On Dec. 31, the Chosun Ilbo — the largest South Korean newspaper in terms of circulation — published an article titled “Taiwan’s economic growth is world’s highest without relying on China,” which compared Taiwan’s economy to South Korea’s in recent years.
The report made particular mention of how Taiwan has outperformed South Korea in terms of economic growth for three consecutive years, and that Taiwan’s economic growth last year was the highest in the world, surpassing China for the first time in 29 years.
Chosun Ilbo thinks that the difference between Taiwan’s and South Korea’s economic performance in recent years comes down to the two governments’ differing attitudes toward China.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan’s economic performance could remain unharmed thanks to the government’s energetic preparation and the public’s compliance with disease prevention measures.
Taiwan was the only nation to cut off direct flights from China at the beginning of last year and to issue a prompt ban on mask exports.
At the time, many pan-blue politicians said that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration broke off cross-strait exchanges for political reasons, and a Taiwanese singer even called Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) a gou guan (狗官; literally, a “dog official”) due to his mask export ban.
The view that assisting China is acceptable even if it means sacrificing Taiwanese was the spell that previously haunted Taiwan. Reconsidering last year’s events, it is questionable whether Taiwan would enjoy today’s normalcy if the DPP administration had not chosen to first protect the health and lives of Taiwanese.
It was not the first time that people equated China with the world and badmouthed Taiwan.
Two years ago, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said in an interview that Taiwan was a part of China’s “red supply chain,” adding that if China was determined to exclude Taiwan from its supply chain, Taiwan would lose its annual trade surplus of more than US$83 billion with China.
Long before Ko made that comment, some local media ran articles titled “Admit it! Taiwan’s economy is dependent on the Mainland” and “Taiwan’s economy more dependent on Mainland despite Tsai administration’s anti-China policy,” giving the impression that Taiwan is incapable of surviving without China.
At the Dec. 9 Cross-Strait CEO Summit, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Liu Jieyi (劉結一) bolstered this stance, saying: “It would be difficult for Taiwan to maintain positive economic growth without the motherland’s development serving as the driving force in the background.”
Local media reports and politicians’ statements promoted the view that Taiwan’s only choice is to rely on China, which is a complete misinterpretation of the economic data.
Taiwan’s exports to China last year set new highs because of a strict US ban on technology exports to China and the relocation of the Chinese supply chain as a result of US-China trade tensions.
As a result, China had to purchase high-tech items such as semiconductors and electronic components from Taiwan during this period. In other words, the numbers show that it is China that needs Taiwan, not the other way around.
Chosun Ilbo’s article about Taiwan’s economic achievements last year should boost Taiwanese’s confidence in their nation’s prospects in the new year.
Liou Je-wei is a student at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Political Science.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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