It cannot be denied that Taiwan is but a speck on the world map. Unless it wants to isolate itself, it has to expand internationally. The question is in which direction Taiwan’s future lies — east, west, north or south: Which direction is a dead end and how should it go about choosing the right direction?
To the east of Taiwan lies the great Pacific Ocean and at the end of this vast expanse is the US, the land of opportunity.
In the US, a free country, any strong person who is willing to abide by the law has a fair chance of success. The long journey to get there is a price worth paying for anyone looking for the freedom to develop their own future.
To the north is Japan, a country with which Taiwan has a long-standing and stable partnership. The refinement of Japanese life, technology, culture and commercial ingenuity is something that Taiwanese should learn from and try to understand. Japan is a good example to follow in learning how to avoid stagnation and economic bubbles.
Also to the north is South Korea, which serves as a warning to Taiwan. If Taiwan does not want to be left in the dust, it is time that it learns that improvement is the key to survival. If it does not improve, it is doomed. Taiwan’s most urgent task is to learn to treat South Korea as a respected opponent to compete with, be stimulated by, to pursue and to surpass.
To the south is Singapore, which has abandoned its blind admiration of big countries to become its own master. Taiwan could learn from Singapore how to build self-confidence and identity in being a small nation.
If Taiwan were to build contacts with developing countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, Taiwanese businesses could expand their scope and secure stable growth.
To the west is China, with which Taiwan has more than 200 years of exchanges. The two nations share the same language and writing system and, at first sight, China’s vast population offers Taiwanese companies endless business opportunities.
However, China covets Taiwan’s territory and sovereignty. China’s sweet talk is treacherous, and if Taiwanese cannot see that the Beijing regime is built on autocracy, lies, greed and arbitrary law enforcement, that its GDP figures and bank financial reports are doctored, and that what is relevant one day may be rendered irrelevant the next, then any hope that Taiwan will be able to pick up the scraps falling off Beijing’s table will come to naught, and China will open her bestial jaws and gobble Taiwan up in a single bite.
If the stock market still carries any economic significance, then the drop in China’s stock market from 6,000 points to 2,000 points and its inability to recover is a sign that the Chinese economy is facing a crisis.
If Taiwan cannot distance itself far enough from China, it will be very difficult to avoid future disaster.
From these, it is very clear which direction Taiwan should be looking at; which one is a dead end street and which one offers the road to salvation.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a retired associate professor at National Hsinchu University of Education and former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.
Translated by Perry Svensson