U.S. action on destroying these plants, but when asked by the report's author whether Taiwan's chip production facilities would really "disappear," he said, "I can't imagine it going to be intact."

Apple is TSMC's biggest customer, and the manufacturer produces most of the world's 1.4 billion smartphone processors.

About 60% of the simpler microcontrollers used by automakers are also company-made.

Although much of semiconductor research and development takes place in the United States, the past thirty years have seen manufacturers outsource manufacturing for cheap cost, said William Alan Reinsch, a former senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

O'Brien is not the first to float the idea of destroying Taiwan's semiconductor factories if China succeeds in overrunning them, as two US researchers recommended the move in a paper published by the U.S. Army War College in 2021.

"To start, the United States and Taiwan would have to develop plans for a scorched-earth strategy that would make Taiwan not only unattractive if seized by force, but make it very expensive to maintain," the paper said at the time.

"This can be done more effectively by threatening to destroy the facilities of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world's most important chipmaker and supplier to China.

"Samsung, which is based in South Korea (an ally of the United States), is the only alternative to replace it," the paper noted.

But Chen Mingtong said it would not be necessary for the U.S. to destroy Taiwan's semiconductor factories if China annexed the island, because the system is already deeply integrated into the global supply chain, meaning the U.S. and other countries can shut down production without actually destroying the plants.

For example, Chen said TSMC would not be able to produce certain chips without components from Dutch supplier ASML. "Even if China gets the golden hen, it won't be able to lay golden eggs," Chen said.