Founded in May 2018, the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation (TAEF) was the pilot think tank in Taiwan that focuses on exchange and cooperation with countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia. The Foundation dedicates itself to the comprehensive implementation of the Taiwanese government's New Southbound Policy (NSP) using various approaches.
The “Survey Project on the Image of Taiwan and Taiwanese Businesses in Vietnam” (hereafter “the Image Survey in Vietnam”) is the first survey aiming to investigate the overall perception that people in a foreign country have about Taiwan. The overall image of a country and its businesses has a decisive influence on partnership management and foreign market development. A positive national image can stimulate the popularity of a country’s products abroad, and the creation of favorable national and brand images further helps Taiwanese businesses and civil society organizations establish connections with local communities. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has long conducted routine preference surveys regarding Japan in Southeast Asia. Local governments and the central government in South Korea also regularly invest in research on such perceptions to better calibrate their overseas promotion strategies. As the NSP enters its third year, Taiwan has strengthened social, cultural, interpersonal, and economic, and trade ties with the NSP partners, thus highlighting the importance of understanding the perceptions of local communities with regard to Taiwan and Taiwanese businesses.
Among the NSP partners, Vietnam is the largest Southeast Asian investment destination for Taiwan. Taiwanese corporations have been investing in Vietnam and operating in the Vietnamese market since 1990. Enterprises from the traditional, food processing, electronics, and steel industries have successively set up production lines in Vietnam, gradually formulating dense Taiwanese-business clusters. Such increased economic activities indirectly lead to frequent bilateral interactions between actors in government, business, and civil society, thus strengthening the Taiwan–Vietnam partnership. Following increased international tension from the US–China trade war, multinational corporations, and Taiwanese companies have begun to move their production lines to Taiwan and expand their manufacturing bases in Vietnam, rendering Vietnam crucial to the global supply chain. Therefore, the continued strengthening of the Taiwan–Vietnam partnership has become a critical goal of the NSP.
In April 2019, the TAEF launched the Image Survey in Vietnam. It selected Vietnam as the first research subject, aiming, to explore the images of Taiwan and Taiwanese businesses in Vietnamese society through objective research. The results serve as a reference for the Taiwanese government in its promotion of Taiwan–Vietnam relations and formulation of subsequent NSP programs. The survey, in which 120 Vietnamese managers who have engaged in business with Taiwanese firms were interviewed, indicated that the respondents viewed Taiwan and Taiwanese businesses positively. Among those top ten countries having the greatest investment in Vietnam, Taiwan ranks second to Japan, surpassing the United States (third) and China (ninth). However, despite the image of being a contributor to the Vietnamese economy, Taiwanese firms were found wanting in several aspects, namely “improving employee benefits,” “implementing environmental protection policies,” “promising fair employee promotion,” and “treating employees well.” Therefore, Taiwanese companies should improve their performance in these aspects to improve how they are perceived.
For businesses and government bodies to leverage survey findings, the TAEF held a press conference at the 2019 Yushan Forum: Asian Dialogue for Innovation and Progress, in which we revealed our survey results to businesses and the media. This survey has thus attracted much attention from various industries and has been a top news story. In this detailed report on the Image Survey in Vietnam, we hope to continually augment the contribution of its findings.
Finally, I would like to express special thanks to Ms. Kristy Tsun-Tzu Hsu, who serves as a non-resident senior research fellow of the TAEF and the principal investigator of the Image Survey Project in Vietnam, for her efforts in leading the TAEF team as well as developing and implementing the Image Survey Project in Vietnam. I would also like to thank senior Taiwanese business leaders for their helpful advice. With positive feedback and support from all sectors, the TAEF will strive to establish more pilot programs and new-generation regional partnerships for Taiwan through the NSP.
Dr. Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao
Chairman of Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation