ASML and TSMC: Guardians of the Semiconductor Supply Chain

In a world where technological prowess is pivotal to national security and economic power, the semiconductor industry holds a critical position. Recently, revelations have surfaced about how ASML Holding NV and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) have strategies in place to disable their highly sophisticated chipmaking machines if China were to invade Taiwan. This safeguard is a testament to the geopolitical significance of these technologies and the lengths to which companies and governments will go to protect them.

The Strategic Importance of Chipmaking Machines

ASML, a Dutch company, is the world’s sole manufacturer of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines. These machines are crucial for producing the most advanced semiconductors, which are essential for both commercial and military applications, including artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies. TSMC, ASML’s largest client, relies on these machines to maintain its leadership in the semiconductor industry. The ability to remotely disable these machines is a crucial safeguard against potential misuse if geopolitical tensions escalate into conflict.

Concerns Over Chinese Aggression

The ongoing tension between China and Taiwan. China views Taiwan as part of its territory and has not ruled out the possibility of using military force to assert control. U.S. officials have expressed concerns about China’s intentions and the potential impact on the global semiconductor supply chain, given Taiwan’s dominant position in this sector.


ASML’s Remote Disablement Capabilities

In meetings with U.S. and Dutch officials, ASML has assured that it can remotely disable its EUV machines, effectively acting as a “kill switch.” This capability is a critical component of the Netherlands’ risk mitigation strategy, considering the geopolitical stakes. To better understand the risks and prepare for various scenarios, the Dutch government has conducted simulations.

The Role of the U.S. Government

The United States has played an important role in shaping the policies surrounding the export of advanced chipmaking technologies to China. The Biden administration has taken steps to prevent ASML from selling its most advanced machines to Chinese firms, fearing that such technology could enhance China’s position in the global chip war. This stance is part of a broader effort to safeguard the semiconductor supply chain, which includes substantial investments to boost domestic production capabilities.

Implications for Global Semiconductor Supply

The ability to remotely disable EUV machines is not just a technical feat but a strategic manoeuvre to ensure that these advanced technologies do not fall into the wrong hands. TSMC’s chairman, Mark Liu, has indicated that any military intervention would render TSMC’s facilities inoperable, highlighting the intertwined nature of national security and technological supremacy.

The Future of Semiconductor Security

As the semiconductor industry continues to evolve, the stakes remain high. Taiwan produces about 90% of the world’s most advanced chips, making it a critical hub in the global supply chain. The recent measures by ASML and TSMC illustrate a proactive approach to safeguarding this vital industry. These actions also mirror the growing interconnection between technology and national security in broader geopolitical dynamics.


The strategies employed by ASML and TSMC to disable their advanced chipmaking machines in the event of an invasion highlight the critical importance of protecting technological assets. As tensions between China and Taiwan persist, these measures provide a layer of security to ensure that the world’s most sophisticated semiconductor technologies remain out of reach of potential aggressors. This proactive stance not only protects the interests of these companies but also underscores the broader geopolitical importance of the semiconductor industry in maintaining global stability and security.


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