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China semiconductors: a Huawei store in Beijing. A Huawei store in Beijing, May 20, 2019, (GDA photo by Lam Yik Fei via AP Images).

How COVID, Climate Change and Trump Created a Global Chip Shortage

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Last week, Samsung announced that the rollout of its new Galaxy Note smartphone would be delayed, warning of a “serious imbalance” in the chip industry. It’s just the latest impact of a global shortage in the supply of semiconductor chips, caused by a unique combination of the coronavirus, climate change and Donald Trump.

Semiconductors are the brains of all things electronic. Like the brain, they perform different functions—memory, processing—and range in sophistication from standard, repetitive routines to high-performance chips that can support machine learning, artificial intelligence and high-end graphics. All things electronic these days are pretty much all things chips. They are needed not just for the obvious devices like laptops, phones and tablets, but for the whole range of smart devices, including autonomous vehicles, light bulbs, refrigerators—even cities. And thanks to advances in miniaturization, the world of transistors has become truly Lilliputian: Up to 1,000 transistors can now fit on a cross section of human hair. ...

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