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US-China fight puts Taiwan’s economy in a firing line

TOKYO – The best one can say about the freefall in Taiwanese exports in January is that it could have been worse.

The 19.3% drop from a year ago was less severe than the 24% economists feared. It’s also less than December’s 23.2% plunge. Yet Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s economy has a US$40 trillion problem on its hands.

The reference here is to the combined annual gross domestic product (GDP) of the US and China. And at the moment, the half of this challenge that really stands out is China.

Fewer and fewer of Taiwan’s integrated circuit chips are going to the mainland and Hong Kong. By some measures, the shortfalls are the biggest since January 2009.

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