Taiwan and Japan United Through Common Challenges

‘The irreversible trend of ageing may be a new area of cooperation between the already close nations; made feasible through changing technology.’

An ageing population, low birth rate, and a small domestic consumer market are challenges that are not unique to Taiwan, but also to one of its closest trading partners, Japan. However, rather than this being an obstacle for the two states, these similarities have allowed for greater collaboration. 

Over the past few years, exchanges and cooperation between Taiwan and Japan have increased dramatically with Japan being Taiwan’s third largest trading partner and Taiwan is Japan’s fourth largest. Historically manufacturing based, the trade links between the two countries would continue to grow through looking at a greater range of markets including technology and services. One such developing area is making use of an increasingly elderly population. 

Last week, on the 8th November, the Commerce Development Research Institute (CDRI), a Taiwanese government sponsored think tank, held the ‘2019 Taiwan-Japan Commercial Service Industry Cooperation Forum’ for Taiwanese and Japanese businesses in the service industry to explore emerging markets. It saw over 150 members of different corporations from across the service industry such as chain restaurants. 

Following this, on the 18th of November, Xu Tiancai, Chairman of the Business Development Research Institute, (a division of the CDRI) and Sato Seiji, general manager of Tokyo Star Bank, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) during the Third Asian Business Seminar in Japan which saw over 170 Japanese companies in attendance. The focus of this MoC was to conduct joint research and analysis into how an ageing population can be seen as an untapped market, as well as to host events for potential industry relevant firms. These events would be aimed at highlighting to investment firms that an ageing population is not an economic burden but, through “an innovation ecosystem” of joint ventures, could bring about new business models and contemporary markets. 

One major example of these new markets is the introduction of AI, big data, and the internet-of-things to tackle aspects of the economy that have previously been regarded in a negative way. These technological developments have been promoted as providing modern catering services, nursing homes, and facilities for the elderly. Xu Tiancai explained this during the forum as transforming social structure to change consumer behaviour and thereby increase productivity and economic growth. 

Taiwan has already indicated their dedication to using this technology in infrastructure development; helping to develop related industries. This week Premier Su Tseng-Chang stated at the weekly Cabinet meeting that a public internet-of-things information network is underway to monitor air quality, seismic activity, water resources, and natural disasters. Lon-Fa Hsieh of the CDRI has highlighted that by sharing research such as this, Taiwan is engaging in an international business service industry that take advantage of the regions key issues.