Taiwan finance leader begins scholarly work at UW Law School

Ambassador Yen Ching-Chang, Taiwan’s Minister of Finance from 2000 to 2002 and its first ambassador to the World Trade Organization, launched his scholarly work at the University of Wisconsin Law School by offering a talk Thursday afternoon on Taiwan’s status in the global economy.

Calling himself a “cautious optimist,” Mr. Yen described Taiwan as standing at a crossroads in terms of its economic development. Taiwan currently has the 17th largest economy in the world, but Mr. Yen sees challenges to maintaining its status in the form of sluggish private investment, weakening wage levels and a possible over-dependence on mainland China as “the one and only trade partner.”

He noted that Taiwan, which has a population of 23 million, now has over a million of its citizens residing in Mainland China, and 70,000 of its businesses having operations there. 

“Taiwan’s government is in urgent need to change from ‘made by Taiwan’ to ‘made in Taiwan,’” Mr. Yen stressed, referring to the need to reestablish manufacturing and production in Taiwan. 

Chicago-based Taiwan Trade Center Director Yueh-Chyou Wen followed up on Mr. Yen’s point by telling the audience that the iPhone is manufactured by a Taiwanese company, Foxconn, but is not made in Taiwan. Foxconn’s iPhone production is located in Mainland China, where it employs over a million workers.

Yen and Irish

Mr. Yen is in Madison at the invitation of his longtime friend, Law School Professor and Senior Director of the East Asian Legal Studies Center Charles Irish.

Professor Irish, a tax law expert, first met Mr. Yen in the 1990s at a conference in Taiwan.

“I’ve learned an enormous amount working with him over the last several decades,” Professor Irish said Thursday during his introduction of Mr. Yen. The lecture was held at the University Club and jointly sponsored by the East Asian Legal Studies Center and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Chicago.

Professor Irish’s invitation to Mr. Yen to be a visiting scholar at the University of Wisconsin Law School was first offered in 2000, but that was the year Mr. Yen was appointed Taiwan’s finance minister. Two years later, Mr. Yen began his ambassadorship at the WTO, which was followed by the chairmanship of Yuanta Financial Holdings, a leading financial firm in Taiwan. This spring, Mr. Yen retired from his work at Yuanta, and was finally able to come to Madison.

During his visits to campus this academic year, Mr. Yen plans to work on a book about Taiwan’s economy, and expects to offer another public lecture during the spring semester. He recalled that when Professor Irish first invited him to Madison, he also presented him with a wristwatch that celebrated the 10th anniversary of the East Asian Legal Studies Center. At Thursday’s talk, Mr. Yen was wearing the watch, and displayed it to the audience as proof that he was at last able to accept his friend’s invitation.

To read the full text of Mr. Yen's talk, go here (PDF).

Submitted by EALSC News on October 9, 2013

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