從赤貧到暴富──經濟五怞~

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1999 / 10月

文‧李光真



經濟奇蹟,是國府遷台五十年最耀眼的一章。「如果沒有強大的經濟力在背後撐 持,台灣絕對活不到今天!」前中華經濟研究院院長于宗先表示。

從民國四十年代的農業扶持工業及限制進口、五十年代的加工出口、六十年代的十大建設、七十年代的自由化與國際化,乃至於八十年代的資訊工業崛起,台灣的經濟發展腳步一直邁 著大步,未曾停歇。

千禧年將屆,未來面對的是和半世紀前完全不同的挑戰。亮麗的數字下,又該如何長保優勢?

民國七十年代中期,已因退出聯合國、中美斷交而飽嚐國際「孤兒」滋味的台灣,用一雙勤奮的手向全世界搭起更緊密的無形之橋。號稱「外銷 王國」的台灣,當時擁有二十一項「世 界第一」──玩具、燈具、鞋類、傘類……;「台灣製」三個字,讓歐美民眾對這西太平洋小島印象深刻。

世紀末,穩坐在全球第三大資訊國寶座上的台灣,光環依舊耀眼,至今全球每二•五台筆記型電腦中,就有一台出自台灣之手。而曾經是台灣囊中物的玩具、滑鼠、監視器等產業,儘 管已外移到不同國家生產,但在全球生產基地背後運籌帷幄的,還是台灣老闆。今年八月,台灣外匯存底重回千億美元高峰,亞洲金融風暴、中共文攻武嚇都不能撼動台灣。

這樣的台灣奇蹟,不是五十年前能夠想像的。

「國共內戰時,台灣的糧米物資紛紛運到大陸去支援作戰,」中經院前院長于宗先指出,後來大陸淪陷,兩岸交通中斷,島上的物資極度缺乏,囤積搶購的風潮一發不可收拾。三十八 年六月,躉售物價較光復那年暴漲了近五千六百倍,連上街買塊豬肉都得提一麻袋鈔票。

黃金打底生信心

局勢危殆下,幸而從上海搶救出來的八十多萬兩黃金已平安抵台,政府於是宣佈幣制改革,一元新鈔等於四萬元舊台幣。此舉雖然將物價慢慢穩定下來,但也招致民間的反彈。

全球塑化原料ABS第一大廠、奇美實業的董事長許文龍,至今提起這段歷史仍憤憤不平:「講什麼台灣是戰勝國,日票都沒貶那麼多,台票反倒變草紙了!」

家國多難、時局板盪,或許讓人民默默承受了損失,然而五十年的帳總結起來,從戰敗時的凋蔽到現在的「台灣錢淹腳目」,台灣人民應該還是賺多於賠的。

遷台初期,風雨飄搖的國民政府深怕共產黨「工農兵革命」會趁勝跨海而來,於是積極進行「三七五減租」、「耕者有其田」等土地改革政策;地主階級的土地被政府強制收購,換得 的是當時四大公營公司(台泥、台紙、農林、工礦)的股票。土地改革雖然招致地主怨言,但的確達到了激勵農業生產的效果。

民國四十至五十年代,是台灣農業起飛的年代。以日本為主要市場的農產品及加工品外銷,奠定了台灣早年的農業經濟基礎;民國四十六年,蔗糖一度高佔台灣總出口金額的六成以 上。

三簍香蕉過一年

早年從農校畢業的經建會主委江丙坤記得,民國五十年他在政府機構上班時,拿到國民黨的中山獎學金,準備赴日留學,然而父親不同意。

「那時候我每個月的薪水九百元,都是原封不動拿回家,我一走,父親就會少收這九百元,」江丙坤解釋。當時他跟父親說,「沒關係,我可以每個月給你一千元!」他將用來買機票的二百美金支票賣掉,買了從基隆到日本神戶的海鷗輪船票,省出一大筆錢交給父親;然後又利用日本入境免稅的優惠,在上船前買了三簍香蕉、三箱鳳梨罐頭。

「到了日本,一簍香蕉賣了十元美金,相當於三千六百塊日幣;三簍三十美金,剛好等於我在東京大學一年的學費!」江丙坤回憶當時台灣農產品在日本的吃香情況。

在穩固農業經濟基礎的同時,政府也以農業支援工業,大力發展輕工業。民國五十一年,工業產值首度超過農業產值,台灣的「工業時代」自此開始。

由於外匯缺乏,買不起進口的機器設備,政府制訂「加工出口區條例」,以五年免稅為優惠,全力吸引外人來台投資,並在民國五十五年時,在高雄成立了世界上第一個加工出口區。那時在日本攻讀博士的江丙坤,就奉命到各處去演講招商,其中最轟動的,就是成功引進日本光學大廠 CANON到台中加工出口區設廠。

海島型經濟定位

「那時長官告訴我,招商的條件不必太高,一個投資案只要五萬美金就可以了,但一定要雇滿五十個人,」江丙坤回憶,民國五十年代初期,台灣經濟正待轉型,失業率超過百分之 四,龐大的農村勞動力亟需另尋出路,加工出口型的勞力密集型產業正符所需。

當時國民政府擁有一批包括尹仲容、李國鼎、汪彝定等人的財經智囊團,他們眼光長遠、思慮縝密,早早看出台灣這樣一個海島型經濟體,不可能自給自足,必須全力向外發展,一方 面極力吸引外人來台投資,一方面大力拓展出口、賺取外匯。若和遲至一九六○年代後期才開始進軍國際市場的南韓相對照,令人不得不佩服台灣的前瞻眼光。

「民國五十二年到六十九年,是台灣經濟起飛的年代,也就在這段期間,歐美國家注意到東亞這些小國的搶眼表現,開始用『四小龍』來形容台、韓、星、港,」于宗先指出。

綜合民國四十一年到六十九年,儘管受到二次全球性石油危機的衝擊,台灣仍創下二十八年間平均經濟成長率百分之九•二的傲人記錄;環顧全球,大概只有中國大陸近二十年來的飛 躍成長可差堪比擬。

當時台灣能吸引外人投資,靠的是政治安定、勞力充沛而低廉、又沒有工會組織抗爭;而其後積極拓展外銷,靠的則是螞蟻雄兵般前仆後繼的中小企業。

能賺錢的,就是好市場

江丙坤回憶,自民國七十年代初期他擔任外貿協會秘書長開始,近二十年間,他帶著廠商走遍天下,有展覽就參展、沒展覽就找個地方打開提包,就地供買家選購。早在電腦業初具雛 形時,德國漢諾威著名的西比特電腦展已可見台商滿場穿梭,是該展覽連年排名前三名的參展大國。尚未開放、連家旅館都找不到而得在船上過夜的越南,遙遠的土耳其、巴基斯坦, 熱得近乎窒息的埃及,剛露出一線縫隙的蘇俄……,都是台商奮力衝刺的目標。

「市場沒有大小遠近之分,能賺到錢的,就是好市場,」江丙坤對台商的靈活及拚鬥特質,印象深刻。

全力拓展出口,一方面國家財富快速累積,另一方面,長期、刻意地藉壓低台幣匯率來扶持出口的政策,卻也引起了貿易對手國──特別是美國──的嚴重抗議。

民國七十六年,台灣對美貿易順差達到創紀錄的一百六十億美元,「賺翻了」的後果相當慘重,首 先是台幣被迫大幅升值,從民國七十四年到八十年,台幣兌美金的匯率從一比四十升 到了一比二十五,導致熱錢大量湧入,加上一度高達百分之四十的國民超額儲蓄找不到宣洩管道,錢潮激盪下,出現了嚴重的泡沫經濟現象,留下一堆至今難以收拾的爛攤子。

「那個時候,台灣剛剛擺脫貧窮,只擔心錢存得不夠多、經濟成長率衝得不夠高,卻對景氣過熱的危機缺乏警覺心,沒有適時降溫,不能不說是一個遺憾,」于宗先表示。

「暴富」的陷阱

從民國七十五至八十年,短短五年間,台灣房地產價格暴漲三倍,股市則在七十九年初飆至一萬二千點的高點,然後迅即在八個月內跌落至二千五百點谷底。暴起暴落間,是一場無形 而殘酷的全民財富大洗牌,不僅造成貧富差距拉大、無住屋者難以翻身、盲目投資者損失慘 重,而且物價飛漲、人心浮躁,以往踏實勤奮的工作倫理大受衝擊。

台幣升值、百物騰貴、土地及薪資等產業成本大幅攀升……,重重壓力,使以往靠蠅頭小利點滴致富的傳統產業失去了生存空間。幸好泰國、菲律賓、印尼等東南亞「四小虎」開始崛 起,提供廠商「南向」的機會。民國七十六年間適時開放的兩岸交流,更讓眾多台商頂著「探親」名義,絡驛不絕湧向大陸,成為兩岸「經濟統一」的先頭部隊,還間接促成了近十年 來舉世矚目的「中國經濟奇蹟」。

泡沫經濟讓台灣元氣大傷,然而,素以自由經濟立場聞名的中研院院士邢慕寰卻認 為,我們實在應該「感謝」美國的這一帖猛藥,逼使台灣在無路可逃之下,勇敢面對自由化、國際化 的挑戰。如果這帖猛藥再晚來五年,東南亞和大陸已經立穩腳步,沒有台商揮灑的空間,而國內產業又來不及升級的話,那「台灣奇蹟」恐怕已成為歷史名詞。

不過在當時,眼看著傳統產業大量出走,防止「產業空洞化」的恐慌呼聲一再響起。江丙坤還記得,那段時間他擔任經濟部政務次 長,最重要的工作就是輔導廠商「產業升級」,由工 研院主導,結合業者來做各種新產品的合作開發和技術轉移。由於台灣是以貿易起家,中小型企業一向長於「把東西賣出去」,卻拙於在生產研發上投注心力,因此這項工作相當艱 鉅。

「3C」救台灣

就在眾人焦灼期待傳統產業升級之際,幸運的是,早在民國七十年初開始扎根的電腦、資訊等高科技新興產業,此時開始擷收成果,填補了傳統產業出走留下的空白,並為台灣經濟開 創了第二春。

前工研院院長林垂宙回憶,民國六十七年,政府已看出以中小企業民生工業為主的產業結構有它的局限,因此召開「第一屆全國科技會議」,提出能源、材料、資訊及自動化做為國家 重點科技,極力延攬海外科技人才回國。

當時籌設的「新竹科學園區」,從一開始就有雙語學校及美式社區宿舍的規劃;適逢中美斷交,台灣民心激憤,海外學人也以行動來表達對台灣的支持。如今回顧,工研院的研發、新 竹園區業者的拚勁,及資策會的教育及推廣,的確是台灣資訊工業發展的三大功臣。

民國六十九年,台灣第一家IC公司聯華電子才由工研院的研發班底摸索著掛牌開張,不到二十年,台灣已經擁有大大小小共三十八座晶圓製造廠,成為全球第五大晶圓生產國。

資本密集、技術密集的晶圓(IC)製造業快速竄起,加上電腦(PC)零組件的生產、組裝,以及消費性電子產品(EC),這三項並稱「3C」的世紀末新興產業,目前已成為台 灣全球競爭的新利基。

「十年之內,從玩具王國搖身變成資訊大國,這樣驚人的企業彈性,一窩蜂眾志成城的習性,大概都是台灣獨一無二的吧!」于宗先笑著說。

放眼未來,高科技產業全球競爭之路,其難度比以往「一個提包打天下」要高出許多,埋頭苦幹、全球奔走,都不再是成功的保證。

「高科技講究創意,一個天馬行空、突破窠臼的新點子可以開創一片全新的產業天地;然而在創意的背後,一方面需要大量的金錢人力投入基礎研發,在實驗室裡不眠不休地尋求突破 性的科技成果,一方面要有專業的投資管理者,將這些創意付諸實現、化為利潤,」負責國內科技政策的行政院政務委員楊世緘指出。

為了因應這樣的新趨勢,台灣近幾年不斷向美國矽谷取經,力求在制度上、觀念上,甚至文化素養上作大幅度的改變和提昇。

亞太營運中心

二十世紀末,全球競爭的大勢已經底定,為了善用台灣一貫面向海外、且在亞太地區擁有豐沛華商人脈的優勢,行政院在民國八十年代初期推出「亞太營運中心」政策,希望台灣能和 香港、新加坡一樣,成為製造、運輸、金融、媒體、電信等各領域的區域性營運及轉運中心,吸引外商前來投資。

可惜這個極為叫好的構想,卻因兩岸關係持續低迷、台灣的經濟腹地無法延伸至大陸而進退不得。最近在臺美商發表的「一九九九白皮書」中,就對政府堅持產業「戒急用忍」政策、 不肯開放兩岸三通頗有微詞,認為台灣錯失了成為亞太地區營運中心的關鍵時機。

然而,江丙坤認為,「亞太營運中心」的宗旨在於鬆綁、自由化,倒不一定要跟大陸接軌才能實現。他舉例,目前美國優比速快遞(UPS)已將桃園機場作為其在亞太地區的集散地 及轉運站;民國八十二年「有線電視法」及今年「衛星廣播電視法」相繼通過後,各系統業者及TVBS、傳訊等衛星電視台紛紛開播,每家電視台至少可以帶來五、六百個就業機 會;八十五年「電信法」修法、開放民間業者進入後,通信市場立即沸騰,每家業者的投資金額動輒以百億計算。這些原本是因應「亞太中心」而作的鬆綁動作,的確已達到活絡民間 投資的目的。

「後奇蹟時代」的課題

在產業競爭仍是經濟命脈所繫的同時,「金融經濟」時代也已來臨。于宗先指出,金融經濟的特色是高風險、高獲利,在資訊和資本高速流動的同時,亟需建立公平公開的遊戲規則及 嚴密的金檢制度。

去年中到今年初的本土型金融風暴,將許多台面下遊走法律邊緣的危險交易如超額貸款、公司董監事持股高比例質押等一一曝光,而前監察院長王作榮最近更公開指責台灣股市是「吃 人市場」,顯見金融經濟的挑戰才剛開始,其中的高困難度和高阻力,可能也是以往任何經濟政策少見的。 「金融經濟」的特徵是「錢滾錢」、資訊時代則唯有掌握知識與技術的人才是贏家,兩者都意味著「貧者越貧、富者越富」,經濟發展會不會以社會公平為代價?令人憂心。

江丙坤不諱言,未來的競爭將十分慘酷,然而經濟發展的腳步不可能停滯,職場的風險應該由就業安全及社會福利的網絡來分擔,因此近幾年政府已陸續推出如失業保險、國民年金等 方案因應。畢竟,國家發展經濟的目的不是嘉惠少數人,而是要為最大多數人謀取最大福祉。

經濟發展的另一項隱憂,是對環境的破壞。早年的「婆娑之洋,美麗之島」,如今多數河流已遭嚴重污染,一遇暴雨就土石橫流、屋毀人亡。鎘地、輻射鋼筋、汞污泥……,生態環境 的警訊一波波浮現。然而台灣的環保運動一向偏好「索賠」式抗爭,卻缺乏對環境生態的真誠尊重,台灣必須從「經濟發展至上」的迷思中跳脫,才是真正永續經營之道。

胼手胝足半世紀,讓台灣今天享有中國數千年來僅見的豐盛富裕,也讓當年倉皇流亡的國民政府,對歷史、對人民有了最好的交代。然而經濟發展不是不可逆轉的,三十年前台灣人總 想去菲律賓淘金,對照今天滿街的菲傭菲勞,「後奇蹟時代」的台灣經濟如何穩步向前,必須謹慎以對。

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Rags to Riches--Fifty Years of Economic Development

Laura Li /photos courtesy of Diago Chiu /tr. by Christopher MacDonald


Taiwan's economic miracle forms one of the brightest chapters in the history of the island since the arrival of the Nationalist government 50 years ago. "Taiwan would never have survived this long without such a mighty economy!" Says Yu Tzong-shian, former president of the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research.

During this period Taiwan's economy has developed uninterruptedly and at a brisk clip, from the policy of "using agriculture to support industry" and the import restrictions of the 1950s, to the export processing of the 1960s, the Ten Major Construction Projects of the 1970s, the liberalization and internationalization of the 1980s, and the burgeoning IT industry of the 1990s.

With the advent of a new millennium, the challenges facing Taiwan are radically different from those of 50 years ago. The question is, how is Taiwan to maintain its current economic advantage?

It was in the mid-1980s that Taiwan, out of the UN and diplomatically adrift from the US-and already accustomed to its status as an international orphan-began belatedly, by its own efforts, to build invisible new bridges with the outside world. Known as the "export kingdom," Taiwan led the world at that time in 21 categories of product, including toys, lighting products, shoes and umbrellas. This small island in the Western Pacific left an indelible impression on the minds of Western consumers with just three words: "Made in Taiwan."

Now, as the century draws to a close, Taiwan is ensconced as the world's third largest IT producer, and its performance is as strong as ever. Two out of every five notebook computers in the world today have been "Made in Taiwan," and while production of many items that Taiwan used to monopolize, such as toys, mouses and monitors has largely moved off-shore to factories around the world, it is still Taiwanese companies on whose behalf these products are manufactured. In August of this year Taiwan's foreign exchange reserves once again reached US$100 billion, and neither the Asian financial crisis nor mainland China's aggressive posturing has seriously rattled the island.

Fifty years ago, no-one could have imagined such a miracle for Taiwan.

Yu Tzong-shian explains: "During the Civil War, goods and provisions from Taiwan were shipped to the mainland to support the war effort." After the fall of the mainland and the severing of communications across the Taiwan Strait, the island experienced desperate material shortages. Hoarding and speculation were rampant. Between 1945, when Taiwan was recovered from the Japanese, and June 1949, wholesale prices multiplied by a factor of 5,600, and you needed a sackful of banknotes just to buy a cut of pork in the market.

Solid gold confidence

At that critical juncture, a shipment of 800,000 taels of gold arrived from Shanghai, and the government announced a major devaluation: one New Taiwan Dollar equivalent to 40,000 old currency units. This helped to stabilize prices, but also angered the people.

W.L. Shi, chairman of Chi Mei Corporation-the world's largest producer of the plastics raw material ABS-still recalls that event with indignation. "So much for Taiwan being on the winning side in the war. There was little devaluation of the Japanese currency, yet Taiwanese banknotes were reduced to toilet paper!"

It was a time of hardship and upheaval for the whole country, and while many people were forced to endure losses at the time, when all accounts are reckoned up today, 50 years later-in a Taiwan that has emerged from the destitution of the post-war years to become "awash with cash"-it would be fair to say that the people have probably earned back more than they paid out.

During its early years on Taiwan, the bedraggled Nationalist government was terrified that the Chinese Communists would export their "worker-peasant-soldier revolution" across to the island on the back of their victory in the Civil War. It therefore implemented its own package of land reforms, including the "37.5% rent reduction" policy and the "land to the tillers" program. Land was compulsorily acquired by the government in return for shares in the four major state-owned corporations of the day. Though landowners complained bitterly, the reforms proved remarkably successful at stimulating agricultural production.

The 1950s and '60s were decades of soaring growth for Taiwan's agricultural sector. Exports of agricultural produce and processed goods, above all to Japan, formed the foundation of Taiwan's agriculture-based economy in that period. In 1957, cane sugar alone accounted for over 60% of the total value of Taiwan exports.

Three baskets of bananas

The chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD), P.K. Chiang, who graduated from agricultural college, describes what happened when he was awarded a Chungshan Scholarship from the KMT in 1961. He wanted to go to Japan to study, but his father was opposed.

Explains Chiang: At the time I earned NT$900 a month, and took the wage-packet straight home to my father without opening it. Going away meant NT$900 less for him." However, he told his father: "Leave it to me, I'll get you NT$1,000 a month!" He sold off the US$200 check that had been provided for his airfare, bought a ticket for travel between Keelung and Kobe by ship, and handed the balance to his father. Then, to take advantage of duty-free entry into Japan, he bought three baskets of bananas and three cases of canned pineapple before boarding the liner.

"In Japan, each basket of bananas sold for US$10, or ¥3600," says Chiang, recalling the popularity of Taiwanese agricultural produce in Japan at that time. "Three baskets meant US$30, exactly enough for one year's tuition fees at Tokyo University!" .

While establishing a firm agricultural footing for the economy, the government also used agriculture to support the development of light industry. In 1962 Taiwan's industrial output exceeded agriculture in value for the first time, and so began the island's "Age of Industry."

With foreign exchange in short supply Taiwan was unable to afford imported machinery. As part of a vigorous drive to attract foreign investment, the government promulgated the Export Processing Statute, providing for five years of tax-free business operation, and in 1966 the world's first export processing zone was set up in Kaohsiung. Chiang, who was studying for his PhD in Japan at the time, was sent around the country making speeches to attract Japanese business. The most prominent success of the campaign was the establishment of a factory in the Taichung export processing zone by Canon, the Japanese manufacturer of optical products .

Island-type economy

Says Chiang: "I was instructed that the projects we attracted didn't have to be too large-around US$50,000 in value was enough, so long as they employed at least 50 people." In the early 1960s Taiwan's economy was about to undergo transition, with unemployment at over 4%, and labor-intensive export processing industries provided alternatives for the enormous rural workforce.

At that time the government benefitted from the far-sighted thinking of financial and economic experts such as Yin Chung-jung, Li Kuo-ting and Wang Yi-ting. They recognized early on that self-sufficiency was not an option for an island-type economy like Taiwan, and that external-oriented development was necessary. This meant that Taiwan needed urgently to bring in foreign investment while also expanding its export markets, in order to build up foreign exchange funds. It was an impressively forward-looking approach for that period, especially when compared with South Korea, which didn't launch its own assault on international markets until the late 1960s.

"1963 to 1980 was when Taiwan's economy really took off," says Yu Tzong-shian. "It was also in this period that Western countries took notice of the remarkable performance of a group of small East Asian economies, and the term 'four little dragons' was coined for Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong." In spite of the two global oil crises, Taiwan chalked up an impressive 9.2% annual growth rate between 1952 and 1980. Perhaps the only comparable performance elsewhere has been that achieved by mainland China during the past two decades.

Taiwan was able to attract the foreign investment it needed because of a stable political situation and ample reserves of low-cost non-unionized labor. Meanwhile, the island was building a record of export success on the back of the persistence and determination of its countless small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

A good market

Since the early 1980s when he was secretary-general of CETRA, P.K. Chiang has criss-crossed the globe in the company of Taiwanese firms. In those days, wherever there was a trade show, they would attend, and where not, they would simply open their cases and start supplying buyers on the spot. Taiwanese have been a highly visible feature of the major computer show CeBIT, in Germany, ever since the take-off of the IT industry, consistently forming one of the three largest national contingents at the event. They were there in Vietnam before it opened up, when there were no hotels and visitors had to stay on boats; they were in Turkey, in Pakistan, and in the stifling heat of Egypt; and they found their way into the former USSR when the first openings began to appear. Everywhere, businesspeople from Taiwan found goals to pursue.

"It doesn't matter if a market is large or small, near or far," says Chiang, who has been greatly impressed by the flexibility and tenacity of Taiwanese firms. "So long as you can make money there, it's a good market."

The all-out expansion of export markets brought a rapid accumulation of wealth for the country, but at the same time the long-term policy of holding down the value of the NT dollar in order to support exports brought strong objections from Taiwan's main trading partners, particularly the US.

In 1987 Taiwan's trade surplus with the US reached a record high of US$16 billion, and there began to be negative consequences. First, there was a significant appreciation in the value of the NT dollar, which strengthened from 40:1 against the US dollar in 1985, to 25:1 in 1991, generating a massive influx of funds. At the same time, because of insufficient outlets for these funds, the national surplus savings level grew too high, reaching 40% at one point. There was so much liquidity in the system that a bubble economy began to develop, resulting in a huge mess which has yet to be fully resolved.

Says Yu Tzong-shian: "Taiwan had only recently shaken off poverty, and worries persisted about lack of savings and insufficiently rapid growth. But there was little alertness to the risk of economic overheating, and it is a pity that measures were not taken sooner to cool things down."

The "sudden wealth" trap

Property prices in Taiwan tripled from 1986 to 1991, and the stockmarket soared to a peak of 12,000 points in early 1990, only to crash to the 2,500 level within eight months. As a result of this dramatic flux there was a wholesale and merciless reshuffling of national wealth, which widened the gap between rich and poor, made it impossible for most people to afford their own homes and severely penalized those who had blindly invested in the stockmarket. These factors, along with ballooning consumer prices and a general sense of restless anxiety, seriously undermined the traditional work ethics of practicality and diligence.

The pressures of currency appreciation, soaring prices and rapidly rising land and labor costs all worked to deprive traditional industries-accustomed to prospering on tiny margins-of room for survival. Fortunately it was around this time that Southeast Asian economies like Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia began to take off, providing Taiwanese firms with the opportunity to "go south." The year 1987 also saw an opening of exchanges across Taiwan Strait. Taiwanese businesspeople began streaming across to the mainland to "visit family" and became the vanguard of cross-strait "economic unification," while also helping to spur the "Chinese economic miracle" of the past decade.

Although the bubble economy sapped Taiwan of some of its vitality, Hsing Mu-huan, a fellow of the Academia Sinica and known as a liberal economist, believes that we ought really to thank the US for forcing Taiwan to confront the challenges of liberalization and globalization. Had this taken place five years later, the economies of Southeast Asia and mainland China would already have found their feet, leaving little leeway for Taiwanese firms, and if domestic industry had not started to upgrade itself in time, the "economic miracle" would today be a thing of the past.

At that time however, with Taiwan's traditional industries migrating en masse, there were widespread calls for measures to counter the hollowing-out of industry. P.K. Chiang was then political vice minister at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and recalls that the most important job at that time was counseling firms to "upgrade," with companies working together under the guidance of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to develop new products and carry out technology transfer. This proved a tricky task since Taiwan had built its economy on the back of its trading prowess, and while its SMEs were good at "selling things" they were less so when it came to R&D.

How the "3Cs" saved Taiwan

Just when everyone was worried about upgrading traditional industries, the new high-tech IT sector, first established in the early 1980s, began to produce results. This helped to fill the gap left by departing industries, and brought a new dawn for Taiwan's economy.

Former ITRI president Lin Chui-chou recalls the first National Technology Conference, held in 1978, by which time the government already recognized the limitations of an industrial structure built around SMEs. Energy, materials, information and automation were designated as national priority technologies, and measures were proposed for attracting home high-tech specialists from Taiwan who were living abroad.

The Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park, which was being planned at that time, included provision for bilingual schools and American-style residential communities. This was also the period when diplomatic ties with the US were cut, which aroused resentment in Taiwan and led some Taiwanese abroad to return home as an expression of solidarity. Looking back today, it is clear that three major elements in the successful development of Taiwan's IT industry were the R&D work of ITRI, the efforts of companies involved in the science park, and the education and promotion undertaken by the Institute for Information Industry.

In 1980, Taiwan's first integrated circuit (IC) manufacturer, UMC, was spun-off from the R&D department at ITRI. Less than 20 years later, Taiwan is home to 38 IC production plants and is the world's fifth largest chip producer.

The rapid ascent in the late twentieth century of the "3C" industries-the capital- and technology-intensive semiconductor industry (ICs), computer component production and assembly (PCs), and electronic consumer goods (ECs)-has given Taiwan a strong hand in terms of global economic competition.

Smiles Yu Tzong-shian: "Within a single decade Taiwan transformed itself from the Toy Kingdom into an IT power. Taiwan is probably unique in terms of its firms' flexibility and their ability to swarm over a new sector like this!"

Looking to the future of global competition in the high-tech sector, things are clearly going to be tougher than in the past, when you could "take on the world with a suitcase of goods." Elbow grease and globetrotting business trips are no longer any guarantee of success.

Minister without portfolio Yang Shih-chien, who handles domestic technology policy, explains: "Innovation is everything in high-technology. A brilliant, ground-breaking idea can open up a whole new field of industry. But innovation requires huge quantities of financial and human resources dedicated to R&D, with laboratories pursuing technological breakthroughs around the clock, and with professional investment managers able to turn innovative ideas into products and profits."

To address these issues, Taiwan has been learning hard from Silicon Valley in the US, striving to make drastic changes and improvements in terms of system, philosophy and cultural levels.

APROC

As the twentieth century draws to a close, global competition is now an established fact. It was in order make full use of Taiwan's advantages as an export-oriented economy that can draw on an extensive network of Chinese business ties throughout the region, that the government launched the Asian Pacific Regional Operations Center (APROC) plan in the early 1990s. The aim was to turn Taiwan into an operations and transshipment center along the lines of Hong Kong and Singapore, covering manufacturing, transportation, finance, media and telecommunications, and attracting investment from foreign firms.

Unfortunately, little headway has been made with this much-heralded plan, due to continuing tensions in cross-strait relations and the difficulty for Taiwan of expanding economically into the mainland. In its recently issued 1999 White Paper, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei expressed reservations about the government's insistence on its "no haste, be patient" policy for commercial ties with the mainland, and its unwillingness to open the way to direct links across the Taiwan Strait, and suggested that Taiwan has missed its opportunity to become a regional operations center for the Asia-Pacific.

However, P.K. Chiang avers that the chief aims of APROC were deregulation and liberalization, and that convergence with the mainland is not a necessary condition for realizing the project. As an example he points out that the US firm UPS has made CKS Airport its main distribution and transshipment base for the Asia-Pacific region. He also cites the passage of the Cable Television Law in 1993, and this year's Satellite Television Law, leading to the establishment of a number of new satellite channels, each providing 500-600 jobs. Also, in 1996, amendment of the Telecommunications Law enabled the participation of private enterprise-a move which instantly energized the communications market and led to firms investing sums in the tens of billions of NT dollars. These deregulation measures, designed as part of the APROC plan, have already helped realize the goal of stimulating private investment.

A post-miracle economy

While industrial competition is still the lifeblood of the economy, the age of the "financial economy" has already arrived. Yu Tzong-shian explains that a financial economy is characterized by high risk plus high profits. With rapid flows of information and capital it becomes essential to establish fair rules of the game, along with a tight regulatory regime for the finance sector.

The domestic financial crisis which afflicted Taiwan from the middle of last year until early this year, exposed several legally dubious forms of high-risk transaction, including excess loans, and high rates of stock collateral for company directors. Recently, the former president of the Control Yuan, Wang Tso-yung, publicly labeled the Taiwan stockmarket a "cannibal market." The challenges of a financial economy have clearly only just begun to emerge, and economic policy will probably now confront more difficulties and resistance than ever.

A distinguishing feature of the financial economy is that "money breeds money." At the same time, the winners in the information age are those who control knowledge and technology. Both factors mean that the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. The concern is: Does further economic development have to be at the cost of a fair society?

Chiang frankly admits that competition is going to be fierce in the future, but says that economic development cannot be left to languish, and that the risks of the employment market will have to be jointly offset by job security and social welfare. The government has thus introduced packages in recent years providing for unemployment insurance and a national pension plan. After all, the object of economic development is not to enrich a lucky few but rather to seek maximum well-being for the greatest number of people.

Environmental damage is another development-related concern. Most rivers on the "beautiful island" of Formosa are severely polluted, and rainstorms can trigger mudslides which bury homes and kill people. Cadmium-tainted fields, radioactive steel rebar, mercury-contaminated mud . . . the environmental warning signals are going off all the time. But to date, Taiwan's environmental movement has largely been geared to holding protests in pursuit of "compensation" and has lacked a sense of genuine respect for the natural environment. What Taiwan must now do is move beyond the obsession with economic development to arrive at a truly sustainable way of doing things.

Years of strenuous labor have brought Taiwan to a state of material prosperity unknown in thousands of years of Chinese civilization. This provides the Nationalist government, so battered and bruised when it first arrived, with its way of accounting for itself before history and before the people. But economic development is not irreversible. Thirty years ago people in Taiwan wanted to get to the Philippines to earn their fortune. Nowadays, our streets are crowded with domestic helpers and laborers from that country. Careful deliberation is required if we are to maintain steady economic progress for Taiwan in the "post-miracle age."

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