Friday, September 4, 2009

Typhoon Morakat photo story

Photographer: Chien-chung Chen

Born in 1968, Mr. Chien-chung Chen is studying at the Graduate School for Social Transformation Studies, Shih-Hsin University, Taipei, Taiwan. His interests include: reading, writing, painting, traveling, taking photos, and enjoying music. Nicknamed “pipe smoker,” he keeps a blog: Here are some translated excerpts from his blog.

"In the aborigine tribe in Chialan village, eastern Taitung County, the people evacuated in time, but their homes washed away. The villagers had learned its lesson after the 2005 typhoon destroyed a dozen homes. A senior tribesman said that the river was 150 meters wide in the early 1900s under the Japanese rule. That width was decided by Mother Nature. But in recent decades, the river shrank to 50 meters wide because overdevelopments changed the land usage of the riverbed and higher embankments were built to change the river's path. The flooding by Morakat moved everything back to its original width, the path designed by Mother Nature.”

“Another astonishing view I found during this trip was the floating wood covering all the ocean surfaces in Fukang fishery harbor. Local residents told me that this was the 'masterpiece of mountain rats,' who had been illegally logging in the mountains for years. They cut the trees in haste and sometimes forget or are pressed for time to move the trees down. Typhoon Morakat swept all the remaining trees to the river and it flowed down to the harbor.”

A graveyard of floating wood swept down from illegal logging on the mountains, gathering near the ocean in Fukang Harbor.

Human beings should respect and co-exist with Mother Nature to avoid its eventual backlashes.

A broad view on life is needed to comfort the souls of the survivors.

Volunteers from Tzu Chi Foundation are always the first ones to reach the disaster areas to offer help and relief materials.

Collapsed houses seen from the riverbed in Chialan, Taitung.

Flooding river water washed away 2 rows of houses already, leaving the collapsed one on the 3rd row on the riverbed. A total of 51 houses were demolished in Chialan, one of the worst hit villages.
Two lifelines of Taitung County were cut off by Typhoon Morakat. The highway was destroyed by a rush of water, and the railroad was broken into sections.

Silicon Valley still leads, as Taiwan keeps pace

Earlier this year, the Taipe-based Commonwealth monthly had a cover story that implied that Taiwan would emerge as the new Silicon Valley of the world. It caused a great deal of buzz. However, a much different story emerged – one which indicated that the Valley is a hard act to copy.

Dr. Joseph Yang’s background resembles much of the people he works with - a mix of academia, private business, government and think tanks. As the director of the Science Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco for the last six years, he has taken inventory of the South Bay and stressed that it is hard for any country to overshadow Silicon Valley (SV).

“In the six years that I have been here, I’ve found it is impossible for anyone to copy Silicon Valley. It has everything to do with the genes of Silicon Valley.” Yang thinks it cannot be rivaled in 20, 30, even 50 years. “You can never find a place that can attract the top science and hi-tech people, converging to work in such harmony and for it to blend in so smoothly.”

What Yang finds amazing is that people are attracted to SV not just because of jobs, but because of the mix of the Chinese, Indians, Iranians and so forth who are invested here as well. “Once you live in Silicon Valley, it becomes home.” There are a lot of places that go out of their way to attract top talent, but it is not home. SV has been successful in creating innovation, partly because it “comes from all the innovative elements of different cultures… If you go to any large company, you will see a United Nations, a pick of the top minds in any country.”

Silicon Valley hard to duplicate

Robert Parker, founder of Parker Price Venture Capital in San Francisco concurs. “Innovation is Silicon Valley’s forte,” Parker said. Although he does not discount that Taiwan and China are becoming more innovative all the time, neither are a match for the Valley as yet. “Silicon Valley’s great universities, Stanford and UC-Berkeley, draw top young minds from all over the world, and many of them stay to add their ideas to new companies in Silicon Valley.” As an international lawyer and businessman, he has been on hand to witness the extensive changes in Taiwan, working on the formulation and implementation of the Taiwan Relations Act along with starting two law firms in Taiwan. He understands Taiwan’s business world, but also its social and political landscapes.

C.K. Cheng likened the Valley’s biggest assets to “bio-diversity.” “The more diversity you have - the better chance you have of cross-pollinating and success.” Cheng, a general partner of Harbinger Venture Capital in the United States, arrived here more than 25 years ago to work in the MiTAC-Synnex Group, now one of the world's leading conglomerates.

While at Harbinger, Cheng invested in many tech companies and successfully saw many go public. In his opinion, what makes the Valley unique is “not necessarily the semi-conductor. The building strength is not the industry, but the mentality….The Valley attracts people who are not afraid to fail. Not afraid to give up. They dare to try different things.” Parker also mentioned failure as a component of success and a big part of the Valley culture. “We celebrate successes in high tech, but failures are valuable, too. Silicon Valley’s culture recognizes that innovation is risky, and failing with a bold idea doesn’t hold back a good entrepreneur for long,” he noted.

On occasion, people might write the Valley off thinking that its heyday has passed. The Commonwealth article did so with headers such as “Can Silicon Valley win back its magic?” implying SV might have lost its magic. And just this year, SV became “siliconless” when Intel’s Santa Clara factory closed. Might SV be like Detroit, which saw its rise and fall tethered to the automobile industry? Cheng thinks otherwise. “Silicon Valley has the ability to reinvent itself - into a Soft-Valley, Bio-Valley, Solar-Valley. That’s what makes it unique. The mentality. The Spirit.”

Science Council nurtures Valley networks

In as much as SV is hard to duplicate, Taiwan does an exceptional job of keeping pace with much of the Valley’s innovation, and a good deal of the credit goes to the Science Division in Santa Clara, California. The division acts as a direct conduit, tapping into SV’s innovation. No organization goes as far in building a bridge between SV and Taiwan’s hi-tech sectors.

As its director, Yang promotes the work of Taiwan’s National Science Council (NSC), which is very similar to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States. The NSC is Taiwan’s cabinet-level agency responsible for national science and technology development. The Council supports academic research and develops Taiwan’s Science Parks.

Locally, the Science Division nurtures new talent by linking US-Taiwan collaborators, and directing them to the appropriate people to help them bring their ideas to the marketplace. Yang’s special skill is his spider-like talent for weaving a network of collaborative webs. First by knowing what projects people are working on and then connecting them to others with similar interests and complimentary needs. Through his wide network, he can simply point someone in the right direction to get funding or, as in a recent case, to assist someone find the appropriate land to build a new manufacturing facility in Taiwan. The office serves as a catalyst.

And with the Science Division keeping a finger on the pulse of SV, Taiwan is able to remain at the forefront of new developments, steering emerging technologies towards the island’s exceptional production and management infra-structure.

Taiwan’s strengths and weaknesses

According to Parker, “Nobody, including Silicon Valley, beats Taiwan’s smaller companies at agility and flexibility. Engineering management is a great strength in Taiwan’s larger companies. Taiwan’s forte is in using technology to make things the world wants.”

Although Taiwan cannot rival China’s domestic market and cheaper workforce, the island’s stability is its strength. As a civil society, it has a certain order which is reassuring. According to Cheng, “You are not afraid of doing something wrong, whereas in some Chinese cities, there are still certain fears.”

Moreover, Yang sees tremendous advantages in Taiwan’s talented management pool hence you have many of China’s top companies hiring CEO, CFO and other top tier management personnel from Taiwan. “The pool is highly trained. They are disciplined.”

China is as yet a young market economy, with little resources dedicated towards building a corporate culture. It is very different from the big American companies. In US corporations, no matter which overseas office you visit, they have built a system that is uniform and the dissemination of the company’s culture also remains so. In China, the mentality is to “get rich quick” and there is still a lack of order. However, both Yang and Cheng believe it is only a matter of time before this changes.

Whereas innovation is heavily connected with SV, it is not something Taiwan excels at given its educational system and society. Taiwan’s culture emphasizes discipline, which makes for great manufacturing managers, but it does not foster Silicon Valley-styled innovation.

Taiwan has become export reliant, focusing on industries in semi-conductors and electronics. As a consequence, the recent global downtown has hit the island especially hard. According to Commonwealth, Taiwan’s semi-conductor business will drop 20 percent as a result of the slowdown in the Valley. Yang cited South Korea as a good example of a country that has diversified and therefore has a better cushion against the worldwide economic slowdown.

What’s next?

China, Taiwan and the United States still form the Silicon Triangle. It would be difficult to replace the innovative minds at work in Silicon Valley. And Taiwan’s strength remains as a contractor, designer and financier, turning an idea into an end product. Meanwhile, no one can top China as a manufacturer and the world’s largest consumer of materials. In the Silicon Triangle, each has a place in the research, development and production chain.

The Commonwealth article seems to indicate that venture capitalists are taking their money out of semiconductor and information technology in favor of bio- and clean-technology. However, this does not mean they are not investing in SV. Take Tesla Motors as an example. The electric car company will be relocating its headquarters and research facilities to Stanford Research Park in Palo Alto, California with US$465 million in low-interest loans from the government. Some might regard a car company outside of Detroit or other manufacturing strongholds as counter-intuitive, but the best engineers are still in SV and innovation follows the talent.

So don't worry; despite the death knell people have been sounding for Silicon Valley, some of the world's best minds are there right now pioneering the next revolutionary technology.

Salt Lake’s Taiwanese Art and Film Festival begins Friday, Sept 18th

Salt Lake City’s own Taiwanese Art and Film Festival will kick off on Friday morning, September 18th, with Grandma’s Hairpin at 10:30am. The all-day celebration will be held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center (1355 West 3100 South, West Valley City). Featuring a full day of documentary films and movies, the program will end with The Shoe Fairy at 7:45pm.

An opening reception for the festival will begin at 6pm hosted by the Salt Lake County and West City County Mayors, SLC Councilman Carlton Christensen and the Thomas Chen, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco. Along with hors d’oeuvres and refreshments, the Utah Chinese Folk Orchestra will also perform. Following the reception, the audience will be entertained by the Sil Lum Kung Fu Kwoon Performing Arts Group and the Salt Lake Chinese Choir at 7pm. All events are free and open to the public.

Movie highlights include Summer’s Tail, an uplifting Taiwanese movie about four seemingly mismatched high-school friends. It’s a beautiful, light-hearted movie that does not shy away from life’s darker realties. The main character, Yvette, played by Enno Cheng, a Taiwan-based indie singer-songwriter, is especially captivating. For her portrayal, Cheng was nominated as the best new performer at the 2007 Golden Horse Awards, Taiwan’s equivalent of the Academy Awards. Besides acting and singing in the movie, Cheng also wrote the script when she was just 18.

With solar power much in the news, be sure to catch For More Sun at 3:30 PM. The documentary follows a group of young Taiwanese engineers in their quest to build the fastest solar vehicle competing in the World Solar Challenge across Australia. With a program appealing to all ages, The Shoe Fairy, is a wonderful fable about Dodo. Growing up disabled, Dodo discovers a love of shoes after regaining her ability to walk. Her obsession for footwear eventually causes a wedge in her relationship. But like all good fairy tales, the ending is a happy one.

For the full schedule, please check the show times below.

10:30 am – noon, Grandma’s Hairpin (documentary)
12:20 pm – 1:10 am, Elephant Boy and Robogirl (documentary)
1:30 pm – 3:10 pm, Summer’s Tail (feature film)
3:30 pm – 5:35 pm, For More Sun (documentary)
7:45 pm – 9:20 pm, The Shoe Fairy (feature film)

LinkTV airs Taiwanese documentaries, Aug 31st – Sept 19th

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, in conjunction with LinkTV, is proud to present two Taiwanese documentaries. Both will air on DirectTV Channel 375 / Dish Network Channel 9410. The Doctor will air from Aug. 31st - Sept. 19th and Let it Be will air from Sept. 8th -11th.

The Doctor
On Independence Day 1996, Felix, a Taiwanese-American boy, posts a puzzling notice on his bedroom door. Three hours later, he takes his own life. Devastated by the tragedy, his father, Dr. Wen, leaves Iowa City, his home of twenty years, and relocates to Miami, where the warm, sunny climate and the passage of time provides some distance from the traumatic experience. But his grief persists. Six years later, Sebastian, a cancer patient from Peru, comes to receive treatment from Wen, bringing an alternative perspective on life. This film focuses on the transience, conflicts, and mysteriousness of life through the stories of two adolescents of the same age. For more information, please visit

08/31/09: 11:00pm PT/ 2:00am ET

09/01/09: 12:00pm PT/ 3:00pm ET

09/04/09: 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET

09/05/09: 2:00am PT/ 5:00am ET

09/16/09: 9:00am PT/ 12:00pm ET

09/19/09: 2:00am PT/ 05:00am ET

09/19/09: 3:00pm PT/ 6:00pm ET

Let It Be
This documentary focuses on the everyday life and daily toil of three elderly rice farmers in the heart of Taiwan's rice-producing countryside. It is an inspiring film that explores man's relationship with the land. Even though the WTO has affected the farmers' livelihoods, their fortitude and humanity against hardship remains. For more information, pleae visit

09/08/09: 12:00pm PT/ 3:00pm ET

09/10/09: 10:00pm PT/ 1:00am ET

09/11/09: 7:00pm PT/ 10:00pm ET

Salt Lake's Films Without Borders to screen Cape No. 7 on Sept. 21st

Films Without Borders and the Salt Lake City Film Center will feature Taiwan’s official entry to the 2009 Oscars in the “best foreign film” category, Cape No. 7. A romantic comedy following parallel stories - one about a wannabe rock singer who returns to his hometown in southern Taiwan, and the other centers on a tragic love story after World War II.

Filled with evocative music and quirky small town characters, the story unfolds in the seaside resort town of Hengchun at Taiwan’s southern-most tip. Be sure you get a seat at this free and open screening on Monday, September 21st. The movie begins at 7pm at the City Library, 210 E 400 S., Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Films Without Borders series is sponsored by American Express, The Lawrence T. and Janet T. Dee Foundation, Marriner S. Eccles Foundation, the Utah Arts Council and the Press Division of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco. The feature film is 129 minutes long in Mandarin and Taiwanese with English subtitles.

For more information about the film or Films Without Borders, please visit:

US firms urged to go public in Taiwan

The Taiwan Stock Exchange (TWSE), GreTai Securities Market (GTSM), and the Taiwan Trade Center in San Francisco, recently hosted a seminar on how to list a company publicly in Taiwan. The July 21st event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Santa Clara, California was well attended with more than 200 businesspeople and professionals working in the fields of information technology, venture capital, finance, accounting and law.

Addressing the seminar aimed at facilitating a company’s initial public offering (IPO), were Thomas J.C. Chen, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, Dr. Jih-chu Lee, vice chairperson of the Financial Supervisory Commission within Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, Bret Lee, the executive director of the Taiwan Trade Center, San Francisco, and leaders of accounting firms and law offices from Taiwan.

Delegates were introduced to the investment environment in Taiwan through an informational film, along with various speakers. Mr. William Kao, founder and president of CARES, Clean Technology Institute, talked about the island’s clean energy sector and the associated investment opportunities. The advantages of Taiwan’s capital markets were also highlighted, and details of the regulations pertaining to foreign businesses applying for IPO in Taiwan, and the operational property transaction service platform provided by GTSM, were discussed.

The Taiwan government has tried to create a favorable investment environment by providing preferential financial incentives and tax exemptions to make the island more attractive to international companies. In the development of key industries, the government continues to promote research and development in sectors such as digital content, biotechnology, and green technology, in addition to the mainstays of the semiconductor industry and the liquid crystal display sector.

Bret Lee said the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) has sponsored many seminars on investment and industrial development through its overseas offices. On this occasion Lee noted his pride in working with the TWSE and GTSM to introduce the new trends and advantages of Taiwan’s capital market to businesses in Silicon Valley in the hope of reinforcing their confidence about investing in or setting up business in Taiwan.

Lee pointed out Taiwan’s advantages with a complete supply chain of upper and downstream sectors, a higher price-earnings ratio to tech firms, all of which make it easier for foreign companies to raise capital in Taiwan.

Samuel J.S. Hsu, president of the TWSE said the exchange has cooperation agreements with other international stock exchanges, such as the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Taiwan’s exchange will also increase cooperation and contact with the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange to make Taiwan a capital market and not just a platform for raising money for Asian technology businesses.

Daung-Yen Lu, former chairman of GTSM, sees this as a good time for US firms to think about going to Taiwan because of the signing of the memorandum of understanding on financial supervision, and the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) between China and Taiwan due to be in place later this year.

Help flows in for Typhoon Morakot's relief work

When Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan on August 9th, the government was expecting the medium strength typhoon to bring enough rain to finally relieve the island’s most severe drought in the last seven years. Little did the Central Weather Bureau know that the typhoon would devastate the rugged terrain in southern Taiwan with a year’s worth of rain falling in just three days. In total, 26 percent of the island was flooded by over six and half feet of accumulated rainfall.

In an instant, the mudslides caused by the typhoon buried the 500-person village of Shiaolin, Kaohsiung County, leaving only 51 survivors. A total of eight mountainous areas in southern Taiwan were cut off as roads and bridges were either washed away or buried. Due to the continued bad weather, military helicopters had difficulty in the timely rescue of the flood survivors. The government mobilized over 160,000 military, police and civilians to extricate a total of 39,000 trapped people in the ten days that followed. Typhoon Morakot claimed at least 650 lives in Taiwan.

Kaohsiung, Pingtung and Tainan Counties in the south suffered the greatest damage with an estimated loss of NT$15.8 billion (US$486 million) from agricultural products. According to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Morakot caused a total property loss of NT$110 billion (US$3.38 billion) to the island. The typhoon also created several records - the worst flooding in Taiwan in half a century and the biggest natural disaster in a decade after the 1999 7.3-magnitude earthquake in central Taiwan which claimed over 2,400 lives.

Government passes US$3.7 billion reconstruction bill

President Ma Ying-jeou visited the disaster area several times, asking the Executive Yuan to actively supervise the rescue and relief efforts, relocation of flood victims and reconstruction of the disaster areas. He also promised to set up a disaster relief agency to carry out relief work. The Executive Yuan approved a bill allocating a NT$100 billion (US$3 billion) budget over three years for the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas. While the bill was under discussion at the Legislative Yuan, opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers suggested an increase in funds to NT$200 billion (US$6 billion). In a final compromise, the Legislative Yuan passed the reconstruction bill with a budget limit of not over NT$120 billion (US$3.7 billion) on August 28th.

In the light of Typhoon Morakot’s destruction, Taiwan’s annual GDP in 2009 will be adjusted downward from the expected negative 4.25 percent. However, Professor Ray Dawn of the Taipei-based China University of Technology and Dr. Steven Yang of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research stressed it is still too early to know the storm’s true impact on Taiwan’s economy, according to the Liberty Times. They noted with the US economy on the mend and the impacted area’s agriculture and tourism only accounting for a small proportion of the island's GDP, existing forecasts might still be on track. Besides, Taiwan’s economic growth depends far more on foreign trade than domestic activity.

Human factors contributed to tragedy

The majority of victims living in stranded mountainous areas come from Taiwan’s aboriginal communities. There are 490,000 aborigines in Taiwan, representing about 2 percent of the total population. Because of employment difficulties in metropolitan areas, many aborigines farm or run bed and breakfast businesses in remote mountain areas. Although the disaster was a force of nature, human induced factors contributed as well. According to the United Daily News, with the government’s encouragement, aborigines started logging in mountains, growing betel nut palms, tea trees, alpinia or fruit trees, pumping ground water, building home stays and warm spring hostels on the hills some 20 years ago, causing erosion to the natural environment and other ecological damage. Criticism attributed the blame to all these factors, worsening mudslides and flooding brought on by typhoons, the paper said.

Environmental experts have suggested that the government should help with the relocation of aboriginal villagers, providing them with retraining, and at the same time commence a massive tree planting effort on their farmland. The Liberty Times reported that the government plans to invite private companies to engage in construction work on public land in disaster-hit areas to rebuild communities and restore Taiwan’s unique aborigine tribal culture.

Help pours in

Other non-government organizations (Tzu Chi Foundation, the Red Cross, World Vision and other temples and churches) have stepped in to help. They rushed their volunteers to remote disaster areas despite the adverse conditions. According to the United Daily News, newly popular internet social networking media like Twitter and Plurk played an important role in helping the government determine the disaster situation. As of Sept. 2nd, the Interior Ministry and 36 NGO accounts have received disaster relief donations of NT$13.1 billion (US$399 million) from home and abroad.

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, visited Taiwan on August 30th for a six-day tour and comforted survivors in the worst hit areas. The United Daily News reported that he came at the invitation of seven DPP city mayors and county magistrates in southern Taiwan. This was a humanitarian trip, and he was not due to meet President Ma or other central government officials prior to his departure on Sept 4th. The Dalai Lama has been to Taiwan twice before to meet former presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry has expressed its appreciation to the 85 nations (including the US, Japan, China, and European Union nations) and international organizations (such as the United Nations and the International Red Cross) for their kind offers of rescue assistance, relief materials and financial help. The US dispatched its aircraft carrier USS Denver to carry relief materials, with its helicopters flying rescue missions and heavy duty machinery into disaster areas. This is the first time since the break of diplomatic ties in 1979 that American military aircraft have come to Taiwan.

Soon after the typhoon left parts of the island devastated, fundraising took place in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing raising CNY300 million (US$44 million) worth of relief materials, according to the Taipei-based China Times. On Aug 20th, Shanghai Dragon TV held another big fundraising telethon in conjunction with the leading television stations in five Chinese provinces to collect CNY$310 million (US$45 million). So far the total disaster relief donated from China has reached CNY$610 million (US$89 million). As a comparison, Taiwan’s government and civilians were equally generous during last year’s Sichuan earthquake, donating NT$4.5 billion (US$138 million), the largest donation to earthquake relief outside of China.

Criticized for the government’s slow response, President Ma has made several apologies to the disaster victims for “not working fast enough and not good enough.” The Apple Daily commented, with the central government based in the north, Ma must try harder to stay in tune with his constituents in the south as well. As a result, Ma promised to reshuffle his cabinet by mid-September and those officials found lacking will be replaced. He hopes to do this soon so it will not impact upcoming local elections for city mayors and magistrates scheduled for December.

Taiwan textiles face ASEAN challenge

Taiwan’s textile industry has consistently ranked among the top four earning industries for the island, but the signing of a free trade agreement among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could very well change this. As an excluded non-member of ASEAN, Taiwan is at a significant disadvantage - one which could put this US$13.6 billion industry (2008) in jeopardy.

Due to a limited domestic market, Taiwan-manufactured textile products have mostly been for export. Taiwan now ranks as the fifth largest textile exporter and the 31st largest apparel exporter globally. It is also one of the major suppliers of high-end man-made fabrics, according to the Taiwan Textile Federation. In order to stay competitive, it needs to be a party to the free trade agreements that are being inked by other Asian countries.

As an advanced economy, Taiwan’s labor costs have inevitably risen. According to Werner International, a management consulting company focused on the textiles industries, Taiwan’s labor costs for the textile and apparel industry were US$7.64 an hour in 2007, only slight lower than South Korea’s (US$7.77). However, this is no match for other emerging textile exporters such as Turkey (US$2.96), Thailand (US$1.75), Malaysia (US$1.34), China (US$0.85 for coast, US$0.55 for inland), India (US$0.69), Indonesia (US$0.65), Vietnam (US$0.46) and Bangladesh (US$0.28).

With growing labor costs and a strategy of getting closer to their customer base, Taiwan’s textile companies have gradually relocated to mainland China and Southeast Asia over the past decade. Initially they supplied mainly large scale ready-made garment manufacturers, but with the advent of ASEAN, Taiwan’s top firms are also outsourcing the more up-scale manufacturing with high technical barriers to entry. Some fear upstream contributors – synthetic fiber makers – will soon follow.

Taiwan began its textile industry by importing raw materials, processing them, and then exporting the finished products. Later it turned to using the materials derived from petrochemicals, and at the same time importing raw cotton and man-made staple yarn. Gradually it became vertically integrated in the whole production chain, including manufacturing of man-made fibers, yarn spinning, weaving and knitting, dyeing and finishing, and in the production of apparel and accessories.

Leaders in the textile sector see an analogy between Taiwan’s current relationship with China or ASEAN, and that with Japan in the 1990s. According to Taiwan Panorama, Taiwan replaced Japan as the cloth production center at that time and forced Japan’s textile firms to move more upstream to develop materials. Japan is now much more advanced in eco-textiles, one of the future trends in textiles. Also, Japanese companies can now break down recycled plastic bottles to make polyester chips - raw materials for chemical fibers, and are far more advanced in quality than Taiwan. With superior quality comes higher prices, and this is apparent when comparing the prices for super-fine fiber wipe cloths used in the semiconductor industry. Taiwan-made clothes costing NT$200-400 (US$6-12) per kilogram (2.2 lbs.) while those from Japan can reach NT$2,000 (US$62).

Taiwan needs to learn from the Japanese experience. The direction for future progress is not just in developing upstream materials in the production chain, but there is a lot of room for advancement in horizontal research and development. C.H. Hung, the CEO of Eclat Textile, the top supplier of knitted fabrics to Adidas and Nike, said Taiwanese have to develop new materials, new functions and new production techniques.

In order to keep Taiwan’s textile industry vibrant, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has created the Textile Industry Promotion Office (TIPO) in 2008 to draw up the blueprints for the future upgrading of the textile industry. Its aim is to turn Taiwan into a global production center for industrial textiles, functional textiles and fashion apparel with a goal of reaching US$17.8 billion in annual textile production by 2015. The MOEA’s policy is to focus on the transportation, manufacturing and healthcare usage of textiles.

Besides focusing on these key industries, emphasizes will also be placed on developing functional textiles, including sweat-absorption, odor-eliminating, and highly elastic fabrics, and clothing, luggage and tents that can be fireproof, bulletproof, translucent and provide solar power generation. These are very high-tech items with correspondingly high unit costs and prices, said Chiu Sheng-fu, director of the Department of Industrial Information and Services at Taiwan’s Textile Research Institute (TTRI).

Ten years ago, no one knew about the “light-fastness” or “wash-fastness” of fabrics, but now technology has advanced to the point of energy textiles and environmental textiles. Veterans in the industry are optimistic. As long as Taiwan can stay ahead of the curve by producing the next generation of textiles, it need not worry about traditional factories moving overseas.

Taiwan malt whisky matures early

At this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Kavalan Single Malt Whisky walked away with a silver medal award. Three facts stunned whisky lovers – that the whisky was made in Taiwan, was only three years old, but cost three times more than other whiskies. This was one instance where science, technology, hard-work and a fat wallet triumphed over centuries-old distilleries.

In 1991, Taiwan lifted its ban on imported spirits and Taiwan’s connoisseurs began enjoying imported whisky to the tune of 14.2 million liters a year, or roughly one bottle for every one of Taiwan’s 23 million people, according to Taiwan Review. There was a definite market for whisky, but since neither oak nor barley grew in Taiwan, the barriers to entry seemed prohibitive. This, however, did not deter Lee Tien-tsai, a self-made entrepreneur who founded King Car Food Industries Co., Taiwan’s leading coffee brand.

Lee visited distilleries around the world and subsequently decided to set up Taiwan’s first whisky distillery in 2005. He chose to name his first whisky Kavalan, the old name of his hometown Yilan. He also located his distillery there, attracted by the clean mountain water and windswept climate. He poured nearly NT$1 billion (US$30 million) into purchasing the barrels alone. Lee also hired expert distillers from Scotland to help, but soon realized that fine-tuning to account for the non-traditional methods of whisky making would require a special type of talent.

This is where Jim Swan, a leading whisky expert, with a background heavy in the sciences, came in. Swan was able to take the different elements needed for producing a quality product and calculate a method that resulted in an award-winning whisky. Through the use of precision equipment to analyze samples at different stages, they were able to produce a marketable whisky in just three years.

To counter the low-aged bias and the higher price tag, King Car opened the distillery last December to educate visitors on the art of whisky making. So far, daily visitors to the distillery average around 7,500 on weekdays and 13,000 per day on weekends. At this pace, the company hopes to increase its production capacity of nine million bottles a year to 24 million bottles in two years.

Taiwan’s growing tourism industry seeks investment partners

In recent years, the number of international visitors to Taiwan has soared. In the period from January to June this year, a total of 472,425 visitors from China came to Taiwan, a number that has grown by about 260 percent from the same period a year ago.

Taiwan has budgeted US$916 million for investment between 2009 and 2012 to help build the island into a key tourist destination. The island, with a tourism market worth US$11.7 billion in 2008, has many distinct attractions that will continue to draw visitors. Culturally, the National Palace Museum houses the world’s largest collection of ancient Chinese Art. The island also has numerous annual cultural festivals that are unique to the various ethnic groups and folk art traditions found on the island.

Lovers of the outdoors can enjoy Taiwan’s excellent hiking, cycling, surfing, scuba diving, and whale watching opportunities. Natural beauty abounds at Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan, Alishan and Jade Mountain in the south and breathtaking Taroko Gorge on the east coast.

Moreover, Taiwan is shaping up as a key medical tourism destination as well. The Zion Health Club (Guangzhou, China) with about 600,000 members signed an agreement in March with 13 medical centers and hospitals in Taiwan to organize groups from China for medical care, spa treatment and sightseeing. Taiwan offers world-class medical services at a fraction of the cost of Western countries

Taiwan is also deregulating the gaming industry on its offshore islands and has already attracted investment from AMZ Holdings Plc, a property-development group listed on the London AIM market. AMZ purchased 27 acres of waterfront property on Penghu islands located between China and Taiwan. The site is the largest private plot in the island group, and it has been zoned and approved for an international tourist hotel. Penghu is seeking to attract other major international operators for ongoing tourism projects

The island’s tourist industry will also grow as further transportation links with China are built, elevating its status as an important business and transportation hub for the rest of the world. As economic collaboration between China and Taiwan continues to strengthen, it will bring new opportunities for potential investments. Interested investors are cordially invited to join the 2009 Taiwan Business Alliance Conference to get more details and build key ties in the industry.

Hosted by Mr. David W.J. Hsieh, deputy director-general of the Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), business executives in related domestic and foreign industries will speak about the partnership opportunities offered by Taiwan’s vibrant tourism and recreation industry. The 2009 Taiwan Business Alliance Conference, organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), will bring together government officials, industry professionals and venture capitalists to build partnerships and expand business on the island.

This sixth annual Conference is scheduled for October 7th, 2009 in Room 101 of the Taipei International Convention Center (TICC).

To register, please contact:
Taiwan Trade Center, San Francisco/TAITRA
5201 Great America Parkway, Suite 306
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Tel: 408-988-5018 ext.203, Fax: 408-988-5029
office@taiwantradesf.orgWeb site:

Experts call for policy change after Morakot

In the first interview with news media after the devastating Typhoon Morakot, President Ma Ying-jeou said that human beings should not try to compete with Mother Nature. He told the United Evening News that it is getting more and more difficult to forecast the strength and power of natural disasters in the face of global climate change. The paper said he stressed that government agencies should note which areas are not safe for people to live in, and relocate residents to safer ground. Such measures would help prevent a repeat of the fate that met Shiaolin Village, where mudslides set off by Morakot buried the entire village along with most of its inhabitants.

The United Daily News reported that Professor Liao Pen-chuan of National Taiwan University noted that every time a typhoon hits the island, the government spends large amounts of human resources and money on disaster rescue and relief, on bridge repairs, road construction, community reconstruction and flood prevention engineering. This happens time and again, wasting precious resources and taking a heavy toll on society. He urged the government to adjust its thinking regarding disaster prevention and rescue, by reviewing the nation’s land cultivation policies.

When opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members criticized the government of President Ma for not realizing soon enough the severity of Typhoon Morakot and the slow disaster rescue response, the ruling Kuomintang members countered by slamming the alleged failure of the NT$80 billion (US$2.4 billion) flood prevention system constructed under the former DPP administration.

Water resources expert Lee Hong-yuan believes that when people settle in a place they are not supposed to be, overdevelop the land, especially on hill slopes, they will eventually face nature’s backlash. In The Journalist magazine, he suggested that government should roll out overall policies regarding relocation, employment, and schooling in order to prevent social problems from developing.

Lee said the massive earthquake that hit central Taiwan on Sept. 21st, 1999 has forever changed the island’s geology and water flows. The potential threat from mudslides and river flow changes come with every typhoon. He strongly recommended that the government undertake a complete review of current geology and water flows in Taiwan and set up a comprehensive early warning system for mudslides. The government should not merely look for a quick fix, he stressed.

Chung-Ho Wang, a research fellow at Academia Sinica's Institute of Earth Sciences has long studied rainfall trends. In an interview with Commonwealth magazine, he indicated that Taiwan’s geographic position, sitting between the largest continent and the largest ocean, makes the island’s climate more volatile than most other nations in the world. Wang noted the authority in charge of typhoon disaster prevention should not rest solely with the Water Resources Agency and the Central Weather Bureau, which are below the ministerial level. Global warming issues affect national security, and should come under the scrutiny of higher administrative levels. This view is echoed by Huang Chin-shan, the former director of the Water Resources Agency, who thinks the government should set up an inter-ministerial unit to deal with climate change issues, according to the Commercial Times.

Typhoon Morakot did not only expose the potential crisis that extreme climate change could bring, but also showed that ecological conservation in Taiwan is in peril. The United Evening News reported a group of gangsters nicknamed the “mountain rats” who have allegedly been illegally logging in remote mountains for some time. Their criminal acts have damaged the conservation of soil and water, and provided the ideal conditions for potentially disastrous mudslides in mountainous areas.

According to the United Daily News, one of the worst hit villages by Morakot was Linbian Village in eastern Pingtung County, famous for its seafood. Fish cultivation is actively developed by pumping ground water to support the fish farming. This constant water extraction has caused the ground level to drop, resulting in one-third of the village now lying below sea level. Every time a typhoon hits, Linbian is flooded, with residual water accumulating for long period.

It is time to take an inventory of Typhoon Morakot’s cruel lessons so that the 650 lost lives were not in vain. A China Times editorial summed up the disaster, “Taiwan paid dearly for this catastrophe. We can’t let the price be paid for nothing. We must carefully observe and learn from the environment we are living in with a humble attitude. We must seriously deal with the backlash by Mother Nature.”

Summer Deaflympics kick-off in Taipei

Starting September 5th, the 21st Summer Deaflympics will begin in Taipei. It is the first summer deaflympics hosted by an Asian country. Approximately 3,959 athletes from 81 countries are expected to participate in ten days of multi-sport competition.

The deaflympics was the first international sporting event for athletes with disabilities. Except for a ten-year break because of World War II, it has been held every four years since its founding in 1924. The event is organized by the Comité International des Sports des Sourds (CISS, also known as, The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf). Beside the summer games, there are also winter games held on a much smaller scale.

According to CISS, the first games in Paris were attended by only 149 athletes from nine European countries. Since then, the games have undergone various name changes, beginning with the International Silent Games, then from the International Games of the Deaf (1961-1965) to the World Games for the Deaf (1969-1997) before becoming the Deaflympics.

With the World Games 2009 Kaohsiung ending on a high-note in July, Taiwan has proved itself capable of hosting international multi-sport events, according to the Taipei-based China Times. Already the 21st Summer Deaflympics Taipei has broken records. It will be the largest event in the Deaflympics’ 85-year history with a record-breaking number of athletes and countries participating in 20 disciplines. In the 20th Summer Deaflympics in Melbourne, Australia, there were 2045 athletes from 64 countries participating in 14 disciplines. For this competition, Judo, Karate and Taekwondo have been added as new summer disciplines.

The event will also be watched by the largest global audience. Dr. Emile C.J. Sheng, CEO of the Summer Deaflympics Taipei, said the opening ceremony will be broadcast live by Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television to over 160 countries worldwide.

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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.