February 2022

Don’t knock Biden for wanting Asian chipmakers to thrive

Liam Gibson`s piece in Asian Affairs on the semiconductor industry dynamics was important, providing a sound overview of this topic from the vantage point of the East Asian players, primarily Taiwan and South Korea. (‘When The Chips Are Down’, January 2022).

The semiconductor industry is not ‘yet another’ industry, given its role as the essential driver behind all of today’s technology.

Yet the bottom line of the article left me puzzled. The author calls on the Biden administration to limit its meddling in the industry and soften its measures towards Asian players. The Biden administration should be more trusting, is the ending note. I am not sure I agree.

The semiconductor industry is based on an intricate web of players and highly complex supply chains. Trust is indeed an important factor in the health of this vital industry, as pointed out by commentator Thomas Friedman. For some 70 years the US has been the champion of open and free trade, governed by international rule-based bodies. Much of the rationale of recent moves of the US in its relationship with China is based on efforts to preserve this atmosphere and ecosystem.

Hence, I do not think the US lacks ‘trust’ in its Taiwanese or South Korean business partners. In fact, the US is trying to muscle its way in order to preserve an economic world order in which TSMC, Samsung and their like can thrive in future years. Therefore, I think the efforts of the current US administration deserve praise, not criticism.



Mourning the loss of a military reformer

I am pleased that Asian Affairs magazine reported on  the death of Gen. Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Army. (Month In Brief, Jan 2022). It is tragic that India’s top military commander was killed in a helicopter crash in the state of Tamil Nadu. Many other media did not offer their readers any analysis as to why this incident was important; however, Asian Affairs understood the impact.

Gen. Bipin Rawat was trying to reform the Indian armed forces. To deal with China and Pakistan, India’s army has adopted an ‘offensive-defence’ strategy. In 2016, Indian special forces attacked terrorist camps in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir and in 2019, the Indian Air Force bombed terrorist camps in Pakistan. In response to the threat posed by China, India is modernising its missile arsenals, fighter jets, transport planes and equipment of the newly-established 17 mountain strike corps of the Indian Army. However, without synergy of command and control, this modernisation drive may fail. Gen. Rawat played a key role in pushing the army, navy and air force to cooperate more closely and establish integrated commands. His death represents a blow to the process of reform of the Indian armed forces. It could affect the counter-China strategy in the Indo-Pacific.


Dr Satoru Nagao


The morality of gambling in Macau

The relationship between politicians, regulators, and gamblers has always been contentious, as highlighted in your recent report about gambling in Macau (Raising the Stakes by Martin Purbrick, Asian Affairs January 2022). Politicians oscillate between libertarianism – taking a lead from John Stuart Mill’s dictum that people should be free to act unless they purposely hurt others – and legislating a draconian clampdown to eliminate sinful actions. Notwithstanding subjective moral pronouncements, unfettered gambling within communities often leads to crime and other nefarious activity.

Mr Purbrick explains that gambling in Asia has ramifications across the globe, not merely confined to the “gaudy casinos packed with slot machines” in Macau. His explanation of how gambling revenues in Macau are recycled and, by a circuitous route, end up funding the upright Republican Party in the USA is investigative journalism at its best. One wonders at the reaction of the leadership of the Peoples’ Republic of China to this form of globalisation!

Mr Purbrick mentions in his piece that he has a background in law enforcement and financial crime risk management in Asia for more than 30 years. On the basis of that experience and this excellent article, I propose Mr Purbrick be appointed to lead a commission which examines how best to run a gambling industry which both safeguards consumers and delivers fat tax revenues to the host government.


Graham Laird


Lanark, Scotland