Taipei: Being Taiwanese

Participants: Mary, Maggie, Willie, Fanny, Kerry, Angela

I’m very interested in question one, because when we were children, we were trained to correct our faults. But this is the first time someone lets us know what’s our advantages, and what’s our disadvantages. And for countries, is it so important to stress our advantages, or not so important? For my point of view, it’s important to know both our advantages and disadvantages. When we know our strengths, we can find the direction of our life, and I think also for countries. So like, now, our gvt want to develop Taiwan to be a center of finance-something. The first step is to address our advantage and disadvantage, compared to other countries. Do you guys agree with my point? Or you have different views toward this?

In my field, science, I think Taiwan’s advantage of Chinese medicine, because we often use the Chinese medicine, much more often than America or Europe. Because we use these plants, so we have several point to attach the center of the secret of Chinese medicine. So this is Taiwan’s advantage of this field. But I think the financial field, I’m not so good at.

So what do you think?

About question one?


For me, I prefer question two. I think it’s better to correct faults, because I don’t think it’s important to focus on advantages or disadvantages.
I don’t have much inspiration for these questions, to be honest.


I don’t know, maybe later, after I listen your opinions, your words might inspire me.

What I’m burning to know is, what do you see Taiwan as?

For me, before I saw this video, I heard similar points from others, because I am in financial world. I observe many similar information from other resources, so it was not so shock or stun to me, to hear his opinion.

So, but, how do you see Taiwan’s place in the world?

Maybe when it comes to Taiwan, people in the world will think it as a big manufacturer, or a, um a people of high technology. Like, when it comes to India, people will think about math and engineers.

Or really really poor people, and farmers killing themselves with pesticide.

Oh, I heard from others, in business world, American or European company like Taiwan company, because they think Taiwanese as very hardworking people.

They don’t see Chinese as hardworking?

I don’t know,…I

I think Taiwanese and Chinese are different. Chinese devote their labor efforts, while the Taiwanese have higher level education, so, and I think, um, from the working side, they are different.

And I assume in the bioscience world, Taiwan also have its cutting edge?

I think Taiwan have higher standard? Standard, no. The medicine system is better than china, but we still can’t join the WHO. This is unfair! I’m angry about these things. Because it’s political issue.

How is it bad for Taiwan, that it can’t join?

It’s about public health. We can’t join WHO, so we can’t connect with the world public health, so many problem, just like about the mosquito disease, dengue fever, and SARS. During SARS, we couldn’t have any support from who or other country. So we had to help ourselves. All our medication solution is come from ourself. So WHO totally take us for granted. So it is a disadvantage that we can’t join?

It’s a bad thing for them, as well as for us. Taiwan has things to teach the rest of the world, too, and they’re losing that.

Taiwan is a lonely island in the world.

It’s all Chiang Kaishek’s fault. If he hadn’t been like, it’s China or us, you choose, we wouldn’t have lost our place in the UN.

So Mary, what do you think about Taiwan’s place in the world. I think some people, they come to Taiwan, they come to learn Chinese culture, and to learn Mandarin.

Yes, that’s true.

I was kind of surprised, that at the hostel I work at, when you speak English, they speak Mandarin to you, and they want you to speak Mandarin to them. And their Mandarin is really quite good. They’re from like Portugal, and Spain, the Mediterranean.

Why don’t they go to china?

They actually go to both places, a lot of them.

Well, actually, why do they come to Taipei, too?

Some of them, they have to transfer flights here, and then they go to Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. And I know some people come to Taiwan for the food.

Yes, delicious “shiao chi” [=lit. ‘little eats’, a Taiwanese specialty, small stands on the street selling noodles and side dishes].

And it’s not that expensive!

But what I want to know is, how do you see Taiwan’s place in the world?

So you want to know our opinion about the Taiwan’s place in the world, not others.

But what you think others must see Taiwan as.

Maybe it’s that Taiwan is a country that produce very good computer product. If you come buy a camera here, it’s 30% cheaper.

In my opinion, from the geography side, Taiwan is very small, so many people ignore this place. And I know, some people think, Taiwan is the same as Thailand. So I say from the geography side, it’s quite small. But from the IT industry, Taiwan occupies a very important position. Taiwan is a very important component of the IT industry. Like Mary said. Taiwan has ability to produce cheaper computer products.

Maggie, what’s your view?

‘Lonely Island’

Well, yes, but can you elaborate?

We always isolated by the world. So we can’t join the worldwide organization, and we not accepted by the world, so I think…but we still live in the world. The people in the Lonely Island still live in the world, so I think it’s fine, because we are used to being alone. No, I don’t know how to say that, but, I think we accept the situation, and we are happy. Next? Willie, what’s your opinion?

I don’t think Taiwan is the lonely island, actually. I think it’s that we can’t publicly establish those relations in those official organization. But I think privately, if gvt is not involved, Taiwan does pretty okay. Those non-gvt organizations, like companies, Microsoft, Google, those companies have pretty big impact in the world, band they also have their site in Taiwan. Also in Beijing. I mean, Beijing is their center, but they also have big spots in Taiwan, pretty beautiful. So privately we’re doing okay. If you travel in Europe, it’s a problem, because Taiwan hasn’t formal relations with those countries, and that’s a trouble. I’m not sure, lots of Japanese and Koreans, they come here, they know Taiwan very well, and they’re interested in visiting Taiwan. Also I think those production, we’re known for our production, especially IT products. And also, everyone knows that, for example that Google will have their own phone, like an iPhone, in September.

Everyone except me!

And me!

Well I knew.

Anyways, it’s going to be open source, for those excellent programmers on the internet to finish the job for them. And the company which produce the phone for them, is from Taiwan.

I think it will be public at the end of the third quarter. I also think the reason why the production is well know in Taiwan is that “made in Taiwan” has been mentioned in Hollywood once or twice.

Which movies?



Did anyone see that movie? With Liv Tyler?

At the end, they’re trying to escape from the comet.

But did they mention Taiwan?




Because their spacecraft didn’t work, and the Russian astronaut said ‘that shit’s made in Taiwan’

But that’s not good!

Or in Toy story! Woody the astronaut. He always thinks he’s a real astronaut. But at the moment he opened the cover of his arm. Brrt! Made in Taiwan. So he realized he was a toy. At the 20 years ago, Taiwan makes the many toys, many small plastic items.

Why is that significant?

Because now china makes the small plastic things.

Oh, 20 years ago, Taiwan has many local and high-quality—

High quality, are you sure?

—okay, middle quality, labor force.

20 years ago, we had a lot of plastics manufactories. Now the techniques is better than Chinas, but the benefit is more than produced by china. So many plastic products is made in china.

So, to be honest, I was so surprised to realize that, even in nowadays, in western countries view, Taiwan’s products is mean low-quality products.

Well, now it’s ‘made in china,’ grrrr, cheap. I don’t know about Taiwan anymore.

But Germany, it’s considered high quality.

And expensive.

And not so beautiful. Made in France and England is more stylish, but the German is high quality, undoubtedly. Just like the Birkenstock. The shoes is not very stylish, but they’re well known.

But not good looking? What about Mercedes?

Oh, yes, they’re beautiful.

Or else, like Porche. And they’re an example that German’s products are not as beautiful as other countries. Volkswagen is a byproduct of Porche.

I didn’t know that.

I didn’t either.

I don’t think these cars…well when you mention sporting car, most people mention Ferrari or Lamborghini, than the Porche.

Hey, maybe Taiwan can follow Italy. They used to have no work, and no reputation, and their currency was bad, but then they got well known for fashion design and certain high end products like furniture.

That’s an interesting point, at the moment, most people are looking at Ireland.

So what are the strengths of Ireland?

Okay, it’s their open-mindedness to Europe, and their lower tax rate. Before, Ireland was an island of few people—

And socially conservative, and really backwards.

—but when they start to develop their education, and lower their tax rate, they attracted a lot of companies from all over the world to invest in Ireland. Then support their economic development.

But sometimes I think Taiwan sees itself as not as good as the rest of the world. Not as democratic as America, not as large as China, not as well-run and neat as Singapore…it’s like Taiwanese look at the world and always only see their own shortcomings.

I agree, my colleague’s point is just like you. We, Taiwan is always thinking we’re weaker than other company, even though our company do very success in the world, like Giant, or Acer. But we still think we are, our quality worse than others. I think maybe the reason is like, the comment from the observation, in our education, not focus on how to find out or develop our advantage. We only focus in our education, nobody tell us to think about the value of individuals, or your points of your future. So, companies in Taiwan never think of serious, what’s their cutting edge, their planning for company’s future. They only want to copy other’s experience. Because they have chance to train themselves to the thinking of something like this.

But Lynn said that in her company, a textile manufacturer, it’s no good to come up with innovative fabrics, because China will like copy them within a week, and sell them for a price that undercuts their profit.

But what china can not copy is our communication capability, and our ability to establish personal relationship. That’s from some factors from our history and culture. Because we are an island, we were colonized by so many countries. So in our blood, we know how to deal with people from different cultures.

That’s an interesting point, I never put those two together.

That’s why Taiwanese can do business around the world, you can see Taiwanese, in us, in Africa, in anywhere, and most of them are so successful.

I think in some respects, Taiwan is better than china, like she said, Taiwan has some strengths in dealing with multinational relationship. Right now Taiwan is open to all over the world, so maybe, um after a period, china might be better than Taiwan.

So, is Taiwan to china like Ireland is to Europe?

I think entering china is more dangerous than before.

Well, do we have to enter china to take advantage of it?

Well, we all know there’s kind of human costs, there are many interruption, or some difficulty, by the gvt, by people. Interference. In china, I think, from, a lot of people who have been to china talks about the interference of gvt. And those rules are not exactly the priority in china. So the difference between Europe and china, the technical advantage of china…

No, I think it means…

Does that mean we’re using Chinese resources or..?

I think countries from Asia and Europe and America, I think they can use Taiwan, Taiwan’s people, Taiwan’s resources, to help them into the mainland china market. So in their world, Taiwan is in the position, in the middle, of, to be a bridge to connect china and those countries. I think that’s what this guy is saying to how Taiwan to take advantage of china.

So why don’t they do this through Hong Kong, I think that’s a point.

But, Taiwan is famous for its IT industry.

And Hong Kong is not.

It’s famous for it’s financial field. So for the western people, so they think Taiwan is a good gate to enter the mainland china market. Because they have the same language, and the secondly, Taiwan and china have the same culture, so the habits are the same.

I would say similar, but not the same. Because china is an ex-empire, or an empire in a low point, but Taiwan is an immigrant country.

I work in a manufactory company to produce some consumer goods, and after I enter here for one year, the original team classify Taiwan to the china cluster. So Taiwan is part of china, not china part of Taiwan.

Yah, but what I’m saying is that they’re not a part of each other at all, they’re different countries with different histories. Actually Taiwan’s history is one of colonization. First the Spanish and Portuguese set up colonies, then there was the separatists Koshinga retreating here from the collapse of the Ming Dynasty, and then the Ching Dynasty rulers held the island for like 50 years before they sold it to the Japanese, then after WWII the Japanese left and the KMT colonized it till the island threw off martial law in the 80s. And all through that, various waves of immigration, the Hakka, then Minnan people, and most recently the Waishengren after the war. Now you could say you’re a democracy. But China, well, it’s been a cohesive empire, or at least the idea that the people believe in that it’s supposed to be an empire, has been, for a long long time. People on their own turf, not coming from other places. And there’s this weird idea of a greater racial China, the Huaren idea. So, like Singapore, or the Chinese in Malaysia still identify as Chinese, not with the country they’re actually living in.

But technically people don’t connect Singapore with china.

So, I’m curious that, if it’s very possible for Taiwan, to take advantage, like Fanny said, to use Taiwan resource of people to enter china, actually. Because I think the best timing for Taiwan to do this is past already.

Nowadays, the change not exist.

Its not as easy, actually. I just talked about this problem with classmates today. We both think that the time is missed. There are many foreign countries, like Google.

They’re not countries yet!

Google country!

I think Google is richer than second or third world country, or something like that, but anyways. We know that many companies have already established their base, and Chinese have already copied. There’s a company who copied Google, in china, and it’s local, but they’ve done it first, and so Google can’t really enter china. So they want to go in, but they can’t join china now, the opportunities aren’t the same as before. The ones that got in early are set up, and now you can’t compete. They’ve lost the advantage of time. So for Taiwan, I don’t think it’s the right time to enter china.

We don’t need to enter china, for now it’s not a good time to enter but we can think of how to become a good connection to benefit from china and Japanese, or benefit from china and America, or benefit from china and Europe, no I think is too far. But by geography, we are in the middle points of china and Japan and America.


I heard, one of my colleague is familiar with Japanese. He said that most Japanese fail to deal with Chinese people.

Because of language?

Because of maybe some history record, maybe. But Taiwanese are so familiar with Japanese, and also, in business it’s easier for us than Japanese to do business with Chinese. So we can think about this point. But, even though I have this discussion with my colleague, but we didn’t found the answer yet.



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