How Silicon Valley looks at the Taiwan miracle (8): Taiwanese in Silicon Valley

Colley Hwang, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0


There are many Taiwan-born CEOs and Taiwanese in key positions in Silicon Valley's major semiconductor majors. David Fedor, a Stanford University professor, suggested that the US provide more quotas for Taiwan students, but also called on Taiwan to re-establish its capability of making quick and correct decisions.

Many think that Taiwan's energy policy is rigid and inflexible. During the Taiwan's Economic Security in a Changing Global Environment seminar at Stanford, Fedor said Taiwan can learn from Germany's energy policy and make appropriate amendments to meet the needs of the industry. Many lauded Taiwan as a role model of democracy in Asia, and advice concerning Taiwan's policies did not seem to be carrying any hidden agenda against the Taiwanese government.

Indeed, according to the North America Taiwanese Engineering & Science Association (NATEA) in Silicon Valley, the number of Taiwanese students studying in the US is picking up again. But how do these young people see their stay in the US?

Tiffany Wang, the youngest member of the board of directors at NATEA, is 24 years old and has already completed her PhD in applied physics at Stanford. She was born in Taiwan and moved to China at the age of three with her parents who were running a business in China. She returned to Taipei at 16 for high school and then went to Stanford. Wang and some other young people told me that there seems to be an increase in the number of Taiwanese coming to study in the US in the past two years, and many of them want to find jobs in Silicon Valley.

Ken Hung, an electrical engineering graduate from National Taiwan University, had a highly paid job at MediaTek for four years before taking up more challenging work in Silicon Valley. He said that the work in Silicon Valley is not as intense as in Taiwan, so he has time to do a side job. He founded the Silicon Valley Taiwanese Matchmaker project. We had dinner together and he brought along a signed copy of my book "Orient Shield and Resilience of Asian ICT Supply Chain" that I gave him in 2021.

A young man from an equipment firm noted that working in Silicon Valley is much more relaxing, and no one is available to answer any work-related questions on weekends. With this kind of intensity of work, how can they create a semiconductor manufacturing sector that can be more competitive than Taiwan's?

Among the older generation of people from Taiwan, there are pro-China ones who can't stand America's "bullying" of China. But there are also a lot of hidden interests behind these pro-China stances. With support from its "Big Fund," China has spent heavily on buying semiconductor equipment over the past several years. American and European companies have set up R&D centers in China and transferred key technologies to China, which has created headaches for equipment vendors.

What other options does Silicon Valley have? The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) is far-reaching, but Taiwan hasn't made much progress in this. The analysis of all kinds of data needs the support of AI. Taiwan has a high interest in helping major vdndors make their AI chips, but hasn't really made any progress in exploring ways to make use of AI: 55% of the world's AI startups come from the US, but their chips are made by TSMC - and that's it.

(Editor's note: This is part of a series of articles DIGITIMES Asia president Colley Hwang wrote about his observations during a recent trip to Silicon Valley.)

Colley Hwang, president of DIGITIMES Asia, is a tech industry analyst with more than three decades of experience under his belt. He has written several books about the trends and developments of the tech industry, including Asian Edge: On the Frontline of the ICT World published in 2019, and Disconnected ICT Supply Chain: New Power Plays Unfolding published in 2020.