Trump WH Official: US May Target Taiwan Semiconductor Factories if China Invades

Trump WH Official: US May Target Taiwan Semiconductor Factories if China Invades
A TSMC's factory in Taichung's Central Taiwan Science Park (Briáxis F. Mendes (孟必思))

The Lede: The U.S. would consider destroying the factories that the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) uses to make chips in the case of a Chinese invasion of the island, says Robert O’Brien, former national security advisor for the Trump administration. The move would be intended to deny China the possession of the production capacity of some of the most advanced chipmaking facilities in the world.

What we Know:

  • O’Brien has said that the U.S. would not allow China to acquire the physical assets used for the critical production of semiconductors in the event of an invasion by the Mainland.
  • O’Brien compared this to the destruction of France’s naval fleet by the U.K. upon their surrender to Germany in the early years of World War II.
  • A paper published at the U.S. Army War College in 2021 detailed the destruction of the facilities used by the TSMC as a viable option.

The Background: TSMC is the world’s largest chip producer making up about 90% of the market for advanced processors. Chips are used in everyday products that have computerized components like phones and cars, but the most advanced chips go into cutting-edge technologies like machine learning and guided missiles. Tensions between China and Taiwan have dramatically increased in recent years and analysts are predicting an invasion of the island in the next few years.

Likely Outcomes:

  • The outright destruction of Taiwan’s semiconductor factories would likely not be necessary because of the deep integration of chip production in the global supply chain.
  • U.S. and allied countries that currently provide critical components, manufacturing hardware, and research and development would be able to shut down the possibility of China taking over production in Taiwan by cutting off those links in the supply chain.
  • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has recently reiterated its pledge to pursue "peaceful reunification" to avoid war. Barring any provocative moves, China has voiced its preference to not launch an invasion despite the spike in military drills in recent years.
  • However, O'Brien's comments may represent a perspective shared by Donald Trump who is currently running for president again and other Republicans given O'Brien also served in the administration of George W. Bush and on the past campaigns of 2024 potential presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz.


  • “The United States and its allies are never going to let those factories fall into Chinese hands." – Robert O’Brien, Former National Security Advisor
  • "You build a big factory and you crank these things out by the thousands, and you do it in a low-wage, nonunion country that probably doesn't have environmental requirements, you keep all the design and IP at home and you do all your sales, marketing, and service at home, and that's where you make the money." – William Alan Reinsch, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  • "To start, the United States and Taiwan should lay plans for a targeted scorched-earth strategy that would render Taiwan not just unattractive if ever seized by force, but positively costly to maintain. This could be done most effectively by threatening to destroy facilities belonging to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the most important chipmaker in the world and China's most important supplier. Samsung based in South Korea (a US ally) is the only alternative for cutting-edge designs." – Jared M. McKinney and Peter Harris, Scholars at the U.S. Army War College.
  • "Even if China got a hold of the golden hen, it won't be able to lay golden eggs." –Chen Ming-tong, Director General of the National Security Bureau of Taiwan

Good Reads:

US would destroy Taiwan's semiconductor factories rather than letting them fall into China's hands, a former national security advisor says (Insider)

The US would sooner see TSMC fabs burn than let China have them (The Register)

China proffers 'peaceful reunification', Taiwan says respect our democracy (Reuters)