Economic Transformation and Taiwan's Preeminence
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 18, 2012
Summary: Today the United Daily News Vision Workshop is introducing its "Two
Critical Years for Taiwan's Transformation" Editorial Series. We hope
this in-depth, cross-border exploration of Taiwan's economy will lay the
cornerstone for the United Daily News Vision Workshop.
Full Text below:
Today the United Daily News Vision Workshop is introducing its "Two Critical Years for Taiwan's Transformation" Editorial Series. We hope this in-depth, cross-border exploration of Taiwan's economy will lay the cornerstone for the United Daily News Vision Workshop.
Last year, when the United Daily News celebrated its 60th anniversary, it established its Vision Workshop. The purpose of the Vision Workshop is to suggest visions for the nation's future. Key among its purposes, is to choose from the many problems bedeviling Taiwan society, to conduct in-depth investigations into these problems, and to propose solutions to them.
We hope as a member of the Fourth Estate to promote a paradigm shift. We hope as social reformers to join with society to suggest visions for the nation's future. Towards this goal, the media and society should exert influence and instigate change.
Today the Vision Workshop launched its first project: "Two Critical Years for Taiwan's Transformation." This transnational project attempts to alert people to the seriousness of Taiwan's economic plight. We hope to join the public in fundamentally transforming Taiwan's economy, and enabling it to be reborn.
The "Two Critical Years for Taiwan's Transformation" compares the economic development of the four Asian Tigers: South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Viewed from eye level, it is difficult to grasp the worsening condition of Taiwan's economy. South Korea's free trade agreements (FTA) are coming to fruition. Its economic reach is increasing. Its international competitiveness is improving. Hong Kong is close to Mainland China. It enjoys extra leverage. The Pearl of the Orient attracts the attention of the entire world. Singapore is an Asian hub for goods, capital, and human talent. The international environment is highly competitive. Taiwan trails the other Asian Tigers in container handling capacity, total trade, and per capita GNP. They are growing. We are shrinking. Taiwan faces an rapid brain drain. Industry faces serious bottlenecks and other developmental crises.
Now consider the historical context. The "Two Critical Years for Taiwan's Transformation" Editorial Series underscores some hard facts we must face. Taiwan's "economic miracle" was once the object of international praise. It was imitated by less developed countries. But those days are long gone. They have been replaced by instance after instance of failed economic policies. Today, in the international imagination, we are a cautionary tale. The most vivid example in recent memory occurred in Singapore. Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam noted that if Singapore prevented foreign talent from entering the country, it would reenact "The Taiwan Story," and lose its global competitiveness. The problems caused by Taiwan's Closed Door Policy did not begin today. They have merely become more serious as a result of increasingly intense global competition. The adverse effects did not emerge in the past. Now that they are emerging, they are increasingly heartbreaking. Our policy on imported labor is complacent. Examples of inaction abound. This is why Taiwan's economy is stagnating, and why it is so far behind the international competition.
Recently the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research celebrated Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). It held a series of tenth anniversary of seminars. It proclaimed the necessity of economic and trade liberalization. Ironically, Taiwan's economic and trade liberalization stopped when it was admitted to the WTO a decade ago. During this period, some small measure of deregulation took place. But nothing remotely like the across the board liberalization 25 years ago. Nothing like the grand vision of an Asia-Pacific Regional Operations Center 15 years ago. Nothing like the highly praised economic liberalization policies 10 years ago. Except for ECFA, signed two years ago, the record is virtually blank.
During the past decade, Taiwan underwent its second change in ruling parties. It confronted the SARS epidemic. It endured a series of blows from the global financial tsunami. Economic policy makers were forced to fight fires instead of making long term plans. But were the challenges faced by South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore over the past ten years any less daunting? They did not slow their development. They bravely confronted their economic growing pains. They took into account their national interests. They did what they had to do. This is where South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore differ from Taiwan. Today, Taiwan's economy faces an array of difficulties. This is the inevitable result of over ten years of stagnation. If we cling to our ostrich with its head in the sand attitude, if we continue to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to our problems, if we persist in doing nothing, our predicament will become irremediable. If this generation forfeits its vision, will the next generation even have a future?
When making this series we conducted many interviews. We discovered widespread anxiety in the private sector. We perceived a sense of urgency, a conviction that Taiwan must advance rapidly. Many respondents volunteered that Taiwan must take advantage of the next two years. No major elections are scheduled. This offers us an opportunity to do what is necessary to bring order out of chaos, and to undergo a rebirth. This is where the title "Two Critical Years for Taiwan's Transformation" comes from. We have two years in which to make up for over ten years of neglect. This is akin to having three years to cure a seven year old disease. The difficulty of the task cannot be understated. But we must have stout hearts and firm wills. We must transform Taiwan's economy. We must guide the nation down the right path. We must restore Taiwan's preeminence. Otherwise our economy will remain as it has over the past decade. It will grind to a halt due to sorts of obstacles.
One thing is worth celebrating. Taiwan still has a number of specific economic advantages. The opportunities for development brought about by ECFA still await. This is the capital that will enable Taiwan's economy to experience a rebirth. What's frustrating is that the problem is so obvious. But conflict between the ruling and opposition parties make it impossible to address the problem rationally. Therefore, the "Two Critical Years for Taiwan's Transformation" Editorial Series is not merely an appeal to the government. It is also an appeal to the opposition parties. We hope the ruling and opposition parties will work together to promote Taiwan's rapid progress, and move towards positive change.
The "Two Critical Years for Taiwan's Transformation" Editorial Series is the Vision Workshop's first contribution. Next Monday we will hold the "Two Critical Years for Taiwan's Economic Future" Summit. We will invite representatives from various fields. They will discuss priorities for the two critical years. Here, we want to thank former Vice President Vincent Siew for serving as summit host. He helped formulate the theme and structure of the summit. We also want to thank the domestic companies, the government officials, and the foreign experts who assisted in the creation of the series. This "creation of a vision" was a transnational exploration. We are convinced that "economic transformation and Taiwan's preeminence" is the key to exerting influence and instigating change. It is what Taiwan's ruling and opposition parties must work hand in hand to achieve.