Looking At A Perplexed Taiwan from Singapore: It’s A Big World, Why Are We Only Focusing On China?

Looking At A Perplexed Taiwan from Singapore: It’s A Big World, Why Are We Only Focusing On China?
Photo Credit: Erwin Soo @ Flickr CC By 2.0

The News Lens international edition is sponsored by Tutor A B C

By Phillip

Something always amazes me every time I go to Singapore.

This time was no different. Looking at the Ferris wheel, Gardens by the Bay, Universal Studios, Changi Airport (named best airport in the world), F1 racing track and Vivo City, I feel amazed and lamented at the same time.

Taiwan has always been working hard to become the center of Asia and operation hinge in the Asia-Pacific, but has allowed a country that is only a little bigger than Taipei City to become everything it wants to be.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any assets of Taiwan; freedom of speech, media environment, kind-hearted people, 24-hr convenience stores, prudent and thoughtful service in restaurants and hotels, Eslite bookstore and so on. However, compared with how things were 20 years ago, I can’t find any big changes other than the MRT and department stores turning into mansions, even when I’m downtown in Hsin-Yi district. I see Taipei 101, Breeze Xin-Yi, Songshan Culture Park and Uni-President Hankyu, but besides department stores, what have we gained and changed in the past 20 years? Taipei Arena? Sports dome? Maokong Gondola? Or a slight touch of happiness in our lives?

20 years can turn a country from being one of the Four Asian Tigers into a place with the best airport in the world and an eco-friendly city while another country can’t even finish building its MRT to the airport.

It’s like going to a job interview. We don’t wear tank tops, shorts and a pair of flip-flops to an interview. Instead, we wear suits to show our best side. Shouldn’t this be the same with a country? Though, the second terminal at Taoyuan International Airport impressed me 15 years ago, the same terminal I see now makes me heave a sigh.

When I was coming back to Taiwan from Beijing, I thought the airport in Beijing was massive. But just massive. Other than the fact that travelers need to take trams to commute between terminals, there isn’t anything special. But after two days in Singapore, I was shocked. Have you ever imagined seeing ZARA, free massage chairs and a butterfly garden in an airport?

Yes, a real butterfly garden. It’s small, but there. Shouldn’t Taiwan be embarrassed because our country calls itself, “the butterfly kingdom?” Not to mention the orchids that we are also proud of. The orchid is the national flower of Singapore. You don’t only see different kinds of orchids from all over the world in the newly built Gardens by the Bay, but also see them in souvenirs. This carries out the value in marketing and commemorating, because there really is an orchid in the key chains.

Changi_Airport_Terminal_1_-_Gate_5-1024x278

Changi Airport. Photo Credit:Wikipedia

Taiwan actually can impress people and make them envious.

20 years have gone by. After making no progress for nearly 20 years, we have already been forgotten by the world. There’s nothing bad about Taiwan. We don’t lack talent or innovative enterprises, but need stable long-term policies and resource marketing and integration. We are, and should be, more than this.

The semiconductor industry in Taiwan has made people jittery because of the recent Red Supply Chain issue. People fear the industry that makes up 14% of the GDP will change due to the rise of China, and further unify the economy.

But did it ever occur to us that there is not one industry that can tolerate us for all our lives in this era? If we don’t develop new products and test out new waters, someone will beat and replace you one day.

Let’s take a look at Apple. The iPod launched in 2001, but how many people are still using it now? Very little, because we have iPhones now. Since Apple changed its name from Apple Computer Inc. to Apple Inc. in 2007, they established the fact that their products won’t be limited to the computer field. From Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Apple Watch, even to the Apple Car rumored to be presented in 2019, is the company creating brand new interactive experiences to extend, or even replace, the popular products in the moment.

Should the development of a country be the same? Singapore and Taiwan are both countries in Asia and we even have similar education systems, but why are we so different today? (And we have a lot more natural resources than Singapore.)

I think there are many reasons behind this and one of main reasons is “being open.” The world is huge, so why do we always focus on China? We can’t ignore China, but we shouldn’t forget that there are still a lot we can learn from other countries.

Take bringing in foreign talents as an example. It only takes seven days to finish the entire procedure in Singapore and foreign employees can move their whole family to the country. Meanwhile, it takes six months and results in nothing in Taiwan. Let alone English is the official language in Singapore, which definitely makes their employment environment friendlier than ours. If we don’t have other advantages, how can we compete with China that owns huge amounts of natural resources and numerous people, and make foreigners chose us over China?

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

Photo Credit: Reuters

People might think, “Why should we open up and let foreigners take away our jobs?” The reason is simple. Because the current environment can’t tolerate any more culture shock. It can’t let us experience more and further integrate resources to inspire better industries and policies.

We are not China. We don’t have that much natural resources. We are not Japan. We don’t have a national character of punctuality and high-quality manufacturing. Our English abilities are probably just a little bit better than Japan, Korea and China, but definitely not as good as Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

But we are creative. We have many brands and lots of unique traditional cultures. I believe all we need is good marketing and resources integration. Think about the difference we can make if we sell and promote our traditional culture all over the world like Japan. What changes can we bring if we integrate our semiconductor advantages with the rising medical industry?

Finding your place is always what’s most important

It is only through clearly establishing its identity, traditional culture and what future role Taiwan will play in the world can we identify the development plan, policy continuity and industry development of our country.

I believe there is still a chance to reverse the serious brain drain in Taiwan and catch up with the opportunities we have lost. We might even catch up with Singapore. But we need to be quick. Or else we are going to lose even more talents and will inevitably be replaced, or even unified by China, in the future.

Translated by Zoey Lo
Edited by Olivia Yang