By Alexander Rubinstein / The Grayzone
Former White House National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien has hinted at a sinister US contingency plan in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Rather than see Taiwan’s semiconductor factories fall into the hands of the Communist Party of China, the US and its allies would simply pull a Nordstream.
“The United States and its allies are never going to let those factories fall into Chinese hands,” O’Brien told Semafor, a news outlet that has been funded by jailed Democratic financier Sam Bankman-Fried and his brother. O’Brien went on to compare the destruction of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC) to Winston Churchill’s bombing of a French naval fleet after the country’s surrender to Nazi Germany.
Semiconductors made in Taiwan are necessary for the functioning of everything from smartphones to cars. Taiwan manufactures around 65 percent of the world’s semiconductors and close to 90 percent of advanced chips. Annually, a third of all new computing power generated globally is fabricated in Taiwan. The US National Security Council estimates that the loss of TSMC “could disrupt the world economy to the tune of more than $1 trillion.”
As tensions rise over the Taiwan Strait, the US Treasury Department has published at least two studies on “the overall market impact of an invasion,” while the National Security Council is conducting a study on “semiconductors and US dependencies on TSMC.”
TSMC’s advanced chips are used in “all major US defense systems and platforms,” making them an essential building block of American empire.
Given these facts, it is highly likely that the destruction of Taiwan’s chip manufacturing plants would be the most damaging act of economic sabotage in history.
Having served in senior positions in the three administrations that preceded Biden’s, few private American citizens are better positioned to receive and transmit the views of national security elites than O’Brien. As Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, he traveled to Arizona in 2020 to congratulate the state’s governor on the opening of a $12 billion TSMC factory in the state, using the appearance as a platform to rail against Chinese communism. “Let us be clear, the Chinese Communist Party is a Marxist-Leninist organization. The Party General Secretary Xi Jinping sees himself as Josef Stalin’s successor,” O’Brien declared.
Ironically, it was the global capitalist system that led developing nations to place such strategic assets in non-strategic places like Taiwan. According to William Alan Reinsch, a Senior Advisor at Washington’s leading anti-China think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), chip manufacturers in the West preferred to place their plants in a “low-wage, nonunion country that probably doesn’t have environmental requirements” to maximize profits at the top.
Now, with such a vital industry located just 100 miles from mainland China, O’Brien is joining a chorus of foreign policy hardliners calling for a dog in the manger doctrine.
As Bloomberg reported in October 2022, former officials with ties to the Pentagon have urged the Biden administration to destroy Taiwan’s semiconductor industry in the event of a Chinese military assault. The outlet cited Elbridge Colby, a rabidly anti-China former Pentagon official, proclaiming, “We can’t allow such a valuable equity to fall into Chinese hands, I think it would be nuts.”
Last year, the US Army War College’s most-downloaded paper called for a similarly ruthless strategy. “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,” the paper proposed. “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.”
“An automatic mechanism might be designed, which would be triggered once an invasion was confirmed,” the paper suggested, adding that the US and its allies could “give refuge” to Taiwanese workers in the sector, while Taipei could make “and publicize plans to target the mainland’s chip-fabrication lines using cruise and ballistic missiles, including the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation facility in Shanghai.” The paper also proposed a “preplanned sanctions campaign against any chip exports to China.”
The CSIS think tank ran a recent series of 24 war games pitting the US military against China following a hypothetical invasion of Taiwan in 2026. In the simulations, the US “lost dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and tens of thousands of service members,” while “Taiwan saw its economy devastated.”