Field Research in Taiwan 2018
November 21 to 27, 2018
The Graduate School of Economics organized a week-long field research trip to Taiwan in November 2018. The research trip was organized in order to provide an opportunity for participating students to understand and experience the current economic, social and political situation in Taiwan. The trip incorporated several visits that helped students gain an appreciation of Taiwan’s experience of economic development, its current situation and future challenges. In addition, the trip aimed at further encouraging international student and academic exchange between Kyoto University and two Taiwanese universities: National Taiwan University (NTU) and National Chengchi University (NCCU). Towards this end, a joint-graduate school workshop was held at NTU, and special lectures were held at NCCU.
After travelling to Taipei the first day of the field research trip began with a visit to NCCU where we had the pleasure of hearing an informative talk by Prof. Yeh-Chung Lu titled “Three is a Crowd? The Cross-Strait Relations and the Role of the US under Trump”. The talk led into a lively discussion between Prof. Lu and KU students about international relations and the complexities of Taiwan’s specific political situation. The dynamic political scene in Taiwan and the importance of foreign relations in this scene was evident to us throughout our trip which coincided with mayoral elections. The sound of the political campaigning in the streets was probably the soundtrack to this trip.
In the afternoon we visited the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association where the head of the association responded very frankly to a whole host of questions from KU students on Taiwan’s socio-economic and political situation. This visit also provided fascinating insight into how Taiwan’s relations with Japan are conducted in practice despite non-formal recognition.
On day two, participants attended another special lecture. This time it was given by Prof. Zheng Li-Chen of NCCU with the title, “The Dual Globalization in Taiwanese Economy”. This lecture approached the Taiwanese economy from multiple perspectives, reflecting Prof. Zheng’s background in sociology, and gave several insights into Taiwan’s economic miracle, but also several underlying weaknesses in Taiwan’s economy. Taiwan has had great success in the development of its manufactures but it has done so producing components rather than final products and as such has largely failed to develop recognizable global brands. Comparatively low GDP per capita relative to Taiwan’s comparatively high level of human capital have also meant that Taiwan struggles to retain some of its most talented workforce.
After the lecture, participants visited the headquarters of LITE-ON, a Taiwanese firm which specializes in electronics components. Underlining the points made in Prof. Zheng’s lecture, LITE-ON is not world renowned, however, it is globally competitive and provided components for several instantly recognizable electronics brands. This was evident in the exhibition room at LITE-ON HQ where we were introduced to the history of the firm, their current operations, and of course their products. We also heard a talk about the company’s plans to develop smart applications which was followed by an active discussion about the business.
The following day we visited the Sanzhi area and the mountain area north of Taipei thanks to the support of Dr. Yu-Hua Chen from College of Bioresources and Agriculture, NTU. Here we heard about local, grassroots efforts to develop and promote sustainable agriculture and agro-tourism in the face of urban sprawl and a greying of rural areas. It was really inspiring to hear about and then see the fruit of such efforts at rural revitalisation. Several of our students have an interest in agriculture and/or rural/regional development policy and so this trip really resonated with their research.
The next day saw students present the latest stages of their MA or PhD research at a joint-graduate school workshop held at NTU. Arranged by Dr. Ming-Jen Lin (Chair of Department of Economics, NTU), the workshop had a full programme of presenters from Kyoto University and from our Taiwanese partners, and thus took up the whole day. It provided an excellent opportunity to share ideas and receive feedback on on-going research. It really was a full day of intense and enjoyable research exchange that certainly deepened our relationship with our Taiwanese partners. The final day of this field research in East Asia trip was a “cultural” day in which we visited the National Palace Museum to learn about the history and culture of Chinese people through the comprehensive display. The story of how the display itself survived several conflicts and ended up in Taipei is another interesting aspect of this impressive collection.
Overall, this trip was a success. It enhanced students’ knowledge of the current socioeconomic situation in East Asia, helped them develop their research projects, deepened our exchange with Taiwanese partners NTU and NCCU, and provided us all with several fond memories to cherish for years to come. Thank you Taiwan!