TURNING Taiwan into a regional hub will keep Hong Kong and other Asia-Pacific business and financial centres on their toes. Speakers at a conference yesterday on Taiwan's plans to become a 'regional operations centre' said the island's decision to liberalise and internationalise its economy would spur Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai to become even more competitive. 'Competition isn't a dirty word,' said Richard Wong, director of the Hong Kong Centre for Economic Research at the University of Hong Kong. 'It creates trade and diverts trade.' He added: 'It sets in place a dynamic process. Complacency is a sure path to demise.' Maersk Hong Kong managing director Henrik Zeuthen criticised the Hong Kong Government for political short-sightedness and a failure to build new container berths, which may threaten the territory's role as a international port. By contrast, Taiwan and China may allow international container vessels to call at ports in both places on the same voyage beginning in August, and to transship China cargoes to destinations other than Taiwan. 'One is wearing blinders if one cannot see this as a major opportunity to the advantage of Chinese exports, Taiwan's trade status and shipping lines' flexibility,' Mr Zeuthen said. Over the short term, Taiwan's efforts to become a regional hub for manufacturing, finance, telecommunications, media, air and shipping would complement Hong Kong's role, HSBC Asset Management director John Cheung said. 'We will continue to see Hong Kong as a provider of financial services and raiser of capital, Taiwan a provider of capital, research and development, and China a provider of both skilled and unskilled labour.' Lawrence Shao-Liang liu, executive director of the co-ordination and service office for the Asia-Pacific Regional Operations Centre, said Taiwan's plans to revamp its role were the result of years of 'soul searching' - not merely a response to the emerging mainland market.