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Trade, Tech, and Taiwan

UW Alumni Association - Esther Seidlitz

Aug 10, 2022

Entrepreneur, investor, and educator Alan Yeung discusses consequences for trade and technology if China moves on Taiwan

Esther Seidlitz August 09, 2022

Alan Yeung ’84, born and raised in Hong Kong, was drawn to the University of Wisconsin–Madison because of its reputation and its highly ranked College of Engineering. After earning a degree in chemical engineering at the UW, Yeung added on a doctorate

from Stanford. Throughout his education, he realized he preferred industry over academia. “I had more affinity for commercialization,” he explains. “taking a product to market, maybe turning something into practice, and perhaps even seeing a new company form as a result of that.” With an MBA from the University of California–Berkeley as well, Yeung has used his engineering background and business education to serve as an executive and investor for technology firms throughout the United States and Asia, including Foxconn.

He recently released a book, Flying Eagle, to share more about his role at Foxconn and his efforts to bring electronics manufacturing to Wisconsin.

Today, Yeung helps bridge academia and industry as a professor of practice for entrepreneurship in the UW’s College of Engineering. Read more from him to learn why the United States should be concerned about rising tensions between Taiwan and China.

Chief Area of Interest/Expertise: Part of the reason why I wrote my book was not so much because of the project of Foxconn coming to invest in the U.S. or Wisconsin; it was also prompted by the fact that with 25 to 30 years of globalization, there was a bit of a hollowing out of our core manufacturing, infrastructure, and capacity. People began to realize it could not be that way. It’s not sustainable. And for some commodities, it probably shouldn’t be that way. That was the time where we felt … some of the products that might be strategically important to the country, such as displays, such as semiconductors, should be reshored back to the U.S. Some of that is necessary for security. Then came COVID-19 — now health care and personal hygiene, or even other basic commodities are in short supply.

It brought a lot of attention and focus to … thinking about not relying on a few countries to make all of our products and commodities. And nowadays, in the context of geopolitics, with the war in Ukraine and now the rising tension in Taiwan, you really have to ask, “If we have some vulnerabilities, if we have some hiccups and glitches in supply chain, where would it hurt us the most?” And I think that brings the focus for tomorrow’s topic, where Taiwan becomes even more important than ever.

On the UW Now, I’ll Discuss: Besides semiconductors, the importance of Taiwan spans high-tech commodities, supply chain and logistics, and cross-border trades in Greater China, [the] Asia-Pacific [region], and the globe. I will comment on how the Taiwan-China-U.S. relations could impact the bifurcation of global institutions (e.g., G2, SWIFT) and flows of financial capital, people, information, and business processes.

One Thing I’d Like Viewers to Remember Is: Based on what I’m seeing in Ukraine and what I’ve seen in Greater China, it would be useful to know that most people want peace, but not everybody. There are certain elements and people who actually would encourage rising tension and potentially even military conflicts. By the same token, we should find a way to encourage the normalization of relations and maybe revert back to the status quo. But I’m not sure people agree or recognize that the status quo has changed. Many businesses [and] countries — for example, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) — do not wish to take sides. However, the status quo is changing in terms of Taiwan and Sino-U.S. relations. We need to understand the perspectives of all sides, not just typical narratives or perspectives.

To Get Smart Fast, Read:

  • “U.S. Govt Website Removes ‘Does Not Support Independence’ Statement from Taiwan Fact Sheet,” Standard (Hong Kong-based newspaper)

  • “China Rebukes U.S. for Changing Taiwan Wording on State Department Website,” Reuters

  • “U.S. State Department Website Reintroduces Sentence Denying Support of Taiwan Independence,” Taiwan News

  • “Big Chip in U.S.-China Crisis,” Consortium News

  • “Southeast Asia Seeks to Tiptoe through U.S.-China Taiwan Minefield,” Wall Street Journal

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