My Major Error: The U.S. Can and Did Block Huawei at TSMC

“I make many mistakes,” the Butler said. I make many mistakes as well in the course of writing so much and I regret every one of them. Some are careless, inevitable from a human author but worth minimizing. Some are bad analysis or inadequate understanding, from which I must learn.

Some are hubris. In 2019, I told the Washington Post that Huawei will survive and thrive despite the American attacks. For almost a year, sales actually grew while profits and cash remain high. I also was confident Taiwan would not allow crucial foundry TSMC to cut off Huawei. My comment was, “China would treat that as an act of war.”

TSMC is one of only two companies that can manufacture the 5nm and 7nm chips required for premium 5G phones. It is a critical chokepoint that worries everyone in the industry. An earthquake in Taiwan could crash the chip and technology supply chain.

I was wrong. I have the knowledge to evaluate the chips and technology. It was hubris for me to make a judgment about politics.

Huawei is already finding ways to evade the blockade. China is spending $10’s of billions to build domestic chip plants by whatever means necessary. The Chinese factories and chip design software are years behind. It would take a miracle to catch up in less than 4 or 5 years.

China has delivered many technological miracles in the last decade and I wouldn’t count them out.

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