In a world where computer chips run everything from laptops to cars to the Nintendo Switch, Taiwan is the undisputed leader. It’s one of the most powerful tech centers in the world — so powerful that both China and the U.S. have vital interests there. But if you went back to the Taiwan of the 1950s, this would have seemed unimaginable. It was a quiet, sleepy island; an agrarian culture. Fifty years later, it experienced what many recall as an “economic miracle” — a transformation into not just one of Asia’s economic powerhouses, but one of the world’s.
This transformation was deliberate: the result of an active policy by the Taiwanese government to lure its people back from Silicon Valley. In the 1970s and 80s the government of Taiwan, led by finance minister K.T. Li, the “father of Taiwan’s Miracle,” actively recruited restless and ambitious Taiwanese businessmen, many of whom felt like they’d hit a glass ceiling in the U.S., to return to Taiwan and start technology companies. Today, those companies are worth billions.
In this special collaboration between Throughline and Planet Money, we talk to one such billionaire: Miin Wu, founder of Macronix, a computer chip company. When he left the U.S., he brought back dozens of Taiwanese engineers with him — one article called it a “reverse brain drain.” This episode tells the story of his journey from California’s Silicon Valley to Asia’s Silicon Island, and the seismic global shift it kicked off.
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