Issues of Governance and Upgrading
Edited by Hubert Schmitz
Chapter 9: Clustering and upgrading in global value chains: the Taiwanese personal computer industry
Chikashi Kishimoto 1. INTRODUCTION In the early 1980s when Taiwan embarked on the development of a personal computer (PC) industry, few people expected that the country would obtain a dominant status in the world PC hardware production market within 20 years. In 1995, the total output of the Taiwanese information technology (IT) industry reached about US$ 20 billion and Taiwan became the third largest country in the production value of IT hardware, next only to the US and Japan. However, its status as the world’s main hardware producer is not visible to the equipment users. This is because many Taiwanese products are supplied with the brand name of foreign computer companies, and Taiwanese ﬁrms undertake the role of contract manufacturers. This does not mean, however, that Taiwanese manufacturers are only charged with simple production tasks under the supervision of foreign clients. This may have been the case in the 1980s, but since then Taiwanese producers have accumulated substantial capabilities not only in production skills but also in more complicated tasks such as product design and logistics. It is important to note that this Taiwanese industry mainly consists of homegrown small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are geographically clustered. This chapter examines the upgrading trajectory of this cluster. The Taiwanese PC industry is a particularly challenging case because of two key features. First, it probably presents the most signiﬁcant case of industrial upgrading outside the OECD countries. Second, this upgrading has been accompanied by the oﬀshore manufacture of a...
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