Back to the Future: Vision 2020

In the fall of 2007, Taiwan Business TOPICS invited 14 experts to offer their thoughts on “what Taiwan should aim to be like” in their areas of expertise by the year 2020, and how to achieve those goals. Their views were published in the November 2007 edition of TOPICS under the heading “Vision 2020.” With 2020 now upon us, TOPICS sought to re-engage with the authors to see how their observations have held up over the intervening nearly 13 years. We managed to re-establish contact with most of them. Their comments follow below.

Economic Development

Chen Tain-jy, professor of economics at National Taiwan University. He was Chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development in 2008-2009 and Minister of its successor organization, the National Development Council, in 2016-2017.

Main points from 2007:

  • Taiwan’s manufacturing sector will grow more sophisticated, moving away from contract production.
  • Service sector development will be more of a challenge.
  • Tourism will increase in economic importance.
  • Extensive tax reform will be needed to foster investment.

The view in 2020

In 2007, I predicted that Taiwan’s per-capita GDP would reach US$30,000 in 2020. According to the most recent statistics, the forecast is US$27,298. Apparently, the Taiwan economy did not live up to my expectation.

Nevertheless, given that Taiwan’s per-capita GDP in 2007 was only US$17,814, per-capita GDP (in nominal terms) has grown 53% over that time. With only mild inflation throughout the period, it was a respectable performance by any measure.

I said at the time that in order to achieve the US$30,000 income level, Taiwan needs to move up the value chains in the manufacturing sector. Taiwan has half-succeeded on that account. With downstream operations having relocated to China, Taiwan’s manufacturing industry has significantly increased its technology content and has secured many important positions in the supply of key components, notably in the semiconductor sector. But Taiwan has failed the other half in terms of brand building, and therefore was unable to enhance the output value through cross-field integration.

Taiwan has also completely failed in upgrading its service sector despite efforts by the government and industry. It attempted to export services to China to overcome the scale constraints on the sector, but did not succeed because of China’s protectionist policy and the domestic opposition to looming over-dependence on the China market.

The only bright spot in the service industry is the development of international tourism. Inbound tourists have risen from 3.7 million in 2007 to over 10 million in recent years. Although the quality of tourist services needs to be upgraded, the sheer number of tourists provides an opportunity for establishing a valuable service sector that offers quality jobs, if properly managed.

Looking forward, Taiwan will continue to move up the value chains with its technological prowess. However, more attention needs to be paid to the service sector if Taiwan wants to become a truly advanced economy.

High-tech Industry

Peter Kurz, widely known as “Mr. Taiwan” for his knowledge of the Taiwan market, for many years was head of research for Citigroup in Taiwan.

Main points from 2007:

  • Taiwan industry needs new growth areas; the most promising are branded products, IC design, and materials science. These industries will develop on the infrastructure of electronics manufacturing in China.
  • In biotech, Taiwan has good opportunities in drug discovery, cooperating with U.S. partners for clinical trials, manufacturing, and distribution.

The view in 2020

Looking back at my prognostications from 13 years ago, I see three big misses. The first was not forecasting the rising concentration of the tech industry and in particular the increasing dominance of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Thirteen years ago, TMSC accounted for 7% of the total market capitalization of the Taiwan Stock Exchange – now it’s 24%.

But MediaTek, the largest IC design company in Taiwan, was 2% of market cap 13 years ago…and is still 2% today. So, the growth of the IC design industry I had expected never really happened. MediaTek is the granddaddy of the industry here in Taiwan and yet still struggles to gain dominating scale. It turns out that unless you are the determinant of the industry standard – like Intel and ARM are to CPUs, Nvidia is to graphics processing chips (which are also used in AI applications), and Qualcomm is to communication chips – then you are either forced to compete on very thin margins or into small niche market segments. TSMC, on the other hand, is the leading manufacturer for them all.

My second big miss was the expectation that major new brands would be emerging from Taiwan. However, I would ascribe this more to political than economic reasons. Thirteen years ago, Taiwan was taking a more notable turn toward improving commercial ties with China. With a few exceptions, the only successful consumer brands developed by Taiwanese corporations outside of Taiwan were in China, primarily in the processed food industry. It is difficult for Taiwanese companies to develop brands in foreign markets like the U.S. or Europe due to the cultural and geographic gaps. Taiwanese companies needed a large contiguous market with little entrenched national brand competition. China offered Taiwan exactly this, the hinterland it never had – and as it turned out, never got.

I lamented in my 13-year forecast that the PC industry had matured and that Taiwan tech needed a new driver to fill factory order books. It turns out that the smartphone emerged as that killer app and continued sector growth for another decade. As I suspected, that allowed companies with strong material science skills like Largan – the globally dominant lens maker for these smartphones – to reign.

The iPhone alone accounted for over one-third of Taiwan tech industry revenues. But alas, that too, is stagnating in terms of unit shipments, just as PCs were 13 years ago.

So, then what will be the next driver, the next killer app for Taiwan tech? Wearables and IoT may not be the answer. In the past, these key factory fillers were always largescale, standardized products – the PC, the notebook, the smartphone – and only after they were standardized by a common protocol such as the Wintel platform, iOS, or Android.

Electric vehicles, or dare I say the smart-car, may rise to this role, at least for components and subsystems. Taiwanese companies are already key suppliers to Tesla and the rising installed base of EVs in China. Let’s check back in 13 years to see.

Service Sector

Peter Sutton, co-founder and CEO of Woodpecker Learning, was formerly head of Taiwan research for CLSA Asia Pacific Markets.

Main points from 2007:

  • Rather than financial services and tourism, the two largest sub-sectors are government services and the internal services that companies provide to themselves. Making these two areas more efficient will be the key to greater productivity and creation of high-income jobs.
  • Taiwan is an excellent location for a corporate head office, but many companies are put off by lack of easy access to China and the daunting government bureaucracy.

The view in 2020

Thirteen years ago, I wrote about what a great place Taiwan could be for having a regional head office – if only the government would ease up on a few things. Today it is a much better place for having a regional office, and with what is happening in China and Hong Kong, there must be many companies thinking about alternative locations right now.

Some things, such as direct flights to China, are no longer a big problem. However, while the situation for business and work visas for PRC nationals has improved a lot, there is still a lot the government could do in this area.

The key to higher incomes in Taiwan is growing the service sector and reducing regulations so that productivity within the service sector can grow. Regional head office services should be something that the government actively targets in the same way that U.S. cities and states target companies there. In Taiwan’s case, there is no need to provide the money – just ease up on the regulations regarding employment, travel, and (in some cases) personal and corporate taxation. Other countries and cities in Asia are doing this and Taiwan needs to join the competition.

Regional Relations

Philip Bowring, a veteran journalist and commentator based in Hong Kong, was formerly editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Main points from 2007:

  • Taiwan needs to do more to take advantage of its excellent geographic location right in the middle of the region.
  • Although Taiwan has the needed money, people skills, and most of the physical infrastructure, it thus far lacks the vision and the will to succeed as a regional player.
  • Most Southeast Asian countries are sympathetic to Taiwan, but they want economic ties, not political ones.

The view in 2020

My fundamental point from 13 years ago, the need for Taiwan to leverage its geographic position, remains true. Perhaps it was insufficiently exploited in the days when cross-Strait relations were better and Taiwan’s industries more integrated with mainland export processors. But with Xi Jinping’s nationalist rhetoric and demands for reunification, that is no longer the case.

The combined processes of onshoring and diversification of manufacturing to Southeast Asia and elsewhere has plenty of scope yet – and Taiwan will probably need it as Chinese pressure escalates. But the regional and international climate is now more receptive, given Beijing’s over-reach.

Taiwan can still do a lot to liberalize its service sector, which would attract business and allow outsiders more of a stake in the country. It could also do more to reach out, in apolitical ways, to its Asian neighbors. The Tsai administration’s New Southbound Policy of recent years is welcome recognition of the value for Taiwan of developing stronger connections with other countries in the region.

Financial Sector

Schive Chi, one of Taiwan’s foremost economists, has held such posts as president of the Taiwan Stock Exchange Corp., president of the Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance, and vice chairman of what was then the government’s Council for Economic Planning and Development.

Main points from 2007:

  • Banking consolidation will continue, with more cases involving foreign banks and more involvement by state-owned banks. The establishment of new banks should also be made easier.
  • By 2020, Taiwan banks should be making significant inroads into the China market.
  • For the financial sector to meet its potential, the regulators will have to change their approach – avoiding over-regulation and promoting innovation.
  • In the next stage of development, success will also depend on having more sophisticated, more internationally minded personnel.

The view in 2020

Thirteen years ago, I made a bold prediction about the future of Taiwan’s financial market. Rereading that article now, I feel a little bit uneasy, but I console myself that I was right in most of what I said, though I totally missed two new developments.

First, I said that “More M&A cases involving foreign banks can be expected to occur.” In 2006, Standard Chartered had acquired Hsinchu International, a local commercial bank transformed from a credit union, and a year later Citibank Overseas Investment Group applied for upgrading its local branch to a fully owned subsidiary by merging with the bankrupted Overseas Chinese bank. A troubled local bank, Cosmos, was under restructuring, helped by GE Capital.

The M&A activity by foreign banks continued. Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) established a local branch in 1980, which was upgraded to a subsidiary in 2013, and expanded by taking over the credit card and consumer banking departments from Australia New Zealand Bank (ANZ) in 2019. Most of the expansion of foreign banks’ local operations have come from acquiring the existing facilities of other banks, largely credit unions.

Secondly, an unexpected result of the privatization of state-owned banks in the 1990s is that the government still tightly controls five “privatized” banks, though with minority shares that are still large enough to dominate the banks’ boards. Even worse is that Taishin Bank’s acquisition of government-controlled Chang Hwa Bank, which should have been a positive development, turned out to be a mess. The state banks, including the above-mentioned quasi-privatized ones, still occupy a significant share of the banking sector, something unforeseen 13 years ago.

Thirdly, I said that “by 2020, and hopefully long before, the current obstacles to cross-Strait banking activities should be removed.” Thanks to the warm cross-Strait relationship developed during the Ma administration, many breakthroughs have occurred in the financial sector, banking in particular. By January 2019, five Taiwanese banks had set up China subsidiaries. In return, the PRC’s Bank of China, Bank of Communications, and China Construction Bank opened subsidiaries in Taiwan, while China Merchants Bank and China Agriculture Bank have opened representative offices. The mutual penetration of banks has facilitated cross-Strait foreign-exchange remittance and granting loans for Taiwanese companies in China. Given the heavy financial flows in line with the close cross-Strait economic ties, Taipei joined Hong Kong and London as a Renminbi offshore center.            

Finally, those two developments unforeseen 13 years ago. First, the unprecedented rapid development and broad applications of fintech in China, aided by the fast growth of the relatively underdeveloped domestic financial market, the friendly government policy toward financial innovation, and support from the strong IT industry. Second, China has accelerated the opening of its financial markets across the board following the end of the first round of the U.S.-China trade dispute. National treatment will soon be granted unanimously to foreigners in the financial sector. That represents both a serious challenge and great opportunity for Taiwanese bankers’ interests in China.

Democratic Consolidation

Richard C. Bush, Director for the Center for Northeast Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., is a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan.

Main points from 2007:

  • Improve the integrity of public officials and reduce corruption.
  • Raise the institutional quality of the Legislative Yuan (LY).
  • Encourage political parties to improve their ability to develop policy ideas.
  • Upgrade the professional standards of the mass media.
  • Alter the semi-presidential system to create a more effective systems of checks and balances.
  • Evaluate whether the 2004-05 electoral reforms brought about a more centrist political system, which would require that leaders of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cooperate more closely.

The view in 2020

Re-reading my contribution to the “2020” series of articles that Taiwan Business TOPICS commissioned in 2007, I don’t know whether to be pleased or worried that my views haven’t changed. I would prefer that Taiwan had changed for the better, and that what I wrote in 2007 was now badly out of date. Yet I fear that the same problems in fact persist despite some effort at finding solutions. I know that if devising solutions were easy, the problems would have disappeared or diminished. The fact that the problems persist demonstrates the degree of difficulty.

To reiterate the key points of my 2007 essay, I was concerned that the consolidation and institutionalization of Taiwan’s political system was moving slowly and had constrained the island’s leaders from strengthening the economy, the military, and so on. Consequently, it was going to be harder to meet the challenge from China. I specified a number of reforms that I thought would put Taiwan on a better footing, both domestically and externally.

Thirteen years on, what has happened in each of these areas? On the positive side, it is my impression that 1) corruption is not as serious a problem as it was during the Chen Shui-bian administration; 2) the LY operates more on the basis of majority rule, and veto groups are less able to obstruct legislation (a good result in my view); and 3) the major parties take more seriously the responsibility to develop policy ideas.

In addition, and very importantly, both the Ma and Tsai administrations have shown more maturity in handling Mainland policy than their predecessors, even as they differ on what those policies should be. Contrary to warnings from Beijing that a move towards de jure independence will occur soon, that is quite unlikely. Also significantly, the Taiwan-U.S. relationship is more stable because there is a better alignment of national interests and closer communication.

On the negative side, first, professional standards in the media have not improved and arguably have declined. In particular, the Mainland’s intrusion into Taiwan’s media market to serve its own goals has complicated public debate on policy issues, which was already difficult. Second, the political system is no more centrist than it was in 2007, and may be more polarized than it was then. That does not bode well for the formulation of good policies on domestic issues like energy, economic competitiveness, inequality, and caring for the elderly, to say nothing of forging policy consensus concerning China. Finally, nothing has happened regarding the political system’s basic structure, which was probably a vain hope on my part anyway.

In some respects, the environment in which politics and policymaking occur has gotten worse. China is more powerful than it was a decade ago and seems to believe that Taiwan should be more accommodating for that reason alone. The emergence of platforms like Facebook, WeChat, Line, and others has made the media environment more complex even as they have improved social connectivity.

Very concerning has been the experimentation with new forms of political action by people who are frustrated with what they see as poor performance in the political system. Examples of these are a culture of protest (e.g. the Sunflower Movement); a resort to referenda to guide policy; and populist appeals to voters, which almost by definition are simplistic in their content.

As it happened, people have had second thoughts in each of these areas. Some leaders of the Sunflower Movement have chosen to serve in the LY that they occupied in 2014, and they understand that their movement was unsuccessful in changing broad public opinion. In the 2018 elections, opponents of the Tsai government undertook referenda on nuclear energy, marriage equality, and food safety, in effect hoisting the DPP on its own petard.

Also, after the 2018 local elections it seemed that the populist “Han Wave” would transform electoral politics. But populism didn’t work in the presidential election 10 months later. That each of these methods of circumventing representative government has in some sense failed should not be taken as a signal that it was okay to get back to political business as usual. It is not. It’s a signal that unless representative government performs better in meeting the needs of society, it will be challenged again.

At the end of the day, Taiwan officials and politicians across the board must address the policy choices that face them. To avoid a choice in fact is to make a choice. Fortunately, Taiwan is blessed by having very smart people who can aid in the formulation of policy choices. Some convergence between the KMT and the DPP would certainly help the process. The stakes are too high to fail.

U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations

Bonnie S. Glaser is a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C. and a consultant for the U.S. government on East Asia.

Main points from 2007:

  • The triangular relationship must be transformed into a win-win-win situation that will bring greater economic prosperity and enhanced security for Taiwan’s citizens.
  • If Beijing can show more flexibility, the two sides should negotiate a framework for preserving stability across the Taiwan Strait.
  • Whether or not such an agreement can be reached, Taiwan’s government will wish to promote Taiwan as an economic gateway to China.
  • By 2020, Taiwan’s ties with the U.S. should be robust, devoid of the earlier friction and mistrust.
  • If political change on the mainland continues to lag behind its rapid economic growth, Taiwan will shine even brighter as a beacon of democracy.

The view in 2020

US-China-Taiwan relations have failed to achieve the progress that I hoped for in 2007. Even during the relative cross-Strait stability that prevailed during Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency, Beijing and Taipei didn’t make significant headway toward establishing a framework for preserving stability across the Taiwan Strait. My calls for confidence-building measures in the security realm went unheeded. However, many of the barriers to cross-Strait flows of people, goods, and investment were removed.

Instead of showing greater flexibility on the “one China principle” and other matters, Beijing has hardened its position. China’s decision to cut all official dialogue with Taiwan after Tsai Ing-wen’s election in 2016, and its subsequent application of military, diplomatic, and economic pressure, have heightened cross-Strait tensions.

Progress has been made in the bilateral U.S.-Taiwan relationship, however. In accordance with my recommendation, President Tsai has consistently supported the preservation of the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, alleviating concerns that Washington held when Chen Shui-bian was in power. Ties between Washington and Taipei are closer than they have been in many decades. Unfortunately, the U.S.-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement that I predicted would be signed by 2020 has not yet materialized. There are reasons to be optimistic that an FTA can be reached in the coming years, however, if sufficient political will exists on both sides to resolve outstanding issues. As I feared in 2007, rapid economic growth in China has not been accompanied by a loosening politically. Since coming to power in 2013, Xi Jinping has overseen a tightening of control over society and strengthened Chinese Communist Party control over many aspects of everyday life. In contrast, as I hoped for in my article 13 years ago, Taiwan is shining “even brighter as a beacon of democracy.”

International Relations

Retired diplomat C.J. Chen has held such important posts as Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, member of the Legislative Yuan, Director-General of the Government Information Office, and representative to the U.S. and the EU.

Main points from 2007:

  • Taiwan’s goals must be to continue to avoid international isolation and increase international participation.
  • To achieve our diplomatic goals, we must try to reach greater consensus on our national identity, face the reality of an increasingly more powerful China, find ways to cope with a more competitive and complex world, and be more practical and less ideological in conducting our international relations.
  • The status quo, though ambiguous, is the most acceptable and mutually tolerable state of affairs in cross-Strait relations.
  • By 2020, economic, commercial, educational, cultural, and other cross-Strait exchanges will have developed further. More dialogue should be encouraged, and the two sides should explore bilateral agreements in stages.
  • Taiwan needs solid, mutually beneficial relations with the U.S. and Japan, and should develop broader ties with other countries.

The view in 2020

Over the last 13 years, we have experienced some dramatic changes in the world, including the rapid rise of China, the unilateral assertion of U.S. power, Brexit, the phenomenal progress of science and technology, the deterioration of the global environment, the increasing exchanges and antagonism between Taiwan and the Mainland, and the political metamorphosis in Taiwan, to name a few. In particular, the worsening relations between the U.S. and China, the two most powerful countries in the world, open up the possibilities of some unpredictable and unwarranted developments in the days ahead.

The situation we confront, especially in our part of the world, is much more complicated than ever before, much more uncertain and gloomier. We cannot rule out some sort of confrontation or conflicts in the future. But I believe that what I wrote 13 years ago remains generally valid.

As I mentioned in my previous article, Taiwan’s future diplomacy will be determined by three major factors: 1) Taiwan’s domestic developments; 2) cross-Strait relations; 3) Taiwan’s relations with other major powers, the U.S. in particular. During the last 13 years, the most noticeable changes have been: 1) pro-independence influence in Taiwan has been steadily increasing; 2) the leadership changes in Taipei, Beijing, and Washington, D.C. have caused views, strategies, and policies vis à vis one another to be transformed; 3) Taiwan and the U.S. now both consider the PRC to be an immediate and future challenge and threat, and have strengthened their bilateral ties in numerous areas.

China, an emerging superpower, is obviously unwilling to accept a subdued role assigned by the U.S. Consequently, the status quo structure among the three has been challenged, reinterpreted, and even changed. Recent developments have already destabilized the situation and invited some tension and potential danger. Is this what we hope for? To avoid unwanted developments, I believe that we should continue to try to pursue the six points I suggested in my article regarding cross-Strait relations: Preserve a peaceful environment, maintain the status quo, understand the unique nature of the relationship, create positive conditions for engagement, explore the possibilities for a modus vivendi, and broaden diplomatic endeavors around the world.

Rule of Law

C.V. Chen is senior partner of the Taipei law firm of Lee and Li, as well as adjunct professor of law at National Chengchi University and Soochow University. He served as the founding Vice Chairman and Secretary General of the Straits Exchange Foundation.

Main points from 2007:

  • Despite much progress over the past two decades regarding judicial fairness and independence, political and other undue interference has not ended completely.
  • Judges sometimes stick too closely to the letter of the law, ignoring the spirit of the law.
  • More budget needs to be allocated to enable more and higher caliber judges to be hired.
  • Reform is needed in the way judges and prosecutors are educated and appointed.

The view in 2020

Since 2007, Taiwan has experienced substantial leaps forward in terms of rule of law, but there is still room for improvement.

In recent years, the government has committed to a host of reforms, including prison reform, improved victim protection, and legal education reform. Specialized courts have also been created, such as the Intellectual Property Court and the Labor Court. A commercial court is in the works.

In reaction to the circuitous litigation and appeals and the miscarriages of justice that were a feature of the criminal justice system, in 2010 the Legislative Yuan passed the Criminal Fair and Speedy Trial Act. But in practice, quality is sometimes sacrificed for speed. Meanwhile, legislators have yet to introduce related reform for civil and administrative litigation, which is also prone to tortuous proceedings and miscarriages of justice.

A poll conducted by the Ministry of Justice in 2019 showed that close to 60% of the people did not believe the justice system was fair. This persisting distrust may be because none of the reforms addressed the root problems. For example, a disconnect still exists between the realities of the courtroom and what is taught in law school. Moreover, all the allegations of corruption, influence peddling, and abuse of power against judges and prosecutors have only deepened the public’s mistrust.

To reverse Taiwan’s isolation in the world and lift the country’s rule of law to international standards, starting 2009 the Legislative Yuan passed enforcement rules for five core U.N. human rights conventions, which means that Taiwan courts can now invoke the human rights conventions in forming decisions. And through submission of national reports to foreign experts as required by these implementation acts, the government regularly examines its human rights records.

Certainly, democracy has propelled the rule of law forward in Taiwan. Between 2007 and 2020, the country went through four peaceful presidential elections, and notably, the ruling party and the opposition party traded places twice. The citizens participated in the democratic process enthusiastically, honoring their civic responsibility. And in 2017, the Referendum Act was amended to lower the voting age and the threshold numbers for referendum proposal initiators, petitioners, and votes needed to pass a referendum. The next year, a major referendum was held for, among others, same-sex marriage and energy policy. Regrettably, since then, the government has not followed up on the choices of the people through concrete actions.

Taiwan can take pride in the many milestone judicial reforms in the last 12 years. But we need to be ever vigilant about how democracy can be manipulated to stifle the rule of law.


Chang Ly-yun is an adjunct research fellow at the Institute of Sociology of Academia Sinica, specializing in healthcare-related issues. She is a former chair of the Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation.

Main points from 2007:

  • If healthcare governance is driven by contentious politics, the future of Taiwanese healthcare is bleak.
  • The National Health Insurance program has unleashed a profit-making incentive among supposedly non-profit healthcare providers.
  • With government encouragement, the health industry has gone international, investing overseas and promoting medical tourism in Taiwan.
  • Besides an aging population, there has been another major demographic shift in the form of new immigrants. Steps needs to be taken to ensure that they and their children are not under-served by the healthcare system.
  • Unless NHI is properly funded, there is a risk of bifurcation of healthcare according to ability to pay.

The view in 2020

The major epidemics in the history of the world have been occasions for humility and awe, as well as an opportunity to evaluate the state of our achievements in medicine and health, seriously reflect on the impact of our lifestyles on nature, and adjust our approaches to healthcare. 

The achievements in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in the 20th century have indeed been laudable. However, the epidemics that have arisen in the 21st century and the emergence of the virulent novel coronavirus from the beginning of 2020 once again caution us about the limits to human knowledge and the threats the world faces from the unknown.

It is from this perspective that I review the four major trends in Taiwan’s healthcare system that I cited 12 years ago: weak healthcare policies, a more profit-driven medical system, market promotion, and the challenges of an immigrant society. The forecast that we are headed toward two healthcare extremes seems unchanged, because the medical care system is a top-down triangle and there is still no healthy coordination between primary and tertiary care:

 1.   Whether at medical centers, small or medium-sized hospitals, or basic-level clinics, changes have occurred in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Regardless of the level, capital market intrusions have caused what was a Taiwan-based business vision to instead look across the Strait and to the rest of the world, constantly challenging the core principle of universal health insurance;

2. Paradoxically, the Taiwan-based hospital system still maintains a one-stop and multi-dimensional take-all-business strategy. Healthy competition and cooperation between medical institutions at all levels have not yet developed;

3.     Differentiation of the functions and roles of various types of healthcare clinics and pharmacies at the grass-roots level have not yet been implemented to assure a protective healthcare net and the proper allocation of resources.

I am not surprised by the trends of the past 12 years. Regardless of which party is in power, healthcare policies related to people’s daily life are always based on fine-tuning at the edges. It takes courage and determination to discuss macro visions and related policy tools. I often wonder how much investment would be needed to provide completely for the healthcare of the entire population. How to allocate health protection at all levels? What quality of medical care can be achieved at a reasonable price? How to draw the line between risk sharing and national responsibility?

These are hard questions, but the process of raising and debating them will shed light on the problem. Some proposals will emerge that take into account both public and private interests.


Richard C.T. Lee is a professor of computer science and information management at National Chi Nan University. He formerly served as president of that university and as acting president of National Tsing Hua University.

Main points from 2007:

  • The Taiwan educational system does a good job in educating the top students, but pays insufficient attention to the others, particularly those from rural and remote areas whose families may have less resources.
  • Another major shortcoming is that engineering courses are too theoretical. Greater practical orientation in the coursework would better prepare students for the working world.
  • It was a mistake to phase out so many technical and vocational schools. Many students are now receiving education beyond their ability to digest it.
  • Don’t carry localization and an inward-looking perspective too far. Students need to be more familiar with international affairs.

The view in 2020

I am sad to say that no trace can be found of any progress that has been made in the education system in our country.