Taiwan aims to be Asia's higher education hub
The government in Taiwan is forging the island into a higher education center in Asia, aiming specifically at attracting college students from Southeast Asia and Chinese language learners from around the world, President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday.
Taiwan aims to be Asia's higher education hubBy The China Post Alan Fong
Ma highlighted the new aspect of the country's long-term strategy in his opening address at the CommonWealth Economic Forum on Taiwan's role in the region.
"When I was a student, only about 20 percent of high school students received university educations, now the number is over 90 percent," Ma pointed out. A high college enrollment rate underlines the capacity by Taiwanese universities to provide education to overseas students.
"I have been told on more than one occasion by officials from Southeast Asian countries that if universities in Taiwan will provide more programs taught in English, the country will be very attractive to high school students there," Ma remarked.
This strategy not only helps the development of Taiwanese universities, but also promotes Taiwan in Asia through the "student ambassadors" taking their experiences from Taiwan and emotional attachment to the island back to their home countries, Ma suggested.
Taiwan also holds a special advantage in drawing from the growing number of people learning the Chinese language. "We cannot compete with mainland China in terms of market size, but we have an edge over the mainland in terms of the quality of our courses and our ability to teach both traditional and simplified Chinese," the president explained. He expects Taiwan to attract about 160,000 Chinese learners.
In addition to its plan to become an educational hub, Taiwan also plays an important role for regional integration in Asia. After signing the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China last year, Taiwan has made substantial progress in trade talks with countries such as Singapore and the U.S., Ma said.
The ECFA will also help Taiwan's strategy of becoming a center of innovation, as businesses worldwide with an eye on the China market might consider establishing their production and research operations in Taiwan to enjoy tariff concessions the ECFA provides.
The country is also utilizing its geographic advantage as the center of East Asia to expand direct flight routes after the launch of the Taipei-Tokyo and Taipei-Shanghai flights last year, Ma added. It is in talks with South Korea to establish direct flights between Taipei's Songshan Airport and Seoul's Gimpo International Airport.
The president expressed that Taiwan might have experienced 10 percent growth in 2010 thanks to better-than-expected December numbers. He confirmed that the government is considering pay raises for civil servants and is encouraging business leaders at the forum to follow suit.
Furthermore, Yuriko Koike, chairwoman of the Japanese opposition Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) General Council, highlighted in her keynote speech Taiwan's democratic foundation as an important aspect of its rule in Asia.
While she expressed strong disagreement over the policies by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which she branded a group of "amateurs," especially on the dispute with the U.S. on the American military base in Okinawa, the lawmaker recognized the LDP's defeat in 2009 as a call for change by the people.
The friction between Japan and the U.S. had emboldened China in the region; strong ties between Japan and the U.S. are in the best interest for the security of the region, including that of Taiwan, she said.
The LDP will strive to regain power from the DPJ in order to give "sound and sustainable" governance for a nation that faces the challenge of a graying population, she vowed. Such changes based on democracy are the contributions Japan and Taiwan can give to Asia, even to China, she suggested.
The former Japanese Minister of Environment also called for Taiwan and Japan to work together to develop green alternatives to the "rare earth" elements, which are vital to production of electronic goods worldwide, but 90 percent of which is produced by China in part due to the high environmental costs to mine the radioactive substances.
China was also a key topic in the second keynote speech by Charles Goddard, Asia-Pacific editorial director of the Economist Intelligence Unit. Goddard predicted 2011 to be a year of binary worlds: of the Republicans versus the Democrats, of the sluggishly growing rich nations versus the fast growing emerging nations (which Goddard suggests be named high-growth nations), of the employed and unemployed, of the haves versus the have nots, as well as of China versus the U.S.
2011 will be another tough year for the global economy with the "high-growth world" faring better, the U.S. probably staying resilient, while the peripheral eurozone nations will still be in much trouble, Goddard suggested. The world will also see a New African Age in 2011, when several African nations will find themselves among the world's top growers, with Ghana at the very top.
For consumers, the year will herald the beginning of the "pay war" in which a growing number of publications start to charge users for online content, Goddard suggested.
The first day of the forum also covered a wide range of topics including the role of East Asia, India, Vietnam and other ASEAN nations and China's environmental "green cat" policy (allusion to Deng Xiaoping's famous "white cat, black cat" remark). The forum concludes today.