Founded in May 2018, the Taiwan Asia Exchange Foundation (TAEF) is the first action tank in Taiwan to focus on exchange and collaboration with South and Southeast Asian countries and aims at promoting greater comprehensiveness and diversification of the New Southbound Policy (NSP).
In response to the NSP initiative, the TAEF has successively investigated the overall image of Taiwan and Taiwanese businesses in the major investment countries of Taiwan and Taiwanese businesses over the past three years and have published our research findings in the Image of Taiwan and Taiwanese Businesses research series. Specifically, through one-year plans for each country, we have completed surveys in Vietnam (2019), Indonesia (2020), and Thailand (2021). In this project's fourth year, we conducted a survey on the Image of Taiwan and Taiwanese Businesses in Singapore this year (2022). The findings of this year's survey shall be of substantial referential value for Taiwan and Taiwanese businesses in implementing planning for the shaping and transforming of their images.
The TAEF chose Singapore as the subject of this year's image survey project based on a comprehensive consideration of global market importance, market development potential, investment amounts of Taiwanese businesses, and future expansion and advancement of the NSP. According to statistics from the Investment Commission of the MOEA, the cumulative total of Taiwan's investment in Singapore has exceeded US$18.6 billion, accounting for 5.1% of Taiwan's total global investment and making Singapore Taiwan's fourth largest destination in terms of overseas investment. In recent years, Singapore has actively attracted high-value international companies and has committed to shifting its economic structure from labor-intensive industries to high-tech industries in order to become a Smart Nation. This initiative coincides with Taiwan's recent NSP and has been attracting Taiwan's electronics and information technology industries to invest in Singapore.
The Image of Taiwan and Taiwanese Businesses in Singapore project continued on the objective quantitative survey methods used in the previous projects and supplemented the surveys with focus group interviews in order to discern the image of Taiwan and Taiwanese businesses as perceived by the local business professionals of Singapore. We also revised relevant questionnaire item groups and response options based on the experience of the previous year. Because the industrial structure of Singapore is largely service-based, which differs considerably from that of the other countries surveyed in the previous three years, we revised the questionnaire response options according to industry type and addressed those for the non-manufacturing industry. When collecting data on willingness for future Taiwan–Singapore collaboration, we included a group of questionnaire items on bilateral collaboration that addresses the global supply chain in response to the on-going trend of the Indo-Pacific region's participation in restructuring the global supply chain. This was included to more accurately discern the pulse and trends of the Taiwan–Singapore relationship.
Over 85% of the 100 business professionals recruited in this year's survey, who have business dealings with Taiwanese businesses, had a positive image of Taiwan (88%). Specifically, most of the participants viewed Taiwan favorably for its image pertaining to its friendliness (84%), advancement in technology (69%), and respect for multiculturalism (68%). Among Singapore's top FDI sources, Taiwan was ranked by the participants as the country with the third-best image, following Switzerland and Japan. Regarding the image of Taiwanese businesses, most participants (81%) perceived Taiwanese businesses to be positive and commended the businesses for being trustworthy (81%), innovative (76%), and compliant with rules and regulations (74%). Furthermore, they commended Taiwanese businesses for introducing innovative technologies (70%) and creating job opportunities (59%). As for the image of businesses, Japanese, Taiwanese, and US businesses were found to have the most favorable image among the participants in that order. A total of 93% of the survey participants agreed that Taiwan and Singapore have favorable relations with one another. They also expressed high willingness to reinforce collaboration between the businesses of the two countries, which is identical to the result in the Thailand survey conducted last year (93%), and is higher than that in the Indonesia (75%) and Vietnam (85.9%) surveys. Regarding the areas for further collaboration, they most mentioned tourism, followed by the semiconductor and smart electronics industry of Taiwan, which enjoy global recognition. Additionally, participants who interacted with or contacted Taiwanese businesses the most frequently showed greater intentions for closer bilateral collaboration in medical and health care, which may be attributed to developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. As for the field of bilateral cooperation under the current global supply chain, approximately 70% of the survey participants stated that Taiwan plays the role of technological development and high-end product manufacturing in the current global supply chain. Nearly 60% of the participants also contended that the two countries have been working closely together in the current supply chain.
However, compared with the scores for other aspects, Taiwanese businesses received lower scores for treating employees well (68%) and being internationalized (63%). As for the various CSR- and employee welfare-related items, the efforts of Taiwanese businesses in providing channels for employees to express their opinions and negotiate (27%), guaranteeing equal promotion and training channels for employees (26%), and assisting in local community development and construction (31%) were less acknowledged by the participants compared with the compliance of Taiwanese businesses with relevant laws and regulations of Singapore (69%). This project also interviewed four Singaporean experts, who commended the image of Taiwanese businesses for their high-tech expertise and stable business operations. However, they also cautioned that the Singaporean society's knowledge of Taiwan is relatively superficial and may lack substantive understanding.
Summarizing the four-year survey results reveals that Taiwan has a markedly favorable image in the four Southeast Asian countries for its friendliness, advancement in technology and medical and health care as well as its respect for multiculturalism. Additionally, the participants commended Taiwan's prowess in tourism, science and technology, economic trade, and culture and art. Taiwanese businesses have a favorable image of being innovative, trustworthy, and compliant with laws and regulations, and the participants also endorsed Taiwanese businesses for creating job opportunities, introducing innovative technologies, and aiding in industrial transformation for the local region. However, the businesses were criticized for CSR aspects concerning environmental protection and employee welfare, which are items that will require additional effort for Taiwanese businesses to further improve their image.
The Image of Taiwan and Taiwanese Businesses surveys over the years have been well-received by government units, the Singapore Trade Office in Taipei, business communities, scholars, and the media. Following the tradition of previous years, the TAEF held a media press conference in December 2022 to brief government departments and the media on the results of this year's survey, which received the attention of numerous sectors and was widely reported. We expect the implications of the research findings to continue to grow with the release of the full report.
I would like to give special thanks to the principal investigator of this project and TAEF senior research fellow, Kristy Tsun-Tzu Hsu, for leading the TAEF team and engaging in tireless planning and execution of this project, and also the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Community Affairs Council for their valuable opinions and suggestions. With the positive feedback and support from the various sectors, the TAEF will continue our endeavor to discern the image of Taiwan and Taiwanese businesses as perceived by the New Southbound countries and actively promote public and private collaboration efforts to transform the survey findings into concrete policy recommendations and action plans.
Dr. Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao
Chairman, Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation
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