As per title, what’s holding the place up from reaching it’s full potential.
First I’d need to state my personal definition of what I mean by developed country .
Is it incomes?
There are many definitions, but according to the World Bank, GNI per capita, data.worldbank.org/about/country-classifications
, Taiwan is a high income country (>12k USD GNI per capita), so let’s say it’s not income related (many European countries must be on roughly equivalent average wages especially if you take into account the unemployed masses.
Is it inequality?
While inequality in Taiwan is growing at a very fast rate, other developed countries such as the US perhaps have worse inequality overall. It is a problem though as wages have stagnated so long.
Is it infrastructure?
Nope, Taiwan overall has a very good infrastructure not withstanding large gaps like sewerage systems and pavements. Their electricity network, water, telecommunications, ports, airports, they are all equal to many developed countries or better in some cases.
Is it education?
The vast majority of school graduates go on to graduate from 3rd level institutions. However the quality of said institutions is a serious concern.
Is it lack of social welfare?
Not really. Although Taiwan could do a lot more in terms of social welfare from my European perspective, for an American Taiwan has a generous healthcare system and low taxes.
Is it the health system?
Nope, Taiwan’s health system is well respected, it has it’s problems but works well overall, it’s electronic records system is world class and access to healthcare must be among the best in the world
Is it daily corruption?
Nope, daily life mostly doesn’t corrupt interactions with officials
Is it efficiency in getting things done?
Nope, you can get a phone installed or the internet in days, it’s easy to buy a car or a scooter and apply for a driving test and relatively easy to get a visa or deal with immigration or tax authorities, lots of services are even online
Is it religious fundamentalism and intolerance?
No I don’t think so. Taiwan is refreshingly free of religious interference (excepting the recent homosexual marriage protests) and tolerance levels are high for all types of people. People live and let live here.
Is it the awareness of the outside world?
Yes and no. Even a country like the US has many citizens with little understanding of countries beyond it’s borders, but nobody would say it is an undeveloped country. Taiwan is quite isolated though politically and culturally. There is little practical awareness of foreign countries and cultures.
So what is it that makes Taiwan FEEL like it’s not fully a developed country sometimes and why is it fair to say this FEELING is REALITY or not.
I have my own perspective and I’d like to hear others.
I think it comes from these factors
- Lack of individual opinions
The mark of a developed society is the ability to give and hear opinions in general discourse (within reason).
I struggle to get people’s opinions on the most mundane things sometimes.
- Lack of civic organisation and local neighbourhood spirit
Local neigbourhoods and villages and towns lack civic spirit to push for higher standards. The odd community like Meinong develops this , but the vast majority of Taiwan seems to lack this civic spirit. It often feels like a collection of individuals and families living together and working together and eating together but not ‘coming together’. If you don’t organise and challenge your bosses or local cartels, nobody will get a pay hike. If you don’t pressure the government, you won’t get a better social welfare system or cleaner water.
Even finding a footpath that is clear of scooters or flat is a major challenge. This is a real marker of 3rd world status in my book, on one level because it stops people just getting around and exercising or walking with their kids safely, and on the other shows that something is seriously wrong in either thought processes , community ethics or the ability to get things done.
-Lack of willingness to challenge the status quo
Goes back to point 1. But change starts with challenge to the current status. If nobody challenges it…things proceed as is.
-Lack of education and understanding of your own democratic rights and the meaning of democracy
Votes are sold all over the island for a few hundred NTD each. Selling votes is very rare in developed countries AFAIK. Politicians may promise this and that, but direct and organised vote buying is a real mark of an undeveloped country
-Rote education system
Although there are other Asian countries that use the rote type learning education system, I feel it is not fit for purpose and a real developed country would move away from this more quickly and allow children more freedom of expression and in personal choice. This is a big problem in terms of causing many other of the problems listed here.
-Lack of environmental awareness
People here have an enormous capacity to ignore the pollution from the motor vehicles, the dirty water, the overuse of pesticides, the illegal recycling and metal plants in the middle of farmland all over Taiwan. They just keep on planting their rice and veggies beside it and everybody goes on living. Until they are TOLD it’s a problem.
-Over emphasis on money , superficial emphasis on face saving rather than doing your job properly and ethically
This is a problem that runs through the educated classes, in the government especially. Many Taiwanese have been educated overseas, but when they come back they end up getting sucked back into the system. They know there are better ways to do things, but they don’t do them. They just sit there and go through the motions and wait for the pensions. Look at the mayor of Taichung as an example, he has a PhD from Cambridge and the President has a PhD from Harvard. CSB was a law professor at NTU. This doesn’t stop them being rotten or useless at their job.
However ‘chabuduism’ is also rife in the middle and lower classes. Just good enough, no more effort will be applied. Short-term always over long-term.
I’ve been dealing with many service and business people. They have a saying in Taiwan ‘yi fen qian yi fen huo’. You get what you pay for. But in a real developed country, people will still do their job properly just for their own pride a lot of the time. Just do your job ethically and properly. Have pride in yourself and your work. Don’t take the money and do a shitty job. Have pride to say ‘no I won’t take the money’ or ‘yes I will do it’.
-Overemphasis on accumulation of money instead of developing personal interests and hobbies and local culture and making time for living
Japan feels more developed to me , even though it is not much different than Taiwan in some ways. All people around the world would like more money. However life is not only about money. For many ethnic Chinese life really does seem to revolve almost completely about money, to the detriment of other things.
Contrast Taiwan with Japan, while both have hard working cultures and emphasize material possessions, many Japanese cultivate hobbies and have an interest in maintaining their local culture. They also have about 15-20 more public holidays than Taiwan per year.
-Mistreatment of foreign workers and identity being the same as race
This one screams ‘undeveloped’ to me. Excepting places like Singapore, most developed countries that I can think of tend to treat legal immigrants (and their own citizens) fairly according to their country of origin or race. In Taiwan there is real discrimination against workers from South East Asia and also latent racism against darker people. There are different levels of citizens according to your ethnic background. Local born citizens can have dual nationality, newly formed citizens can only hold ROC nationality.
-Mistreatment of animals
This is still rampant, although much improved. Some day in the next 10 years hopefully this one would come off my personal list.
-Playing the blame game
Taiwanese are fond of blaming the government, blaming the bosses, of blaming the other party, of blaming the Americans and the Chinese. But in the end it’s Taiwanese who need to look inwards and think, hold it a second, the only common factor in these issues is US. First they need to look in at their own society, really look, and question things themselves. I know the importance of this one, because I’m also from an island nation with a history of colonisation. It’s so easy to blame other groups for your own society’s failings. But in the end, it’s up to your own society to dig into that can of worms and chuck out the rotten bits and add in some fresh stuff to make it better. It’s tough, , people don’t like it, but it has to be done.
I haven’t mentioned the positives too much, like tolerance, working to succeed, self reliance etc. But I think it’s the problems above that stop Taiwan going from GOOD to GREAT. It’s the individuals that are the problem, not the government or the bosses. It’s the weakness of the individuals ability to challenge their received education and cultural training and to organise themselves into a more powerful cohesive mass that holds the nation back.