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Understanding the Semiconductor Showdown: Navigating US-China Tensions in Taiwan

Published 01/03/2024, 13:05
Updated 07/04/2024, 17:07

In the realm of global technology, semiconductors serve as the backbone of innovation, propelling advancements from everyday gadgets to sophisticated defense systems. The quest for semiconductor dominance has ushered in a new era of geopolitical tension, primarily between the U.S. and China, with Taiwan's unparalleled manufacturing prowess at the epicenter. 


Taiwan's Semiconductor Dominance

Taiwan, home to industry giants like TSMC and UMC, has emerged as the linchpin of the global semiconductor supply chain. Its ability to produce the most advanced chips has not only fueled technological progress worldwide but also positioned Taiwan as a strategic asset amid rising US-China tech rivalry.

The technological tug-of-war between the U.S. and China over semiconductor supremacy is intensifying. The smart move to sign into law the U.S.'s CHIPS Act aims to rejuvenate its semiconductor sector, countering China's ambitious "Made in China 2025" strategy. Taiwan's strategic importance in this rivalry underscores a broader battle for technological and military advantage.


The UK's Position in the Semiconductor Race

Contrasting sharply with the semiconductor behemoths, the UK's tech landscape focuses on design and innovation, spearheaded by firms like ARM Holdings (LON:ARM). Though not a manufacturing powerhouse, the UK's niche expertise significantly influences the global tech ecosystem, highlighting a different path to semiconductor relevance.

The UK boasts a cadre of influential tech firms, including ARM Holdings and IQE plc (LON:IQE), underscoring its pivotal role in the semiconductor design and materials sector. 
These entities exemplify the UK's strategic approach to leveraging its strengths in a market dominated by manufacturing giants.

The semiconductor standoff has profound implications for global economic stability and growth. The UK's strategic investments in semiconductor design and innovation represent a nuanced approach to navigating the challenges posed by US-China tensions, striving for a competitive edge in a volatile market.


Potential for UK-US-China Collaboration and Conflict

Amid escalating tensions, the UK's unique position could foster collaboration, acting as a bridge between the U.S. and China. By promoting dialogue and cooperation, the UK might contribute to mitigating supply chain risks and fostering a more stable technological future.

I do need to emphasise here, for the newer investor- despite being an exciting topic of recent, not all of these companies are delivering returns for their investors, and according to my criteria, should not be included in a serious investors portfolio, at the time of writing.

For example, IQE plc, looks like this on a monthly scale:

IQE plc.

What can we take away from this? 
Well, it peaked shortly after going public in May 2000, and has never settled into an uptrend or any trend resembling growth. There is no reasonable justification for owning shares in this company at this time. Remember, just because the shares are cheap now, does not make them ‘potentially’ valuable in the future. This isn't reason enough to buy shares in weak stocks.


The global race for semiconductor dominance underscores the intricate dance of innovation, power, and diplomacy. As the world grapples with the complexities of technological advancement and geopolitical rivalry, the UK's role in shaping the semiconductor landscape highlights the importance of strategic collaboration and innovation. In navigating these tumultuous waters, the principles of cooperation and foresight have never been more crucial.

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