Saturday, December 12, 2009

Taipei 101

Taipei 101, a landmark skyscraper in Taipei, Taiwan, opened for business on November 14th, 2003. The financial tower houses fashion boutiques, offices and conference halls. So named because of its 101 floors, the skyscraper totals 1,678 feet, and has five underground levels.

It was the world’s tallest building before being overtaken in 2007 by the Burj Dubai in Dubai, UAE. Upon completion, the Burj's 141st floor reached 2,684 feet. The Taipei 101 elevators can ascend at a speed of 37.7 miles per hour, taking visitors from the 5th floor to the observatory on the 89th floor in just 37 seconds. It is the world’s fastest elevator.

At midnight on December 31st each year, fireworks are launched from Taipei 101 to welcome the new year. It is a breathtaking and colorful choreography of fireworks, often broadcasted around the world.

Taipei 101’s official website can be found at :

The pictures below, taken by the following photographers respectively, are posted on the Website of Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau. They are credited to: 1. Liu Pao-feng, 2. Huang Hsiao-shih, 3. Tsai Tong-ching, 4. Chen Tsu-cheng, 5. Chen Feng-jung, 6. Chen Kai-jen, 7. Pei Chi-yu, 8. Chao Yi-shiang.

Taiwan’s pop culture shines across the Chinese world

Last month, San Francisco offered two exciting film festivals - one showcasing Taiwan films (Taiwan Film Days), and the other, Chinese films (Chinese Film Festival). Even though Taiwan and China share a common cultural heritage, it is Taiwan which continues to dominate the Chinese world in pop culture.

Big movies vs. small movies

In a review of the festivals by the San Francisco Chronicle, the paper described the difference between the films offered by each country. “Mainland China makes films with a collective bent and Taiwan makes smaller, more independent and individualistic movies.” The article also noted, “The Chinese movies are bigger in scope, but the stories are contained within the Mainland borders. By contrast, the movies in Taiwan Film Days look outward.”

The review took a look at The Founding of the Republic and Red Cliff II, the latter is supposedly the most expensive film in Chinese history. Screened at the Chinese Film Festival, these two big movies had huge casts and production costs, while the Taiwanese movies were smaller and delicate, with diverse and international characteristics.

According to Graham Leggat, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society, “Contemporary Taiwanese films - like the society and culture from which they spring - are full of warmth and engaging vitality.”

Creativity exploded with the opening of society

It is an undeniable fact that Taiwanese pop culture really shines in the Chinese market through its music. The songs of Taiwanese singers A-Mei and Jay Chou can be heard from Beijing to Guangzhou in China. In Shanghai, Cheer Chen’s concert moved 10,000 concert-goers to tears.

Superband, a 70’s band consisting of Lo Ta-yu and three veteran Taiwanese singers, has performed over forty live concerts all over the Chinese world. With an estimated sale of 800,000 to 1 million tickets, its total box office sales total US$62 million. In Commonwealth magazine, Taiwanese music producer Chang Pei-ren explained Superband’s success. “The Taiwanese songs performed by Superband are all related to human emotions, interpersonal relations, or personal feelings.” It satisfies the common desires of all the Chinese people.

In the 1980s, Taiwan’s creativity exploded with the gradual democratization and opening of the island. Pop music flowered with Taiwan’s economic growth and political liberalization. The sweet gentle folk songs of the late Taiwanese pop singer Teresa Teng soothed the hungering souls in Communist China, resonating with the listeners there. Lo Ta-yu’s lyrics of social criticism also hit a chord with mainland intellectuals.

Kevin Chen, Director General of Shanghai Insight Communications in China, said in an interview with Commonwealth that he grew up listening to the songs of Teresa Teng and Lo Ta-yu. “Taiwan’s pop music in the 1980s led us away from a closed society like a refreshing feeling in the spring… The cultural impact hit us from all directions. ” And Teresa Teng and Lo Ta-yu continue to have a solid fan base in China. According to a report from the Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Hui Po, a web opinion poll conducted from 24 million Chinese internet surfers in July and August, 2009, showed that both singers were among the top people named as the most influential cultural figures in new China.

It is a difficult task to measure the size of Taiwan’s pop music output since pirated products account for about 90 percent of the Chinese pop music market according to Chang Pei-ren. Based on this reasoning, Chang estimated there have been at least five billion bootleg music CDs produced in China in the last 10 years.

Chang explains the strength of Taiwan’s pop music because the island’s musicians are generally well educated with a good command of the Chinese language as well as cultural insight. They have a great appreciation for romantic delicacy, entrepreneurship, and a broad view of the world.

Why Taiwan’s pop culture triumphs in China

Taiwanese scholars in general believe that Taiwan's pop culture enjoys advantages over mainland Chinese pop due to three factors:

1) By adopting traditional Chinese characters, Taiwanese are more naturally influenced by traditional Chinese culture, enabling them to develop a better understanding and appreciation of it and enriching their creativity. In mainland China, the use of simplified Chinese characters along with a lost generation caused by the Cultural Revolution makes them feel more detached from traditional Chinese culture. There are still lingering negative influences in their understanding of culture and arts.

2) Since 1949, Taiwan has been evolving from the early stage of "complete absorption" of Western pop culture to a level of integration with local culture, and finally transcending to a new creative world. In mainland China, Western cultural exposure has been possible for only about thirty years and they are still at a stage of "adoption."

3) Also, Taiwan had been under Japan's political rule and cultural influence for fifty years. The delicate nature of the Japanese national character and its artistic styles has been implanted in Taiwanese pop culture. The mainland Chinese are generally anti-Japanese, rejecting the invasion of Japanese culture.

Chinese censorship limits broad storytelling

Taiwan’s television variety shows and idol shows are also very popular among Chinese people all over the world. “Here Comes Kangxi,” “Everybody Speaks Nonsense,” and “One Million Stars” have become the must-see programs by all Chinese around the globe. Kevin Tsai, the host of “Here Comes Kangxi,” is the number one Taiwanese figure getting the most hits on Chinese web.

The godfather of Taiwan’s variety show producer Wang Wei-chung explained, “Pop video culture develops well in a more free and democratic society which provides ample space for creativity. Chinese media must follow orders from the government. Most mainland programs are produced with serious consideration for government officials’ attitudes, unable to fully cater to the general audiences. Therefore they are disconnected from the market trend.”

He continued, “Traditionally, Taiwanese attached more importance to family values. There are a lot of family elements in Taiwanese dramas and television programs. They are full of delicate individual emotions.” However, due to China’s one child policy, young Chinese people have few brothers and sisters, decreasing interaction among family members. So the family elements produced in Chinese television series are not as “humane” and “interesting” as those in Taiwan.

There are extra marital affairs, single mothers and homosexual content in Taiwanese idol shows, which violate the official rules of China’s government and are not allowed on China’s television channels. Taiwan’s programs contain this type of content, allowing it to exercise potential influence over the young Chinese who watch them via bootleg DVDs and the internet, the Commonwealth noted.

Expanding influence throughout Southeast Asia

Southeastern Asia, including Hong Kong, has been the major market for Taiwan’s idol dramas. In 2008, Sanli E-Television (SET) produced an idol show “Destiny Love,” which grabbed a record high license fee of US$85 million in the global Chinese market. Later, Chen Ming-chang, the director of the show, was given big monetary incentives to work in China. Chen Yu-shan, director general of drama in SET, said, “Taiwan’s idol shows are a kind of dream weaver for the Chinese world.”

Well-known idol show director Tsai Yue-hsun said, “The modern sense, fashion style and the rhythm of Taiwanese idol shows have caught up to the levels of those in Japan and Korea.” She said, “A drama is a combination showing human life and social life. It is not easy to expect a mainland Chinese actor to enact delicate feelings, or to expect a Chinese director to use a camera to shoot these kinds of feelings.” Mainland Chinese video producers are good at making epic dramas and those about political struggles, while Taiwanese are superior in family dramas and love stories.

Although Taiwan’s singers and idol dramas might be known throughout Southeastern Asia, the island’s filmmakers have managed to make a name for themselves further abroad. “While there is a generation of legendary auteurs, like Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming Liang, whose works are known far and wide.” In Leggat’s opinion, “The new generation of Taiwanese filmmakers are making smaller and arguably more personable and accessible films that bridge the gap between popular and art cinema culture in a new way.”

According to the Commonwealth magazine, China’s current environment has not been able to breed people like Lo Ta-yu or Jay Chou. The pop culture of the Chinese world still depends on Taiwan’s lead for certain things.

Taiwan seeks hi-tech talent in Santa Clara

A hi-tech recruitment mission from Taiwan held a two-day job fair at the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency Hotel on Nov. 13-14th. It was the first leg of its ten-day four-city tour to the United States, offering more than 1500 positions for medium to high level managers and engineers to work in Taiwan.

This is the seventh such mission initiated by Taiwan’s government to attract professionals from the US since 2003. At a press conference, Chang Jin-fu, cabinet minister and leader of the mission, said this mission differed from previous ones in that it was seeking more overseas talent for Taiwan’s six emerging industries. In addition, the mission demonstrated Taiwan’s ability to bounce back in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Chang said the recruitment mission had successfully hired over 3,700 professionals to work in Taiwan in the last six years. This year the mission is made up of 25 companies and eight research institutions, offering at least 1,538 jobs in management, engineering, semiconductor research and development, information technology, optical-electronics, metal materials, biotechnology, pharmaceutical manufacturing and green technology.

Over the past few decades, Taiwan has built a solid foundation in semiconductors, flat panel displays and information technology geared towards the overseas market. Hit by the global financial crisis, Taiwan’s hi-tech markets have shrunk. In the face of this reality, Taiwan’s government has taken an initiative to promote six emerging industries: biotechnology, tourism, green energy, healthcare, quality agriculture, culture and creativity.

The mission this year provided more job opportunities in the six emerging industries in addition to those in the semiconductor sector. In order to facilitate the recruitment of international talent, Taiwan’s government has recently approved the issuance of “Employment Passes,” “Scholastic and Commercial Travel Passes,” and “Permanent Residence Cards.”

Companies joining the mission with job openings included Chi-Mei Optoelectronics, Delta Electronics, Chunghwa Telecom, Macronix, Etron, Gemtek, Brickcom, Hon Hai, Mediatek, Cadence, Davicom, Arcom, Asia Pacific Microsystems, Coban Asia, Everlight Electronics, LePower, PharmaEssentia, Shenmao, Parts Channel, Applied Materials, and Impax.

After its stop in California, the mission headed to Dallas, TX, Chicago, IL, and Boston, MA, before returning to Taiwan on Nov. 23rd. Beside recruiting new employees, the job fair also promoted investment in Taiwan and forged connections with the US hi-tech enterprises.

According to the Taiwan Trade Center, San Francisco, who was one of the sponsors of the two-day job fair in Santa Clara, there were 381 on-site registrations at the one-on-one job interview site, a 47 percent increase over 2008. The total number of interviews conducted this year was 910, a 23 percent increase over last year’s figure. Among those interviewed, 28 people were hired and committed to work in Taiwan.

Introduction before screening A City of Sadness

Last month, Manfred P.T. Peng, the director of the Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, shared some background information about the 228 Incident with the audience of A City of Sadness. The screening of a new print at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco celebrated the film’s twentieth anniversary. It won the Golden Lion at the 1989 Venice Film Festival.

The historical drama was one of director Hou Hsiao-hsien earlier works. It followed the tumultuous lives of the Lin family in the aftermath of the violence surrounding the 228 Incident in 1947, and the cultural conflicts between the newly-arrived mainland Chinese and the native Taiwanese. The film was the first Taiwanese movie to deal with the tragic 228 Incident, which was a taboo topic in Taiwan for half a century.

When did the 228 Incident take place?

In 1945, World War II ended with Japan’s defeat. Japan returned Taiwan to China. During this time, Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) government were engaged in fighting the Communists in China.

In 1947, Chiang’s troops suffered setbacks in the Civil War and his government was in a state of disarray. On February 28th, conflict between residents and the KMT administration broke out in Taiwan. The riots were brutally suppressed. This uprising and the aftermath would be known as “the 228 Incident.”

In 1949, Chiang’s government relocated from the mainland to Taiwan.

Why did it happen?

Three factors contributed to the 228 Incident:

1. Since the 16th century, a large number of Chinese moved from China’s coastal provinces to Taiwan. In 1895, the Qing Dynasty was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan after being defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War. Separated from the Chinese mainland for 50 years and ruled by Japan, the Taiwanese had developed differences in language, living habits and political perceptions from the newly arrived mainlanders. These differences led to conflict.

2. Before the end of World War II, Taiwan had been the most modern colony under Japan. After 8 years of war with Japan, the soldiers sent by Chiang to take control of Taiwan were in a bad shape. The Taiwanese were disappointed at the appearance and discipline of the troops from the motherland. Most of the KMT officials were corrupt and incompetent, refusing to let Taiwan’s elites participate in public affairs. Under the guise of controlling the riots, they went on to massacre Taiwan’s intellectuals.

3. The incident occurred at the critical moment of the Civil War. Chiang was losing in China, costing millions of military and civilian lives, and probably based on the fear of communism spreading, did not manage the crisis in Taiwan peacefully.

Who killed whom?

After the incident, Chiang’s troops cracked down on the uprising by executing dissidents and others in the general population. The killing spread throughout the island. The estimated death toll ranges from 10,000 to 30,000. Among them, approximately 3,000 mainlanders were killed by angry Taiwanese.


The 228 Incident impacted Taiwan in three major ways:

1. The incident resulted in suspicion and mistrust between the Taiwanese and the mainlanders. It also sowed the seeds of the Independence Movement by claiming Taiwan was not a part of China, which caused the island’s identity issue.

2. The victims of the incident included top intellectuals of the time (lawyers, doctors, journalists and entrepreneurs), creating a talent gap in Taiwan’s elite society. This hampered Taiwan’s consciousness after the period of Japanese occupation.3. After the incident and the end of the Civil War, Chiang’s government imposed martial law, putting restrictions on the lives of not just Taiwanese but mainlanders as well. Human rights and political participation were frozen, retarding the island’s democratic development. Time healed much of this national trauma with the passing of Chiang in 1975 and as his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, adopted economic and political reforms in the 1980s. For decades, Taiwanese and mainlanders have worked towards a better future, with equal educational opportunities, social mobility, intermarriage, and a shared determination that Taiwan will not fall under the military threats of China.

In 1995, the first ethnic Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui publicly apologized for the mistakes made in the 228 Incident on behalf of the government and the ruling KMT. Financial compensation was paid to the victims and their surviving family members. The massacre is now included in school textbooks and is a well-researched topic in Taiwan. On the island, February 28th is now a national holiday known as Peace Memorial Day.

Local election results prompt Ma administration soul searching

President Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), vowed to continue pushing for reforms and said his party will humbly conduct a thorough review of current administrative policies in the wake of the local elections which reduced the party's control of county and city governments by two. The total number of counties contested at the elections was 17, among them four were won by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and one by an independent.

Ma declined to characterize the outcome of the latest elections as a defeat for the party, but did say that the election results were “not satisfactory.” With the economy in deep recession and experiencing a high unemployment rate, Ma described voters as “very kind and generous” towards the KMT at the elections.

On December 5th, 65 percent of the roughly seven million eligible voters in Taiwan and its offshore islands went to the polls to elect 17 new county magistrates, 592 county councilors, and 211 township chiefs.

The “three-in-one” elections excluded the administrations in Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, both of which enjoy special municipality status. No elections were held in Taipei County, Kaohsiung County, Taichung City, Taichung County, Tainan City, and Tainan County since they are due to be upgraded or merged into special municipalities. In December 2010, elections in Taipei City, the New Taipei Municipality (originally Taipei County), Greater Taichung, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung municipalities will be held. These are considered to be the most important elections prior to the 2012 presidential election.

KMT suffers setback, opposition gains ground

The KMT won elections in 12 counties, maintaining a ruling majority in northern and eastern Taiwan, and on the offshore islands. The KMT lost in Ilan County, which is a region heavily influenced by the DPP. The victor in Hualien County was a former KMT member, who violated KMT discipline rules to enter the election. The United Daily News called this election one with “no surprises.”

In 2005 at, the last local elections of county magistrates and city mayors (including those places where no elections were held this time), the KMT won 50.96 percent of the total votes. This time they only won 47.8 percent. The DPP, except for losing to the KMT by 2.7 million votes at the 2008 presidential election, the party gained 45.3 percent of the total ballots, an increase from the 41.95 percent. The margin between the DPP and the KMT has now closed to only 2.5 percent. This time, the DPP gained ground in every county and city except in Hualien County, where the DPP made no candidate nominee.

Most media outlets in Taiwan attributed the DPP’s small victory to the success of its election maneuvering by Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen, and considered her the best DPP candidate for Taipei City mayor in 2010. Tsai has a PhD in Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Some media consider her as a strong candidate against Ma when he runs for re-election in 2012. Commenting on the election results, Tsai said the significance of the elections is that “people cast a no confidence vote against the Ma government.”

Given the state of the economy, the Liberty Times attributed the KMT’s defeat to Ma’s failure at the mid-term elections. However, the Taipei-based China Times said the DPP was sure to win more votes based on the KMT’s unimpressive administrative performance and not because of Tsai’s leadership, or the DPP’s efforts to reform.

Let battle commence

Professor Chen Chao-chien at Min Chuang University said the DPP’s small victory is the result of a “pendulum swing effect.” Due to the repeated scandals suffered by the previous DPP government, wavering voters used their votes to penalize the DPP at the 2008 presidential election. This time around, they are doing the same to give a warning to the ruling KMT.

Even after losing two counties at the elections this time, the KMT still controls a majority in the county magistrates. This will not hurt the ruling KMT’s administrative capability and will have only a limited impact on the stock market and relations across the Taiwan Strait.

However, the elections are the first round of skirmishes before the 2012 presidential election battle begins. The second round will be the elections of five special municipality mayors in 2010. The southern municipalities of Kaohsiung and Tainan have traditionally been under DPP leadership. In recent years, Taipei City and the New Taipei Municipality in the north have also been in the hands of the DPP. The KMT will surely face a tough fight in 2010.

AIT chief reassures Taiwan

Raymond F. Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), reassured President Ma Ying-jeou on Nov. 24th that U.S. policy towards Taiwan has not changed. He came to Taipei to brief the Taiwan government following President Barack Obama’s recent visit to China. Both issued statements of mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territory.

During a joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, President Obama mentioned the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), the US legislation that is the framework governing unofficial relations between Taipei and Washington, including sales of arms to defend Taiwan.

In the December 2009 issue of Global View, the Taipei-based monthly magazine surveyed Taiwanese citizens following Obama's visit to Asia. More than 46 percent of the respondents trusted Obama, while only 17.5 percent trusted China's president. In the same survey, 52.3 percent believed that the United States would secure Taiwan's interests, while only 19.6 percent believed that China would do so.

Issues discussed at the meeting with Burghardt included a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) between Taiwan and the US, the possibility of the two sides signing an extradition treaty, the US sale of F16C/D jet fighters to Taiwan, US beef imports and a visa-free program for Taiwanese visitors.

On US beef, the Taipei Times reported that the Ma administration would impose the so-called “three controls and five checks” measures. This refers to border controls and various safety screening measures. Ma said that none of the measures would violate the protocol on bone-in beef signed with Washington and would conform to the regulations of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The import of American beef remains the most contentious issued on the table. Taiwan recently signed a protocol with the US to expand market access for US beef to include bone-in beef and other beef products that have not been contaminated with “specific risk materials.” In a separate meeting with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, Burghardt said the issue of beef imports from the US had been politicized ahead of Taiwan’s December 5th local elections and is basically a “phony” issue. It was an issue which Wang, Premier Wu Den-yih, and DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen have all disagreed on.

Premier Wu said it is a real issue of concern to the public and the government promised to adopt administrative measures to block imports of ground beef and bovine offal. Chairperson Tsai had a long argument with Burghardt on the issue. Meanwhile, Taiwan Solidarity Union chairman Huang Kun-huei said the Consumer Union – a US based consumer protection foundation – is still engaged in a dispute with the US Food and Drug Administration over testing in US facilities.

The Taipei-based China Times reported the beef market opening measure has drawn strong criticism from opposition politicians and consumer rights activists who are launching a referendum campaign to force the government to renegotiate the bilateral beef trade protocol signed with Washington in October. The paper reported that the Taiwan Consumers’ Foundation collected over 190,000 signatures to initiate the referendum, but due to the election they were not presented to the Central Election Committee for examination to avoid further polarization of the issue.

The paper also said the long-stalled TIFA talks between Taipei and Washington are expected to resume in early 2010. This was according to William A. Stanton, the Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, who addressed a forum hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei on Nov. 24th.

Stanton said the TIFA’s agenda should not be limited to economic and trade issues. “Given the shared values and beliefs between Taiwan and the United States, issues of mutual cooperation concerning the enhancement of transparency in government, energy, environmental protection and labor need to be addressed,” he said. “U.S. imports of rice and pork should also be included.”

For those in the Ma administration and the opposing Democratic Progressive Party who feared Obama’s visit to China as a potential back track of US commitments to Taiwan, Stanton insisted that there has been no change in US policy toward Taiwan. As for the issue of beef imports, Stanton said he is somewhat frustrated in dealing with the issue, but it is also a positive reflection of Taiwan’s democracy.

Taiwan’s exclusion at Copenhagen detrimental to global progress

Although Taiwan has representation at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCC), President Ma Ying-jeou has said that only if Taiwan’s officials were able to participate fully at the conference can the international community truly learn more about Taiwan’s efforts to reduce energy use and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Attendees at the conference (also known as COP-15 – that is, the 15th session of the Conference of Parties), taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, from December 7th to 18th, are discussing a post-Kyoto framework and formulating the world’s carbon reduction targets beyond 2012. Taiwan’s representation at the conference, led by Minister Stephen Shen of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), is relegated to the level of a non-governmental organization, due to the island’s exclusion from the formal UN processes.

Since 1995, Taiwan has participated under the name of Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), which the UNFCC Secretariat has listed under the name of “Hsinchu, China.” This slight has dampened the spirit of the Taiwanese deprived of the opportunity to participate fully and effectively. In one case, an environmental organization decided against attending altogether upon hearing its application would be under the name “China.” Wang Chin-shou made the decision as president of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union. According to the Taipei-based China Post, he thought the government’s stance against COP-15 was too “passive.”

The Taipei-based Environment Quality Protection Foundation decided to attend despite being designated under “China.” Hsieh Ying-shih, the foundation’s chairman said, “It is an international political reality.” Besides, climate change issues extend beyond the boundaries of sovereign countries. In addition to ITRI and the foundation, Taiwan’s Institute for Sustainable Energy has also applied as an NGO.

As the world’s 20th largest economy and as the 18th largest trading country, Taiwan’s economic activities have a direct bearing on the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region in particular. Furthermore, with substantial business interests in Southeast Asia, Taiwan is in a position to influence environmental stewardship outside its own borders. Excluding Taiwan from participating in the dialogue at COP-15 would be seriously detrimental to real progress given that the island is a key production hub, with inextricable links to global economic and trade growth.

Taiwan doing its bit to tackle climate change

In spite of Taiwan’s limited participation, the island has been enacting legislation to meet international standards. It has a greenhouse gas (GHG) management plan, passed the Renewable Energy Development Act, with a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Bill, and an Energy Tax Bill is in the pipeline.

According to Taiwan’s EPA, in 2008, the country reduced its total electricity consumption by 4 billion kilowatt-hours, helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 4.4 percent. It is the first time the nation has ever witnessed negative emissions growth.

To further minimize air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, last month the Executive Yuan approved an amendment to the Commodity Tax Act which would allow individuals purchasing a hybrid vehicle with a new plate registration to be eligible for a US$777 tax deduction. Furthermore, the Ministry of Economic Affairs will also propose the elimination of commodity taxes on electric vehicles along with a subsidy to each purchaser, reducing payments from US$3107 up to US$15,535.

As an industrialized country, Taiwan has weighted its development with its efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Although Taiwan is in line with international moves to inspect, report on, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the task ahead would make more sense if the island was a full participant of the global community.

In August of this year, Taiwan was hit with Typhoon Morakot, the deadliest typhoon in fifty years. Yet, this force of nature only crystallized Taiwan’s stark vulnerability to global climate change and the island’s willingness to curb global warming.

Taiwan and China sign historic finance deal

Taiwan and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Nov. 16th, paving the way for financial sectors on both sides to have greater access to each other’s financial markets. Taking effect on mid-January 2010, these three documents will cover banking, insurance and securities.

In order to avoid political controversy, Taiwan’s chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission, Sean Chen, signed the documents as a “representative of the financial regulatory organization” for the Taiwan side, while his Chinese counterpart did the same as a “representative” for the mainland side.

The contents of the documents cover the exchange of financial information, establishment of financial institutions, financial supervision, and setting up a mechanism for dealing with risk management, which is crucial in dealing with the aftermath of a global financial crisis. Further details will be ironed out when Taiwan's Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) meet to discuss the FTA-like economic cooperation framework agreement (EFCA) on December 21st to the 25th in Taiwan.

In an interview with the Commonwealth magazine, Chen likened the MOU to a “general admission ticket to a theme park. You must have a ticket to be allowed to enter. But there are more requirements you need to meet to be able to enjoy the rides and attractions.” He noted the signing of the MOU would allow the financial sectors of Taiwan and China to enter each other’s market. As for what preferential conditions China would give to Taiwan, this will be discussed at future ECFA negotiations between the two sides.

The Taipei-based China Post reported most foreign investors hailed the MOU as a long-term positive step to the development of Taiwan’s financial markets with the anticipation of a greater inflow of capital. A few, however, cautioned it might trigger profit-taking by some investors in the short-term.

International ratings agency Moody’s considered the MOU to be more favorable to Taiwan’s financial sector than to the Chinese mainland because closer relations across the Strait will undoubtedly bring extra business opportunities and diversified profits for Taiwan’s financial sector. Moody’s said Taiwan’s financial institutions enjoy the advantages of speaking the same language and of belonging to the same culture, but they need to have long-term plans and strategies in place as well.

According to the Taiwan News, government officials presented a report to the Legislature, and left immediately to sign the documents, leaving no time for a thorough discussion on the issues. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) criticized the government for not standing firm on the name issue of “Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu Customs Area” it had used under the World Trade Organization (WTO), but instead, accepting a one China-like framework. The DPP demanded to have the full MOU reviewed by the Legislature.

Newspaper editorials on the island saw the MOU as both an opportunity and a challenge for Taiwan. The United Evening News said the MOU went beyond dealings between the SEF and ARATS to create a new precedent without violating the spirit of the WTO.

The Taipei-based China Times said the seven Taiwanese banks, which already have offices in China can now be upgraded with branch offices there. In future ECFA negotiations, Taiwan’s government should ask China to allow Taiwanese banks to participate in local currency business immediately, without a waiting period of three years. Hopefully, future talks will also stress preferential conditions for Taiwan’s insurance companies and securities sector.

However, given that Chinese banks are much bigger in scale than those in Taiwan, the China Times noted it might leave Taiwan’s smaller banks vulnerable to mergers if they are not innovative and healthy. Only banks with excellent performance and huge capital support will be able to explore the new frontiers in China.

The Commercial Times also sees other problems arising since China’s currency RMB has steadily appreciated, tempting Taiwanese to convert their currency to RMB instead. This would change the financial landscape and weaken Taiwan’s financial position.

In any case, the MOU with China is significant since it provides for new opportunity to negotiate the ECFA and a normalization of economic and trade relations between Taiwan and China. It is significant since it allows more open markets for the two sides. Taiwan’s financial services can develop new stages in a huge market, in addition to serving the Taiwanese already doing business in China. As it stands, Taiwan currently has similar MOUs with thirty other countries, according to The Economic Daily.

Taiwan to set up Kindle-like platform

Taiwan’s government is set to spend US$66.2 million over the next five years to promote the development of the island’s e-reader industry. The government hopes this will help local businesses set up Chinese-language content exchange platforms similar to Kindle, Amazon’s electronic books and digital media.

The exchange platform of Kindle is a closed platform, which displays content by using a proprietary Kindle format (AZW), while the ones in Taiwan would use the EPUB standard platform to allow integration of different industries and multi-national cooperation, including the use of different language content, not just Chinese.

According to the Economic Daily News, the government hopes to cash in on the digital publishing industry which will reportedly generate US$3.1 billion for the local and international market by 2013.

Besides helping local businesses to develop this sector, Taiwan also hopes to work with China in formulating the Chinese-language e-reader standards and service model. The paper said businesses in Taiwan and China can leverage their respective advantages to establish a common set of standards for Chinese e-readers and digital content, which includes format compatibility, testing of hardware and software support, and cooperation in developing software of digital rights management and online intellectual property protection.

The two sides are expected to hold a bridge-building conference on Cross Strait Cooperation and Exchange Information of Digital Content in June 2010 to discuss the common standards for digital publishing and e-readers to serve the global Chinese-language market.

The Commercial Times reported that Taiwan will see a dozen electronics companies enter the hardware area of e-readers manufacturing by the end of the first quarter of 2010. As a new emerging industry combining high technology, internet, and digital content, e-readers are expected to take over part of the internet surfing function of notebook computers, making phone calls, listening to music and reading books.

Poised for the expanding market, Far EasTone Telecommunications, one of the three largest mobile networks in Taiwan, has already applied for a government subsidy to become the first provider of a value-added mobile service for digital reading through the WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology. It is working with book publishers, software developers and hardware manufacturers of e-book devices to create a new service model in the application of e-books.

Other Taiwan companies are also vying for a share of the e-reader industry and are ready to be dominant players. Prime View International, a major supplier to Amazon Kindle, has invested US$215 million to acquire the digital ink technology developer E Ink Corp. in the US in June, 2009. Other Taiwanese electronics manufacturers interested in the e-reader industry include Asustek Computer, Foxconn Electronics, and AU Optronics, the latter has also signed an investment agreement with an American e-paper manufacturer.

SE Asia more important than ever for Taiwan’s businesses

Even before the advent of ASEAN plus China and the signing of free trade agreements between many of the Southeast Asian countries, Taiwan in the mid-1980s looked towards Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnams for business opportunities. These countries have large ethnic Chinese populations, an educated labor force, stable infrastructure and lower production costs. For Taiwanese businesses to gravitate towards these Southeast Asian countries was a natural progression.

During that same period, Taiwan’s political relationship with China remained contentious, leading to the 1996 “Go Slow, Be Patient” principle promoted by former President Lee Teng-hui, aimed at limiting investments in China. The feeling of caution continued during the eight years of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration as well. However, this all changed when President Ma of the Kuomintang took office last year.

In the 1980s, Malaysia responded to a lack-luster economy and mass unemployment by encouraging Taiwanese investments. With one-quarter of Malaysia’s population being ethnically Chinese, or having ties with Taiwan, finding qualified help was not difficult. Also, as a former British colony, the country’s legal system was much more developed than China’s.

Like Malaysia, Thailand also has an educated and skilled workforce. Large-scale investment from Japan’s automakers over the last 30 years has helped the country to develop its infrastructure. Last November, Thailand sought to attract investments from Taiwan by setting up the Office of the Board of Investment (BOI) in Taipei. Although Malaysia and Thailand might have more developed infrastructure and a better-educated workforce, these advantages also increase production costs and have driven some businesses to take the route of lower production costs in China and Vietnam.

Today, there are about 40,000 Taiwanese people contributing to the rapid development of Vietnam. Investment-driven trade between Taiwan and Vietnam reached US$9.15 billion last year, with Taiwan enjoying a trade surplus of US$6.73 billion. Although Vietnam does offer relatively cheap labor, its poor infrastructure and a less educated work force are limiting factors. The country’s more restrictive policies also hampered investments in Vietnam. Until this past January, foreign companies had to have a Vietnamese partner in order to enter the retail sector there.

As more ASEAN agreements take effect, Taiwanese businesses have also hedged their bets by setting up production bases in certain Southeast Asian countries in the hope of taking advantage of free trade agreements of that country. Currently, Taiwan is at a significant disadvantage by not having free trade agreements with any other Southeast Asian counties.

With the signing of a comprehensive ECFA – economic cooperation and framework agreement - with China, Taiwan will not only enjoy favorable rates of duty with China, but also have the chance to sign free trade agreements (FTA) with other Southeast Asian countries. Without these FTAs, Taiwan will end up paying substantially more duty which will reduce Taiwan’s share of the regional trade pie.

A case in point is Chew Boon Swee who would like to import cakes from Isabelle Taiwan Co. If he were to import directly from Taiwan, he would have to pay a 25 percent duty as opposed to 5 percent if he were to import them from the pastry maker’s mainland Chinese plant. This will all change once ASEAN plus China takes effect, eliminating the duty.

“ASEAN’s effort to build closer ties with its trading partners is good news for businesspeople in the ever-growing trading block, but not for those in Taiwan, if Taiwan continues to be excluded from it,” says Jerry Yang of the Ho Chi Minh City TECO office. Currently, China accounts for 54 percent of Taiwan’s exports and 78 percent of Taiwan’s overseas investments, according to the October 2009 issue of Taiwan Review. As an export economy, with as much as 40 percent going to China, Taiwan simply cannot afford to be omitted from the benefits of belonging to ASEAN.

With the onset of ASEAN plus China due to take effect on January 1st, 2010, Taiwan is gearing up to face the challenges and benefits from this new alignment with ASEAN along with other FTAs due to emerge over the next several of years.

Who cares about Albert Schweitzer?

With less students studying in the United States, Taiwan could easily lose its high standings in the Chinese community according to business leaders and scholars meeting at the 7th Summit of Chinese Business Leaders in Taipei. Among other things, the summit last month dealt with the decreasing international views of Taiwanese students.

Another critic was National Central University professor Daisy Lan Hung who wrote an article critical of the medical college students at National Taiwan University (NTU) for reading fewer books. Most of them have no clue of Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s country of origins. She said, “The students are not used to reading. They don’t have any role model in their minds to follow, and don’t know what to do in their future life. It is worrisome that, at a time of strong international competition, our college students don’t feel such a pressure.”

In response to the criticisms from the “senior generation,” the NTU medical students gathered on November 30th to address Hung’s criticism. Others responded to Hung in their blogs, with one saying, “I’d rather my doctors knew nothing about Dr. Schweitzer, and more about disease treatment.” Another student said it was too shallow for a student to study medicine just for the sake of admiring a certain famous doctor. What’s wrong with someone who is interested in studying medicine only after having read the Japanese comics “Dr. Black Jack” or “Team Medical Dragon” which incorporates medical science in the storyline? Is he not qualified to study medicine?”

“Actually I know many people who can make eloquent comments on international events, but are rather shallow on matters requiring soul searching,” wrote a blogger from NTU’s history department. Billy Pan also responded in his blog. “Taiwan’s education can no longer force the old traditional ways that gentlemen took before. We need diversification, mutual respect, and tolerance now. Don’t tell me about global competition. No matter how excellent the students at Beijing University are, they still would be crushed and run over by tanks at Tiananmen Square.”

Another strong denunciation came from Chen Hung-hsin of National Chengchi University. Times have changed, and during this worldwide recession, it is almost impossible for young Taiwanese born after 1970 like meto enjoy the benefit of an economic take-off or to make a profit easily. “Many people made a fortune in the early days either by maintaining special connections with the government or by being granted a monopoly of certain resources. It is really rare to see someone of that time make a fortune himself by excelling in business management. It is almost impossible now to repeat those successes….The internet gets faster and faster. We are in a more open and democratic society. Competition gets tenser. The young Taiwanese around me are full of creativity and energy. They have piles of lovely ideas. I don’t think modern Taiwanese youth have lost their competitive power at all.”

A different student perspective came from Peng Chen-wei, a law student at Soochow University. He believes students in Taiwan are not so sure of their roles. “They are strong in blaming others, weak in self-criticism,” he said.

In defense of the students, Fu Jen University professor Huei-ya Lin wrote a letter to the Liberty Times, saying, “If students asked us whether we have read the books they are reading, and in case we have not, can they say we read too little? Who has the right to decide what books are good or not?”

In a diversified society like Taiwan, the question “Does it matter medical college students have no idea where Dr. Albert Schweitzer is from?” will get hundreds of different responses.

Hong Kong yellow journalism under fire

On November 26th, the Taipei City government imposed a fine of US$30,000 on the Apple Daily, a local affiliate of a Hong Kong company, after news stories were presented in an obscene manner on the paper’s animated news website. Found to violate the Children and Youth Welfare Act, the Taipei government also ordered all city schools and public libraries to stop subscribing to the newspaper.

According to the Taipei-based China Post, the city government will continue monitoring the situation even though the paper has announced the establishment of a ratings system for its online animated news. The ratings system classifies news content into two categories – restricted and unrestricted – with the restricted content labeled with a warning against viewing by underage web surfers.

The online news service shows animated reports of news stories, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse and murder, often using disturbing graphics and narration. Since the service commenced on November 16th, it has sparked an outcry from parents, educators and civic groups.
More than twenty civic groups accused the paper of violating human rights while inflicting harm on the victims of the reported crimes. After the protesters gathered outside the paper’s building, the Apple Daily finally apologized for the explicit content of its animated news and issued a statement saying it would stop broadcasting the most controversial items, but will continue using the animations nevertheless.

However, the city barred the subscription since readers can easily use their cell phones to scan a 2D barcode printed on the paper to gain access to the media group’s action news website. A 2D barcode, also known as a quick response (QR) code, provides easy access to the action news videos. Anyone can use a cell phone to scan the code to watch the animated news clips on a cell phone.

Earlier the paper accused the Taipei City government of restricting press freedom and said it would take legal action against the city. The Taipei government defended its action by saying the measures to bar the paper and action news on campus are all designed to protect minors. A city government spokesperson urged the nation’s top media regulator, the National Communications Commission (NCC), Taiwan’s FCC, to draft regulations on using motion graphics in presenting news stories as soon as possible.

According to Internet rating management measures listed in the Children and Youth Welfare Act, excessive detailed criminal conduct, such as murder, or describing sexual behavior with actions, videos, words and narration should be rated as “restricted.”

The Taiwan News reported that Next Media Group, the parent company of Apple Daily, also applied to launch five television channels in Taiwan. The company is now facing a tougher review with the NCC as a consequence of the outcry against their animated news service.

NCC vice chairman Chen Cheng-tsang said the media group from Hong Kong is unlikely to obtain a TV news license if it wants to deliver news containing motion graphics unacceptable to the Taiwanese public.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Taiwan Film Days

Cape No.7 -- Taiwan's all-time box office blockbuster. The story of a failed muscian's return to his hometown is entwined with a postwar tale of unrequited love.

Beyond the Arctic -- Veteran documentary filmmaker Yang Li-chou profiles a three-man Taiwanese team on the 2008 Polar Challenge, a multinational race to the North Pole.

No Peudo Vivir Sin Ti -- A poor, single father has his daughter taken from him by the government. His desperation to keep her leads to a showdown that draws worldwide media attention.

Yang Yang -- A intimate and beautifully acted drama about a half-French competitive runner for whom family, career, and love become a tangle of contradictions. The second feature by writer-director Chen Yu-chieh.

What On Earth Have I Done Wrong -- A mockumentary about Taiwan's film industy. A TV star (Doze Niu Chen-zer, playing himself) needs funding for his breakout film and tries to raise it by government and mob sources.

GOD MAN DOG -- The tenuous place of human beings links three disparate stories in filmmaker Singing Chen’s thoughtful second feature.

Taiwan films to screen in San Francisco, Nov. 6 – 8th

Although Hollywood films still dominate the theaters on the island, Taiwan-made films are beginning to find a broader audience, both abroad and domestically. During Taiwan Film Days, Bay Area audiences will undoubtedly be delighted by the breadth and diversity of the movies screened.

This weekend, the San Francisco Film Society along with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, will showcase seven contemporary Taiwanese documentary and feature films. The films will screen at Landmark Opera Plaza Cinema (601 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco) beginning Friday evening, November 6th to Sunday night, November 8th. An opening reception at Bambuddha Lounge (601 Eddy Street, San Francisco) will celebrate the start of Taiwan Film Days.

When martial law was lifted in 1987, the island’s new-found freedoms energized the film-making industry. Writers and directors alike had much to say and their movies began gaining international recognition. Since then, Taiwanese directors such as Ang Lee, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang are not only recognized in Taiwan, but have also gained a faithful audience abroad.

Still, Hollywood dominates the global box office and it is no different in Taiwan. From 1996-2006, Taiwanese films accounted for less than 2 percent of total ticket sales in Taiwan, with Hollywood movies taking more than 90 percent, and the rest going to movies from Hong Kong and China. Since 1990, the Government Information Office has promoted local films by giving incentives, in the form of a set grant and/or government-guaranteed bank loans of up to US$3.1 million. Although this has helped Taiwan films earn accolades at international film festivals, it has not always translated well into big box office receipts.

This changed in 2008 with Cape No.7. The film would go on to become the second largest grossing movie in Taiwan. This is also the opening movie for Taiwan Film Days with two showings on Friday, November 6th.

This movie really resonated with Taiwanese people of all ages. It is two stories entwined. After trying to become a singer in Taipei for ten years, Aga returns to his hometown a failure and takes a job as a mailman. He finds a cache of undelivered love letters, and pieces together a story of unrequited love from 60 years ago.

Starting off Saturday’s program will be Beyond the Arctic, a documentary about a three-man Taiwanese team on the 2008 Polar Challenge, an annual foot race to the North Pole. Endurance runner Kevin Lin, game industry CEO Albert Liu, and 22-year-old college student Jason Chen, come together to face temperatures as low as -41F, polar bear attack, frost bite, loneliness and the punishing trek towards their destination. Director Yang Li-chou and producer Michelle Chu will be at both screenings to answer questions from the audience.

Saturday’s lineup continues with director Fu Tien-yu’s Somewhere I Have Never Traveled, a sensitive story about Ah-guei and her equally restless and lonely cousin Ah-xian. With a big world map and a bookcase of traveling guides, they take imaginative journeys far beyond their small town. A coming-of-age tale that explores our sense of self and our place in the world. Director Fu will be at the screening to answer questions from the audience afterwards.

God Man Dog, a strange title for a movie, but appropriate when all three are thrown together. Lives are entwined and boundaries fall when three outcasts meet at the scene of an accident. Yellow Bull, gives shelter to deserted god statues, yet can’t afford to have his artificial leg fixed. Biung, an alcoholic aboriginal, transports peaches between a remote village and Taipei City, finds he is less valued than this merchandise. Ching, a depressed housewife mourns her dead child and hopes to redeem her marriage. These three lives collide in a fatal car accident caused by a stray dog. This movie shows at 7pm Saturday, November 7th.

Raised by her mother, Yang Yang knows neither her French father nor his language. She yearns for a family and believes she finally gets her wish when her mother remarries, only to be disappointed by her new family. She runs away to pursue an acting career, but discovers she cannot run away from family, friendship and love. Yang Yang will screen at 9:30pm on Saturday, November 7th.

Sunday’s program begins with What on Earth Have I Done Wrong? at 2pm. A mockumentary skewering local politics. Actor/filmmaker Doze Niu Chen-zer (playing himself) is trying to get money to make his movie. He hustles for actresses and drinks with potential investors, all the while his love life and career begin to unravel. He is left at a loss about what to do next.

No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (I cannot live without you), is based on a true story about a father’s struggle to keep his daughter. Li Wu-hsiung is a poor and single father who works at dangerous odd jobs, living on the fringes of society. When his daughter reaches school age, he tries to register her, only to meet with bureaucratic quicksand. Eventually his daughter is taken from him by the government in a desperate showdown. Filmed in black and white, director Leon Dai does an exceptional job of portraying the striking grittiness of Li’s life. This film is Taiwan’s official entry to the 2010 Academy Awards. It will show once on Sunday, November 8th at 6:15pm.

Background on Taiwan’s cinema

The first movie to be seen in Taiwan in 1899 was only shown in Taipei, which at that time was predominately Japanese. As such, it is doubtful that the early glimpses of cinema were seen by many non-Japanese.

In 1924, director-writer Liou Shi-yang made the first Taiwanese movie called Whose Fault is it? According to Fountain magazine’s special issue on Taiwan Cinema, foreign clergy played an important part in bringing non-Asian films to Taiwan. In the 1950s, popular cartoons like Felix the Cat and the comedies of Laurel and Hardy were often shown in church and temple grounds.

In 1949, Chiang Kai-shek and his followers moved to Taiwan, but the military threat from China did not lessen. Chiang encouraged filmmaking and saw it as a tool for propaganda. Between the 1950s and 1970s, movies provided a form of escapism from the conservative and closed society.

In the early 1980s, Taiwan’s economic miracle began, increasing living standards and establishing a strong and stable middle-class. When martial law was lifted in 1987, a young generation of Taiwanese filmmakers, mostly educated in the United States, were ready to examine Taiwan’s history, society, and many of the subjects that were political taboos in the past. The bulk of the movies made in this era were called “New Wave.” Considered the Golden Age of the Taiwanese film industry, it was during this time that Taiwanese movies began to receive serious attention abroad.

In 1993, two Taiwan-made movies were contenders for the best foreign film at the Oscars. In 1994, Taiwan produced 29 feature films, which earned 54 nominations and 49 awards at international festivals. In as much as people in the movie business have received more media attention and appreciation in Taiwan, the late 1990s became a dark period for Taiwanese films, both internationally and domestically. However, in the last two years, the tide has turned once again for Taiwan-made films.

Won Fu’s Bay Area debut

On Friday evening, October 16th Won Fu delivered a high energy and fun performance at the University of California at Berkeley. They were there to help raise funds for Typhoon Relief/Red Cross Charities. Over 200 students attended the Taiwanese American Student Association benefit. During Won Fu's two rousing encores, the crowd stood up so they could better dance or move to the beat.

The following week, Won Fu played at Café du Nord in San Francisco. The Wednesday evening performance would be their first true test performing in front of an American crowd. If Xiao Min, the lead male vocal and guitarist, was nervous, he hid it well. His exuberance and playfulness came through despite struggling with certain English words. He carried on a light banter with the crowd and won them over easily with his infectious good humor. If he’s this funny with his somewhat limited English, one wonders how truly delightful he would be in Mandarin or Taiwanese. His playfulness was infectious.

During their hour-long set at both locations, Xiao Min introduced the songs. From time to time, Mami, the lead female vocalist often injected comments as well. With their playfulness, they did a great job on audience participation and in keeping the spirits high. Twiggy, the bass guitarist and Dupy, the drummer, seemed more than happy to leave the talking to Xiao Min and Mami.

The band has often said that they feel music should be a happy experience and they certainly delivered one at both events. Won Fu’s musical style ranges from pop to head-banging heavy rock. Singing mainly in Mandarin and Taiwanese, they played their hit “Do Re Mi,” one of their most popular songs by far, with its melodies reminiscent of Taiwanese folk tunes. The Japanese version won them a solid Japanese following.

Due to the tight schedule at Café du Nord and because they had played a request from the audience, Xiao Min explained that there would be no encores. However, since they could play two more songs, he suggested they think of the next song as the last and pretend the last song was the encore, thus satisfying his vanity. The “encore” was dedicated to a superstar and it soon became clear when Mami began belting out Michael Jackson’s “I want you back.” It was a thing of wonder that such a petite Taiwanese girl could sound exactly like the legendary Michael Jackson.

Won Fu continued on their US tour by traveling to Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle. For more details about the band, please visit them at:

Taiwan job fair comes to Silicon Valley, Nov. 13 & 14th

This month, Taiwan’s government and the private sector will join forces to stage an “Overseas High-Tech Talent Recruitment Mission.” The HiRecruit Job Fair was initiated by the Executive Yuan in 2003 to attract more IT professionals to work in Taiwan. Previous missions have attracted 12,503 professionals, and successfully matched 3,016 job-seekers with careers in Taiwan. This year’s 12-day overseas recruitment mission will include four US cities and arrive in Silicon Valley on November 13th and 14th (Friday and Saturday) in the hope of filling 1,532 job vacancies.

The group, comprising of 32 delegates, will conduct interviews with local IT specialists interested in working in Taiwan. In addition to one-on-one interviews with participating companies, other activities include a press conference, an opening ceremony, HiRecruit Services, assistance for those looking for substitute military service, or seeking work permits for Taiwan.

Thirty companies and research institutions will present participants with jobs in over 784 categories in the semiconductor, optoelectronics, telecommunications and informatics, metal materials, biotechnology, medical and green energy industries. Companies include Chi-Mei Optoelectronics, Delta Electronics, Chunghwa Telecom, Macronix, Etron, Gemtek, Brickcom, Hon Hai, Mediatek, Cadence, Davicom, Arcom, Asia Pacific Microsystems, Coban Asia, Everlight Electronics, LePower, PharmaEssentia, Shenmao, Parts Channel, Applied Materials, and Impax, among many others.

Jobs are available in different areas of corporate management, R&D management, engineering, and other R&D areas. Now more than ever, Taiwan’s government is making it easier for expats to work on the island. Instead of going through a multi-tier process involving different ministries, the government has simplified the process by issuing an Employment Pass.

In addition, skilled foreign workers can receive attractive incentives such as lower income tax as well as Taiwan residency. In order to advance Taiwan’s technological standing in the world, government subsidies are offered to professionals and experts in specialized fields. Incentives for qualified candidates include subsidized travel, a pension, and bonuses .

In addition to organizing overseas recruitment missions, HiRecruit Services seeks to connect international professionals with Taiwanese enterprises through its HiRecruit online portal ( Currently, there are over 986 enterprise members and over 10,783 individual members listed in HiRecruit’s database, enabling HiRecruit to quickly identify and automatically process in excess of 42,404 job matches, with more than 1,532 vacancies targeting the US. In the first three quarters of 2009, 141 companies successfully recruited 247 professionals.

Come meet the movers and shakers of Taiwan’s hi-tech industries, along with government agencies, at the HiRecruit Job Fair. Join them at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (5101 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara) to find out about the exciting investment and job opportunities in Taiwan. If you would like more information, please email: or register at

The 60th anniversary of division across the Strait – Taiwan’s perspective

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) celebrated the 60th anniversary of its creation by mobilizing some 100,000 soldiers to stage a massive military parade in Beijing on October 1st. Watching the Chinese fanfare and parades on television, few Taiwanese were impressed. Instead of celebrating the 98th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan on Oct. 10th, the government cancelled all celebrations out of respect for those lives, homes, and livelihoods lost in the wake of Typhoon Morakot in August.

The United Evening News said in an editorial, that watching the tens of thousand of troops marching in unison was like watching a computer animation. “While the government and the people of China still admire the mighty force of collectivism, most Taiwanese feel more confident that they have got rid of the authoritarian rule and cherish more the diversity, autonomy and individualist way of life they enjoy now.”

The United Daily News also commented in an editorial that “With regard to a nation’s military force and weaponry, Taiwan is certainly not as strong as China. But in terms of freedom, Taiwan is way ahead of China. Only when freedom and democracy have prevailed, will all the Chinese people be really liberated from the images of holding huge portraits of leaders, placards of slogans and oceans of red flags.”

Taiwan’s democracy provides catalyst

When asked by the press about his impression of the large-scale military parade in China, Premier Wu Den-yih of Taiwan said “We are not in a position to comment on whatever style the PRC wanted to celebrate its founding anniversary, which we should respect. But both sides have reached consensus that only peaceful development is most beneficial to the welfare of peoples across the Taiwan Strait.”

Chang Jung-kung, director of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party's Mainland Affairs Division, said “It is not deniable that China is strong in its national power, but Taiwan’s soft power is superior because of peaceful competition, and its democratic system.”

Tsai Ing-wen, chairperson of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said “It would be more meaningful if China had stressed the need to review the development process of democracy on its 60th founding anniversary.”

More than one million Nationalist troops fell in the Civil War between the Communists and the Nationalists before Chiang Kai-shek flew to Taiwan from Chengdu, Sichuan (China) on Dec. 10th, 1949. He came with about two million civilians and soldiers, building Taiwan into a “Bastion of Recovery” together with its four million local residents.

With a population of 23 million now, Taiwan is a democracy which enjoys astonishing economic power. In an editorial “The miracle created by failures,” the Singapore-based United Morning News praised Taiwan for its hard work and its political and economic achievements in the last 60 years. “The largest impact China will face in the future comes from the catalysis of Taiwan’s democracy.”

However, former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui holds a more conservative view, saying “Taiwan’s democracy will not be a deciding factor in China’s future democratization, which will have to come from the internal power of the Chinese mainland.”

Transcending 60 years

On the 60th anniversary of cross strait division, the Commonwealth magazine published a special issue entitled “Transcending the 60 years” which included an interview with President Ma Ying-jeou. Talking about his feelings on the 60th anniversary, Ma said, “Many KMT party members consider the Communists as enemies of blood rancor. My family does too. But I can’t put my personal resentment above our national interests.”

He continued, “The mutual exchanges across the Strait aim not just at making money by attracting more mainland Chinese tourists, or just seeking more business opportunities for Taiwanese businessmen, but also at transforming freedom, democracy, legal systems and human rights into a common language among the peoples across the Taiwan Strait….In dealing with the Chinese mainland, my government vows not to betray the national dignity and sovereignty, nor can we do nothing merely for fear of being hurt.”

In an interview with the DPP chairperson on the same issue, Tsai said. “There has been enough heated argument and fighting on the issue of unification with China or Taiwan independence in our society. We should review what values we should insist on. Once we are certain about the core values, we shouldn't tilt too much towards China because the values in China are those we are not supposed to come near.”

Long way towards being a big family

The Taipei-based China Times published an article written by freelancer Chen Yi-ting noting that “in the last 60 years, the source of threats and fear for Taiwan did not come from the imperialism of Europe or America, but from Beijing. Now we see the Chinese standing up after hundred years of being humiliated by the West. And it was Nationalist Chiang Kai-shek who was defeated by Communist Mao Tse-tung. The humiliation of being defeated should not be carried onward by the living people of Taiwan.”

"A starting point for rapprochement between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is to respect the existence of Taiwan’s entity. The Chinese government and people have always used the 'one China' policy to limit Taiwan’s maneuvering on the international stage, disallowing the use of Taiwan’s name. Every time we are denied in the international arena, we bear resentment and mistrust toward China, who still stubbornly believes that the solution across the Strait lies with military power."

“This is how one treats an enemy. If you think of Taiwanese as compatriots, you need to be more tolerant. Taiwanese are not stone-hearted. If you want us to join the greater Chinese family, please do something to touch our hearts, not threaten us with scare tactics as a way to force us into submission without an alternative.”

Today, Taiwan is confident enough to allow the live television broadcast of China’s military parade on its national day. When can we humbly expect the Chinese government to do the same by not blocking access to Taiwanese news media from it people?

Taiwan’s SMEs continue to prosper

Taiwan is striving to increase its competitiveness by relaxing current restrictions and attracting more foreign investment, establishing less complicated business regulations, and developing value-added service sectors, like healthcare, and cultural tourism. Although Taiwan’s competitiveness ranking has declined, its small to medium-sized companies have continued to do well.

In a speech on Taiwan’s competitiveness on October 13th in Taiwan, John R. Wells, the president of the Lausanne-based International Institute for Management Development (IMD), pointed out Taiwan’s strengths and weaknesses. As a result of the global financial crisis, the economic performance of many nations has fallen sharply. Taiwan has suffered particularly badly because of its export-oriented economy. In the IMD’s Competitiveness Yearbook 2009 released in May, Taiwan was ranked 23rd out of the 57 nations surveyed, dropping from 13th place in 2008.

Under closer examination, the small to medium-sized businesses in Taiwan did far better than large corporations. In the report, Taiwan ranked 14th in the efficiency of small to medium-sized businesses, better than Japan’s 36th. Taiwan ranked 7th in entrepreneurship and 11th in market reaction resilience, a stress test of how quickly economies rebound.

Wells said business health is the key to building a nation’s competitiveness. Even with the advantages of low taxes, complete infrastructure and innovation capability, Taiwan’s attraction to foreign investment fell far behind China, Hong Kong and Japan because Taiwan’s laws are too complicated and restrictive.

With its unique culture and fine craftsmanship, Taiwan can surely attract visitors from all over the world, he observed. “Taiwan can learn from Spain’s experiences in developing its tourism industry,” he said.

Echoing Wells’ points, Taiwan Institute of Economic Research president David Hong said that Taiwan’s economic growth in the past have relied on manufacturing. Although Taiwan still needs its manufacturing industries, it needs to grow its service sector.

Even though Taiwan’s ranking fell in IMD’s report, international news media like Dow Jones News Service, AFP, Bloomberg News Services, Japan Economic News, The Wall Street Journal Asia, and Singapore’s Straits Times, have all reported on Taiwan’s economic recovery. Furthermore, domestic indictors compiled by Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) in the last three months indicate a sustainable improvement around the corner. Optimism about the anticipated economic outlook is buoyant.

Newspapers offer differing viewpoints of Taiwan’s economy

Recently, three of Taiwan’s biggest newspapers addressed the nation’s economy in their editorials. Each focused on a different aspect of the economy. The Commercial Times expressed worries about the sharp decline of Taiwan’s imports this year, while the Taipei-based China Times took an optimistic view of the comprehensive cooperation in economic and trade links between the offshore islands across the Taiwan Strait. The Economic Daily News analyzed the positive and negative impacts of the upcoming FTA-like Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (EFAC) negotiation between Taiwan and China.

Warning signs of import decline

The Commercial Times said the statistics released by the Ministry of Finance shows that Taiwan’s trade surplus in the first three quarters of this year reached US$22 billion, an increase of 1.5 times over the same period for 2008. This was expected to reach US$29.2 billion by early October according to the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics. The Ministry of Economic Affairs revised this figure to US$30 billion – a record high for Taiwan.

The reason behind such a huge trade surplus is not because of a rapid growth in exports, but due to a sharp decline in imports, which are down 40 percent, another record. Compared with other trading nations, in the first eight months of this year, Taiwan led the way for import declines.

The decline is a reflection of the huge shrinkage in consumer spending and an enormous investment cut by businessmen. This situation is more serious in Taiwan than in any other nation. The average annual growth of Taiwan’s private business investments between 1999 and 2008 was negative 1.9 percent – far below the positive 12.4 percent enjoyed in the 1980s. Further analysis shows the reason for the stagnation of investment dynamics lies in the rigid business development model, one that has not adjusted to the changing environment. It is now the right time for both the government and businesses to undergo a thorough review and revamp.

Cooperation between offshore islands across the Taiwan Strait

In an editorial, the China Times linked the rejection of casinos by the people of Penghu Island (Pescadores), Taiwan, with the establishment of a comprehensive testing area in Pingtan Island, Fujian, China, to facilitate the exchange of goods from Taiwan.

The paper said Penghu has no other choice but to develop its tourism from now on. However, due to the limited physical space for market expansion, Penghu should promote external linked businesses in agriculture, industry and commerce in line with its environmental protection goals. On the other side of the Taiwan Strait lies Pingtan Island with a development plan, which is a pilot test area of China’s “Free Trade Harbor Zone” trying to cooperate with Taiwanese business in a comprehensive connection and exchange of all kinds of goods. Pingtan is one of the best places to provide Taiwanese businesses with mutual management and administration – as a new model of upgrading the economic and trade cooperation between Taiwan and China.

The paper struck an optimistic note saying that the development in Pingtan offers Penghu a new opportunity. If an economic and trade hotline could be established between these two islands – Pingtan lying at the northwestern corner of the Taiwan Strait,and Penghu, sitting in the middle of the Strait – they could tap into businesses such as tourism, trade and commerce, and technology research and development .

Besides Penghu and Pingtan, there are other islands on both sides of the Strait that could be linked, such as Kinmen (Taiwan) and Xiamen (China). Keeping in line with the peaceful development trend across the Taiwan Strait, these offshore islands, along with the new development in the economic zone on the west side of the Strait, could bring new opportunities - a topic for both Taiwan and China to discuss in the near future.

EFCA – roses with thorns

The Economic Daily News agreed with Premier Wu Den-yih’s description of the EFCA as roses with thorns, meaning it comes with opportunities and risks. Optimists see only roses while pessimists see only thorns.

Premier Wu noted, Taiwan’s signing of an EFCA with China, removing trade and investment barriers, will observe the three principles of “national requirement, popular support and parliamentary supervision” and two pre-conditions of “not opening doors to agricultural products” and “not taking mainland laborers.” The Taiwan government’s position is to maximize the benefits and minimize the impacts.

In Premier Wu’s eyes, the roses are the economic benefits, including lower customs duties in China. It would allow Taiwanese petro-chemicals and textiles to compete with those from Southeast Asian nations and allow them to expand and invest in Taiwan, potentially bringing 350,000 job opportunities. Recently, the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research in Taipei said the ECFA would spur Taiwan’s economic growth rate in 2010 to 1.65 percent. This would mean that one-third of next year’s economic growth rate would depend on the ECFA. More importantly, Taiwan would get more opportunities to sign free trade agreements (FTA) with other nations, thus avoiding being marginalized and isolated.

The thorns of signing an ECFA are to open Taiwan’s market to China. It is estimated that industries such as ceramic tiles, household appliances and towels would see benefits of over 80,000 jobs created. Premier Wu said the Ministry of Economic Affairs would assign a budget fund of NT$35 billion (US$1.07 billion) to help the affected industries upgrade or reform.

The paper also pointed out that the ECFA has drawn attention from other nations, some with interests in signing FTAs with Taiwan after the completion of the ECFA. Is Taiwan ready to cope with the possibilities of negotiating more FTAs and opening up more of its markets once the ECFA is signed?

Looking for love in the Internet age

Whereas singles in both Taiwan and China use the Internet to look for a potential partner or spouse, priorities differ between the two countries. Twenty years ago, personal ads were frowned upon as a way of seeking a mate, however with the advent of the Internet, personals have become an acceptable way for young people to meet each other. Recently, the Want Daily, a newly founded newspaper published by the Taipei-based China Times, carried a series of reports on the subject.

In 1989, when Taiwanese writer Chen Yu-huei wrote The Personals, about the responses to her three ads, placing a personal ad was still a rare and embarrassing thing to do. Her book was made into a movie while most Taiwanese still considered personal ads a questionable form of meeting people. However, many of the men who responded were far from marginalized, and ranged from middle school graduates to PhDs, men seeking marriage, affairs or merely sex.

Another movie explored the male perspective twenty years later. In If You Are the One produced in 2008, Ge You, one of the most popular actors in the Chinese world, returns to China after studying overseas. He places a personal ad listing his short-comings. In the dating process, he met a wide range of women, and even a gay man, from those reluctant to have sex, to expectant unwed mothers, from sales girls to arrogant stockbrokers. In the end, he falls in love with a married woman.

These two movies both caused a ripple of discussions across the Taiwan Strait regarding the conflicts between traditional and modern societies, and marriage by way of the personal ads.

Taiwan’s personal ad users can include the rich, beautiful female nurses in their 20s, or teachers in their 30s, or even single mothers in their 50s. Whereas many personal ads in Taiwan are written by a web editor, those in China are often written by those seeking a partner.

Another major distinction between the two sides is that Chinese personal ads, although still focused on a pretty face, will attribute greater importance to a person of means. There are young beautiful editors who have their personal ad as part of their blogs. Even though they are independent and romantically minded, a big focus is placed on materialism. One survey of Chinese girls in their 20s showed their preference for men with the three basics – a car, a house and money.

Another website survey showed the big difference in the definition of a “good man” on both sides of the Strait. Whereas 39.53 percent of Taiwanese women considered “doing chores at home” as the top virtue, it was less of a priority in China. In fact, 72.83 percent of Chinese girls liked “smart, experienced and capable men,” while only 34 percent of Taiwanese females like this type of men.

Chen said in the preface to the second edition of The Personals that personal ads have moved from newspapers to websites and blogs. In the Internet age, we have virtual dating and virtual love affairs. The younger generations have less real social activities and are more prone to looking for mates via the Internet, she said.

According to statistics released by Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior, the number of marriages on the island totaled 50,612 from January to August 2009, showing a 18.5 percent drop, or about 34,000 people. During the same period, the number of divorces totaled 74,894, about 0.6 percent higher than 2008.

An interesting point revealed by the data is that 19.4 percent of the Taiwanese men married foreign brides, and the number of Taiwanese men marrying Taiwanese women dropped 21.6 percent, while the number of newly married foreign brides increased by 3.1 percent to 14,588.

Among foreign brides in Taiwan, mainland Chinese women accounted for about 60 percent at 8,714 persons, Southeast Asian brides totaled 27 percent (3,899 women), and other nationals made up 13 percent (1,975 women). Compared with the same period in 2008, the number of Chinese brides increased 5.6 percent, while the number of Southeast Asians marrying Taiwanese dropped 2.5 percent. The number of other nationals marrying Taiwanese rose 4.3 percent.

Overhauling Taiwan’s education system

Taiwan’s education system has produced students with some of the highest test scores in the world, especially in math. However, it has often been criticized for putting too much emphasis on scores, too much pressure on students, and sacrificing creativity in favor of rote memorization. Taiwan’s educational reforms have changed this, but not necessarily all for the better.

Until 2001, passing the yearly joint entrance examination was the only path to Taiwan’s colleges and universities. The test was critical since Taiwan only had 50 universities and colleges with space for 250,000 students in the 1990s. With only one way in, tremendous pressure were put on students to attain the highest possible score in the exams.

Change to Taiwan’s college entry

With the end of martial law in 1987, the Taiwanese people began asking for more democracy, and educational reform was a natural progression. They demanded reforms that would prioritize reason over memorization and reduce the emphasis on central control and standardized testing.

In 2002, Taiwan finally modified the joint entrance exam, adopting a new “multi-track admission program.” One choice involved taking the General Scholastic Ability Test at the beginning of the year or the Department Requirement Test held in July. After the first test, students received their scores and then pay to apply to individual universities. On the “Selection of Universities” track, applicants were also interviewed by professors to gauge additional abilities on top of the test scores. The second track involved taking the test and being notified of admission based on the test scores.

On average, there are 140,000 students taking the general scholastic ability test, 110,000 taking the department request test, and another 180,000 taking the joint exam for the two-year junior colleges and four-year vocational colleges. The new multi-track admission program was not without its critics

New system favors the well off

Professor Chu Hao-ming of National Cheng-chi University wrote an article in the United Daily News saying that the government has adopted this multi-track admission program with the intention of correcting the shortcomings of the old system by giving students more choice, but this also has limited the admission of students from poorer families to universities.

Students from well off families can spend more time and energy trying to maximize their scores. They can attend cram classes or take extracurricular lessons on the piano or violin, go overseas to study a foreign language and need not worry about the cost of application fees. These are luxuries that are out of reach for students from poorer families, who have to work to help support their families. With less time and money, their acquired skills are also different, more likely to take up the guitar or play basketball.

Professor Luo Chu-ping of National Taiwan University expressed a similar view in the Taipei-based China Times. From his experience interviewing students applying for admission to the agricultural economy department last year, he saw a troubling trend. Of the 50 applicants, 70 percent came from rich families in Taipei City or County and they graduated from the better-known schools. Their parents were university professors, medical doctors, private business owners or mutual fund managers. None were from farming or blue-collar families. He urged the government to pay closer attention and to take corrective measures to help offset this disparity.

Current system not sustainable

In 1994, the Ministry of Education began allowing new schools to open and some colleges to become universities. This eventually led to an overabundance of colleges and universities on the island, now numbering 162. Taiwan cannot sustain 162 universities, according to the United Evening News.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s declining birthrate has had a severe impact on the vacancy enrollment of universities in the last couple of years. High school graduates still struggle to enter the prestigious schools, like National Taiwan University, and ignore the lowend schools. The universities with less than 50 percent enrollment rate have increased from 11 in 2008 to 25 in 2009. Based on a 2 percent increase rate per year, the Ministry of Education predicts the enrollment vacancy will reach 71,000 in 2021.

It will only get worse with Taiwan’s declining birth rate. The number of universities will be further reduced to around 100, meaning about 60 schools will be closed due to a lack of students. Education Minister Wu Ching-ji said the ministry has been engaged in planning an exit strategy and transition for those schools.

Not all bad

Associate Professor Hsieh Kuo-rong of I-Shou University in Kaohsiung saw a new opportunity emerging from the potential closure of colleges. He wrote a column in the China Times about Wenzao Foreign Language College in Kaohsiung, which has bucked the bankruptcy trend. In fact, its enrollment has increased exponentially.

Wenzao has continued to invest in campus construction. At the reading rooms of the library, they use Chinese living room design. They provide power wheelchair access for disabled students – the first of its kind in Taiwan. All the departments there are equipped with resource rooms, including small libraries and satellite televisions. There is an “English Park,” “European Union Park,” “Asian Language Park,” “Chinese Park” so as to present an international learning environment. Teachers’ enthusiasm and dedication also contributes to the rising enrollment rate, according to Hsieh.

There is also some good news about Taiwan’s higher education. For the first time, National Taiwan University is listed among the top 100 universities in the world by the UK’s Times Higher Education. It jumped to 95th place from 124th in 2008. Education Minister Wu said this might be the result of the NT$50 billion (US$1.53 billion) budget in five years allocated to Taiwan’s universities.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.