On a cold and wet weekend morning last week, TSMC CEO CC Wei delivered a speech at an event organized by the Monte Jade Science and Technology Association on the topic of "New Challenges in the Semiconductor Industry."
With the presidents of three major universities in the audience, Wei said that we have to trust the government on land and power issues, but how to get the most talent will be the biggest challenge for TSMC. He hopes that the local universities will produce more graduates that TSMC can hire, and that the clients in the audience will give his company more orders.
Wei had worked at STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments (TI) and Chartered Semiconductor, and had not spent more than five years at any of them. But he has worked at TSMC for 25 years, so he certainly sees the difference in TSMC from others.
He emphasized that when looking for a job, you have to choose your boss first, and he had a great boss, which is why he stayed at TSMC. In what ways has TSMC changed after its founder Morris Chang passed the baton.
From his many speeches and private interactions, I can generally understand that Chang is an open-minded boss who has a very clear position on the core values and competitiveness of the company.
For Wei, the biggest challenge is to find a different business strategy from Chang's in response to the big picture of the future, and "regional division of labor" may be a good entry point!
Mutual trust has been the base of all kinds of cooperation during the half century of globalization. However, in the new game among major powers, trust is being eroded, and under the new trend of regional division of labor, fear is sending every country scrambling to build a self-sufficient ecosystem, and semiconductor is the key item that everyone is fighting for.
Can it be real?
Almost all medium-size and large countries want to build a self-sufficient supply chain, of which semiconductors is the core. Is every country suitable for developing semiconductors? The answer is definitely "no." If we are aware that all the sulfuric acid that TSMC's US fabs will need will have to be imported from Taiwan, we will have more confidence in the competitiveness of Taiwan's semiconductor industry. But only in the process of change will there be opportunities for others.
"No shortcut" is Wei's answer. TSMC has to work with many companies in order to jointly establish a semiconductor ecosystem. Maybe Japan and the US hope their collaboration will enable mass production using 2nm technology in five years. But how should they proceed from 10nm and then all the way down to 7nm, 5nm and 3nm?
Wei does not think there is a shortcut for any country, and there are risks trying to leapfrog others. If you don't have enough resources and can't stay the course, disasters may be awaiting you.
But the world is changing exactly in this way: All innovations may come from unexpected breakthroughs. These intentions are just an attempt, but without the attempt, there will never be an opportunity. Leaders dare not take their leadership for granted, and competitors playing catch-up must also have the courage. That is what industries are all about.