Data may be the “oil” of the information economy, but without microelectronics, those data are just assortments of zeros and ones. Semiconductors, silicon-based “translators” of data into information, are essential to the 21st century economy, making connectivity and all the resulting “information-related” innovations possible. The United States has dominated this field since the semiconductor was invented over a half century ago and assesses any attempt to replace it as No. 1 as an affront to national pride and a threat to national security.
That mentality first surfaced in the 1980s, when the U.S. mobilized to fend off a Japanese challenge to its supremacy in the industry. It has re-emerged in recent years as China recognized the role that semiconductors play as it aims to become the world’s most innovative nation and to dominate production of high technologies.