“Become the Four Asian Tigers again.”


     This is a statement by President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan in a speech on the Sojubushi, which is the anniversary of the founding of Taiwan on October 10, last year. President Tsai Ing-wen dared to say “Four Asian Tigers,” a word that has not been used much since the beginning of the 2000s, because the Taiwanese economy is expected to overtake the Korean economy in the near future. The Four Asian Tigers refer to the four countries of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore that have achieved economic growth since the 1970s. Given that Hong Kong and Singapore are city-states with a population of less than 10 million, it is effectively a declaration that Taiwan will overtake South Korea. Taiwan has a population of 23 million, about 45% of South Korea’s 51 million.


     The IMF’s outlook from 2025 to 2022 is three years ahead of schedule, increasing the possibility that it will be realized sooner than expected. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its “World Economic Outlook” issued on October 12, last year, predicts that Taiwan’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) will exceed South Korea by 2025. Six months later, the World Economic Outlook, published on the 25th of last month, said that time was three years ahead of schedule, with Taiwan ($ 36,051) surpassing South Korea ($ 34,994) this year. I expected. The IMF expected the growth rates of both South Korea and Taiwan in 2022 to be 3.3% in October last year, but revised it to 2.5% for South Korea and 3.2% for Taiwan in April this year. The GDP outlook for both countries has changed, with South Korea declining sharply and Taiwan declining modestly.


     The Taiwanese government was pleased and worried about the announcement that Taiwan would overtake South Korea this year in terms of GDP per capita, which is a representative indicator comparing the economic conditions of the two countries. If this outlook is true, Taiwan will surpass South Korea in GDP per capita for the first time since 2003.


     Corona epidemic prevention and industrial structure centered on electronic components


     It is analyzed that the most important factors in Taiwan’s economic growth are the success of the new corona epidemic prevention and the good fight of the electronics industry centered on semiconductors. From 2015 to 2019, just before the Korona-ka, Taiwan’s growth rate was in the 1-3% range, but in 2020 and 2021, which are in the midst of the Korona-ka, exports in the electronic sector, which account for half of all exports, surged. However, the economy has grown significantly.


     The success of the corona epidemic, coupled with Taiwan’s unique electronic product-centric industrial structure, has boosted exports. The Korona-ka, which began in 2020, has had a tremendous impact on the world economy, but for home and office use such as smartphones, displays and computers.

     It exploded the demand for electronic products. Taiwan has two items, electronic parts and telecommunications-related products, which will account for 52.2% of total exports (2021).


     According to data from the Statistics Bureau of the Ministry of Finance of Taiwan, the export value of electronic components, especially semiconductors, has skyrocketed from $ 112.5 billion in 2019 to $ 171.9 billion in 2021. It increased by 52.8% in just two years. The ratio of electronic component exports to Taiwan’s total exports increased from 34.2% in 2019 to 38.5% in 2021. This is a surprising number compared to the 5% increase in Taiwan’s electronic component exports from 2017 to 2019 ($ 107.1 billion to $ 112.5 billion).


     After all, Taiwan’s economic growth rate in 2020, when the Korona-ka began, was 3.36%, the highest among the major countries in the world. This is higher than the growth rate of South Korea (-0.9%), which is evaluated to have succeeded in the Korona-ka, as well as the growth rate of China (2.2%), which has maintained the zero-corona state for a considerable period of time. This is the first time Taiwan has surpassed China in economic growth since 1991. In 2021, when the Korona-ka was in full swing, Taiwan achieved a high economic growth rate of 6.45%. In the same year, South Korea’s growth rate was 4.0% and China’s was 8.1%. Growth rates in South Korea and China are high due to low growth in 2020, while Taiwan is pure economic growth.


     The Taiwanese government has touted the prospect of “passing South Korea” as a major political achievement, but some citizens have expressed discomfort. Even if GDP per capita surges and overtakes South Korea, the actual salary and standard of living of Taiwanese citizens have not risen. This year’s minimum wage in Taiwan is NT $ 168 (738 yen, as of 2022) per hour, well below Japan and South Korea. So-called ordinary citizens do not feel the realization of economic growth.


     It has been pointed out that economic growth is realized mainly in the electronics industry, and the benefits are enjoyed only by workers in specific fields and are not evenly distributed throughout. Taiwanese media “China Times” reported on December 17th last year that Taiwanese citizens complained, “What is this growth useful for? It’s all in the interests of the semiconductor industry. Other industries are dying.” There is.