Two of the world’s largest microchip companies are considering deactivating their machines if China invades Taiwan

Workers in front of the lithographic system
Workers in front of computer chip maker ASML’s High NA EUV lithography system at Intel’s Oregon facility (Intel Corporation/Handout via REUTERS)

ASML Holding NV in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. They have the means disable the world’s most sophisticated chip-making machines in case China invades Taiwanaccording to people familiar with the matter.

Representatives of the US government expressed their opinion in private the concern of their Dutch and Taiwanese counterparts about what would happen if Chinese aggression turned into an attack on the island is responsible for producing the vast majority of the world’s modern semiconductors, the two people said on condition of anonymity.

ASML reassured the authorities in its the ability to remotely disable cars when the Dutch government met with the company about the threat– said two more people. The Netherlands conducted a simulation of a possible invasion to assess risks are better, they added.

Press secretaries ASML, TSMC and Ministry of Trade of the Netherlands They refused to comment. Spokesmen for the White House National Security Council, the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

Remote closure applies to ASML’s line of extreme UV machinesbased in the Netherlands, known in the industry as EUVof which TSMC is your primary customer. EUVs use high-frequency light waves to print the smallest microchip transistorsenabling the creation of chips for artificial intelligence applications and more delicate military applications.

ASML's Extreme UV machine in the company's clean room and research lab.  (Source: ASML Holding NV)
ASML’s Extreme UV machine in the company’s clean room and research lab. (Source: ASML Holding NV)

China has long claimed that the island of Taiwan is its territoryand the president Xi Jinping favors peaceful unification and refuses to rule out military intervention. Although U.S. officials have warned that China is eyeing the possibility of invading Taiwan in 2027, Taiwanese officials have played down the threat of an imminent invasion, and officials in Beijing have said U.S. warnings about the timetable are unfounded. The People’s Liberation Army is not building up troops on the coast, and Xi Jinping has focused primarily on stabilizing the Chinese economy to achieve long-term development goals.

An EUV the size of a city bus requires regular inspections and updates. As part of that, the company can force a shutdown remotely, which would act like a circuit breaker, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The The Veldhoven company is the only manufacturer of these machines in the worldwhich are sold for more than 200 million euros ($217 million) each.

ASML technology was has long been subject to government intervention designed to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. The Netherlands bans companies from selling EUV machines to China, for example, for fear they could give competitors an advantage in the global chip war.

The ASML logo is seen near a computer motherboard in this Jan. 8, 2024, file photo. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic) #
The ASML logo is seen near a computer motherboard in this Jan. 8, 2024, file photo. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic) #

It was ordered by the USA The Dutch this year stopped exporting ASML’s most sophisticated chip-making machines. Even before the ban went into effect, US authorities reportedly asked ASML to cancel some previously planned deliveries to Chinese customers. Bloomberg News.

The company expects it This will affect up to 15% of this year’s sales to China the latest export control measures.

The data bears this out perhaps the restrictions came too late to stop China’s offensive. Huawei technologies The company built the smartphone last year to compete with Apple Inc.’s iPhone, using chips made with old ASML printers combined with tooling from two U.S. suppliers, the report said. Bloomberg News in October after performing a phone breakdown.

Beijing did technological self-sufficiency is a national priority and the efforts of Huawei they received government support for promoting the development and national production of chips.

The Biden administration also wants to increase semiconductor production in the USpromising $39 billion in subsidies chip makers to protect themselves from any future disruptions in the supply chain.

The Biden administration also wants to increase semiconductor production in the US (REUTERS/Leah Millis)
The Biden administration also wants to increase semiconductor production in the US (REUTERS/Leah Millis)

A lot is at stake, because About 90% of the world’s most advanced chips are made in Taiwan. On May 20, Taiwan seized c Lai Ching-te as president of the world’s chip hub, putting in power a man Beijing has called a “warmonger.”

The EUV machine helped make ASML the most valuable technology company in Europewith market capitalization exceeding $370,000 millionmore than double that of customer Intel Corp.

ASML has supplied more than 200 of these machines to customers outside of China since they were first designed in 2016, and TSMC has bought more of them than any other chipmaker.

EUVs require so much maintenance that without ASML replacement parts, they quickly stop working, the people said. On-site EUV maintenance is a challenge because they are housed in clean rooms where engineers must wear special suits to prevent contamination.

ASML offers some customers joint maintenance contracts in which they perform part of the routine maintenance themselves, allowing customers such as TSMC to access the system of their own machines. ASML says it cannot access data belonging to its customers.

President of TSMC, Mark Liuhe hinted in an interview given in September CNN that any invader of Taiwan would find his chip company’s machines out of order.

“No one can control TSMC by force,” Liu said. ““If there is a military invasion, the TSMC factory will not work.”

(Courtesy of Bloomberg)

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