Wed, Aug 08, 2007 - Page 8 News List

The `sunset' is only in the eye of the beholder

By Kengchi Goah 吳耿志

For observers from different backgrounds and professions, looking at a sunset may conjure up vastly different impressions.

A painter may see in it unbounded beauty and a variety of colors.

A scientist may peer into it and wonder how quickly the orange hue is shifting.

Meanwhile, a businessman may weep at the sight of a fireball rapidly sinking below the horizon -- like his money-losing business.

It is perhaps this last emotional setting that drags the image of the sunset into the world of business where there are ample examples of fading color -- hence the term "sunset industry."

What Taiwanese industries are thought to be in their sunset? Shoe making, garment manufacturing and other labor-intensive industries are the most frequently cited victims.

Although not the making of the product category themselves, these traditional industries have been branded with many of its damning characteristics. How-ever, upon closer examination, we find it is often the business owners' fundamental point of view, approach and short-sighted plans that have forced the business into the sunset.

Consider shoe making for example. Shoes are among the four basic necessities -- food, clothing, shelter and transportation -- that support a human life.

It has taken thousands of years to advance from sandals made of reeds to Nike sporting shoes made of synthetic rubber and stretchable fabric, roller skates made of Teflon wheels and so on.

With imagination and innovation, shoes now support the disabled, sense environmental chemical contamination, or -- when combined with built-in microelectronic sensors -- make wearers feel healthy and lively.

Business owners in Taiwan must understand that the possible innovations are endless.

Hope ends only when one refuses to project the mind. The sun sets only when one refuses to penetrate its spectrum.

It is high time that Taiwan's businesses reorientate their thinking, reset their focus and reexamine every piece of colorful shoelace.

Only then will they realize that a sunset is actually the beginning of another sunrise: The sun does not set forever.

Kengchi Goah is a research fellow at the Taiwan Public Policy Council in the US.

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