Taiwan’s “new southbound policy” is not an attempt to make a political statement or compete with China, but is about promoting mutually beneficial development in the region, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said on Friday.
Speaking at a question-and-answer session with journalists from media outlets across Asia, including India’s The Hindu, Indonesia’s Kompas, Malaysia’s The Sun, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Singapore’s The Straits Times and Thailand’s The Nation, Tsai said that the policy is about economics and trade and that it aims to improve the lives of the people in the region.
Addressing criticism that China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative has reduced Taiwan’s space in the region and is an obstacle to the policy, Tsai said that the policies pursued by Taiwan and China are completely different.
Taiwan enjoys immense soft power in terms of healthcare, education, human resources development, technological innovation, agriculture and disaster preparedness, she said.
This cannot be replaced or blocked by money or politics, she said.
Citing Singapore as an example, Tsai said that despite its larger neighbors, the city-state has managed to develop its own advantages based not on geography or scale, but on the vision and ambition of its political leaders.
If Singapore regarded its size as a limitation it would not be in the position it is in today, she said.
Commenting on plans to better develop industrial talents to benefit “new southbound policy” nations and Taiwanese-owned businesses operating there, Tsai encouraged companies and businesses in Taiwan to sponsor fellowships or scholarships to help students from India and elsewhere.
There are about 1,200 Indians studying in Taiwan and the government plans to further expand the Taiwan Fellowships and Scholarships program for talented Indian students, she said.
About 5,000 students from nations included in the policy are to begin studying in Taiwan in the summer under private sector sponsorships, Tsai said.
“It is not about competing with China, but about emphasizing Taiwan’s own advantages and promoting mutually beneficial development as a member of the regional community,” Tsai said.
The policy, initiated last year, is aimed at forging closer economic ties with ASEAN, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Australia and New Zealand, to reduce Taiwan’s economic dependence on China.
Accumulated foreign direct investment from Taiwan into the nations targeted by the policy had reached US$95 billion by December last year, data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Web site showed.
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