The semiconductor industry, including Integrated Circuit (IC) manufacturing, design, and packaging, forms a major part of Taiwan's IT industry.[1] Due to its strong capabilities in OEM wafer manufacturing and a complete industry supply chain, Taiwan has been able to distinguish itself as a leading microchip manufacturer and dominate the global marketplace.[1][2] Taiwan’s semiconductor sector accounted for US$115 billion, around 20 percent of the global semiconductor industry. In sectors such as foundry operations, Taiwanese companies account for 50 percent of the world market, with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) the biggest player in the foundry market.[3]


TSMC and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) are the two largest contract chipmakers in the world,[4] while MediaTek is the fourth-largest fabless semiconductor company globally.[5] ASE Group is also the world's largest Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Test (OSAT) provider.[6]


The Taiwanese semiconductor industry got its start in 1974. In 1976 the government convinced RCA to transfer semiconductor technology to Taiwan.[4]

In 1987, TSMC pioneered the fabless foundry model, reshaping the global semiconductor industry.[7][8] From ITRI's first 3-inch wafer fabrication plant built in 1977[7] and the founding of UMC in 1980,[9] the industry had developed into a world leader with 40 fabs in operation by 2002.[1] In 2007, the semiconductor industry overtook that of the United States, second only to Japan.[10]

The sector output reached US$39 billion in 2009, ranking first in global market share in IC manufacturing, packaging, and testing, and second in IC design.[7] Although the global financial crisis from 2007 to 2010 affected sales and exports,[11] the industry has rebounded with companies posting record profits for 2010.[12][13] In 2010 Taiwan had the largest share of 300 nm, 90 nm, and 60 nm manufacturing capacities worldwide, and was expected to pass Japan in total IC fab capacity by mid-2011.[14][15] By 2020, Taiwan was the unmatched leader of the global semiconductor industry with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) alone accounting for more than 50% of the global market.[16]

In the 2020s artificial intelligence processing emerged as a significant demand driver for the Taiwanese semiconductor industry.[17]


The semiconductor industry uses a large portion of the power produced in Taiwan. By 2022 TSMC alone is estimated to consume 7.2% of Taiwan's total power output.[18] Due to pressure from customers and government regulations the semiconductor industry has been switching to green power. In July 2020 TSMC signed a 20-year deal with Ørsted to buy the entire production of two offshore wind farms under development off Taiwan's west coast. At the time of its signing it was the largest corporate green energy order ever made.[19] Much of the switch to renewable energy has been mandated by Apple Inc. whose primary components suppliers are located on Taiwan.[20][21]


The Taiwanese semiconductor industry is one of the top targets of Chinese intelligence activity abroad.[22]


Taiwanese TSMC and South Korean rival Samsung have near total control of the leading edge of the semiconductor industry with TSMC significantly ahead of Samsung. This situation in which global production capabilities have been concentrated in just a few selected countries leads to significant geopolitical challenges and contributes heavily to changes in global techno-politics.[23]

Due to its significant position in both the American and Chinese tech industry supply chains, Taiwan has been enmeshed in the technological in the China–United States trade war and the larger geopolitical conflict between the two powers.[24] The US prohibited companies which use American equipment or IP from exporting products to prohibited companies in China. This forced Taiwanese semiconductor companies to stop doing business with major Chinese clients like Huawei.[25][26]

In January 2021 the German government appealed to the Taiwanese government to help persuade Taiwanese semiconductor companies to ramp up production as a global semiconductor shortage was hampering the German economy's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. A lack of semiconductors had caused vehicle production lines to be idled, leading German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier to personally reach out to Taiwan's economics affairs minister Wang Mei-hua in an attempt to get Taiwanese semiconductor companies to increase their manufacturing capacity.[27] Similar requests had been made by the United States, the European Union, and Japan. The Taiwanese government and TSMC announced that as much as possible priority would be given to automakers from Taiwan's close geopolitical allies.[28]

In April 2021 the US Government blacklisted seven Chinese supercomputing companies due to alleged involvement in supplying equipment to the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), Chinese military–industrial complex, and Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs. In response Taiwanese chipmakers Alchip and TSMC suspended new orders from Chinese supercomputing company Tianjin Phytium Information Technology.[29]

The geopolitical strength of the semiconductor industry is often referred to as Taiwan's "Silicon Shield."[30] According to the New York Times, "Taiwan has relied on its dominance of the microchip industry for its defense," and that, "because its semiconductor industry is so important to Chinese manufacturing and the United States consumer economy, actions that threaten its foundries would be too risky."[31] In 2022 Matthew Pottinger challenged the existence of a Silicon Shield arguing that China does not behave in ways which appear rational to audiences in democratic countries.[32]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Emerging Industries". Archived from the original on 15 September 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  2. ^ "The Status of the Semiconductor Industry in Taiwan" (PDF). Department of Investment Services, MOEA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Output value of Taiwan's semiconductor sector logged US$115 billion in 2020". Taiwan News. 2021-02-22. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  4. ^ a b Soo, Zen; Tao, Li; Kong Ho, Chua (11 September 2019). "Taiwan became top chip manufacturer with US help. Can it stay there?". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  5. ^ "13 Fabless IC Suppliers Forecast to Top $1.0 Billion in Sales in 2010!". IC Insights. 21 December 2010. Archived from the original on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  6. ^ "Top 10 OSAT Companies in World | Market Research Blog". Market Research Reports® Inc. 2019-04-24. Retrieved 2022-08-12.
  7. ^ a b c Meg Chang (18 June 2010). "Veteran tells story of Taiwan's semiconductor industry". Taiwan Today. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  8. ^ Jeffrey Word (2009). Business Network Transformation: Strategies to Reconfigure Your Business Relationships for Competitive Advantage. John Wiley and Sons. p. 194. ISBN 9780470528341.
  9. ^ John A. Matthews (1997). "A Silicon Valley of the East: Creating Taiwan's Semiconductor Industry" (PDF). California Management Reviews. p. 26. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  10. ^ "Taiwan semiconductor output overtakes United States". China Post. 29 October 2007. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  11. ^ "Taiwan's Semiconductor Industry Records Fastest YOY Growth". RNCOS. 6 January 2010. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Taiwan's TSMC sales rise more than 40% in 2010". Agence France-Presse. 10 January 2011. Archived from the original on 26 February 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  13. ^ "UMC posts record annual sales as foundry picks up". Taipei Times. 8 January 2011. p. 12. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  14. ^ "Taiwan to Pass Japan as Largest Source of IC Wafer Fab Capacity" (PDF). IC Insights. 10 November 2010. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 November 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  15. ^ Developmental State in Transition: The State and the Development of Taiwan's Biopharmaceutical Industry.
  16. ^ Chien-chung, Chang; Huang, Frances. "Taiwan to remain largest semiconductor material market in 2020, 2021". Focus Taiwan. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  17. ^ Rickards, Jane. "AI: New Driver of Taiwan's Economy". Taiwan Topics. Retrieved 13 February 2024.
  18. ^ Tsai, Alynne (17 July 2020). "TSMC's push toward green energy". Taipei Times. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  19. ^ Strong, Matthew (8 July 2020). "Taiwan chip giant TSMC places world's largest wind power order with Ørsted". Taiwan News. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  20. ^ Murtaugh, Dan; Wu, Debby. "Is Apple green? Not until its Taiwanese suppliers cut emissions". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  21. ^ Yang, Sophia (24 November 2020). "Taiwan's TSMC set to issue its first green bond". Taiwan News. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  22. ^ Greenberg, Andy. "Chinese Hackers Have Pillaged Taiwan's Semiconductor Industry". Wired. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  23. ^ Lemert, Abby; Runde, Eleanor (2 February 2021). "Taiwan's Chips Remain Core of Technopolitics". Lawfare. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  24. ^ Micallef, Joseph V. (6 January 2021). "Why Taiwan Will Be at the Center of the China-US Rivalry". Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  25. ^ Lee, John; Kleinhans, Jan-Peter. "Would China Invade Taiwan for TSMC?". The Diplomat. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  26. ^ Sullivan-Walker, Kate. "The semiconductor industry is where politics gets real for Taiwan". The Interpreter. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  27. ^ Nienaber, Michael (24 January 2021). "Germany urges Taiwan to help ease auto chip shortage". Reuters. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  28. ^ Kao, Jeanny; Lee, Yimou (25 January 2021). "Exclusive: Taiwan ministry says TSMC will prioritise auto chips if possible". Reuters. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  29. ^ "Taiwan says its chip firms will adhere to new US rules blacklisting China supercomputing entities". Reuters. 14 April 2021. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  30. ^ Huang, Joyce (10 May 2021). "Can Taiwan's Silicon Shield Protect It against China's Aggression?". VOA. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  31. ^ Barnes, Julian E. (26 January 2022). "How the Computer Chip Shortage Could Incite a U.S. Conflict With China". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  32. ^ Staff Writer. "'Silicon shield' not enough: expert". Taipei Times. Retrieved 17 January 2023.