Tip of the iceberg? Taiwan investigates about 100 Chinese companies suspected of illegally poaching chip talent

Taiwan’s spy catchers have launched an investigation into about 100 Chinese companies suspected of illegally poaching semiconductor engineers and other tech talent, Reuters reported, citing a senior official at the Taiwan Justice Ministry’s Bureau of Investigation.

Since the beginning of last year, seven companies have been indicted, 27 companies have been raided, or their bosses have been arraigned by the Bureau of Investigation, the official said.

Home to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Taiwan has 92% of the world’s most advanced semiconductor manufacturing capabilities and is fully equipped with the chip expertise China needs.

A global shortage of chips, and the Chinese government’s professed goal of achieving self-sufficiency in advanced chips, which President Xi Jinping has pushed more forcefully after a trade war with the former Trump administration, have only exacerbated the Competition for engineering talent.

Taiwan, on the other hand, set up a special task force in December 2020 within the Bureau of Investigation of the Ministry of Justice (the main spy-catch organization) to combat illegal poaching.

The official said cases of raids or inquiries by the Bureau of Investigation were “the tip of the iceberg.” He requested anonymity so as not to hinder the investigation.

Taiwan’s Bureau of Investigation said the official’s remarks represented the bureau’s views.

Growing military pressure from China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, will only strengthen Taiwan’s determination to defend its chip supremacy — an asset that is also strategically important to the United States, which outsources much of its chip manufacturing to Taiwan.

Last month, Taiwan’s Bureau of Investigation launched its largest operation to date — a raid on eight companies aimed at cracking down on what it said was “the Chinese Communist Party’s illegal talent-poaching and secret-stealing activities.”

China’s State Council Taiwan Affairs Office did not respond to Reuters.

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