Can Israel hold the key to a global comeback for Taiwan?

Noa Lifshitz
Can Israel hold the key to a global comeback for Taiwan?

The Taiwanese economy experienced some serious challenges in 2015, but it finally seems to be exiting this recession

Despite having a strong presence in the global tech industry, Taiwan’s economy has been experiencing serious challenges, influencing the country’s economic growth. To increase competitiveness with other global players like mainland China and Singapore, Taiwan-based companies are shifting from traditional hardware and OEM sectors to software and services.

Yet, if these companies want to dominate global markets, they must develop stronger international communication skills.

With a capitalist economy largely based on hi-tech exports to the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, the U.S., Singapore, and Japan, Taiwan is a major player in the global supply chain of tech-related products. The Taiwanese economy experienced some serious challenges in 2015, but it finally seems to be exiting this recession.

Taiwan’s National Development Council: Taiwan Must Increase Competitiveness

According to the United States Census Bureau, Taiwan is the tenth-largest trading partner of the U.S., accounting for 1.8% of the country’s total trade. Yet China (first-largest), Japan (fourth), and South Korea (sixth) account for a total of 24.2% of U.S. global trade. So how can Taiwan increase its competitiveness?

The first, and possibly the easiest thing it can do to compete with mainland China, is to improve its global communications.

Taiwan ranks #33 of 72 countries and #9 of 19 Asian countries in the Education First English Proficiency Index, lagging behind countries like Singapore and Malaysia (ranked first and second respectively in Asian countries). According to PISA (The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment) results, Asia has many strong education systems, Taipei included, yet out of Asian countries, only Singapore has high English proficiency.

Also read: Taiwan can be the next innovation hub in Asia, with deep tech as its main driving force

In a press conference following the American Chamber of Commerce Taipei Office’s 2016 Annual Business Climate Survey, the then AmCham chairman, Thomas Fann (范炘) stated: “English capability is the major problem … I must say, that most Taiwanese talents’ English is not very good.”

Fann mentioned the engineering, finance, and marketing industries as those suffering the most, since many Taiwanese talents are recruited to Hong Kong and Singapore. He also added, “It is my understanding that many companies in Taiwan decide to use English as the ‘company language.’ I think it is a good thing to elevate the capability but the total amount of these companies is not good enough.”

Why Don’t More Taiwanese Companies Work with U.S. Marketing and Media Agencies?

The main problem many Taiwanese companies face when collaborating with U.S. agencies is the incredible time difference. Taiwan is 12 hours ahead of East Coast, and 15 hours ahead of West Coast time, meaning there are no overlapping working hours between the two countries, making communication slow and messy.

A convenient solution is to look for English marketing services elsewhere.

Israel: “The Startup Nation”

With a population of only 8 million people, Israel is leading the way in hi-tech global leadership, and is often referred to as “The Startup Nation”. With Israeli companies like “Waze” purchased by major global players and an increasing interest from Chinese and American VCs, Israeli tech and tech-related fields, such as marketing and finance, are flourishing.

And as the only Jewish state in the world, it’s a country full of multilingual immigrants with very high English proficiency.

Israel and Taiwan share many similarities. Both are small democratic countries surrounded by enemies, both grew to become hardware and software hubs in the hi-tech industry, and most importantly – the time difference between the two is a mere 5 hours.

These similarities, along with the 2011 reciprocal visa-free program for Taiwanese and Israeli travelers, help strengthen business collaborations between the two states. In an article published in The Times Of Israel, Ernest Lin, a top executive of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) stated that the two countries “… have good business relationships with China, and there are a lot more markets to serve there. There’s no reason we can’t all work together on projects that will benefit all of us.”

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