It is amazing the difference a one-and-a-half hour plane ride can make. Taiwan and the Philippines are neighbors, and in some places resemble each other climatically and geographically. However, when one boards a plane at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and disembarks at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, one has crossed a massive gulf in historical legacy, economic development and government effectiveness.
Taiwan and the Philippines became colonies of Japan and the US respectively at roughly the same time, 1895 and 1898, and were both abandoned by their colonial rulers after the end of World War II. Before their colonial eras, both Taiwan and the Philippines were governed as provinces from Beijing and Mexico City/Madrid, and enjoyed relative autonomy outside the major cities.
Despite these superficial historical similarities, the two countries developed in vastly different directions. Japan’s colonial era in Taiwan was characterized by the construction of infrastructure that acted as a base upon which the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) later built Taiwan’s economy after fleeing China in 1949. The Japanese built roads, universities, hospitals, a postal service, railroads, ports and a modern economy based on a modern government. They fought the Aborigines in the mountains and crushed all rebellions against their rule, unifying Taiwan for the first time in its modern history.
The Japanese had a far different impact on the Philippines during their short but brutal occupation in World War II, leaving many painful memories and accomplishing nothing to help the country.
In the Philippines, the US first kicked out the Spanish, enlisting the help of former Philippine president Emilio Aguinaldo, a revolutionary and independence activist in the late 19th century. However, when he realized the US just wanted to take the place of the Spanish, he led his armies in a war against the US that resulted in the brutal killings of anywhere between tens of thousands and 1 million Filipinos. The population of the Philippines was devastated and the US took on a military dictatorship role, something that did not really happen in Taiwan on a similar scale until the KMT initiated the White Terror period in the late 1940s.
True development passed the Philippines by, and that can be seen today in the way the country’s economy is run. The Asian Development Bank said in 2008 that 12 percent of the Philippines’ GDP was made up of remittances by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), and that number has grown in the past four years, with OFW remittances surpassing US$465 million at the same time exports are slowing, contributing to a stable 4 percent GDP growth rate last year.
Taiwan, on the other, still makes the lion’s share of its earnings from exports, something the Philippines cannot match. Both countries differ in terms of infrastructure, too. In central Manila, buildings that were bombed during World War II still stand empty, while Taiwan has embarked on a mass rapid transit building spree in all its major cities.
The Philippines has much to gain from working closely with Taiwan and vice versa. Although talk of a Taiwan-Philippines free-trade agreement (FTA) has gone on for years, nothing has ever come of it, even though Taiwan has already inked something similar to an FTA with China — the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Manila places more emphasis on economic deals with Singapore and Seoul, but Taiwan is a lot closer geographically, and an FTA could benefit the export markets of both. Taiwan could import raw materials from the Philippines and export manufactured goods, something that is notoriously expensive there because of all the tariffs involved.
In this way, maybe Taiwan and the Philippines could help close the yawning gap that has opened between their societies.
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With