Former World Bank vice president Justin Lin (林毅夫), who is wanted in Taiwan for defecting to China in 1979, yesterday expressed his support for the government’s pursuit of trade liberalization to spur economic growth.
Lin said that while he appreciated the passion and organizational skills of the students protesting the cross-strait service trade agreement, Taiwanese who genuinely care about their nation should focus on what is good for its economy.
He made the remarks at a question-and-answer session at the Boao Forum for Asia in China, after which he told the press that: “Every bit of consideration should be given to Taiwan’s economic development and any discussion that fails to address this is pointless.”
Lin defected to China nearly 35 years ago while serving as an army officer.
He said that when he arrived in China in 1979, Taiwan boasted a bigger trade volume than its cross-strait neighbor, a distinction that earned it esteem in political and financial circles around the world.
In 1978, Taiwan’s total external trade volume stood at US$23.2 billion, versus China’s US$20.8 billion, Lin said.
Lin, a professor at Peking University’s National School of Development, attributed the sway China has held over the international community in recent years to its vibrant economy.
Saying that the pursuit of free trade is a global trend, Lin said Taiwan has lost many advantages it used to enjoy.
He also drew a comparison with South Korea, which he said has gone from lagging behind both Taiwan and Japan to outstripping the two in economic growth, a feat he said was proof that Taiwan has not made good use of its advantages.
“Does Taiwan want an economy that remains stagnant for 20 years like Japan’s?” Lin asked, adding that it is this sluggishness that has reduced Japan to playing a less active role in East Asia and on the international arena.
This year’s Boao Forum, which is to run from today until tomorrow, is to focus on the search for new regional growth drivers.
Former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), who arrived in China’s Hainan Province yesterday, is to take part in the conference as honorary head of the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation, a non-government organization set up in 2001 to research market ties between Taipei and Beijing.
In his eighth appearance at the conference, Siew is scheduled to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) — China’s delegate — on the sidelines of the gathering today after its opening.
It will be Li’s first high-profile meeting with a major politician from Taiwan since he assumed his post in March last year.