Use the "Little Things that Make Us Happy" to Create Great Wealth
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 10, 2014
Summary: Vibrant and dynamic young people are indispensable to a nation and
society if they are to have a better future. We hope Taiwan's youth do
not settle for "the little things that make us happy." We hope they will
harbor grand ambitions. Grand ambitions create sustainable economic
growth and social prosperity. The government should play its role. It
should gather everyone's "little things that make us happy" into the
nation's grand economic achievement.
Full Text Below:
Young people today think in terms of "xiao que xing" or "the little things that make us happy." Many elderly people fear they lack ambition. They fear that if individuals think only in terms of "the little things that make us happy," the result will be a national level "big thing that leads to disaster." In fact these elders' concerns are misplaced.
Taiwan's economy depends mainly on processing for export. This resulted in 40 years of prosperity. But emerging economies, including the Mainland Region, have risen. Domestic manufacturing costs are now comparatively high. The standard of living has been rising. Many traditional forms of manufacturing must be eliminated. But Taiwan lacks R&D and brand development capabilities. The transition is difficult. Taiwan's competitiveness has fallen. Its economic growth has stalled. But Taiwan's economy will not sink merely because of this. Workers from Taiwan are more skilled than those from the emerging economies. Young people may think in terms of "the little things that make us happy." But this has a bright side. In fact, it offers Taiwan an opportunity for economic transformation.
Young people pursuing "the little things that make us happy" is nothing new. Taiwan suffered serious damage during World War II. The postwar era was one of utter destitution. Businesses went under. Growth stalled. We should not overlook the role "the little things that make us happy" played back then.
The cornerstone of Taiwan's post-war economic development was land reform. The government reduced rents. Tenant farmers felt they owed the landlords only 37.5% of their harvest. They felt they should be able to keep 62.5% of their crop. This created an incentive to produce. Poor peasants had no land to till. To be able to own a plot of farmland was indeed a "little thing that made us happy." Therefore the government implemented homesteading policies and "land to the tiller" policies. This enabled small farms to develop to their limit. This enabled the eventual development of the agriculture industry and the progressive development of the economy.
Subsequently, the most important driving force for Taiwan's economic development was SMEs. When a small business owner attempts to go forward, that is the spirit of "the little things that make us happy." SME bosses learned by doing. They did this with spinning and weaving in the garment industry, with light industries such as the manufacture of umbrellas, suitcases, bicycles, and christmas lights. They gradually upgraded their technical standards, and ascended the ladder of productivity. They entered the computer components industry and today's cutting-edge information and communications industry. A number of products made on Taiwan have become the best in the world. Everyone has set their sights set on them. The "little things that make us happy" can indeed accomplish big things as well.
Between 1945 and 1958, the government proposed its "first imports substitution policy." It targeted consumer products such as textiles and other light industrial products. Export expansion in the 1960s laid a foundation. Between 1969 and 1980 the government promoted its "second import substitution policy." It targeted primarily the production of raw materials, machinery, and equipment. It developed primarily the petrochemical, machinery, shipbuilding, and steel industries. This led to today's plastics, precision machinery, yacht, and steel products industries. After the 1980s, Taiwan's ICT industry became a world leader. All this was inseparable from our government's industrial policies, liberalization policies, and privatization policies.
As one can see, "the little things that make us happy" can indeed be a force to be reckoned with. Today we face the pressures of economic restructuring. The government can take advantages of small and medium industry flexibility to grow the economy. Here are two specific recommendations.
Recommendation One The government should encourage young entrepreneurs. In particular, it should encourage sole proprietorships, partnerships in individual studios, or small companies that conduct business in emerging high-tech Internet and creative industries. Examples include mobile devices with APP and IOT links. These do not need to be big business. They enable young people to use "the little things that make us happy" to achieve. The government should create an enabling e-business environment. It should pass "electronic payment regulations" for third-party payment, as soon as possible. It should allow off line transactions (physical transactions) payment service (O2O) and non-physical transactions and remittances in response to the rapid development of technology and e-commerce needs.
Recommendation Two. Many Taiwan owned SMEs face the Hong Hai dilemma. To hold down costs and seize market share, they resort to traditional volume sales practices. The government can provide information and opportunities. It can help manufacturers find products or services that other manufacturers have yet to provide. The manufacturers can then create a yet to be formed niche market. They can use a Blue Ocean Strategy to create unique value.
When entrepreneurs who adopt "the little things that make us happy" approach fail to look far enough ahead, industry guidelines and policies can help them make a breakthrough. The government should gather information, and recruit experts to interpret it. It should provide more complete information to young entrepreneurs. The government can also help young entrepreneurs take part in exhibitions and organize exhibitions to attract buyers and sellers, creating economies of scale. The government can help SMEs find opportunities based on "the little things that make us happy."
Young people may find it difficult to pull themselves up by their bootstraps in a mature society. They cannot ask for the moon. But the government should provide young people with a better social environment. Only then can they harness the power of "the little things that make us happy." The biggest difference between today and the 1950s to 1970s is interest rates and housing prices. Back then double-digit interest rates were the norm. Under the pressure of tight money, many people financed their businesses through credit unions. No matter how high the interest, they had orders, they had sales revenues. If they worked hard, the could eventually buy a house and get married. But with today's real estate prices, young people have lost that ability. No matter how hard they try, even if they hold down two or three jobs, they cannot afford to purchase a house or even talk of getting married. Therefore we support the recent Academia Sinica policy recommendations for real estate, and the government's response to actual cost tax assessment.
Vibrant and dynamic young people are indispensable to a nation and society if they are to have a better future. We hope Taiwan's youth do not settle for "the little things that make us happy." We hope they will harbor grand ambitions. Grand ambitions create sustainable economic growth and social prosperity. The government should play its role. It should gather everyone's "little things that make us happy" into the nation's grand economic achievement.
第一，政府應鼓勵年輕人創業，尤其以獨資、合夥的個人工作室或是小公司，進行高科技網路與創意結合的新興事業。例如行動裝置 APP 的各項應用，物聯網物物相繫的各項連結，這些並不需要大企業來做，可以讓年輕人小確幸的動力來表現。政府應創造有利的電子商務環境，盡快通過俗稱第三方支付專法的「電子支付機構管理條例」，開放包括准許線下交易（即實體交易）的支付服務（O2O）及無實質交易的匯款，以因應科技及電子商務的日新月異發展需求。