Mon, Sep 19, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan needs to be global-minded: US academic

SCRAMBLING:The government needs to implement reform in an orderly manner instead trying to fix problems every time protesters take to the streets, Shirley Lin said

By Nadia Tsao and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON, with staff writer

A US academic said that Taiwan needs to be more global-minded and not perceive economic problems solely as cross-strait issues.

Shirley Lin (林夏如), a professor of political science at the University of Virginia, said Taiwan’s tourism industry must not focus on numbers and should understand the global situation in which everyone is clamoring for Chinese tourists.

She added that Beijing always has the option of controlling the number of Taiwan-bound Chinese travelers and that it might not even need to do so if the economy in China slows down.

Taiwan must have a risk management system in place and develop its own tourism strategy, Lin said.

Lin made the comments on Monday last week in response to questions from reporters and the audience at a presentation held at the Brookings Institution for the release of her new book, Taiwan’s China Dilemma: Contested Identities and Multiple Interests in Taiwan’s Cross-Strait Economic Policy.

China could employ economic penalties against Taiwan, which would be much more harmful to Taiwan’s economy than its own, Lin said.

She said her position is that Taiwan must adopt a more global mindset, but at the same time should be prepared to face global challenges that would arise in doing so.

Taiwan should make a clear distinction between Chinese tourists and politics, as Chinese travelers are increasing in numbers in every nation, but in places like the US, Japan and Europe they are seen as only one source of tourism revenue, Lin said.

Even as tour group numbers decline, the number of individual Chinese travelers is rising, according to research conducted by a Hong Kong-based company.

The government’s “new southbound policy” — an effort to promote trade with ASEAN and India in a bid to reduce economic dependence on China — is good, but requires guidance for Taiwanese companies hoping to break into those markets, she said.

She added that the ASEAN and Indian markets are too small to give impetus to Taiwan’s industries.

Taiwan should instead focus on deepening economic ties with the US, Japan and Europe, she said, adding that problems like a low minimum wage, a growing wealth gap and unemployment are related to globalization and should not be attributed to the cross-strait relationship.

Taiwan must focus on reforming its laws and regulations, she added.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) needs to handle reform issues through a sequential process and not just try to fix an issue every time protesters take to the streets, Lin said, adding that the DPP does not appear to have a long-term political plan.

Taiwan’s close trade relationship with China is not inherently problematic, given that most developed nations have close economic ties with specific nations, Lin said, adding that economic downturns like those that hit Taiwan in 2001 and 2008 are normal phenomena that the nation can deal with if it is well-prepared.

In her book, Lin wrote that while younger people tend to be more supportive of free economic policies, they are also strongly defensive about ideological distance from China.

That demonstrates strong similarities between Taiwan and Hong Kong, as young people are happy to seek economic opportunities in China, but want to maintain the freedom to make their own decisions, she said.

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