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Taiwan's Southbound Policy not about competing with China: Tsai
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Taipei, May 5 (CNA) Taiwan's "New Southbound Policy" is not about making a political statement or competing with China, but instead focuses on the island's advantages to promote mutually beneficial development in the region, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday.

Speaking in an interview with journalists from across Asia, including The Hindu from India, Indonesia's Kompas, The Sun from Malaysia, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Straits Times from Singapore, and The Nation from Thailand, Tsai reiterated that the policy is about economics and trade, and that it aims to build mutually beneficial relationships that improve the lives of the people within this community.

Responding to some critics who say China's "One Belt One Road" initiative has already reduced Taiwan's space in the region and that it is an obstacle for the policy, the president emphasized that the policies promoted by Taiwan and China are completely different models.

She said that the island enjoys immense soft power capabilities in terms of healthcare, education, human resource development, technological innovation, agriculture, and disaster preparedness.

This cannot be replaced or blocked by either money or politics, she explained.

Citing Singapore as an example, Tsai said despite being surrounded by its large neighbors, the city state has managed to develop its own advantages based not on geography or scale, but on vision and ambition from its political leaders.

If Singapore saw its size as a limitation, it would not be in the position it is in today, she added.

Commenting on plans to better develop industrial talents that would benefit both New Southbound Policy countries and Taiwanese-owned businesses operating there, Tsai encouraged companies and businesses in Taiwan to sponsor fellowships or scholarships to help students from India and other places.

She said there are currently about 1,200 Indian students studying in Taiwan, and that the government plans to further expand the Taiwan Scholarship and Taiwan Fellowship awards for talented Indian students to study in the country.

Moreover, the president also mentioned that around 5,000 students from different New Southbound Policy nations will begin to study in Taiwan under private sector sponsorships this coming summer.

As such, Tsai stressed that the New Southbound Policy is not about making a political statement in the region.

"It is not about competing with China, but about emphasizing Taiwan's own advantages and promoting mutually beneficial development as a member of the regional community," said Tsai.

The New Southbound Policy, initiated by Tsai's administration last year, is aimed at forging closer economic ties with the 10 nations of ASEAN, along with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Australia and New Zealand, to reduce Taiwan's economic dependence on China.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' New Southbound Policy Portal, the accumulated foreign direct investment (FDI) from Taiwan towards the New Southbound countries reached US$95 billion by December 2016.