GKHAN – Turkey and Taiwan

Turkey and TaiwanTurks, who are known for their national pride, need a sharp lesson from Taiwan. Taiwan has a population of only 23 million, but this andldquotinyandrdquo nationand#39s total export value is more than $305 billion, which is almost twice that of Turkey.

And Taiwan does better in many other areas as well. For instance, it has 162 universities to serve its small territory and population while Turkey, with its population of 83 million and much larger territory, has 191 universities.

Having now spent some time in Taiwan, and having met many influential academics, journalists and officials, I have realized that Taiwan is a model country. You quickly discover the deep strategic thinking of its elites.

Moreover, this strategic profundity is presented with modesty, a virtue that Turks mostly lack nowadays. Therefore, my first impression of Taiwan is as simple as this: It is a very successful country that should be viewed by countries like Turkey as an economic-development model.

On the other hand, Taiwan is in search of answers to several questions. Itself the achiever of an economic miracle, Taiwan is trying to understand what is going on in the Middle East.

The massive fluctuations in global politics, particularly in Middle Eastern affairs, seem to create a measure of anxiety among the Taiwanese elites. Though they are not looking at an aggressive strategy, they do not want to be left out of game and they certainly do not want to follow the wrong lead.

Thus several questions, such as what should be done regarding Palestinian statehood and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now dominate the intellectual discourse in Taipei. This is a search for a new diplomatic pattern to secure economic power that will protect long-term interests in a highly unstable political environment.

Academics and journalists here ask me many of the same things about Turkey that their counterparts have asked me in the numerous other places I have visited this year: andldquoWhy is Turkey becoming authoritarian?andrdquo or andldquoWhy did Turkey fail in Syria?andrdquo Unfortunately the new image of Turkey, one marked by corruption and authoritarian tendencies, is as prevalent in Taiwan as elsewhere. Ankara should question why such a negative image is the norm even in a place as distant as Taiwan.

Turkey and Taiwan hardly know each other Relations in all sorts of areas, be they academic or economic, are very weak. On the basis of my personal conversations, I can summarize the expectations of Turkey in Taipei as follows: First, as usual, is Turkeyand#39s recognition of Taiwan.

This is of course very difficult. There is China — andldquothe mainlandandrdquo as many people here call the Peopleand#39s Republic of China — factor It is not realistic to believe that Turkey will risk its relations with China in this regard.

Second, Taiwan wants a more complex relationship, such as direct flights between the two countries. However, it should be understood that governments can only open doors.

The rest relies upon civil actors, including market actors. Therefore the best strategy is to make Taiwan a main destination for Turkish students, academics and businessmen.

The most valuable thing that Turkey can acquire from Taiwan is its culture of innovation. However, this cannot be done through governmental procedures instead, market actors and universities, as expected, are key.

The process should particularly focus on Turkeyand#39s mid-sized companies, which are walking on a very fragile track. If they fail to invest in research and development, they court failure.

Taiwan can play a critical role in the upgrading of many Turkish small and mid-sized companies.A final point on Taiwan is its tolerant political and social atmosphere.

I observe that Muslims are happy in Taiwan, but Taiwan should not forget that protecting a peaceful and tolerant social order is not easy. There are many tense cities around the globe today that were once very tolerant places.

Taiwan is among the few states that are accepting of different cultures, and the very tense global political environment makes the protection of this attitude all the more critical.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman