Chapter 9: Semiconductor interconnectivity across the Taiwan Strait: a case study approach
The semiconductor industry was born in 1947, with the invention of the transistor marking the beginning of the modern information technology (IT) sector. Continuous advances in semiconductor technology in the ensuing years have revolutionized every facet of human life. Today, semiconductors are the building blocks of modern electronic systems, from personal computers (PCs) and smart phones to guided missiles. In 2009, worldwide semiconductor sales reached US $226.3 billion (Semiconductor Industry Association, 2010), and the major products included integrated circuits (ICs), optoelectronics, sensors, and discrete components. The industry is strategic not only because it contributes to national economies’ high- tech development as well as defense, but also because of its links to IT, one of the defining factors in the making of power in international relations today (Chu, 2009, pp. 48–133). Because of the dual- use nature of semiconductors, the sector is vital for military establishments worldwide, and the control of (or the loss of control of) this key industry has enormous strategic implications. Hence the territorial distribution of semiconductor manufacturing activities across national borders, often as a result of pertinent sectoral globalization,1 will change the international balance of economic and military powers. Consequently, the distribution of semiconductor industrial power has become a major issue in the study of international political economy (Gilpin, 2001, p. 80).
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