Taiwan’s ties with China a problem, meeting hears

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 - Page 1

Taiwan’s economic “over-dependency” on China was not in the nation’s best strategic interests, a Washington conference was told on Thursday.

“It may be used in the future to hurt Taiwan in very profound ways,” US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said.

He said the supply chain drove Taiwanese investment in ways that were near impossible for the government to control.

He was addressing the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars conference on “Staying Ahead of the Economic Curve: Taiwan and its Rivals in East Asia.”

A Wilson Center official asked the conference if Taiwan could afford to engage in high-tech trade with China when it was such a potential adversary.

“Taiwan is caught between a rock and a hard place,” Hammond-Chambers said. “Many would agree that the Chinese do not have the same intention for their relationship with Taiwan that Taiwan has for its relationship with China.”

The Taiwanese, he said, “can’t help themselves.”

Hammond-Chambers said Taiwan’s economy remained in “deep distress.”

While unemployment was still relatively low, that was because of an increase in tourism and investment to improve infrastructure

There was unwillingness, he said, to push for needed domestic reform and when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) did try to tackle the problem, “domestic political forces absolutely hammered him.”

Hammond-Chambers said that 20 or 30 years ago, Taiwan could argue it was competing well with South Korea.

“Now, that is just not the case,” he said

The South Koreans were “significantly pulling away from Taiwan and it’s a big problem, ” he said.

Hammond-Chambers said that Taiwan’s response to South Korea was “unclear” but that South Korea “casts an extremely long shadow across Taiwan’s economy.”

He said there was “some angst” about what the future held for Taiwan, but that it was essential that the nation continued “the long slog” toward developing its own global brands.