Chinese chip companies are constantly looking to attract talent in Taiwan chip industry, sparking a new “resource war”.
According to SCMP , Chinese companies are increasing investment in the semiconductor sector after receiving support from the Beijing government. In 2021, integrated circuit (IC) sales by companies in the country increased by 18.2% year-on-year to 1.05 trillion yuan ($158.6 billion). This is the highest level in the past three years, according to data released on March 9 by the China Semiconductor Industry Association, which represents 744 companies in the industry.
In addition to the huge investment in capital and technology, talent is one of the top priorities. According to Nikkei Asia , the country is seriously short of human resources in the chip industry, causing mainland companies to continuously open “hunts” in Taiwan.
In order to limit brain drain, Taiwan has introduced many strict laws on hiring and recruiting workers. Chinese technology companies with offices here must get permission from the authorities if they want to use Taiwanese workers. To avoid censorship, Chinese companies have set up companies abroad such as Singapore or the Cayman Islands to “poach” talent.
In 2021 alone, Taiwan has opened 23 investigations into allegations of illegal employment and theft of trade secrets. In March 2021, prosecutors here said that Chinese chip company Bitmain Technologies had illegally recruited more than 100 engineers in Taiwan.
Semiconductors are an important part of the economy, accounting for 35% of Taiwan’s exports in 2020. Retaining talent in this industry is considered a top priority in the context of the global chip crisis showing no signs of cooling down.
However, many people believe that Taiwan’s excessive protection of talent can cause side effects. “The US and its chip companies don’t set so many rules, they are free to do business in Taiwan and China. If there are too many barriers in recruiting, Taiwan can make it difficult for domestic technology companies,” said an executive in the chip industry.
Others worry that too much regulation could discourage companies from participating in government-backed research and development programs. “We are stuck in a Chinese ‘hunt’ for talent,” said an executive of a leading Taiwanese chip maker.