SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

Taiwan in Transition: Challenges Facing Taiwan's Economy and Changing Society Public Roundtable

Professor Li-Hsuan Cheng, Professor Yi-Ling Chen, Professor Yen-Hsin Alice Cheng, Professor Zong-Rong Lee, Professor Thung-Hong Lin, Professor Chen-Yu Lin, Professor Wing-Fai Leung, Professor Kuan-Cheng Chen

Date: 11 September 2019Time: 2:00 PM

Finishes: 11 September 2019Time: 4:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: DLT

Type of Event: Round Table

Although Taiwan has once been praised for its rapid economic growth in the post-war era and became one important case exemplary of the so-called East Asian economic miracle, its economy has however floundered and suffered from sluggish growth for the past two decades or so. Since the early 1990s, Taiwan has confronted with major political and economic transformation. The economic liberalization has given the local businesses opportunity to grow into bigger and consolidated business groups, and the force of globalization pushed the massive exodus of businesses headed west to China, in the hope to chase the low wage strategy of business survival. The companies have grown bigger in size but with lower profit margin and mostly under the control of family names; and the once backbone of Taiwanese economic miracle – the small and medium-sized enterprises -- are being increasingly squeezed.  The movement from a strong state-led developmentalism to a neoliberal market-oriented model has also concurred with the declining capacity of once capable bureaucrats in directing the economic policies, the shrinking population size and low fertility rate, and the continuing stagnant wage increase and ever-increasing wealth inequality.


Along with this path of big transformation is major changes in market and social structure that engender sharp contradictions in the face of stalling economic growth and growing social unrest. Yet few studies have been done to unravel what has happened to Taiwan and lay out its economic prospects. This SOAS-IOS joint workshop is part of a book project that hopes to bring scholars on Taiwan together in order to detail various aspects of this transformation and help identify the social and economic challenges Taiwan now faces. There are about a dozen of scholars being invited to participate the project and two workshops are scheduled respectively. In this first workshop, there will be six papers addressing related topics:


■ The survival patterns of Taiwanese subcontracting firms 

■ The continuous dominance of family business in the economy

■ Neoliberal path of housing policy and its impact on the economy

■ The financialization of the market and its influence on business and society

■ The declining fertility rate and the labor supply prospect

■ New technology and development of music industry 

CTS-IMG-Taiwan in Transition Image

In this public round table, workshop participants are invited to address the debates in the hope to facilitate the dialogues regarding the issues of economic and social transitions of Taiwan. While each panelist has investigated and reported individual research on various dimensions of this transformation (on housing industry, population change, financial market, globalization of manufacturing firms, family business groups, and cultural industry), panelists are encouraged to discuss the following topics that will help elucidate a global understanding underlining this transition:

■ What are the most salient structural features of Taiwan’s economic and social transitions in the past three decades and what are the consequences and challenges Taiwan now faces? Are there common driving forces and shared patterns of transition in each of the related dimensions examined above?

■ Is Taiwan’s experience uniquely different from its East Asian neighboring economies? Or the challenges that Taiwan now face represent a common feature of East Asian capitalism?

■ What are the likely policy solutions to help Taiwan achieve strong and sustained economic growth amidst the economic stagnation and sharpening social contradictions? 

■ Are the economic and social changes relevant to the broader political dynamics in and around the islands? In what ways do these structural changes reflect in the current political debates, party politics or -- on a broader level -- the cross-strait relations and international politics? 

■ What is the likely path of Taiwanese capitalism in the future? And what are the structural constraints holding the course of its development from going otherwise? 

* This SOAS CTS event is free and open to members of the public without prior registration. You simply need to sign in at reception on the day and they will give you a guest pass and direct you to the venue.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies & IOS

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