APARC Launches New Taiwan Program, Igniting Dialogue on Taiwan’s Future

The Taiwan Program at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center will serve as a Stanford hub and catalyst for multidisciplinary research and teaching about contemporary Taiwan. The program’s inaugural conference convened industry leaders, scholars, and students to examine Taiwan’s challenges and opportunities.
Conference participants gather on stage for a group photo at the Innovate Taiwan conference Participants gather for a group photo at the Innovate Taiwan conference, marking the launch of the Taiwan Program at Shorenstein APARC [Photo Credit: Rod Searcey] Rod Searcey

On May 2, 2024, Stanford University's Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) marked the inauguration of its new Taiwan Program at the conference Innovate Taiwan: Shaping the Future of a Postindustrial Society. The program will produce policy-relevant research to tackle the challenges facing Taiwan’s economy and society in a new era of global relations. It will also prepare the next generation of students to become experts on Taiwan and foster interactions between the Stanford community and Taiwanese stakeholders.

The program’s inaugural conference reflected this triadic mission. It gathered leading industry and academic experts from the United States and Taiwan with Stanford students to engage in diverse panel discussions. The all-day event saw a high turnout of attendees from Stanford and the broader community, including alumni and stakeholders from Taiwan.

Stanford President Richard Saller congratulated the program's establishment, noting it will advance Stanford as a global university by producing scholarship that transcends academic boundaries. “The program will do what Stanford does best — provide a cross-disciplinary, university-wide hub, where scholars from across campus and beyond can convene to study contemporary Taiwan,” said Saller. He described Taiwan as a beacon of democracy and the program’s establishment as demonstrating the university’s belief in the importance of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship.

APARC Director Gi-Wook Shin, the William J. Perry Professor of Contemporary Korea and a professor of sociology in the School of Humanities and Sciences, remarked that students and community members have increasingly expressed interest in studying Taiwan. “This is an opportune time to launch a Taiwan program with a comprehensive focus on economic, social, cultural, educational, and health-related matters,” he said. Shin underscored the program’s commitment to inspire new generations of Stanford students to engage with Taiwan.

Want to receive updates about the Taiwan Program? Email us at aparc-communications@stanford.edu.

Taiwan's Evolving Cultural Landscape

The first panel delved into contemporary research on Taiwan's societal and cultural trends and reflected on the nature of Taiwan studies. Pei-Chia Lan, a professor of sociology at National Taiwan University, shared findings from her research into the emerging formation of second-generation identity in Taiwan. She explained that an influx of immigrants and their bicultural children are transforming Taiwan’s self-perceived racial and ethnic homogeneity. For Lan, “Migration provides a critical lens for investigating Taiwan's history, transformation, and globalized development.”

Jing Tsu, Yale University’s Jonathan D. Spence Chair Professor of Comparative Literature & East Asian Languages and Literatures, offered a captivating account of the increasing appeal of Taiwan’s folk religious tradition exemplified in Mazu pilgrimages honoring the Goddess of the Sea or Taiwan’s “heavenly mother.” Tsu positioned the phenomenon of Mazu worship relative to Taiwanese identity, framing Taiwan's cultural heritage within a global context.

Ruo-Fan Liu, a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and incoming postdoctoral fellow at APARC, zoomed out from her research on education and culture in Taiwan to a larger vision of Taiwan studies in North America. She outlined three strategies to propel the field forward: enhancing data accessibility, bolstering theorizing capability, and expanding transnational and global comparisons. APARC Deputy Director and Japan Program Director Kiyoteru Tsutsui moderated the conversation, integrating the diverse perspectives into a discussion of Taiwan's societal milieu.

Technology, Innovation, and Economic Growth

The conference emphasized Taiwan's success as a modernization exemplar while addressing its challenges on the journey toward a sustainable economic future.

The second panel examined Taiwan's strides in healthcare innovation and biotechnological advancements, with industry leaders offering glimpses into the transformative potential of AI-driven healthcare solutions. Ted Chang, CTO of Quanta Computer, Bobby Sheng, Group CEO of Bora Pharmaceuticals, and C. Jason Wang, Stanford’s LCY Tan Lan Lee Professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy, reflected on the convergence of technology and healthcare delivery and the new era it heralds for personalized medicine and digital health solutions. APARC’s Asia Health Policy Program Director Karen Eggleston moderated the discussion, prompting the panelists to consider questions of equitable access and trust in healthcare technology.

Larry Diamond, the Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, led a following conversation on the strategic imperatives for Taiwan's economic future and global positioning. Four experts joined him: Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube, Jason Hsu, former legislator of the Legislative Yuan Taiwan, investment banker CY Huang, founder and president of FCC Partners, and digital commerce leader Rose Tsou, a former executive at Verizon Media, MTV, and Yahoo.

The panelists agreed that Taiwan must address its strained cross-Strait relations, develop a more diversified economy, move beyond sole reliance on semiconductors, and modify its energy policy to meet growing electricity demand and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Another consensus emerged about the need for government intervention to create an environment more conducive to entrepreneurship and global talent. Chen, who relocated his family to Taiwan in 2019 after two decades in Silicon Valley, shared his efforts in cultivating the island's startup ecosystem and experience being the inaugural recipient of the Taiwan Gold Card Visa, issued by the Taiwanese government to attract foreign talent for residence and employment.

Taiwanese Identity and Taiwan Studies at Stanford

Highlighting the role of youth and community engagement, the conference also included a student panel centered on Taiwanese identity and Taiwan studies on campus. Second-year student in Management Science and Engineering Tiffany Chang, who is also a pageant queen and research assistant at APARC, shared her introspective journey of self-discovery through her experience becoming Miss Asia USA, representing the Taiwanese community, and acting as an ambassador for Asian communities at large.

Carissa Cheng, a third-year student in International Relations, described her advocacy for community cohesion via Stanford’s Taiwanese Cultural Society. Yi-Ting Chung, a PhD candidate in the Department of History, recounted her experience designing and teaching a course in Taiwanese history. She argued that Taiwanese history merits being taught in a dedicated history class rather than as a subset of Chinese or Japanese history. ”The existence of a Taiwanese history class at Stanford is a statement and a way for students to have a vested interest in Taiwan,” she said. Third-year student in international Relations Marco Widodo moderated the dynamic conversation.

Marked by multidisciplinary inquiry and cross-cultural exchange, the conference ignited dialogue on Taiwan’s future and generated enthusiasm for collaboration on building a leading program on Taiwan at Stanford.

Media coverage of the "Innovate Taiwan" conference is available via:

Central News Agency >
Radio Taiwan International >

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