Tue, Mar 12, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Nobel winner says let chipmakers go

SEMICONDUCTORS James Heckman, who was given the international award for his work in economics, says that the eight-inch wafer issue should not be politicized


Taiwan would get enormous rewards from allowing its chipmakers to set up eight-inch wafer foundries in China, a visiting Nobel laureate said yesterday.

James Heckman, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in economics, told a news conference that those who think that opening up such high-tech investment would give China any technological clout to "attack Taiwan" are very "short-sighted."

In his view, Heckman said the current debate in Taiwan on whether to permit its leading chipmakers to establish eight-inch wafer production facilities in China has put too much emphasis on politics.

"My observation is that China is not likely to launch a military attack on Taiwan as the [nation] has full US support," Heckman said.

Noting that investment needs protection, Heckman said the recent accessions of Taiwan and China to the WTO has offered both sides a good mechanism for protecting the interests and rights of their respective investors.

With a vast market, China is an attractive investment destination, Heckman said, adding that restricting China-bound investment is short-sighted.

Heckman further said Taiwan entrepreneurs are fully aware that China, while offering many business opportunities, also imposes a lot of restrictions. The Nobel laureate said he is convinced that if China can further open its market, it will become even more competitive in the global market.

He pointed out that China has invested more in technological development than in education. Because of high education costs, many people in western China are deprived of education opportunities and can only do manual labor, he said. Marxism might have limited China's "investment" in its people, he added.

In comparison, Taiwan is more balanced in terms of its investment in technological development and education, Heckman said. He pointed out that despite its relatively short history, Taiwan has excelled in economic development over the past five decades.

"Taiwan has managed to demonstrate its advantages and competitive edge even when it faces challenges," he said, adding that the island should further strengthen cooperation with the US in various fields in the future.

Heckman also said he believes that Taiwan will be able to maintain its competitive edge and continue to outpace the mainland in economic development in the years ahead.

China just began its economic reform two decades ago, he noted, adding that so long as Taiwan can fully adapt itself to the ongoing economic globalization, its future prospects will certainly be bright.

Heckman is currently on a lecture tour on the island at the invitation of the Southern Taiwan University of Technology.

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