Sun, Jan 20, 2019 - Page 6 News List


Switzerland of the East

Jerome Keating writes how Taiwan could become the “Switzerland of the East” (“Becoming a Switzerland of the East,” Jan. 15, page 8) and bases this claim pretty much entirely on Taiwan adopting a neutral stance in international affairs. I have myself endorsed this view in a piece in the Taipei Times (“Neutrality is Taiwan’s best option,” Oct. 6, 2008, page 8).

As I made clear in that piece, I very much agree that a neutral stance in Taiwan would be a peaceful and fruitful development, and I would still argue this is true. However, I think there may be even more similarities between Switzerland and Taiwan, and these should also be considered.

In terms of culture, education and economy, considerations of similarities with Switzerland are in some ways already largely true, in the broadest sense. Taiwan has in some senses an economy based in part on agriculture, combined with small and larger industries, and a services/banking sector. These are all functioning well in Taiwan (similar to Switzerland, although we might add that Taiwan’s electronics industry is far in the lead).

The GDPs of Switzerland and Taiwan are almost equal, according to the International Monetary Fund.

In some senses Taiwanese culture can be seen as almost equivalent to Swiss culture, with a notable history that even predates the establishment of Switzerland as a nation, and has had many prominent developments in music, visual arts and literature. In some ways, the Taiwanese connection with Chinese culture — via opera, art, spiritual values, language and cuisine — is even more ancient than Switzerland.

The population of Taiwan is much larger than Switzerland, and in this way, I think Taiwan is seen as an even more prominent nation.

In terms of education, Switzerland probably has the edge, but certainly we have seen some fairly impressive rankings of Taiwanese universities, and globalization is moving Taiwan higher and higher.

Probably more important is the similarity between Taiwan and Switzerland in terms of constitutional government, democracy and freedom. Certainly, the nations are identical in these respects, and Taiwan, every bit as much as Switzerland (and perhaps even more so), has attracted international attention for its progress in these values and liberties.

The Swiss Federal Constitution declares the preservation of Switzerland’s independence and the preservation of the welfare of the people as the highest objectives of Swiss policy. The same can be seen in Taiwan.

Switzerland’s constitution broadly sets five policy objectives, which include the safeguarding of peace and coexistence of nations; the advancement of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law; the alleviation of poverty in the world and the protection of people during natural disasters or any other harm that is being done; and the conservation of the environment and precious natural resources.

In my mind, Taiwan is doing exactly the same in its national and foreign affairs, and this places this nation on a similar plane with a leading country such as Switzerland. Were Taiwan to add to this by announcing its neutrality with accompanying peaceful aims, then so much the better.

In sum, there is much indeed that is “Switzerlandesque” about Taiwan, and these values can be taken into a promising and rewarding future. To be sure, such as Switzerland in the West, Taiwan can be something great.

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