Miracle or Mirage? Taiwanese SMEs in the New Millennium
A distinctive feature of Taiwan’s post-war economic development was decentralized industrialization consisting of a system of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) clustered in a geographical locale where numerous small firms specializing in one phrase of production complemented each other. The dynamics of the SMEs and their success in the global economy were topics in the narrative of the Taiwan “miracle”. Yet, increasing concerns about globalization and growing trade dependence on and capital outflow to China have cast doubt on the viability of the miracle economy. Studies are now suggesting that the transition to high technology industrialization led by the IT sector has resulted in concentration and polarization and, thus, convergence with the global trend of modern industrial capitalism dominated by large corporations
This talk examines Taiwan’s current industrial transformation through a detailed breakdown by sectoral analysis, using the industrial and commerce census data. The findings reveal that, contrary to the hollowing out thesis, SMEs have moved up the value-added ladder and continued to thrive as independent suppliers in a variety of global production networks. Drawing on long-term fieldwork in the metal and machinery sector, the talk illustrates the adaptation process of the SMEs and discuss the mechanisms that drive the system. It concludes with a reconceptualization of the development model and policy implications.
About the speaker:
Michelle Hsieh is an Assistant Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. She received her PhD (in Sociology) from McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and was a Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. Her research interests fall within the areas of economic sociology, sociology of development, comparative political economy, and East Asian societies. Her current research explores the variations of industrial upgrading in Taiwan and East Asia and the consequences.