The Economist Intelligence Unit uses a special Big Mac Index to measure purchasing power parity (PPP) adjusted GDP. While the idea is innovative and pedagogically interesting, one should be aware that there are at least four other important sources for world rankings using this figure. These are the World Bank, the IMF, the CIA and the World Table of the University of Pennsylvania. The data for last year recently became available on Wikipedia and although Taiwan was ignored by the World Bank, it was included in the last three sources, which ranked it 20th, 29th and 28th, respectively.
Taiwan’s ranking is higher than South Korea’s (27, 40 and 36), but well below Singapore’s (3, 6 and 6) and Hong Kong’s (6, 11 and 16). Unlike the Economist Intelligence Unit, Germany was ranked slightly higher than Taiwan by the IMF, the CIA and the World Table (17, 27 and 23). However, the IMF and the CIA ranked France (24, 36), the UK (22, 34) and Japan (25, 37) lower than Taiwan, while the university ranked France, the UK, and Japan slightly higher than Taiwan (26, 21 and 27, compared with Taiwan’s 28).
These statistics reveal the following important points: Generally speaking, the estimation of GDP per capita in PPP differs with each organization. One cannot use the results of one organization to draw any solid conclusions. In addition, the nation’s high GDP per capita has not been shared by a majority of Taiwanese, contributing to Ma’s dismal approval rating of 13 percent.
Furthermore, much smaller economies in terms of population and area, like Singapore and Hong Kong, have overall competitiveness and GDP per capita much higher than that of Taiwan. Thus, Taiwan having a higher GDP per capita than say, the UK, does not prove that Ma is not a bumbler.
This being said, one can at least see that Taiwan is as competitive and wealthy as Britain, Germany, France, Japan and South Korea. This is an unexpected consequence of Shen’s international comparison: alerting Taiwanese, as well as non-Taiwanese, to the strength of the country’s economic status. Based on various macroeconomic indicators compiled by international organizations and institutes, Taiwan’s economic activities and performance in various arenas have been among the highest of the 200 or so countries and regions in the world.
However, Taiwan is not recognized as a sovereign country by most other nations, nor as what Shen calls in his letter the “Republic of China (Taiwan).” The term “Republic of China” is extremely confusing. It has caused many to confuse Taiwan with the People’s Republic of China, for example, the White House announcer when Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) visited the White House in 2006.
Furthermore, when it comes to the records of Taiwan’s economic data or achievements, most foreign and international documents list Taiwan by bogus names like Taiwan, Province of China (false); Taiwan, China (ambiguous); or Taipei, China (funny); or simply do not list it at all.
If Ma and Shen are really concerned with the face of the presidency and growing isolation of a great and independent nation, should they not insist with confidence on rectifying the proper use of its name by calling Taiwan “Taiwan?” Or even better, should they not push for Taiwan to be granted full membership in the UN?