Vol. 2, Issue 18
The Global Taiwan Brief Volume 2, Issue 18
Speculation Over Shake-up at PRC’s TAO Continues
By: Russell Hsiao
“Solid Defense and Multi-layered Deterrence”: A Critical Assessment of Taiwan’s New Defense Guideline
By: David An
Is Taiwan Missing Opportunities for Serious Defense?
By: Shirley Kan
Disrupting the Gender Gap: Women and Technology in Taiwan
By: Melissa Newcomb
Speculation Over Shake-up at PRC’s TAO Continues
Russell Hsiao is the Executive Director of the Global Taiwan Institute and the Editor-in-Chief of the Global Taiwan Brief.
The Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) in the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—which implements the policy towards Taiwan set by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—will reportedly have a new deputy director. According to Taiwan media outlets, Zheng Shanjie (鄭柵潔), who now serves as the deputy director of the State Council’s National Energy Administration (NEA), may become the TAO’s next standing deputy director (常務副主任). Zheng would replace Gong Qinggai (龔清概), who was once considered the leading contender to eventually replace the current director, Zhang Zhijun (張志軍).
In a rather surprising turn of events, Gong was taken down as part of Xi Jinping’s trademark anti-graft campaign in early 2016—which has left few stones unturned. The former TAO deputy director, touted by the media as a Xi loyalist, had served in that position since October 2013. On April 20, Gong was sentenced by a Chinese court to 15 years in prison for allegedly using his political positions to illegally obtain US $770,000 (5.3 million yuan) in assets over a nine year period, lasting through 2015.
The appointment of a new deputy director at TAO had been expected, given the vacancy left by Gong’s sudden departure, but also follows a stream of speculation about substantial changes in the PRC’s Taiwan policy apparatus, which was clearly shaken by the presidential election victory of Tsai Ing-wen. The first salvo was apparently fired a year later. In early February 2017, noted Taiwan hand Zhou Zhihuai (周志懷), who was serving as the director of the Ministry of State Security (MSS)-backed Institute of Taiwan Studies (台湾研究所) at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) was replaced by Yang Mingjie (楊明杰). Yang, who has very limited professional experience on Taiwan policy, was the associate dean of the MSS-affiliated China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (中國現代國際關係研究院).
Zhou’s interesting replacement by Yang at the brain trust for PRC Taiwan policy was quickly followed by the announcement in mid-February that Senior Chinese statesmen Dai Bingguo (戴秉國) was selected as the new chairman of the National Society of Taiwan Studies (全國台灣研究會). Although it claims to be a non-governmental organization, the leadership of NSTS (http://tyh.taiwan.cn/) is stacked with government officials—which belies its supposedly civilian (民間) status. The NSTS has four deputy chairmen: Li Yafei (李亞飛), Cai Fang (蔡昉), Zheng Jianbang (鄭建邦), and Sun Yafu (孫亞夫), all of whom concurrently serve in senior positions related to Taiwan policy, either in the government or political party. For instance, Li is the deputy director of the CCP Central Committee’s Taiwan Office, the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, and vice president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), and Sun also serves as the one of ARATS’ four vice presidents. The president of ARATS sits on the policy-setting CCP Central Committee’s Taiwan Affairs Leading Small Group (TALSG, 中共中央台灣工作領導小組會議).
In late-December 2016, speculation about personnel changes reached a fever pitch when it was rumored that the current director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, who also sits on the TALSG, could be replaced as soon as the Lunar New Year, which fell in February 2017. While the current TAO director remains in place, another senior official in the PRC’s Taiwan policy apparatus resigned.
In late-February, Zheng Lizhong (鄭立中), who had since 2008 served as the vice president of ARATS—which conducts relations between China and Taiwan in the absence of government-to-government relations—abruptly resigned. Zheng was also a standing committee member of the advisory-Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CCPPC). Zheng reportedly had to “step down” for personal reasons, although some suspect it was due to “economic problems.” Given that Zheng had apparently stepped away from all of his official and unofficial duties (including within the CPPCC), the circumstances leading to his resignation may have been quite serious. Zheng’s replacement has not been announced.
Zheng Shanjie (b. 1961), the potential next deputy director at TAO, is a native of Fujian province. He launched his political career serving in Xiamen city as the party chief in one of the city’s districts. Xiamen is only 29.2 km from Taiwan-controlled Kinmen. Zheng also served as deputy secretary general of the Xiamen city government and as director of the city government’s main office. He was later promoted to director of the city’s development plan commission, followed by provincial-level appointments as the director of Fujian province’s development and reform commission, and more recently as the deputy governor of the Fujian provincial government before he was elevated to serve as the deputy director of NEA in August 2015. Given the circumstances surrounding the departure of his predecessor, his appointment was likely closely vetted.
According to Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌), who previously served as Chairman of Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation, given Zheng’s extensive experience at both the local and provincial, as well as the party and government levels in Fujian province, he has accumulated over 20 years of experience related to Taiwan. Moreover, because Zheng’s experience has been largely related to economic development, he not only understands Taiwan, but also appears to understand Taiwanese businessmen and enterprises. SEF is the counterpart for ARATS in cross-Strait interactions.
Whether or not reports of these personnel change pan out is less important than the policy set at the very top level, which the Party leadership is loathe to publicly admit has failed. The appointment of a new deputy director at TAO should be expected, and does not by itself represent a significant change in the PRC’s approach to Taiwan. However, it follows a stream of recent departures and expected appointments that may serve as a prelude to more salient changes to the PRC’s Taiwan policy apparatus in the aftermath of the 19th Party Congress. One thing appears clear, the CCP is re-evaluating its approach towards Taiwan—whether that results in a meaningful policy change that will be conductive to cross-Strait peace remains to be seen.
As a possible signal of these shifts, the NSTS recently posted the announcement for its annual symposium, which will be held from June 12 to 15 in Jiangsu province. The focus of this year’s conclave will be on five issues: 1) analyzing Xi Jinping’s Important Thoughts on Taiwan Affairs (習近平對台工作重要思想探析) ; 2) new ideas, new ways, and new approaches for opposing and containing “Taiwan Independence”, (反對和遏制“台獨”的新思路、新途徑與新辦法); 3) new global changes related to Taiwan and how we should respond (涉台國際因素新變化及我應對); 4) evaluating Tsai Ing-wen’s internal and external policies (蔡英文內外政策評估); and 5) new changes and trends in the Kuomintang’s political environment, how to consolidate the relationship between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party under the new situation (國民黨政治生態新變化與新趨勢，如何鞏固推進新形勢下的國共交流).
The main point: The appointment of a new deputy director at TAO is expected and does not by itself represent a significant change in the PRC’s approach to Taiwan. However, it follows a stream of recent departures and appointments that may serve as prelude to more salient changes to the PRC’s Taiwan policy apparatus in the aftermath of the 19th Party Congress.
Update: After publication, Zheng was confirmed on the Chinese government agency’s website as the deputy director of the State Council’s TAO replacing Li Yafei (李亞飛).
“Solid Defense and Multi-layered Deterrence”: A Critical Assessment of Taiwan’s New Defense Guideline
David An is a Senior Research Fellow at Global Taiwan Institute, and was previously a political military officer at the US Department of State.
Taiwan’s new official defense guideline (防衛固守、重層嚇阻) has been translated by the local media as “solid defense and multi-layered deterrence.” The focus of this article is to analyze the new guideline at the conceptual, rather than operational or implementation level. While the new guideline has been criticized by various Taiwanese legislators as being too vague, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense should get credit for trying to be creative with this new wording. The guideline, however, is conceptually backwards. The reality is that defense can be multi-layered, but not deterrence. On a practical, operational level, however, the change in the guideline may reflect how Taiwan is becoming more transparent in that its capabilities go beyond just striking amphibious targets invading Taiwan to the perceived necessity of striking more distant targets.
From Porcupine to Archer
At the very least, the new guideline’s title connotes looking beyond the previous approach. The earlier and seemingly softer approach was along the lines of Naval War College Professor Bill Murray’s recommendation that Taiwan adopt a “porcupine strategy”—essentially to strike the tip of the PRC military spear if it initiates a conflict with Taiwan. As Project 2049 Institute analyst Ian Easton pointed out during a recent GTI defense seminar, the three main scenarios in the literature about the PRC’s military options toward Taiwan, in order of increasing severity include: blockade and embargo, targeted decapitation strikes against leadership and the military, and amphibious invasion. A more defensively oriented porcupine strategy would involve striking only the assets at the front lines of an attack, like amphibious assault vehicles as they approach Taiwan’s shores, or intercepting missiles in the air in post-apogee and within the final descent phase.
However, the term “multi-layered deterrence” can appear to eschew a short-range defensive approach, embodying a new and more controversial defense policy focus of striking People’s Republic of China (PRC) targets on the mainland. This new “multi-layered” approach overtly adjusts policy to hit targets earlier and further away from Taiwan. Taiwan Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) made news headlines on March 16, when he delivered Taiwan’s new Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) to the Legislative Yuan and confirmed for the first time ever that Taiwan’s indigenous missiles could target military bases in the PRC. Between what is written in Taiwan’s newly-released QDR, and the Legislative Yuan session, it appears that Taiwan endeavors to acquire or develop fifth generation fighter aircraft, like the F-35 with vertical take-off and landing. It also aspires to develop indigenous attack submarines, improve air defense systems with mobile launchers, upgrade surface naval combatants, deploy smart sea mines, create a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and establish a new cyber warfare unit. Many of these new capabilities are more long range than Taiwan’s previously publicized approach. Few concerns would arise if one of Taiwan’s Patriot PAC-3 missiles intercepted an incoming bogey in the air above Taiwan’s territory, but the prospect of Taiwan striking PRC military bases on the mainland would almost certainly concern Taiwan’s neighbors and the United States, not the least because it could escalate toward war.
The reason Taiwan’s long-range missile capabilities could be a policy concern for the United States and others is due to the possibility of a regional crisis. International relations scholars Tom Christensen and Jack Snyder (1990) called this the “chain ganging” effect among cooperative partners that pull one another into crises (though technically their research focus is between allies, and Taiwan is no longer a US defense treaty ally). However, Easton also said that he was puzzled at the media’s surprise that Taiwan could target the PRC, since striking PRC targets has been part of Taiwan’s defense mission since 1962, and the United States expected this of Taiwan when they were defense allies throughout the 1950s to 1970s. He noted that the only way the United States could have reasonable expectations for Taiwan to forego strike capabilities against the PRC is if the US included Taiwan within its defense periphery as a formal defense ally, and under the US’ nuclear umbrella. Otherwise, Taiwan needs to protect itself and ensure its top national interest, which is to survive.
To be fair, American Enterprise Institute fellow Michael Mazza helpfully pointed out at the same GTI seminar that it is hard to imagine that Taiwan would proactively launch a preemptive strike against the PRC. If Taiwan were to target bases in the PRC, then it is more likely to have been after Taiwan was already attacked, meaning that the conflict was already started by the other side. At that point, striking back at distant land targets outside of Taiwan’s territory would be justifiable.
Why Defense is Layered
A layered defense approach is optimal when engaging incoming targets. For example, in general terms, if there is an incoming missile, at over 100 miles away it can first be intercepted with SM-3 or THAAD missiles (though Taiwan does not possess either of these), then at a closer range Patriot PAC-3 missiles could be used. If the missile is even closer and approaching a naval vessel, for example, then a CIWS close-in weapons system could be used for defense. CIWS is a Gatling gun with a multi-million dollar fire control that sprays a wall of lead at the incoming bogey and disintegrates it in the last hundreds of feet. In this way, the defense has many levels, like peeling back the layers of an onion.
There are a variety of systems within Taiwan’s arsenal that take a layered approach to defend against incoming attack. Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles only intercept incoming missiles, and do not have surface-to-surface capability to strike land targets. Osprey mine hunting vessels inherently lack long-range strike mission and capability. Javelin missiles are short-range, and are most effective against amphibious assault. Apache attack helicopters would fend off amphibious assault, and take a short-range, defensive rather than long-range approach, as long as the helicopters are flown within the Taiwan side of the Taiwan Strait midline. The same defense against amphibious assault applies to Taiwan’s F-16 aircraft, Taiwan’s F-CK indigenous fighter aircraft, Sky Bow indigenous surface to air missiles, Clouded Leopard Armored Vehicles and even submarines–if they stay within Taiwan’s territory, seas and airspace.
Why Deterrence Cannot Be Layered
In contrast, deterrence cannot be layered; on the contrary, the definition of “deter” is to prevent an adversary from taking some action, meaning they that will think twice about whether the benefit is worth the massive cost. Taiwan military expert Mei Fu-shin (梅復興) made the astute observation: “Deterrence cannot be layered because you either have it or you don’t.” The other side either attacks or it does not. Deterrence can be strengthened and it can be “robust” (for example, the US nuclear triad is survivable against attack, and therefore robust), but technically it cannot be layered.
With this in mind, Taiwan’s systems that take a more long range deterrent posture include aspects of its controversial Brave Wind Hsiung Feng (雄風) series of missiles with long range and surface to surface capabilities, or any naval vessels or submarines that are capable of launching Hsiung Feng missiles beyond Taiwan’s territory and airspace (as with the recent misfire incident), along with fighter aircraft and attack helicopters if they venture beyond Taiwan’s territory.
In conclusion, it is likely that “layered deterrence” is political justification to publicly take up longstanding recommendations for Taiwan to have a more forward-leaning operational approach, capable of striking targets both near and far, and to be more transparent about such efforts. Taiwan now officially takes PRC mainland military land assets into account in their calculations. According to Mazza, such capabilities raise the costs for the PRC, since the people of the PRC will be more unsettled by a conflict closer to home, rather than one that is far away. Nonetheless, at a conceptual level, and as mentioned earlier, deterrence is still technically a binary yes or no. Taiwan has it or it does not; it is not a matter of degree.
The main point: Taiwan’s new “solid defense and multi-layered deterrence” defense guideline reflects greater transparency in its missile system capabilities, and in the new operational priorities of the Tsai Administration, but unfortunately contains shortcomings as a theoretical concept.
 Note that the translation used by the media was selected in the absence of an official English version of the QDR released at the time of this publication.
 In this view, previous official Taiwan defense policy makes more conceptual and logical sense: “Solid defense and effective deterrence” (防衛固守、有效嚇阻).
 It should be noted that defense analysts studying Taiwan have been aware of such capabilities for quite some time.
 Thomas J. Christensen and Jack Snyder, “Chain Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns in Multipolarity,” International Organization 44, No. 2 (Spring, 1990), 137-168, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2706792.
 Discussion with the author, April 3, 2017.
Is Taiwan Missing Opportunities for Serious Defense?
Shirley Kan is a retired specialist in Asian security affairs who worked for Congress at the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS). She is also a member of GTI’s Advisory Board.
The international media’s coverage tends to hurt Taiwan. Though Reuters drew undue attention, Washington and Taipei do not discuss defense through the media. For an interview with President Tsai Ing-wen on April 27, Reuters caused controversy by inserting a heading of “F-35 Request,” and by asking President Donald Trump about selling F-35 fighters to Taiwan. Reuters’ headline suggested that Trump “spurns” Tsai on more direct contact. Actually, Reuters asked Tsai a leading and odd question: “Concerning Taiwan’s defense needs, would you rule out buying F-35 fighters?” She replied, “we determine our military procurement according to our defense strategy. We do not rule out any programs that are important for the strategy. The F-35 is important for the strategy.” Tsai said that bilateral talks cover not only arms acquisitions but also defense strategy, while Taiwan waits for Trump to name key officials. She added that Taiwan’s defense policy seeks self-sufficiency. However, Taiwan is missing opportunities in strategic communication. Instead of succumbing to distractions, Taiwan needs to convey positive signals about urgency in self-defense and shared security. When the world is engrossed in North Korea, Tsai has not noted Taiwan’s role in pressuring that regime and supporting US allies.
Under President Trump, the United States is leading overdue, intense pressure against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and its patron, the People’s Republic of China (PRC). During the same week as Tsai’s interview, the Secretaries of Defense and State, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff together briefed Congress on the Administration’s review of policy on North Korea. They declared that, “the President’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our Allies and regional partners. We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK in order to convince the regime to de-escalate and return to the path of dialogue.”
The US Pacific Command (USPACOM)’s Commander, Admiral Harry Harris, testified to Congress: “the words and actions of North Korea threaten the US homeland and that of our allies in South Korea and Japan.”
Also, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) warned that North Korea poses a “real and rising risk of conflict.” He noted that, for years, the United States has looked to China, North Korea’s patron, to bring the regime to negotiate a denuclearized Korean peninsula. He said that China is the only country with influence on North Korea but it has refused repeatedly to exercise that influence. McCain pointed out that,“China has aided and abetted North Korea for decades.” He stressed that the Administration should seek China’s cooperation but not at the expense of vital interests such as alliances and freedom of the sea.
Taiwan is part of US’ vital interests, but Taiwan needs to play its part (with Tsai showing leadership). Is Taiwan missing opportunities to convey its roles in shared security with Japan, South Korea, the United States, and other countries? Words are not “lost in translation,” since Tsai is bilingual and uses an excellent interpreter only for official protocol. She could correct Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Leo Lee, who failed to say if Taiwan will stand on the US side or the PRC side to face the DPRK’s threats. She could report that Taiwan has imposed sanctions against imports of the DPRK’s coal in accordance with the UN Security Council after buying $4.1 million worth of that coal in 2016. She could go a step farther and announce more sanctions. Taiwan could stress cooperation to counter cyber threats and to track North Korea’s missiles. Congress urged US approval for Taiwan to acquire a long-range early warning radar. In December 2012, Taiwan used its powerful radar for the first time to track North Korea’s missile launch. Tsai could note Taiwan’s humanitarian assistance as a partner in counter-terrorism after her representative in Washington, DC, attended the Secretary of State’s meeting in March for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Assurances on Defense
Moreover, Tsai could show leadership on Taiwan’s defense against the PRC’s real and rising threat, especially the Taiwan people’s will to fight and support for defending their homeland. Why do Taiwan’s military officers shy away from wearing uniforms even in their own country? Taiwan seeks US reaffirmation of the Six Assurances, but what are Taiwan’s assurances? Can Tsai convey urgency on defense?
USPACOM Commander Harris also testified that, “China’s military modernization is focused on defeating the US in Asia by countering US asymmetric advantages.” He warned, “as the military spending and capability of the PRC grow every year, the ability of Taiwan to defend itself decreases.” While he assured that USPACOM will fulfill US commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), he stressed “continued, regular arms sales and training for Taiwan’s military” as important parts of US policy. Significantly, Harris noted “regular” arms sales, though the US process has gone astray from regular, routine notifications to Congress of proposed programs for Taiwan.
US Administrations and Congressional Members have urged Taiwan to raise resources for urgent upgrades for credible deterrence and defense. Last December, at a forum organized by the Project 2049 Institute with this author, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Abraham Denmark warned that China’s military focuses on unifying Taiwan with the PRC by force if necessary, making it incumbent on Taiwan to invest in capabilities to deter aggression and mount an effective defense if deterrence fails. He stressed that Taiwan’s defense budget has not kept pace with the threat and should thus be increased.
In March, Tsai assured the American Chamber of Commerce that Taiwan ensures more investment for defense. However, earlier that month, her administration issued a new defense strategy and a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), while leaving challenges for the military. Taiwan’s Defense Minister reiterated a long-standing plea for defense spending at 3 percent of GDP, but the budget amounts to NT$350.7 billion (US$11.5 billion), or only 2 percent of GDP. He said that Taipei has not yet talked to Washington about defense needs. He testified to the Legislative Yuan that the military faces two critical challenges: insufficient funds and insufficient personnel in an attempt to move towards a volunteer force.
In contrast, in February, the Defense Minister of Singapore stressed a strong defense in commemorating conscription on the 50th anniversary of its National Service (NS). He noted that Hong Kong seized Singapore’s military vehicles en route from training in Taiwan. He said, “NS has become an institution through which Singaporean males define themselves in their formative years, a crucial period where close friends are made for life; where values and character are deeply forged; where they begin to understand why and how they protect those that they love and what they cherish on this island home.”
It is misleading to assume a US demand that Taiwan invests 3 percent of GDP on defense. That target has been the goal of both the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT).
US concerns are about Taiwan’s costly, long-term attempts at self-sufficiency even with insufficient resources for munitions and equipment, recruitment and retention of skilled personnel, reforms for innovation and asymmetry, and realistic training. For many years, Washington has been frustrated by Taipei’s political disputes over defense budgets, but partisan fights do not explain the problem under Tsai when the DPP controls both the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan.
The TRA entails mutual obligations. In 2005, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless issued a speech at a conference of the US-Taiwan Business Council (attended by this author). He stressed that the TRA intends for Taiwan to fulfill its obligation to ensure a sufficient self-defense. Today, Taiwan needs to make smart choices given limited time and budgets, a military that deserves more of the people’s support, and requirements to replace the military’s outdated equipment with weapons systems that are affordable, survivable, and lethal at this urgent time (and not way into the future).
Main Point: Whether President Tsai’s style of leadership is overly cautious or rightfully deliberative, an issue is whether Taiwan is missing opportunities for positive, proactive communication with the Trump Administration about the priority of defense. There is the potential for greater convergence and not divergence between Taiwan and the United States plus its allies for strong, shared security.
Disrupting the Gender Gap: Women and Technology in Taiwan
Melissa Newcomb is the Research Manager at the Global Taiwan Institute and the Associate Editor for the Global Taiwan Brief.
Technology has a gender problem. It is becoming more widely acknowledged that the industry as a whole has largely developed with a huge blind spot—the near total exclusion of women, especially women of color. Unhealthy or abusive work environments, misogynist artificial intelligence, inaccurate clinical trials for medicine, and more issues have surfaced as the tech sector matures, revealing the underlying sexism of Silicon Valley that it is now trying to correct. Female entrepreneurs in Taiwan, however, are already working to prevent those mistakes from occurring as its innovative technology sector grows.
In March, Girls in Tech Taiwan, a global organization dedicated to advancing women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) hosted an event highlighting Taiwanese women in tech. In their “40 Under 40 Women in Tech” article, Girls in Tech Taiwan profiles women who are making an impact in their field. Many of the female entrepreneurs in Taiwan’s tech scene got their start in Silicon Valley. Jane Shih, managing director at Girls in Tech and director of Women Who Code Taipei, worked for eBay for most of her career before returning to Taiwan to found her company WeTogether.co and later Taipei Women in Technology. Jackey Wang, co-founder of Tickle Labs, Inc., previously worked for Microsoft before founding her first company in Silicon Valley, Wantoto Inc., which is now a leading app development software company in Taiwan.
In a phone interview, Shih told GTI that her work in Silicon Valley gave her the experience needed to set up and grow the network for women in tech in Taiwan. After her return to Taiwan, there were several smaller women’s tech communities, but Shih tapped into global networks. She emphasized the importance of connecting Silicon Valley and Taiwan by using such international networks that already existed such as Girls in Tech and Ladies that UX (UX refers to user experience). In fact, Ladies that UX will be holding its international conference, Talk UX, in Taipei in October. Talk UX will draw thousands of people to Taiwan and expand awareness of its tech industry. This is just the beginning of many international conferences, said Shih, whose next goal will be to attract TechCrunch. The ultimate aim is to make Taiwan a technology hub.
Perhaps in recognition of the impact that experience in Silicon Valley has on Taiwan’s tech ecosystem, the Executive Yuan created the Taiwan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TEIC) which invests in Taiwanese start-ups to set up shop in California. Every year, TEIC sends 20 eligible start-ups to Silicon Valley with a USD $20,000 subsidy. With further government funding and policies, Taiwan’s tech sector is primed to take off. It already ranks 11th in global innovation according to the World Economic Forum (under the unfortunate and incorrect moniker of “Taiwan, China”). Overall, Taiwan is ranked 14th in global competitiveness.
It is critical that as Taiwan pursues innovative tech that it includes women, and one way is to start with education. Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has a “Masterplan for ICT Education” to emphasize the digital skills students will need to be successful. Audrey Tang, digital minster of Taiwan, will introduce courses on information and digital literacy for all school years, as part of a larger mission to integrate technology and democracy. Girls in Tech runs “coding initiations” for girls at middle schools in Taiwan. Tickle, the app developed by Tickle Lab, provides a coding education platform and programs IoT (Internet of Things) devices. It has become wildly popular in classrooms around the world, and the company participates in programs to encourage young girls to learn coding. For adults hoping to learn new digital skills, Women Who Code Taipei, the Taiwan chapter of a global network that launched in 2016, connects women to teach and learn coding from one another. The Meetup group, Taipei Women in Technology, has over 1,400 members.
Indeed, from 2005-2014, the rate of men and women majoring in STEM fields at the university level in Taiwan has declined; for men the rate dropped from 66 to 57 percent, and for women the decline was from 31.4 to 28.7 percent (p 22). The low percentage of women studying STEM currently is reflected in their lack of representation in the sciences workforce. In Taiwan’s private research and development (R&D) field, 37,264 women are employed compared to the 143,171 men (2014, latest data available). When the data is disaggregated by job title, it becomes clear which roles have greater gender disparity: 81,432 researchers are male, while 15,586 are female; 57,694 technicians are male and 16,954 are female; and 4,044 support staff are male while 4,724 are female.
Specifically at science parks in Taiwan, women represent about 40 percent of the workforce with 108,000 women to 158,000 men (p 23). However, the data did not show the actual roles of the women employed at the science parks. For West Coast US tech companies, women are 31 percent of the global workforce, with 23 percent of technical jobs. From 2001-2013, female-founded start-ups in the US received only 3 percent of venture capital funding.
The next aspect for creating an inclusive tech sector, according to Shih, is leadership training. Women lack the mentorship and leadership skills they need. Shih is in the process of planning a female entrepreneurship program to help teach women in tech how to found their own start-ups. In fact, Shih is so dedicated to paying it forward that, after 2017, she will relinquish her position as managing director at Girls in Tech to give the opportunity to someone else, in order to train future leaders.
Unlike the top companies in Silicon Valley, non-executive female professionals in Taiwan lack resources for training programs or networks. According to Shih, the bulk of Girls in Tech’s events are sponsored by US companies such as Amazon, Facebook, or Google. There is a lack of emphasis on diversity programs and corporate social responsibility within Taiwan’s corporate culture. Ultimately, Taiwan’s corporate structure needs reform, Shih said, especially to attract international talent. In addition, the government will need to reformulate visas to allow top global talent to live and work in Taiwan.
The gender gap in technology in America has led to expensive and harmful mistakes, not only for companies, but for the wider public. However, considering that moral arguments are less persuasive to corporations than the bottom line—it also pays to be more inclusive. Numerous studies have consistently found that the more diverse companies are, especially among the leadership, the better they perform in terms of revenue, reputation, and internal efficiency. McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile in terms of diverse boards (at least 30 percent female) earned 53 percent more than companies in the bottom quartile.
Focusing on inclusive innovation may be Taiwan’s ticket to competing with China in the technology sector. In terms of sheer volume, it would be impossible for Taiwan to subsidize its tech sector to the same degree as Beijing. If Taiwan can foster as much highly skilled human capital as possible and lower the barriers to market entry, it may finally produce its own global brand to rival Apple, Samsung, or Google—a feat that has thus far eluded Taiwan. Its tech developers would also do well to focus on the trustworthiness of their products, which will give them an advantage over companies from the PRC such as Huawei, which was implicated in capturing their mobile phone users’ information.
Considering the high-level of exchange and crossover between Taiwan’s entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley, there is a great opportunity for the US Department of State to solidify digital exchange in trade and education, perhaps by including the issue of women and technology under the Global Cooperation and Training Framework’s (GCTF) programs. The Tsai administration should take note of what women in tech are doing as well. President Tsai is touting the Asia Silicon Valley project, but innovators have not received much guidance from above. Instead, in true entrepreneurial fashion, women on the ground are leading the charge to create an inclusive, innovative technology sector.
The Main Point: Taiwan’s innovative tech sector is building momentum as more start-ups appear after a period of relative decline of interest in the STEM field. Female entrepreneurs in the industry are leading the way to connect Taiwan to the Silicon Valley by promoting diversity in tech. The Tsai administration should take care to foster their efforts if they wish to make Taiwan’s Asia Silicon Valley a reality.
 Refer to table “III-2-7.Business Enterprise R&D Personnel (FTE) by Gender and Occupation”