Ms. Stockman is a member of the editorial board.
“Semiconductors, the tiny computer chips that run everything from smartphones to satellites to missile defense systems, are often called the “oil” of the 21st century. Maintaining U.S. economic and military might depend on a reliable supply. Semiconductor shortages during the pandemic brought some car assembly lines to a halt and left showrooms of home appliances barren, providing a glimpse of what would happen to the American economy if those chips ever ran out.
Like energy, the semiconductor industry is so important that it factors into decisions about war and peace. About 92 percent of the world’s most advanced chips are made in Taiwan. The rest come from South Korea. Repeated warnings by President Xi Jinping of China that he is willing to use force if necessary to reassert control over Taiwan have forced U.S. policymakers to contemplate what would happen if the American military was ever cut off from the chips that it needs.
Since the Trump administration cut off certain chips from going to China, chips have become fodder for public debate. Now Americans are worrying about our own chip supply, and the need for the United States to be less dependent on chips from Asia has become one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement in Washington. The CHIPS Act, which would give $39 billion to subsidize the construction of semiconductor factories in the United States, plus $11 billion for research and development initiatives into chip innovation, is the centerpiece of a bill to increase U.S. competitiveness that is expected to move forward in Congress this summer.”