Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Chiang Shang-yi said his decision to join Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp in Shanghai was “foolish”. Photo: Handout

Taiwan chip veteran calls working for China’s top foundry SMIC a ‘foolish’ decision

  • Chiang Shang-yi, a former executive at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, served as vice-chairman for the mainland’s top chip maker for a year
  • The industry veteran said his decision to join a mainland company tarnished his reputation in Taiwan, despite receiving the blessings of TSMC’s founder

Chiang Shang-yi, a Taiwanese semiconductor industry veteran who helped build the world’s largest contract chip foundry, called his decision to join mainland China’s top chip maker “one of the foolish things” he had done, according to a newly released interview transcript.

The former Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) executive, who headed the company’s research and development until 2006, made the comment during a March interview with the California-based Computer History Museum (CHM).
Following his retirement from TSMC, Chiang, now 76, served as an independent non-executive director at Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) from December 2016 to June 2019.


China condemns new US law aimed at boosting domestic semiconductor manufacturing

China condemns new US law aimed at boosting domestic semiconductor manufacturing

He became vice-chairman at the mainland firm in December 2020. Just three days after he was on board, the United States imposed sanctions against SMIC, barring it from purchasing advanced equipment for making chips at 10-nanometre or below.

“Because I am a US citizen, it did bother me a lot,” said Chiang, who pursued graduate studies at Princeton University and Stanford University. He added that he thought the mainland Chinese government did not trust him because he was a Taiwanese with US citizenship.

Chiang relinquished all his roles at SMIC, including vice chairmanship and executive director, in November 2021. At the time, he told the Post he would return to the US to join his family and enjoy retirement.

In his interview with CHM, Chiang said he first decided to sit on SMIC’s board because his close friend Chiu Tzu-Yin, a former colleague at TSMC and SMIC’s chief executive at the time, asked him to help out. He said he also received the blessings of TSMC founder Morris Chang.

But Chiang’s decision to join a competitor of TSMC was viewed by many in Taiwan as unpatriotic. “Before that, I had a pretty good image in Taiwan. That really hurt my image a lot,” he said.

After leaving SMIC’s board in 2019, Chiang became chief executive at the now-defunct Hongxin Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (HSMC) in Wuhan, which local authorities had hoped to transform into the nation’s leading chip maker.

He left around a year later, calling the experience a “nightmare” in a written message to the Post. He said at the time that he was unaware of the extent of HSMC’s financial difficulties until the local government exposed the problem in July 2020.
The SMIC headquarters in Shanghai. Photo: Bloomberg

Chiang, who was born in the Chinese city of Chongqing and raised in Taiwan, is one of several respected semiconductor experts on the island who have helped the mainland develop its chip industry.

SMIC, one of Beijing’s best hopes in achieving semiconductor self-sufficiency for the nation, was founded by Richard Chang – a former Texas Instruments employee who crossed the Taiwan Strait 22 years ago to set up the Chinese foundry among rice fields in Shanghai’s suburbs.
Another Taiwanese veteran, TSMC alumnus Liang Mong-song, is currently a co-CEO at SMIC and is widely seen as a key figure behind the chip maker’s technological advancement.