【2024 Semiconductor Forum】Roundtable Forum 1: NSTC-DSET API-IOG Taiwan-Japan Semiconductor Supply Chain and Economic Security Dialogue

Roundtable Forum 1 / Panelists (phote: the DSET).

After insightful speeches from Professors Suzuki Kazuto and Yang Guanglei, the think tank dialogue explored Taiwan-Japan semiconductor supply chain and economic security. The discussion was hosted by the Taiwan Democratic Science and Society Research Center (DSET) and the Japan Institute of Geoeconomic Studies at the International House of Japan.

First, Dr. Wu Chieh-Min, a DSET advisory board member and a researcher at the Institute of Sociology of Academia Sinica, shared his insights. He questioned how Taiwan and Japan should collaborate amid the ongoing US-China competition.

Wu noted that geopolitical and technological factors are increasingly important in the US-China competition. The confrontation extends into military and key technology domains as the US adopts a tougher stance toward China. He explained that DSET, as a Taiwanese think tank, must consider geopolitics when offering policy advice to ensure national security and economic benefits. Wu also mentioned Taiwan and Japan’s crucial role in the semiconductor supply chain, suggesting a diversified investment strategy to mitigate risks. With changing economic relations between Taiwan and China and a growing wave of protests against China within democratic circles, Taiwan’s geopolitical role has become even more significant. Wu concluded that Taiwan should maintain autonomy and avoid close ties with China, while encouraging collaboration between Taiwan and Japan in semiconductors and other fields to achieve mutual gains and support the strategic advantages of the democratic camp.

Next, Dr. Yamada from the Geoeconomic Studies Institute at the International House of Japan shared his views, emphasizing the considerable potential for cooperation between Japan and Taiwan in the semiconductor supply chain. He highlighted Japan’s increasing investment in Taiwan, especially after TSMC’s new site in Kumamoto, as an indicator of deepening collaboration.

Yamada mentioned that the high-tech industries, such as information communication and digital transformation, are closely tied to semiconductors, allowing Japan and Taiwan to collaborate effectively without competition. Japan’s renewable energy technology and Taiwan’s semiconductor industry present further collaboration opportunities. Yamada also pointed out that the work cultures in Taiwan and Japan are quite similar, providing a solid foundation for joint projects. Despite similar challenges, such as semiconductor and energy issues, these similarities offer more opportunities for cooperation. He expressed his optimism about the future of Japan-Taiwan partnerships and their potential to drive progress in various industries.

After the panelists’ speeches, the discussion moved to a Q&A session. Moderator Professor Chen Tung-Sheng asked the first question, focusing on how Trump’s potential return to the US presidency might impact Japan’s industries and future relationships with the US and China.

Professor Suzuki Kazuto responded by explaining that if Trump were to return to power, the situation could become more unpredictable because Trump’s actions tend to deviate from conventional frameworks. Although Trump sees China as a major US competitor and could intensify semiconductor export restrictions, this doesn’t necessarily mean he would fully support Taiwan. Suzuki suggested the need for measures to ensure that the US regards Japan and Taiwan as crucial partners in confronting China, benefiting all three parties.

Dr. Yang Guanglei emphasized avoiding addressing TSMC-related risks with excessive competitiveness. Instead, he recommended focusing on supporting allied countries to maintain their status, fostering mutually beneficial relationships. He also noted that Taiwan’s strength lies in manufacturing, while the US excels at innovation. Therefore, Taiwan and the US can complement each other through collaboration, providing manufacturing capacity and innovative technology.

Dr. Yamada from the International House of Japan echoed these thoughts, suggesting that Japan and Taiwan’s cooperation is vital as the decoupling between China and the US is likely to escalate. He highlighted ongoing discussions between Japan and the US on important cooperation, indicating that the US government might continue working with Japan.

Finally, Dr. Wu Chieh-Min added that rumors are indicating Trump might adopt a more tolerant approach in this context, providing some security for Taiwan. However, Trump’s unpredictability could lead to uncertainty.

Lastly, Professor Igata Akira asked whether there’s intense competition between Japanese companies and Taiwanese manufacturers and which aspects involve competition or cooperation. Dr. Yang Guanglei responded, explaining that we shouldn’t pursue competition blindly, as it could hinder cooperation. By leveraging their respective strengths, collaboration can benefit both sides. Wu pointed out that TSMC’s focus on wafer foundry allows Japan to work with TSMC while using its expertise. Moreover, there should be discussions across various fields, not just in technology but also in social sciences, political economy, and geopolitics.

Professor Suzuki suggested that Japan’s government has already proposed plans to revitalize the semiconductor industry and diversify supply chains. Taiwan’s semiconductor industry concentration could pose geopolitical and natural disaster risks. Despite the competition, Suzuki believed Japan still hopes to collaborate in technology and talent, exploring diverse approaches to address current challenges. Dr. Yang concluded that Taiwan and Japan face similar issues like talent shortages, requiring new approaches to increase productivity, with education being a key solution. Professor Suzuki also highlighted the role of digital transformation, automation, and robotics in managing the challenges of an aging society, urging international collaboration for talent development. Yamada noted Japan’s experience with talent training, suggesting that education partnerships can help overcome talent shortages and boost industrial competitiveness.

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