1999 Student-Faculty Fellows: University Of Puget Sound

Taiwan: Go South or Go West? The Effect of Taiwan’s Economic Interests in The People’s Republic of China on Cross-Strait Relations During the Asian Crisis

Mentor: Y. Paul Huo, International Business
Student: Foster D. Reif, ’01, International Business


Foster D. Reif

The trip to Asia last June was the first time I have been to any foreign country other than Canada and Mexico. It proved to be an excellent learning experience. I got to know my mentor beyond the normal class exchanges; this proved to be invaluable because I learned just as much from him as I did from anyone I interviewed. The airline flights, the guesthouse at National Taiwan University, and, my personal favorite, taxi rides in Taipei created a great and never-before-felt sensation beyond what can be put into words. Even walking around streets of Taipei teaches you something that cannot be easily expressed, maybe an appreciation of how well you have it in the US, or a deeper insight about different norms imbedded in different cultures. Thus, through experience one learns that there is more to life than studying and work, or money for that matter. One of the great things about this trip was the interaction with local citizens. The trip has elevated my perspective of the world to a new level that could not be attained by any other means. It is indeed a truly invaluable “journey.”

Prof. Paul Huo

Our trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong has been a phenomenal success. The summer trip was clearly a new milestone in my career path due to the unique experience that was made possible only through the Freeman Student-Faculty Fellowship. It was a great learning experience not merely for my student but also for myself. In all my past visits to Hong Kong or Taiwan, I always traveled alone. This is the first time I traveled with a student, whose life experience in the past and expectation about the future differ strikingly from mine. Oftentimes I have reminded myself that, “cultural shock” is something that happened to me twenty years ago while it is fresh and new for Foster, who has never been to any Asian country before. Many things that I have taken for granted for years are not taken for granted by him. In a sense, through his eyes I was able to take a “fresh” look at what I thought I have known well but actually not. We interviewed dozens of people and gathered tons of relevant documents on the cross-strait economic transactions. To me, this has been a wonderful opportunity to tap the academic resources in Asia for both my research projects and teaching preparation. The unique insights gained directly from the policy makers on the relationship between Taiwan and PRC are invaluable. Without the support from Freeman Fellowship Program, it would not have been possible for us to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.

Research Findings

In general, we found that the investment activities engaged by Taiwanese companies in mainland China have slowed down considerably since the Asian crisis started. The collapse of financial markets in Southeast Asia has actually attracted new investors from Taiwan. This change, however, was primarily induced by the lucrative opportunities opened up in Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam rather than the direct impact of the “Go South” policy promulgated by the Taiwan government. In the meantime, mainland China continues to be a magnet for investment money in Taiwan and Hong Kong.