Giving Taiwan its Due

Like most people who have had the opportunity to live and work in Taiwan, members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei deeply appreciate the many virtues of this society. The Chamber’s recently conducted 2017 Business Climate Survey, the main results of which are reported in this issue, underscored this wide recognition of the positive features Taiwan has to offer.

Although the respondents considered that extensive regulatory reform and other improvements are needed to enable Taiwan to reach its full economic potential, the survey offered evidence that Taiwan provides a sound environment in which business operations are profitable and companies continue to invest and expand employment. The survey-takers also voiced their enthusiasm about such important elements of the business climate as the high-quality, safe, and hospitable living conditions, as well as the industriousness, trustworthiness, and productivity of the workforce.

Equally impressive (though outside the scope of the survey) has been Taiwan’s political development over the past several decades from authoritarian rule to a vibrant and open democracy.

Unfortunately, Taiwan’s relative diplomatic isolation and frequent overshadowing by its giant neighbor across the Strait have often deprived Taiwan of the international recognition it deserves. It was therefore gratifying to see two recent, somewhat surprising indications that Taiwan is gaining increased attention and respect in the global community.

The first was Taiwan’s emergence in a survey by the German-based expatriate network InterNations as the world’s best place to live for expats, beating out 66 other countries. InterNations noted that foreigners living in Taiwan are especially impressed with the quality and affordability of the healthcare system. High scores were also given for work-life balance, “the friendliness of local residents toward foreigners,” and leisure options such as mountain hiking and cycling. The survey asked 14,300 expats living in 191 countries or territories to rate 43 different aspects of life abroad. In addition to being number one overall, Taiwan scored within the top 10 in each individual index. The favorable results closely matched the views that business leaders within AmCham Taipei have consistently expressed over the seven years that the Business Climate Survey has been conducted.

The second recent development was the release of the latest “Freedom in the World” report by Freedom House, the Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization that promotes democracy, political freedom, and human rights. In the new report, Taiwan received an overall score of 91 out of a possible 100, even exceeding the 89 points accorded the United States and the 90 for France. Freedom House particularly noted Taiwan’s improvement in the category of civil liberties, citing its “demonstrations of media independence and academic freedom in recent years, including in media coverage of the 2016 elections.”

Both examples speak to Taiwan’s attractiveness as a place for doing business. Quality of life considerations are rapidly growing in importance as many other locations within the Asia Pacific region are impacted by such concerns as mounting pollution, rising costs, and social unrest. Progress in political rights and civil liberties makes for a more stable and sound environment in which to live and work.

AmCham Taipei looks forward both to continued improvements in Taiwan society and to heightened international awareness of what Taiwan has to offer.