Saturday, January 29, 2005

Jay, it's great to read about your son, Leigh, who you must have named after me, no? He sounds just like a chip off the old block.

As you may be able to tell from some of these pictures, I'm in Taiwan right now. I was on the phone with Terri and started to hear a loud drumming sound from down on the street. It was loud enough that Terri could actually hear it through the phone even though I am up on the 17th floor so I decided to go down check it out. I just took these pictures and you can click on any one of them to get a larger image. It appears that the Chinese New Year festivities are already beginning. The actual date of the new year is February 9th, and the whole country will shut down for 1 week, starting next Monday. The same is true for most countries in this region. I'm here on a business trip, getting ready for several days of training and meetings to discuss a product called LightScribe, which is a way to label CDs and DVDs using the same laser that writes the data.

I generally visit Taiwan about once a or twice a year since a lot of HP's suppliers and technology partners are headquartered here. A few years ago, they used to manufacture just about all the world's PCs in Taiwan, but now they have the manufacturing done in China.

Taiwan considers itself an independent country from Mainland China. Mainland China thinks of Taiwan as a renegade province. Taiwan used to be called Formosa. Ilha Formosa, which means 'Beautiful Island', was the name given by a Dutch navigator sailing on a Portugese ship back in 1590. If you look in an encyclopedia from the 1960's, you won't find Taiwan, but will find Formosa. I'm not sure when the name change took place. A southern portion of the island was named Tayouan, (pronouced Taiwan) meaning 'Terraced Bay' and this is the name that later was adopted by the whole country. Back in 1949 during the Communist revolution in China, Chiang Kai-Shek and his followers came here and declared this the 'real' China and pretty much took over, claiming to rule all of China and hoping one day to reclaim the mainland. There is still a lot of tension between Taiwan and mainland China but just in the past day, they began to allow direct flights between mainland China and Taiwan for the first time in 56 years, despite their separation of only 100 miles. Previously, all flights had to be routed through Hong Kong or Macau. So perhaps this will mark a new era of a more peaceful coexistence of these historically political foes.

It seems that 10 to 15 years ago, most of my foreign travel was to Japan, then Singapore, now to Taiwan, and I suspect that in another 5 years, it will probably be to China, as the manufacturing and other high tech jobs follow the world's lowest labor rates. Perhaps sometime in the future those jobs will come back to the U.S., but it may take a long time to get the rest of the world up to a U.S. or European standard of living. It's hard to know how this will all turn out and there is much controversy about whether it's right or wrong to protect an economy by isolating it from the rest of the world. The only thing that I do know about protectionism is that if you engage in it long enough, you'll eventually become a magnet for low paying jobs since your standard of living will eventually lag so far behind the rest of the world, that your own country's wages will become the lowest.


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