Monthly Archives: January 2010

China Airlines at 50

China Airlines (CAL) was founded in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1959, with a fleet of two PBY-5 amphibious aircraft, mostly used for military missions and chartered services. With the help of the Taiwan government, CAL gradually developed its first domestic flights between Taipei and Hualien, and its first international routes between Taipei and Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam. In 1970, CAL started its trans-Pacific flights to San Francisco, California.

As carrier for the Republic of China (Taiwan), CAL had its aircraft painted with the national flags and colors (red-blue-white). In 1993, CAL became a publicly traded company on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. In 1995, CAL updated its image by adopting a “plum-blossom” logo instead of Taiwan’s national flag and colors. This made it possible to continue flying to Hong Kong and Macau, both of which were about to return to the People’s Republic of China.

With the global airline recession last year, CAL continued to profit by concentrating on its golden routes between Taipei and Hong Kong. On December 16, CAL celebrated its 50th anniversary with a group of 10,000 employees and a global flight operation network of 87 cities in 27 countries.

The pictures below reflect some of the historical landmarks in CAL’s years of operation.


CAL pilots and crew seen with aircraft PBY-5 (1959).

Chiang Ching-kuo, before assuming Taiwan’s presidency, with CAL stewardesses (1969).

Yen Chia-kan, before becoming president of Taiwan, and his wife with CAL stewards and stewardesses (1969).

CAL aircraft painted with the national flag (1967).

CAL aircraft painted with a plum-blossom logo (2007).

CAL stewardesses today


Tzu Chi lends helping hand to Haiti and others in need

On January 12, Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake that has crippled the entire nation. Countries around the world have rushed to send rescue workers and aid to help the people of Haiti. Among the humanitarian workers, in their distinctive white and navy blue outfits, you will see Taiwan’s Buddhist Tzu Chi volunteers. As one of the world’s biggest volunteer-based organizations with many seasoned disaster volunteers, you can be sure that they have already mobilized to collect funds to supply necessities to the victims of this latest natural disaster. And, when other countries eventually begin to pull out of Haiti, don’t be surprised when you continue to see Tzu Chi still there offering their own brand of compassionate care.

This month, Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation opened its new facilities for the Northwest region at 2355 Oakland Street, San Jose. As Taiwan Insights walked through the sprawling three-building complex with Mr. Minjhing Hsieh, he talked enthusiastically about the expanded services that can now be offered thanks to the additional space. Hsieh is the executive director of the Northwest region and like many at Tzu Chi, he is also a full time volunteer.

Tzu Chi is Taiwan’s largest charity. Started by a Buddhist nun in 1966, the foundation has offices in 47 countries and has five million sponsors. Tzu Chi means “compassionate relief” in Chinese and it is something the Foundation’s one million volunteers strive for when working in: charity, medicine, education, culture, international relief, bone marrow donation, environmental protection and community volunteerism.

After major disasters, you will see neatly dressed Tzu Chi volunteers working side by side with other international relief organizations. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Tzu Chi arrived to help. Within a matter of months, they gave away US$3 million to 17,000 families. In many cases, after other organizations have left, Tzu Chi remains to help rebuild. Three days after Sri Lanka’s devastating Tsunami in 2004, Tzu Chi flew in twenty medical doctors, 2,000 pounds of rice and 300 tents to the heart of the damage. Six months later, Tzu Chi volunteers were still there building 649 new homes at the cost of US$100 million.

Master Cheng Yen, Asia’s Mother Teresa

Tzu Chi was founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen. Considered the “Mother Teresa of Asia,” she has been a repeated nominee of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Born as Wong Chin-yun, she was adopted by her uncle as a baby and grew up to be a devoted daughter. At the age of 15 , her mother suffered from acute gastric perforation, an extremely painful condition. Surgery was an option, but often deadly and not very successful in those days. Praying and chanting “Compassion, Buddha,” she promised to become a vegetarian and to give up 12 years of her life if her mother was spared. Her mother would later make a full recovery without surgery and live to a ripe old age. Upon becoming a nun, Chin-yun was given a Buddhist name of “Cheng Yen.”

In 1966, after realizing there were no organized Buddhist charities, Master Cheng Yen started the Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Association. She asked her initial followers, 30 housewives, to save fifty cents a day (about two US cents) in bamboo piggy banks. By pooling their savings, they were able to start a charity fund to assist the poor. Much of Tzu Chi’s successes can be attributed to Master Cheng’s ability to see a need and to fulfil it, despite the insurmountable obstacles in the way. One example of this can be seen in Tzu Chi’s efforts to build its first hospital.

Upon realizing that the root of poverty often stems from ill health, Master Cheng decided to focus on medical care and set out to build a hospital in Hualien. Estimated to cost NT$800 million (US$25.2 million), many thought the hospital was an impossible dream. At that time, the annual Hualien County annual budget was only NT$100 million (US$3.1 million). It would take her seven years to realize her goal, but in 1986 the hospital was finally completed. In order to attract quality healthcare professionals to the area, the Foundation would later build schools, homes and a medical school. In 2005, Tzu Chi completed its sixth hospital on the island.

The Foundation growing internationally

In the United States, Tzu Chi is divided into nine regions overseeing 62 offices and 19 academies. In Tzu Chi’s Northwest (TCNW) region, the Foundation has 13 offices and four Academies offering a variety of classes and services. To see their scheduled programs for the Northwest, please visit:

Each week, Tzu Chi volunteers work with the homeless in San Jose, offering food, clothes and haircuts. They also make weekly visits to convalescent homes throughout their regions. During some weeks in summer and winter, they can be found distributing up to 7,000 pounds of food in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

As part of character building, Tzu Chi also offers classes on Master Cheng’s spiritual teachings. Even though the organization espouses Buddhist teachings, volunteers need not be Buddhist nor are most of the people they serve. In fact, the majority of people Tzu Chi serves outside the classrooms are African-Americans, Latinos and Chicanos. With branches in the Central Valley, many of those helped are migrant workers.

Although Tzu Chi’s has expanded by offering more programs and services, one of its main focuses is still in offering medical care to the needy. And this is one of Hsieh’s bigger tasks ahead as he eagerly tackles the opening of a low cost medical clinic in their new facility. Currently, as part of its medical outreach programs, TCNW operates The Great Love Medical Van, which offers dental care in the Bay Area and Central Valley. The van is a full service dental office, containing sophisticated x-ray and computer equipment.

Needy schools get a boost

Shirley C. Leong is another example of a dedicated volunteer. A board of director for TCNW and a former director of the San Francisco branch of Tzu Chi for ten years, she is particularly excited about the Foundation’s work in San Francisco schools. In 2004, Tzu Chi went to John Muir Elementary School as part of the Foundation’s Give-A-Book project. Located on Oak and Webster Streets, the majority of the school’s students came from low income homes, with some living in shelters. Soon after visiting the school to give away books, John Muir’s principal called her to see if Tzu Chi could put together fifty bags of daily use items for the kids. Since then, Tzu Chi has worked with John Muir to provide more daily use bags, school uniforms, blankets, sleeping bags, “love bags” of weekend snacks and other needs. Eventually, Tzu Chi started a Friday pantry program at certain schools to distribute two thousand pounds of food each week.

In working with schools, Tzu Chi has gotten permission to give short character-building lessons to classes as well. One basic Jing Si Aphorism by Master Cheng that they try to impart to the kids is to “say good words, have good thoughts and do good deeds.”

As part of TCNW’s environmental program, students at John Muir are taught the importance of recycling and every class is given a recycling box. Each Friday, Tzu Chi volunteers collect and count the recycling. The class that collects the most is then rewarded with an ice cream party. It is a good way to teach environmental responsibility and for the classes to earn money for field trips. In 2008, when Cyclone Nargis struck Burma, the students showed compassionate relief by donating their US$500 recycling money to help Burma.

Tzu Chi is now working with Malcolm X in Hunter Point, another underperforming school in one of San Francisco’s poorest areas, with similar programs. Today, John Muir is a magnet school and considered a “model recycling school,” Leong said with pride.

Providing material and emotional needs

What makes Tzu Chi unique is their donor-base. According to Hsieh, “The bulk of the support comes from the bottom. A lot of people on the lowest rung save or even collect cans to recycle and donate.” Added to that, it is a volunteer-heavy organization, which is extremely well organized and well trained. In order to be certified as a Tzu Chi volunteer, you need to undergo two years of training.

In the Bay Area, Tzu Chi has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the International Red Cross. In time of disaster, such as a fire, flood, or earthquake, Red Cross professionals are the first response. After they assess the situation, they will often call Tzu Chi volunteers to fill in the gaps in services. Whereas the Red Cross might be able to set up beds in schools or give some aid for temporary shelter, Tzu Chi can be on hand to give away debit cards, clothes, food and blankets.

As a non-profit organization that does not accept government money, Tzu Chi is not mired in bureaucracy and can act quickly to free up needed cash. More importantly, “we are faith-based, so we carry a humanistic characteristic in our delivery of service. We offer respect to the people who receive our service,” Hsieh said. Tzu Chi tries not only to supply the material needs but also considers the individual’s emotional needs.

Although the Foundation’s biggest growth has come from Southeast Asia, this might change now that Tzu Chi is a formally approved organization in China. The Foundation has worked in China since the 1991 flood, but it wasn’t until last year that Beijing gave Tzu Chi this rare recognition. This has allowed Tzu Chi to begin a dramatic growth spurt in China as the Tzu Chi Charity Foundation.

Forty-four years ago, a Buddhist nun had a desire to start a charity. Since then, it has grown into the biggest charity in Taiwan with satellite television stations, six hospitals, 40,000 volunteers and a national recycling program that generates US$10 million a year. In the United States’ Northwest region alone, Tzu Chi has an impressive number of standing programs and volunteer opportunities. It maintains a presence in many corners of the world and stands ready to respond to the next natural disaster or humanitarian crisis.

the documentary focuses on the turbulent lives of three students and how their earlier hardships made them stronger

To celebrate the Year of the Tiger, the San Francisco Public Library and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco have compiled an exhibition of the twelve zodiac animals in a 21-painting display. Each animal has special characteristics that are reflective of the animal and the person born under that sign. The 12 years are represented by Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in Taiwan. It is a 15-day long festival filled with family reunions, abundant food, new clothing and the expectation of a long vacation. It is a chance for people to start anew by paying off debts and forgetting old grudges in favor of a happier new year. On new year’s day children awake to good wishes from their elders and red envelopes filled with lucky money.

Celebrate this Chinese New Year with a visit to the Main Library of the San Francisco Public Library (100 Larkin Street at Grove). The exhibit will be in the Chinese Center on the third floor until February 18.

On Friday, February 12, come enjoy an afternoon of Taiwan films, starting with a documentary about Taiwan’s Ecological Ambience at 2:00 pm and a feature film Cape No. 7 at 2:50 pm.

Commemorating the Flying Tigers in Taiwan, China and the US

On December 21, the American Flying Tiger Historical Organization (FTHO) announced the start of a campaign to raise US$400,000 and to collect historical mementos for a Flying Tiger Heritage Park at Yang Tang Airport in Guilin, Guangxi, China. The exhibit will honor the friendship between the Chinese and American pilots who fought together during World War II.

During the press conference held at Half Moon Bay, California, FTHO chairman James T. Whitehead, Jr. Major General USAF (Ret.), president Larry Jobe, director K.C. Ma, senior advisor Michael Bianco, and volunteer Steve Martin talked of their aspirations for the park. In the World Journal, Bianco spoke of his plan to purchase a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the fighter aircraft the Flying Tigers used during WWII, to display at the Flying Tiger Heritage Park. The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk planes made an indelible impression with their shark’s teeth logos and a 12-point sun, the symbol of the Nationalist Chinese Air Force.

During World War II, the Flying Tiger pilots flew out of Half Moon Bay Airport to deliver military supplies or join the Nationalist Chinese Air Force in fighting the Japanese. After more than 60 years, there are still 29 aircraft flying and about 30 in museums across the United States.

Credited with creating the unit was US Army Air Corps officer Claire Lu Chennault, who was the military aviation advisor to Chiang Kai-shek in the early days of the Sino-Japanese War.

During the first years of WW II, Washington took a neutral stand. The American military pilots “resigned” their commissions to serve in the new unit as volunteers or private citizens. The group was formed in mainland China, staffed with Chinese and American pilots and support crew, and led by Chennault under the general command of the Nationalist Chinese Air Force. As a retired officer, Chennault had no problem acting as a private citizen in command of the volunteer pilots.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States placed more responsibility on the Flying Tigers. In July 1942, the American Volunteer Group (AVG) was disbanded and became the US Army Air Corps’ China Air Task Force, and Chennault was given the rank of brigadier general. As such, the Tigers were also known as AVG, the China Air Task Force or the 14th Air Force.

The Flying Tigers did a great job in protecting southern China against invasion by the Japanese. American pilots who were forced to bail out of their damaged aircraft often hid with the help of Chinese villagers. Knowing this, Japanese soldiers showed little mercy toward villagers suspected of aiding Americans, chopping off the fingers of Chinese suspected of hiding pilots. On the flying jacket of the Tigers, a patch in Chinese proclaimed, “This foreigner has come to the aid of China. Let the government and the people jointly protect him.”

Working together towards a shared interest and a desire for peace, a strong bond was forged between the United States and the Nationalist Chinese. Even after the Nationalist Chinese government moved to Taiwan, the friendship survived. One of the most visited monuments in Taiwan was dedicated to Chennault and the Flying Tigers in Taipei’s New Park, which was later relocated to the Air Force Base in Hualien.

Just a year ago, US Congressman David Wu (D-Oregon) honored Major Arthur Chin, one of the Tigers from the Oregon area. He was born in Portland, Oregon in 1913 to a Chinese father of Cantonese origin and a Caucasian mother of Peruvian background. He joined the AVG and later integrated into the Nationalist Chinese Air Force to fight the Japanese invasion in the late 1930s. He destroyed six Japanese aircraft and helped his comrades defeat another three. One day while flying, he was hit by three Japanese fighters, bailed out of his plane by parachute, and was seriously injured. With the help of Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Chin was able to return to the US for medical treatment, according to Taipei-based Central News Agency.

He returned to his hometown of Beaverton, Oregon and worked in the post office there for the next thirty years. After his death in 1997, he was immortalized at the Hall of Fame at the American Airpower Heritage Museum in Midland, Texas as the first American ace, and an officially recognized Chinese American World War II hero.

In January 2008, Congressman Wu introduced a House Resolution to rename the post office where Chin used to work as the “Major Arthur Chin Post Office Building.” The resolution was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and signed into law by former President George Bush Jr.

In September 2009, Taiwan’s Defense Minister inaugurated a “Chinese War Fighter Ace Arthur Chin Exhibition” at the Air Force History Museum in southern Taiwan, and also renamed the student activity center of the Air Force Academy as the “Arthur Chin Building.”

This January, relics from the Flying Tigers will be on display in Taipei. The fundraiser hopes to build a permanent exhibit at the Flying Tigers Heritage Park in 2011.

Beef issue tests US-Taiwan relations

On January 5, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passed an amendment to the Food Sanitation Act banning the import of “potentially high risk” beef products from areas where mad cow disease has been documented over the past decade. Despite President Ma Ying-jeou’s worries that a ban would strain US-Taiwan ties, the vote was unanimous.

Ruling and opposition party legislators reached a consensus at the end of last December to amend the nation’s Food Sanitation Act, restricting the import of certain US beef products amid widespread concerns about the possibility of contracting mad cow disease. The Ma Administration had warned that passing such a bill could constitute a breach of the US-Taiwan protocol signed last October allowing beef imports, further damaging ties with the US as well as hurting Taiwan’s international credibility.

Under the revised law, “potentially high risk” substances include cattle skulls, brain, eyes, spinal cord, offal, ground beef and other related beef products. The amended law also prohibits beef products from cattle older than 30 months from regions in which mad cow disease was found in the last 10 years from entering the island.

The controversy over US beef arose following the announcement by Taiwan’s Ministry of Health that bone-in US beef, offal and ground beef would be imported based on the newly signed US-Taiwan protocol.

Unexpected opposition at home

When the first case of mad cow disease was confirmed in the US in 2003, Taiwan and many other countries imposed an immediate ban on imported American beef products. In 2005, the Taiwan government under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) negotiated with the US and decided to partially allow beef imports. Since then, Taiwan has only allowed the import of US boneless beef from cattle under 30 months old, produced by certified slaughterhouses without specified risk materials.

After taking office in May 2008, President Ma immediately started talks with the US to further open up Taiwan’s market for American beef products. Based on the South Korean model, the Ministry of Health negotiated with Washington on the matter for about eighteen months. Upon its conclusion, the Ma Administration approved the signing of the protocol on October 23, 2009 to allow the import of bone-in US beef, offal and ground beef.

With the news of the signing, DPP legislators lodged a strong objection and began to amend the Food Sanitation Act to overturn the protocol signed between the executive branch and the US government. Civil rights activists and consumer protection groups also initiated a referendum to reject the beef protocol.

Ma respects lawmakers’ decision

With President Ma’s strategy of “making peace with China, befriending Japan and embracing the US” in place, Taiwan signed twelve agreements with China after his inauguration, but failed to reach any agreement with Washington. In order to make further headway, the Ma administration decided to open up the issue of imported US beef.

Upon hearing of the amendment, President Ma held a press conference hoping that the impact of the Legislature’s action on US-Taiwan ties would be limited to the trade of agricultural products only. He emphasized that the beef protocol is still valid and bone-in beef from cattle under the age of 30 months can still enter Taiwan. The banned parts accounted for less than 2 percent of the tota US-Taiwan beef trade.

President Ma acknowledged that his administration should have tried harder to communicate and get the buy-ins from the Legislative Yuan and the public about the protocol. To calm worries of potential health risks posed by American beef, the Health Ministry has adopted a strict control to test imported offal and ground beef in the last two months. He noted there is no need to further amend the law since the status quo contained enough protection. However, since the Legislative Yuan still insisted on going ahead with the amendment the president decided to respect the Legislature’s position.

Business as usual

Following five years of suspension, the first batch of US bone-in beef will arrived in Taiwan on January 15, and undergo complete inspection within three days.

Overall, Taiwan’s objections over imported US beef has been conveyed via orderly demonstration and legislative action, unlike in Korea, where protests violence have resulted in repeated clashes with riot police.

Despite Washington’s disappointment, it has been decided not to link the beef issue to the arms package to Taiwan, which is said to include UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters, the remainder of an ongoing Patriot PAC-3 missile-defense package, an initial design study for diesel submarines, and the second phase of a sophisticated command and control system.

Although Taiwan is the 6th largest US beef export market, according to statistics from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), beef exports to Taiwan in 2008 totaled only US$128 million. It is just a drop in the bucket in comparison with the amount of US arms exports to Taiwan.

Friedman: Taiwan’s Innovativeness is its best resource

Renowned New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman praised the 23 million people of Taiwan for having accumulated the world’s fourth-largest foreign exchange reserves despite their nation’s lack of natural resources and the high frequency with which they suffer from the effects of natural disasters. Attributing the achievement to the wealth of talent found on the island, Friedman said innovation is the most crucial renewable resource that Taiwan possesses, as invention, know-how and entrepreneurial spirit follow closely behind. The three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, who is currently on a two-day visit to Taiwan, made these remarks during a January 11 speech at the Presidential Office in Taipei.

Noting that Taiwan is an expert in the field of renewable energy, the columnist encouraged the nation’s people to make the most of this advantage and develop more clean-power initiatives, so that they can continue to play a leading role in this new green revolution.

Friedman went on to say that Taiwan has the lead in information technology, but that now is the time to step up efforts to develop energy technology in order to “outgreen” competitors. As geographically proximate “Red” China looks one day to become “Green” China, Taiwan is well-poised to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this huge market.

During Friedman’s time with President Ma Ying-jeou, the president praised him as a global opinion leader. Through his books and articles, Friedman has brought about a greater consciousness of the problems posed by global warming and the solutions presented by the use of “green” forms of energy that reduce CO2 emissions. The president also stated that Taiwan has seen concrete results in implementing policies that address these two issues, which helped reduce CO2 emissions by 4.4 percent in 2008 compared with the previous year, bringing them back down to their 2005 level. In addition to promoting related legislation, Taiwan has also revised its goals for reducing CO2 emissions, and now seeks to have emissions in 2020 be at the 2005 level and those in 2050 be at half of the 2000 level.

While meeting with Premier Wu Den-yih, Friedman noted that at the time of his first visit to Taiwan 13 years ago, the region was one of the world’s hottest flashpoints, but that the situation today is completely different. Cross-strait relations have undergone a silent revolution thanks to interaction between the people on both sides. Such an experience can serve as a reference for many other nations across the globe. Moreover, the two sides have achieved significant progress without needing the intervention of other nations. Friedman concluded that mixing person-to-person contacts with mutual economic complementariness is a recipe for long-lasting peace.

Taiwan likely to be “super-aged” by 2024


There are many rankings that Taiwan would like to be at the top of, but having the lowest average number of births in the world is not one of them. Taiwan’s Health Minister Yuang Chih-Liang recently announced that the average birth rate for a Taiwanese woman in 2008 was 1.05 children. At this rate, Taiwan will become a “super-aged” society by 2024. With so few people working and paying into the system, this could seriously affect Taiwan’s economic and social stability.

Sharp decline in number of births

According to Global View Magazine, Taiwan’s total population will start to decline in 2024 when its growth rate will reach zero. This is a sharp and alarming drop from 1951 when the average Taiwanese female between the ages of 15 and 49 gave birth to seven children. Currently, Taiwan’s birthrate is half that of the United States and many other developed countries.

In 2008, the percentage of senior citizens over 65 in Taiwan’s total population was 10.4, meaning one elderly person per every ten non-elderly. By 2024, Taiwan’s senior citizens are expected to account for 19.3 percent of the total population, meaning one elderly person among every five non-elderly. This would make Taiwan a “super-aged” society as defined by the United Nations.

Chen Wei-chao, the former president of National Taiwan University, warned ten years ago that the declining birth rate would force the shutdown of colleges. Out of Taiwan’s current 164 universities and colleges, an estimated 60 could close by 2021 unless the low birth rate can be reversed.


Less workers could mean a financial “black hole”

According to Global Views Magazine, the declining birth rate can be attributed to several factors, chief among them – the decline in the total married population, and the decision of many to delay marriage. As Taiwan’s workforce is comprised of more educated women, more women are enjoying their single status longer. Compounded with that problem is the added stress of work in the race against each person’s own fertility clock. Many women stay single, not wanting the added financial burden of raising children. No longer are Taiwanese women bound by traditional family values of continuing the family tree or raising children to help care for their elderly parents.

With Taiwan’s fertility rate so low, the magazine predicts Taiwan could lose its competitive edge, leading to a GDP and market decline. This would mean a decrease in tax revenue, and an increase in retirement pension expenditure, in essence, a financial “black hole.” Young adults would be over burdened to support an elderly population.

In 1950, the magazine noted that there were 22.7 working adults between the ages of 15 and 64 supporting one elderly person. That figure dropped to 6.9 workers to support one elderly person in 2008. It will be further reduced to 1.4 workers to support elderly person by 2056.

Educating women on their fertility

Dr. Tzeng Chii-ruey, who successfully cultivated Taiwan’s first test tube baby in 1986, said solving the infertility problem is indeed a very good entry point to increase the birth rate and suggested subsidizing fertility treatments. He said if the government had an annual budget funding of NT$500 million (US$15.4 million) to subsidize infertility, this could mean another ten thousands test tube babies. So far, there are 100,000 test tube babies living in Taiwan.

Interviewed for Taiwan Panoroma, Liu Chi-hong, one of Taiwan’s best known fertility experts says that education could go a long way towards increasing a woman’s reproductive life. Most women hear stories of celebrities having babies well into their forties and some into their fifties, but what is often not said is how much these individuals have spent on fertility treatment. In many cases, “they weren’t using their own eggs,” according to Liu. These women are the exception to the norm.

Besides, the huge cost of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) – US$620 per artificial insemination attempt and US$3,000 per in-vitro fertilization – makes it difficult for most middle-class people to repeat the procedure again and again. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 42-year-old woman receiving IVF treatment only has a 15 percent chance of getting pregnant. And because their eggs are of such poor quality, there is only a 50 percent chance that the pregnancies will result in a live birth.

Fertility clinics are filled with women who look great on the outside, but their internal clock is somehow harder to manipulate. At 47, success at getting pregnant falls to 1.1 percent and success at giving birth drops to 0 percent.

Other possible solutions

Another approach to solve the low birth rate issue is to increase Taiwan’s current fertility incentives, which allows eight weeks of maternity leave, maternity benefits, childcare subsidies, childcare leave and childcare allowance. For Taiwan’s workers to take care of their children under three, either parent could apply for maternity leave, or leave without pay, for at least six months in principle, but with a cumulative limit of two years. This is a national law which went into effect recently. Already, the number of workers who took maternity leave from January to August 2008 has increased by 84 percent over 2007.

Professor Lin Jyh-horng of Tamkang University pointed out it is not easy to increase Taiwan’s birth rate in the short term, but the government can follow the example of New Zealand and Singapore which countered their declining populations by adopting more liberal immigration policies. Although allowing more skilled immigrants into Taiwan might be a harder sell to conservative-minded Taiwan.

Another solution to counter the decline is to delay the retirement age. Lin suggested the government should learn from the British practice and delay the retirement age as a way of reducing the government deficit. He said the retirement age of white collar workers could be shifted from the current 65 to 75, and that of blue collar workers from 60 to 65.

In seeking the solution, Professor Kao Cheng-shu of Tunghai University said the declining birth rate is a “quiet revolution.” Once you notice the crisis, it is already too late. He urged the government, in cooperation with all walks of life, to solve this “big issue of the century,” so that the normal operation of the society can continue.

Taxation agreement stalled at Taiwan-China talks

On December 22nd, Taiwan and China signed another three agreements covering fishing crew cooperation, agricultural quarantine inspections and regulations covering industrial products. What generated more news, however, was not the three agreements that were signed, but the fourth one that was shelved, pertaining to double taxation. Never in the previous three rounds of the carefully scripted Chiang-Chen talks have the two sides put a planned agreement on hold just days before the two negotiators met formally to seal the deal.

This phase of the Chiang-Chen talks, between Chiang Pin-kung of Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and his Chinese counterpart Chen Yunlin with the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), took place in Taichung, Taiwan.

Local media cited a number of factors contributing to the last minute change. Some reports mentioned a possible sovereignty-related dispute. Others suggested mounting pressure from Taiwanese-invested companies in China worried that a new agreement might lead to higher taxes.

Taiwan has signed 17 taxation agreements with other countries, the main purpose of which are to avoid double taxation and to determine the taxation jurisdictions so that businesses and individuals can evaluate their tax costs, reduce their tax burdens, and promote mutual investment and business development. It is important for Taiwan to maintain an attractive taxation policy in order to lure more multi-national companies.

According to the Economic Daily News, the proposed tax agreement is based on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) standard, which uses a “state to state” framework. The two sides were reportedly unable to agree on the language, given how the sovereignty issue affects the taxation jurisdiction of each government.

Meanwhile the United Daily News reported that Taiwan’s Premier Wu Den-yih said the delay in signing the tax agreement does not involve the sovereignty issue, but rather, China changing its mind. China now wants taxation to be based on the place which generates the income. Premier Wu explained the two sides had originally agreed that the taxation would be based on the place of residence. For Taiwanese who do business in China, Taiwan is their residence. But China later proposed a different view where taxation should be based on the original place where the income is generated. So both sides agreed to put off the signing of the agreement until consensus could be reached.

A United Daily News report attributed the delay to mounting pressure from Taiwanese doing business on both sides of the Taiwan Strait who do not want their tax information “exposed.” Taiwanese business people are worried that the Taiwan government would share their detailed tax information with the Chinese authority, which might be “misused.”

In an editorial, the Taipei-based China Times said taxation is an obligation for businessmen no matter whether they are in Taiwan or China. The paper urged the government to be clear about why the taxation issue was not raised during the recent meeting.

Lai Shin-Yuan, Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), noted in an interview with the United Daily News that the key issue in not signing the agreement lies in “tax benefits” or in plain language, money. She said delaying signing an agreement is a natural, normal and mature form of expression in an institutionalized negotiation between Taiwan and China. It is not just signing for the sake of signing. The two sides have reached consensus on key contents, but still need more time to iron out some technical issues.

On the three agreements that were signed, the fishing crew cooperation addresses issues that have long been in contention between fishermen on both sides. The agricultural quarantine inspection and industrial products inspection are measures necessary with increasing trade volumes of agricultural and industrial products. During the talks, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party observed the agreements and implementation carefully to ensure that the government did not lessened Taiwan’s interest in these talks.

Despite the advances of the Chiang-Chen talks, a greater problem on the horizon might be the lack of a FTA-like economic cooperative framework agreement (ECFA) with China. The recent free trade agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China that took effect at the start of the 2010 could cost Taiwan dearly. According to Taiwan’s Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, Taiwan bears the uncertainty that its industrial production value may drop by US$2.46 billion. Once ASEAN is expanded to include Japan and South Korea, Taiwan’s overall industrial production may fall by as much as US$9.99 billion.

Taiwan hopes to enter formal talks with China in mid-January with the aim of hammering out an ECFA May or June 2010.

Taiwan prepared for H1N1 with domestic vaccine

Since December 15, Taiwan has vaccinated close to 18 percent of its total population against H1N1. With a National Health Plan and the central government buying the vaccine and coordinating the different phases, the island was able to begin innoculating the general public three months ahead of scheudle. Taiwan’s overall H1N1 vaccination plan went far smoother than in the United States, which left many priority patients in the Bay Area still to receive the vaccine by the end of the December.

Taiwan’s vaccination campaign

Taiwan began vaccinating the most vulnerable on November 1st. The population was segmented into twelve groups, with those with weaker immune systems given the vaccination first. Included in that group were typhoon-affected victims, medical personnel in charge of disease control and prevention, and pregnant women. In subsequent phases, the vaccine was offered to infants, younger children and seriously ill patients. Older school children in elementary, junior and senior high were also innoculate at their schools.

The last to be vaccinated were healthy people from 25-49 and healthy adults between 50-64.The government had planned to vaccinate the last group in March, but realized they were ahead of schedule and could vaccinate everyone much sooner than expected.

Thus on December 12th, Taiwan had a “1212 vaccination campaign” which allowed anyone working or living in Taipei to get vaccinated at designated public places, local clinics and hospitals. In the United States, the distribution of the vaccination was somewhat more complicated, with a mix of federal, state, county and the private sector participating to innoculate patients. Although some states and counties were making it availiable to the general population at year’s end, other regions were still trying to take care of their priority groups.

Taiwan’s government ordered 15 million doses of H1N1 vaccination, five million from Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical factory and another 10 million from Taichung-based Adimmune Corp., Taiwan’s own human vaccine manufacturing company. The Department of Health had set a goal of vaccinating at least 12 million before Chinese Lunar New Year in mid-February. Although not everyone would be vaccinated, vaccinating half of Taiwan’s population would be enough to prevent a crippling pandemic.

Schools given guidance on closure

Vaccinations were conducted on a school by school basis, so the schools had records of when vaccinations were administered and the percentage of students given the vaccine. This was important information since the antibodies develop about 14 days after the vaccination is received. In Taiwan, elementary school children began getting their vaccinations on November 16th, followed by junior high and senior high school students on November 23rd and November 30th, respectively.

In order to prevent a pandemic, Taiwan also used the “325” guidelines for closing schools. If two students in the same class were diagnosed with H1N1 within three days, then the school was closed for five days. However, if an individual student had flu-like symptoms, but 80 percent of the student population had been vaccinated more than 14 days previously, then the school would not close, but the sick students would be sent home instead.

By the end of November, Tawain estimated that 602 H1N1 patients had been hospitalized with the infection and 29 have died.

Adimmune Corp.: Taiwan’s new vaccine superstar

Adimmune’s ability to supply ten million vaccines was a big success for the whole island. In the United States, one of the problems with the shortage and delay of the vaccine supply was the lack of US vaccine producers. GlaxoSmithKline, a Canadian company, faced pressure to supply domestically before fulfilling US needs. Having a locally produced vaccine company like Adimmune Corp. was very important to meeting and exceeding the expectation of Taiwan’s H1N1 vaccine needs. It also made it possible for Taiwan to help other countries by donating 500,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine to the World Health Organization

In producing the vacinnes in six months, the company started from scratch, passed all the regulatory tests and succeeded in developing a world-class product. It was a big gamble for Adimmune that paid off. After being in debt to build its NT$3 billion (US$93 million) vaccine factory, Adimmune was able to win the government contract to produce the H1N1 vaccine for Taiwan. With the factory now in production, Adimmune has the capacity to produce 30 million doses annually. And given the shortages in the United States, it looks like they are in the right place to fill a niche market.