2002 / 11月
Anna Wang /tr. by Phil Newell
Because the digital economy is the trend, and it affects all elements of national economic growth-investment behavior, productivity, human resources, currency policy, inflation-and these are things that businesses cannot control (or even understand), especially in this murky era when the rules of the game are unclear, the role played by the government is critical.
Over the last two years the poor performance of the economy has had Taiwanese worried. But this phenomenon is not restricted to Taiwan, and many countries that have created economic miracles are losing their competitiveness and looking for new sources of profits. One example from close at hand is Japan, the only Asian country in the G7, whose economy has been on the skids for nearly ten years now. And in Hong Kong, a "little dragon" like Taiwan, property values have fallen by two-thirds, even worse than in Taiwan.
The point is not to feel better about ourselves by noting that others are even worse off. I just want to point to a fact and rigorously look at the situation to seek a solution. Obviously, those countries that had economic advantages in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of low land and labor costs and favorable government aid to industry now find, amidst the global transformation of the information age, that even later developing countries now enjoy those advantages over them. Rather than be nostalgic about the past, it is better to assess one's own strengths and create new sources of profit.
Fortunately Taiwan has a lot going for it in terms of creativity for the knowledge-based economy: It has many connections in the far-flung world Chinese community. It has been impacted by and combines the cultures of the West, Japan, and the many provinces of China. Chinese people strongly emphasize education for their children. And in recent years a high level of political democratization has created a flowering of diversity.
This month's cover story, "The New Star of the Post-Information Age-Digital Content," analyzes the digital content industry, which is expected to be one of the next wave of key industries in Taiwan. It is an industry which requires unlimited creativity and rich content to come out on top. We also look at what steps the government is taking to utilize local cultural assets to create business opportunities, to make a knowledge-based contribution to the digital-era Chinese language market.
Many years ago the painter Chen Chin-fang, now living in the US, opined that Taiwan enjoyed conditions for a cultural renaissance, like those in Florence, Italy in the 16th century. As an island on the periphery of Chinese culture, Taiwan combines its Austronesian origins with the spirit of Ming and Qing dynasty China, and with European culture as introduced by Christian missionaries, creating a unique melting pot of Chinese and Western. When you add in the popular cultures from many provinces from modern China of the post-May 4 era, the result is that Taiwan has had an information explosion since the lifting of martial law, with all forms of media showing amazing pluralism and diversity. In recent years Taiwan's creativity has been harnessed to the mainland market and with mainland talent, producing successes in the realms of popular music and film.
One looks forward even more to the future education market. The complete e-ification of information will give both greater depth and dispersion to knowledge. Distance learning and language instruction will become common, so that education will know no national boundaries. Meanwhile, the combination of culture and the arts, environmental protection, and the tourism and entertainment industries, will raise the quality of life. The land and air will no longer be sacrificed to economic prosperity, because the omnipresence of a humanistic education will make us appreciate what we have now. The digital cultural industries of the future will inevitably be an alliance among the great masters from all walks of life, and the benefits of cooperation will far outweigh those of conflict.
Will the information era, which dealt a blow to the 20th century economic structure, bring us closer to Utopia? We'll just have to wait and see.