Monthly Archives: October 2010

Taiwan Film Days 2010

Monga -This gangster epic set in the 1980s against a backdrop of brothels and violence, traces the bonds of young friends whose underworld dealings threaten to tear them apart. Taiwan’s blockbuster hit at the beginning of the year, it surpassed Avatar at the box office during its opening week. Directed by Niu Doze.

Seven Days in Heaven – The current hit this summer, Seven Days in Heaven follows Ah-mei back to her rural hometown for her father’s funeral. Despite her genuine sense of grief, the film takes a lighthearted approach to the passing of a loved one that is funny and relatable to anyone watching. Directed by Essay Liu and Wang Yu-lin. Both will be present at TFD.

Tears – This police and family melodrama centered on Guo, a short-tempered policeman nearing retirement, and his efforts to find redemption amidst a steady diet of violence, corruption and revenge. Directed by Chen Wen-tang.

Hear Me – Taiwan’s most popular movie in 2009, Hear Me is about a budding romance between a loveable young man who pretends to be deaf in order to gain entry into a girl’s life. Overflowing with charm, it is a story for the young and the young at heart. Directed by Cheng Fen-fen, who will be present at TFD.

No Puedo Vivir sin Ti – Shot in black and white, the movie’s gritty composition contrasts with the sweet story of a poor single father’s efforts to raise his young daughter as best he can. The pair happily co-exists by eking out a meager living on the fringes of Kaoshiung’s industrial harbor. But as the father tries  to register his daughter for school, their life slowly unravels into a bureaucratic nightmare. Based on a true story. Directed by Leon Dai.

Let’s Fall in Love – A documentary looking into couples at various stages of their relationship. All are brought together by matchmaker Hellen Chen, who steers her many clients through the obstacles of finding a partner. Part loving counselor and part bully, Chen offers insights into her client’s desires to be in a relationship and offers a realistic look at romance. Directed by Wuna Wu, who will be present at TFD along with matchmaker Chen.

Vibrant film industry promotes national image

This month, the San Francisco Film Society will host Taiwan Film Days, an exciting three-day showcase highlighting the best contemporary Taiwanese cinema. It will provide Bay Area audiences with a  unique opportunity to see bold new Taiwanese films that are steadily taking market share away from Hollywood. The success of Taiwan movies can be directly attributed to government efforts to foster a new generation of filmmakers and to attract movie makers to the island.    

TFC: Marketing the city through film

In 2008, the Taipei Film Commission (TFC) was established to help Taipei attract filmmakers to the city. Headed by Jennifer Jao, she joked, “The first person we have to thank for the establishment of the commission is Tom Cruise.” Before its establishment, the makers of Mission Impossible III came to scout out Taipei 101, then the “world’s tallest building.” The location scouts struggled with finding the appropriate authorities to obtain permission to film in Taipei and eventually gave up in favor of shooting in Shanghai.

Since opening its doors, TFC has steadily grown. Expanding by 150 percent in 2009 with a staff of seven handling more than 320 applications requesting assistance and working with 631 films. In speaking to Taiwan Panorama, Jao predicts her staff numbers will double again this year and expects to provide assistance to 200 films shooting in Taipei. Modeling themselves after the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting in New York City, the commission offers a “Filmmaker’s VIP Card,” that provides quality half-price accommodation, hot meals, along with other discounts with over 100 businesses catering to production needs. This makes Taipei a more competitive option for scouts.

A current success story for TFC is Au Revoir Taipei, which has won many awards at foreign film festivals and also achieved box office success in Taiwan. The film received support from the Taipei Film Commission and also successfully applied for a NT$3.5 million (US$114,000) production grant from the Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Shown through the eyes of Director Arvin Chen, a young Taiwanese-American living in Taipei, the movie is set in the city and shows Taipei as a vibrant playground for the young. Filled with warmth and romance, the film has become the best marketing tool for the city, beckoning people to explore locations featured in the film, such as a night market, an Eslite Bookstore and to try the assortment of delicious foods seen in the movie.

According to Jao, “Everyone wants to see films about the place they live!” The appeal is not just aimed at foreign audiences, but also for the locals as well. For Chen, Au Revoir Taipei was not a deliberate effort to market Taipei, but simply an effort to put his Taipei onto the big screen.

Today, Kaohsiung City, Taichung City, Nantou County, Tainan County and Yilan County have all set up film commissions to attract and help filmmakers.

China provides a market for Taiwan’s fresh talent

Considering the growing China market, the government has encouraged Taiwanese filmmakers to form joint productions with film companies in Hong Kong, China and other Asian countries in order to spread the investment risks. Given Taiwan’s limited market, many filmmakers are also looking towards China for its inexpensive productions cost and growing ticket sales.

Despite the worldwide economic downtown, China’s box-office has continued to grow at 30 percent a year. In 2008, it took in four times more revenue than Taiwan’s box office.  According to Taiwan Panomara, many are now predicting that China will be the world’s single largest movie market within 10 years.

Filming in China is also cheaper, costing about one-fifth of what it might cost in Taiwan. Added to that, in 1993, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) began allowing certain private sectors limited entry into the industry. In 2003, SARFT opened the door wider, permitting foreign companies to enter the country’s film-production business. However, a tight lid is still kept on foreign imports, with only 50 foreign movies allowed into the country a year and just 20 from the United States. Even with just 10 US films, Hollywood movies still dominated the Chinese box-office in 2001. This changed in 2003, as the Chinese film industry began to attract more talent.

According to Terence Chang, a Hong Kong producer of Red Cliff and other films, he does not see a wealth of new talent coming from Hong Kong. “We’ve had few new directors emerge in recent years, whereas Taiwan has an abundance of young directors,” he said. James Wang concurs with Chang. As the president of China’s Huayi Brothers Media, the company has seen their box office receipts rise steadily. “Twenty years ago, Hong Kong was the center of Asian film,” Wang said. But it is now too oriented towards gangster, martial arts, cops and silly comedies. “It lacks cultural dept and a sense of history.” The future of the market lies in China and Taiwanese filmmakers are close enough in their cultural background to best serve the Chinese audience.

Taiwan Film Days

This year’s Taiwan Film Days will highlight some of Taiwan’s fresh talent. The event opens on Friday, October 22nd with Monga. Set in the 1980s against a backdrop of brothels and violence, Monga traces the lives of a group of teenagers whose close bonds threaten to be torn asunder by their dream of gangster life. The top movie earlier this year, it surpassed Avatar at the box-office. There will be two showing, one at 6:15pm and the other one at 9:40pm, after the Opening Night reception at Viz Cinema at New People in San Francisco’s Japantown.

Bay Area audiences can also see Taiwan’s current box office hit, Seven Days in Heaven on Saturday (10/23) and Sunday (10/24). Directed by Essay Liu and Wang Yu-lin, it is based on the writings of Liu. It centers on one woman’s experience at the death and the funeral of her father. Mei, resolutely urban, makes her way back to her rural hometown where she and her brother must endure a series of arcane and elaborate funeral rites. This dark and poetic comedy takes a lighthearted approach to an otherwise grim theme. Both directors will be present for a Q&A session. This will be the final  movie, and will commence  at 9:10pm on Sunday (10/23).  

The only documentary in this year’s TFD is Let’s Fall in Love. Filmmaker Wuna Wu delves into the tragicomic world of matcher Hellen Chen, who specializes in nudging notoriously difficult bachelors and bachelorettes to the altar. Far different from the romantic fairy tales of the West, the documentary is a riveting look at couples dealing with age old concerns found in any relationship.  Let’s Fall in Love will also show  on Saturday (10/23) and Sunday (10/24) with Director  Wu Wuna and Hellen Chen present at the showings.

Hear Me, Taiwan’s most popular movie in 2009, is about a budding romance between a loveable young man who pretends to be deaf in order to gain entry into a girl’s life. Overflowing with charm, it is a story for the young and the young at heart. Shown on Saturday evening, the Director Cheng Fen-fen will be present for Q&A afterwards.

Taiwan Film Days is sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society, the Government Information Office (Taiwan), the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco and the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. The festival will be held the Viz Cinema at New People, 1746 Post Street, San Francisco.  For more information, visit .

Taiwan Stories – free feature and documentary films at San Francisco State University, University of California at Berkeley and University of Oregon at Eugene, Oct. 15-22

Explore Taiwan through Taiwan Stories, a festival of feature and documentary films. The mini-festival features the best films from Taiwan’s Public Television Service. The shows begin at San Francisco State University (SFSU) on October 15 and then continue at the University of California at Berkeley (UC) on October 18 and 19, before concluding at the University of Oregon in Eugene (UO) on October 22.. The festival is free and open to the public. Please visit for show times.

Two films spotlight the problems of newly arrived immigrants in Taiwan seeking a better life. Whether coming to Taiwan as a foreign bride (The Voyage to Happiness) or as a domestic worker (Nyonya’s Taste of Life), each must adapt and learn to adjust to their new home.

The Voyage to Happiness follows Le Thi Tu’s journey as a “mail–order” bride from southern Vietnam to Taiwan. The documentary interviews other immigrant women from 14 other Asian cities and their fight for equal treatment. The film will be shown at UC Berkeley on the October 18th.

Nyonya’s Taste of Life is a wonderful film by Director Wen Chih-yi. Shown on all three campuses, the director will be present to take questions from the audience. The film is centered  around the many foreign domestic workers in Taiwan. Just like the complexities of Nyonya’s cooking, it is a multi-flavored melting pot, as represented by the misunderstanding and conflicts among the ethnic Chinese, Indonesian and Thai workers.

The lineup also includes After 30 Seconds, in which an out-of-work father needs to decide if he should apply for a job at his son’s school, thereby embarrassing his son…or not. Taipei 24H, features eight wonderful urban tales, using the city as a backdrop for the eight shorts. It features some of Taiwan’s best-loved actors and directors. Director Lee Kang-sheng will be present to answer questions about Taipei 24H after the screening.

In The Secret in the Satchel, the documentary focuses on the turbulent lives of three students and how their earlier hardships made all of them stronger individuals. Instead of human behavior, the next documentary explores one of Taiwan’s most striking birds. Birds Without Borders explores the Black-faced spoonbill, a beautiful bird only found in the wetlands of Asia. The film spotlights the worldwide efforts of dedicated individuals to protect this endangered animal’s few remaining habitats.

The festival ends with Wave Breaker on Friday night, October 22 in Eugene. Suffering from a terminal illness,  a young man tries to re-capture what happiness he has while his family deals with his impending death.

Taiwan Stories is sponsored by Taiwan’s Public Television Service, Department of Foreign Language and Literatures (SFSU), Chinese Flagship Partner Program (SFSU), Institute of East Asian Studies (UC-Berkeley), Center for Chinese Studies (UC-Berkeley), the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures (UO), the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (UO), the Government Information Office (Taiwan), and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco.

The 99th National Day celebrations in San Francisco

On October 7, over one thousand guests attended the 99th National Day celebrations for the Republic of China (Taiwan) at the Palace Hotel. As each guest entered the Grand Ballroom, they were warmly greeted by the director-general and Mrs. Jack K.C. Chiang.

The grand celebration began with thundering drums and clanging cymbals heralding the entrance of seven luminous lions. The large crowd drew near, enlivened by the festive beat and vying for a closer look. The performers from the White Crane International Lion Dance Association put on a magnificent show, at one point, hoisting a lion dancer three stories high, before unfurling a banner of good wishes to the Republic of China.

Director-General Chiang took to the podium to welcome everyone to the 99th National Day celebrations of the founding of the Republic of China, a democratic country officially established in 1911 and now based in Taiwan. He told the audience, “It’s a day to cherish the freedom, justice and human rights we have treasured so highly, and it’s a day to safeguard democracy as the wave of the future.”

He also spoke of Taiwan’s economic health, saying, “Despite the global financial downturn last year, Taiwan’s economic fundamentals have remained pretty solid. Its economy this year, according the World Bank, is expected to grow at 7.7%” with a GDP of 8 percent.

Chiang also said that the future looked promising with the signing of the Economic Cooperative Framework Agreement (ECFA). He told the crowd the ECFA marked a new chapter in cross-strait relations with mainland China, one which will reflect positively on Taiwan’s economic growth. In closing, he quoted a Confucian saying, “The virtuous should not be alone and we are in good company.” The audience readily agreed responding with enthusiastic applause.

Among the attendees were Barbara Alby, a member of the Board of Equalization, who was representing the California Assembly and California State Senator Roy Ashburn with two resolutions. As a past visitor to Taiwan, Alby said, “I fell in love with the people, scenery and the country itself.” Nevada State Senator Dennis Nolan was also there to convey the warm wishes from the State of Nevada, the City of Las Vegas and the city legislators. Dennis Wells, a commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and a longtime attendee of the Double Tenth celebrations, was joined by David Norris from the national chapter of VFW.  Each of them presented a plaque to the director-general.

Locally, Mayor Paul Seto of Millbrae, Mayor Mark Green of Union City and Mayor Kris Wang of Cupertino all made their way to the podium to express  their warm wishes to the Republic of China. Besides city officials, sister city members also attended from Los Altos, Marysville, San Francisco and Madera.

On the state level, Congressman John Garamendi, Congressman Dan Lungren and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey all sent representatives to convey their best wishes to Taiwan. Internationally, the consul general of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua were present for the celebration.

Festivities continued throughout the weekend with flag raising ceremonies throughout the Bay Area. On October 10, the Republic of China’s flag was raised in Saint Mary’s Square in San Francisco Chinatown. It was followed by a parade through Chinatown accompanied  by a police escort. The National Day is also known as Double Tenth and the Chinese characters representing 10-10 could be seen on colorful banners flying across Grant Street, the main street in Chinatown.

Attended by more than a thousand people, the Double Tenth festivities are sponsored by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in San Francisco, and supported by 75 overseas Chinese, Taiwanese and American organizations, including the American Legion Honor Guard.

New academic collaboration with UC Berkeley

In late September, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau of the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), visited Taiwan to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Top University Strategic Alliance, a group of thirteen top universities in Taiwan receiving government subsidies to develop international-standard colleges and research centers.

Specifically, Birgeneau was in Taiwan to sign the Talent Cultivation and Academic Collaboration MOU with Professor Wu Se-hwa, president of the National Chengchi University, and Professor Lee Si-chen, president of the National Taiwan University. On September 24, they all gathered at the Ministry of Education for the signing. Although leaders from all thirteen universities were signatories on the agreement, the two men represented the Alliance at the signing hosted by Dr. Lin Tsong-ming, the political deputy minister in the Ministry of Education.

According to the agreement, UC Berkeley will help train humanities candidates recommended by the Alliance. Both parties will dedicate their best talents to working on collaborative projects, including the establishment of a research team on East Asian Studies. The agreement is expect to nurture more talent in higher education, promote Taiwan’s visibility in the international academic arena and establish an overseas academic research base at UC Berkeley. Berkeley is considered the most prestigious research-based public university in the United States. The project will last five years

While in Taiwan, the chancellor also met with President Ma. The president confided in Birgeneau that he might have been a Cal alumnus, if Berkeley had accepted him. Instead, he attended Harvard University.

President Ma urges China to release Liu Xiaobo

On October 8, Chinese human rights and democracy movement activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. In response, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou said that ethnic Chinese people all over the world are happy for Liu. The president urged Beijing to treat dissidents well and called for the  early release of Liu, who is currently in a Chinese prison. President Ma made the remarks to overseas compatriots participating in the National Day celebrations.

He made the appeal based on four facts:  First, with growing national strength, China should be confident in adopting benevolent internal policies that embody Chinese culture and the right to freedom of speech, ensuring that the important foundations of a modern society are well protected. Second, as a signatory to the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, both countries should encourage the other to implement these covenants. Third, it is in keeping with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s speech to the UN General Assembly this past September regarding China’s determination to implement political reforms. China should put this historical commitment into practice here. Fourth, since becoming president,  Ma  has actively improved cross-strait relations with concrete results, greatly reducing the imbalance in  cross-strait economic and trade relations. The president also hopes that the two sides can reduce the gap in their democratic rules and legal systems.

President Ma said that China has made impressive economic developments. With added breakthroughs on human rights issues, China could achieve its goal of a “peaceful rise,” thus winning more international recognition, and the appreciation of the Taiwanese people.

On this year’s anniversary of the Tienanmen Incident, the president stressed that Chinese leaders need to display robust good faith and self-confidence in resolving outstanding issues remaining as a result of past major human rights incidents. The government in Beijing also needs to treat dissidents with greater leniency. This would help foster greater trust among the people of mainland China in their governing authorities and, in the area of human rights, this would inevitably move toward narrowing the gap between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The Taipei-based China Times reported that Liu praised President Ma in the past as a “visionary” political figure. From his enthusiasm toward Taiwan, it is easy to get a glimpse of the Chinese human right activists’ desire for democracy. Liu hates authoritarian regimes, and admires Taiwan. He said it is more natural and logical that no one except Taiwan should play its democracy cards against China. Only when Taiwan witnesses China’s sincerity in undertaking political reforms can cross-strait negotiations begin.

According to the Central News Agency, Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party spokesman Lin You-chang pointed out that Liu is innocent and should be immediately released. Lin said the DPP believes that democracy, freedom and human rights are Taiwan’s most important fundamental values, and Taiwan should actively serve as a catalyst in the democratization of China. Ma’s government should not hesitate in criticizing China’s leaders when these valued are violated.

Political commentator Huang Chong-hsia said in his blog, that after the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China, both sides are now friends. As friends, there should be mutual assistance. China has helped Taiwan economically to compete in the world, while Taiwan should help China on the issues of human rights, political reform and openness so that China can be integrated into universal norms of the world.

Huang pointed out that as a result of the current expansion of the Chinese middle class, dictatorship and an authoritarian system will not be able to function under this new situation, thus forcing China to move toward political reform. Taiwan should provide more goodwill with its experience of democracy to guide the political reform process in China. A more open China will be more predictable and also ensure Taiwan’s security. Huang concluded, “Ma Ying-jeou’s recent moderate remarks about Liu Xiaobo… show a kind of wisdom.”

Diaoyutai islands dispute reheated

On October 5, Taiwan’s Presidential Office reiterated Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. Lo Chih-chiang, the presidential spokesman, said that Taiwan has sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, and its position has never changed. Taiwan will continue to fully defend and protect the sovereignty of the islands and the safety of the Taiwanese fishermen there.

Tensions over the uninhabited islets were re-ignited when a Chinese trawler collided with two Japanese Coast Guard vessels in the East China Sea on September 7. It fanned the flames once more about the ownership of the nearby  islets, called the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. The islets are claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan.

The President’s Office said on its web site that every time there is a conflict in the Diaoyutai waters, it is almost always because Japanese ships have rushed there to drive Taiwanese or Chinese fishing boats away. Therefore, “conflicts in the Diaoyutai waters at this time only occur between Taiwan and Japan, or between China and Japan, and not between Taiwan and China.”

Currently, Taiwan and China have each lodged separate protests with Japan, since they both have disagreements with Japan over the islands, but not with each other. Each side is dealing with Japan directly. In light of the complicated issues involved, Taipei has urged each side to resolve the dispute in a peaceful way.

Taiwan claims the Diaoyutai Islands as a part of the existing boundaries of the Republic of China on Taiwan. The Diaoyutai Islands were discovered and named by the Ming Dynasty (AD 1403). In the subsequent hundred years, the Ming and Qing dynasties maintained the security of the islands with coast guards and this is attested by ample documentation.

In 1894, the Qing Dynasty was defeated in the Sino-Japanese war and Taiwan was ceded  to Japan. In January 1895, Japan took advantage of this opportunity to merge the Diaoyutai into Japan’s territory as uninhabited islands. After World War II (1945), Japan returned Taiwan to the Republic of China, so it was logical that the Diaoyutai Islands would also be returned as part of the deal.

 As such, the Presidential Office has said that if Chinese fishing boats come into Taiwan’s waters for illegal fishing, they will be expelled or detained by Taiwan’s Coast Guards. From January to August of this year, 4,789 were forced out, and 2,195 were detained for further judgement. Taiwan will do the same for any foreign boat illegally fishing in the Diaoyutai waters.

Taiwan joins world beer renaissance

There are over 70 types of beers in the world, but in Taiwan – no matter domestically brewed or imported – most beers taste the same because they are all lagers. And nearly all have been filtered and pasteurized to the point of homogeneity, Taiwan Panorama magazine reported.

After Taiwan’s admission to the World Trade Organization, the government’s monopoly on beer sales was lifted, paving the way for independent brewers to enter the market. These artisan brewers emphasize limited quantity, diversity, and superior taste. Although they make up less than one percent of Taiwan’s total beer market, they have nevertheless managed to shake up people’s preconceptions and infuse new creativity into Taiwan’s limited beer culture.

Kenneth S. Lin, an economics professor at National Taiwan University and an avid beer lover, has been brewing his own beer for over 20 years. He told Taiwan Panorama that most people in Taiwan have no experience of beer’s expansive palette of flavors, or an understanding of how challenging it is to brew beer. On brewing beer, three factors determine the quality: the sweetness of the wort, the degree of bitterness of the hops, and the fruity overtones released by the fermentation that occurs after contact with the yeast.

The essence of the brewer’s craft is to envision a combination of elements that will yield a specific taste and color. This requires making minute adjustments in temperature and humidity to achieve the desired effect.

History of Taiwan beer

The government’s monopoly on beer sales dates back to the Japanese occupation. Private breweries were forbidden and sales were only possible with government permits. Although this system helped to secure government tax revenues, it stymied the creativity of the private sector and curtailed variety.

In the 1970s, a renewed interest in artisan beer began in Europe and North America. In 2002, after Taiwan was admitted into the WTO, the government was forced to lift the ban on manufacturing alcohol, allowing breweries to open up.

According to Taiwan Panorama, after the lifting of the ban there were about ten small breweries, but only half of them now survive. Great Reliance Food and Beverage, North Taiwan Brewing and Le blé d’or are three of the original start-ups.

Major challenges face artisan breweries

North Taiwan Brewing (NTB) was set up in 2003. Faced with a tight budget, NTB owner Wen Li-guo did everything in-house, from brewing to bottling, labeling and sales, while his partner Professor Duan Kow-jen, an expert on fermentation, worked on tweaking the formula of hops, yeast, and other factors.

The duo’s early attempts, Abbey Beer and White Beer sold poorly. Later they changed their strategy by experimenting with novelty beers made with natural fruit juices, giving preference to lychee, cantaloupe, pineapple and other locally-grown fruit offering distinctive tastes. Repeated experimentation eventually yielded a winning formula, in the Lychee Beer.

After its release in 2006, Lychee Beer won over consumers with its elegant bouquet and taste, allowing other beers in NTB’s catalog to piggyback on its success. Then Tapas House in Taipei asked them to produce a beer for their exclusive use. This was the turning point for NTB, enabling them to hire two more employees.

Educating consumers to exploring beer’s subtle side

Unlike NTB and other companies that have focused exclusively on beer production, Eddie Chang, president of the Great Reliance Food and Beverage Co., Ltd. intended his home-brewed beer to complement his restaurant.

Chang, 44, studied food and beverage management in Taiwan and in the United States. As the first Taiwanese person to have a professional brewer’s certificate, Chang spent NT$10 million (US$312,000) to buy brewing equipment to launch his brewery and restaurant. Chang told Taiwan Panorama the certificate program helped him better understand the principles of control and balance, rather than just memorizing formulas. It equipped him with the skill to develop a classic taste and to add his own creative flourishes.  

In 2003, he opened the Jolly Brewery and Restaurant featuring three of his own signature beers to complement the Thai cuisine. He has since opened another restaurant, expanded his beer selection to six unique tasting drafts and offers daily beer drinking contests.

According to Chang, the challenge facing all small artisan breweries in Taiwan is that consumers have had access to only one basic flavor and they lack the background to explore beer’s subtle side. By opening a restaurant, he hopes to interact directly with his customers and share his knowledge.

Le blé d’or on the international stage

Although Taipei has many restaurants that serve fine food and draft beer, most of them are owned by foreign franchises. Le blé d’or is owned by a Taiwanese businessman who studied in Canada.  Quentin Yeh was only 23 when he decided to invest himself fully as a brewer-in-chief. With his parents’ support, he continued to experiment and learn from other beer makers before coming up with three beers.

Since 2002, Le blé d’or has grown from a four-man operation producing five metric tons monthly to more than 20 employees producing 25 metric tons. Of all the domestic breweries, Le blé d’or now ranks behind only Taiwan Beer and Tsingtao Beer in operational scale.

Yeh plans to set up branches overseas to take the flavor of Taiwan’s craft beer onto the international stage. The fact that his Honey Beer won two major awards in Japan last year has him considering opening a brewery in Japan someday.

Small breweries in Taiwan strive to educate consumers about artisan beer. Their catalogs usually contain information on the history of beer making as an art. NTB has a blog for beer lovers to discuss how to improve brewing techniques. Le blé d’or invites wine gurus to teach consumers everything from pouring, viewing, smelling and tasting beers.

Though not professionally involved in the beer industry, Lin has watched the Taiwanese people develop a taste for artisan beer. He notes only an affluent and liberal society can nurture the creative and adventurous spirit required of both the master brewer and the average consumer. Taiwan, he feels, has both.

An end to Taiwan’s high-profit OEM era?

After 15 years of 30 percent revenue growth, Hon Hai Precision Industry Company reported in its semi-annual report that the company would no longer be able to meet growth expectations. Hon Hai, the parent company of Foxconn International and the largest original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in the world, is not the only company with failing stock due to poor earnings. Quanta Computers’ gross profit in the second quarter of this year was reported at only 3.4 percent, the lowest since its creation 22 years ago. Quanta’s stock also dropped sharply. According to the Business Weekly, this could mean the end to the golden age of high-tech contract manufacturing.

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Terry Gou, chairman of the Hon Hai, said his company’s revenue growth rate would drop from 30 to 15 percent over the coming decade.

Hon Hai, Quanta, Compal , Acer and ASUS, are the five largest electronics companies in Taiwan. These so-called “electronics big brothers” achieved combined earnings of US$86.3 billion for the first half of this year, accounting for almost 20 percent of Taiwan’s GDP.

This amount is 4.7 times the combined revenue for the first six months of the year of Taiwan’s “five traditional big brothers,”  the Formosa Plastics Group, China Steel Corp., Taiwan Cement, Uni-President Enterprises, and Chunghwa Telecom.  

Surprisingly, the combined after tax net profits of the traditional five in the first half of the  year reached US$2.74 billion, beating the US$2.38 billion of the five electronics giants.  This is the first time in 10 years that the traditional five has earned more than the electronics firms.

The key point is in the net profit: the average net profit of the traditional five in the first half of the year was 15 percent, while that of the five electronics firms was a record low of 2.8 percent, a difference of more than five times.

The Business Weekly said, when the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China took effect on September 12  the Taiwan stock index rose 200 points, giving rise to expectations of a new golden decade for the traditional businesses.

Foxconn, which has the cell phone orders for the five largest brands in the world, lost US$143 million in the first half of this year. The cell phones Foxconn used to manufacture have given way to the popular new smart phones. Smart phone manufacturing needs a high level of software integration and thus is more difficult for hardware OEMs to handle. Except for iPhones manufactured by Foxconn, all other smart phone brand companies are making their own products. Without more smart phone orders, Foxconn is getting into trouble by losing traditional customers like Motorola and Nokia.

In 2009, Terry Gou entered the unchartered market of notebook computers. Hon Hai is set to produce 20 million notebook computers by 2011, but in order to be competitive it must continually lower its prices, thereby lowering its profit and revenue growth. At the same time, when Apple introduced its new iPad, it grabbed more market share and lowered the forecast for notebook, pulling the price of notebooks even further down.

The iPad comes with no key board, no hard drive, no DVD player, and far fewer  memory chips. While a notebook computer uses 1000 components, an  iPad uses only  500.

Simon Yang, vice president of Topology Research Institute, said the iPad is just accelerating the impact. Sooner or later, contract manufacturing of notebook computers will see the arrival of low profit and  revenue growth. The Business Weekly foresees a trend of low profit margins for Taiwan’s electronics industry set to arrive in less than two years.

Rush to study in China expected

Li Kan, the son of the well-known Taiwanese writer and political commentator Li Ao, is a freshman at Beijing University, China, this year. He is in the first wave of Taiwanese students admitted to Chinese universities based on their scholastic tests from Taiwan. Beside Li, there are over 40 Taiwanese high school graduates who have entered Chinese universities this way, according to Taiwan’s Business Weekly.

Taiwanese students have a wide choice of schools, but it is still not easy since the minimum requirement on the island-wide academic scholastic test scores is  88 percent or higher. Before, Taiwanese high school students who wanted to enter top-notch Chinese universities, such as Peking University and Tsinghua University, had to pass the special exam administered for students in Hong Kong and Macau. These tests covered Chinese materials, and not the curriculum taught in Taiwan.

China, the new land of opportunity

Huo Teh-ming, professor of China Center for Economic Research, Peking University, came to Beijing four years ago after having taught in Taiwan for over 20 years. He told the Business Weekly that it makes sense to study in China early on if you want to take part in the world’s largest market. China’s GDP is expected to catch up with that of the United States in 15 to 20 years; there are still plenty of business opportunities there. 

Tu Ya-lun, a Taipei Municipal Chengkong High School graduate, was admitted to the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University. The school is the top choice for over nine million Chinese students who apply. Tu hopes to continue to study abroad after graduation or to work with big multinational companies. When looking for a job, he can tell prospective employers he has experience in both China and Taiwan and is prepared to work in either country.

When the Chinese government announced in mid-April that Taiwanese students could enroll in China without taking the Chinese exam, it was already too late for most students in Taiwan to apply. The next year should see a spike as more Taiwanese high school students rush to apply to Chinese schools.

Cut-throat, not collaborative

Taiwanese students on Chinese campuses need to be psychologically ready to meet China’s brightest and best. Yu Ron-an of Taichung Girls’ High School was admitted to the department of economics and finance, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University. Yu said her academic scholastic scores are the best among every  100 students in Taiwan, while her Chinese counterparts have scores that are the best among every 300,000 students from China’s provinces. She understands she is entering a very competitive environment.

Taiwanese students are not only facing a more competitive academic environment in China, but also encountering different dialects and cultures representative of the country’s  many provinces and differing ways of life.

According to the Business Weekly, Chen Hui-yu, a Kaohsiung Girls High School graduate, was admitted to the chemical engineering department at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. But after a three-day stay, she decided to study at Tsinghua in Taiwan instead. Why? Chen said she was afraid of the vicious competition in China. While at Kaohsiung high school, her classmates would help each other, this was not the case in China, she said.

Another reason was that she missed Taiwan’s freedoms and openness, which she believes allow her to learn more. Though disappointed, her father accepted her decision. He felt it was too easy and comfortable in Taiwan.

Parents hold differing attitudes

Professor C (pseudonym) graduated from an American Ivy League school, and has taught at colleges in Taiwan, the US and China. He said his son worries about performing poorly among Chinese classmates and he should, since students from China’s first-rate schools (Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Fudan University) are always burning the midnight oil. The libraries are packed before, during and even after mid-terms. By the lake at Peking University, you can see students trying to memorize English vocabulary at six o’clock on a winter’s morning. Naturally,  Taiwanese students would feel the pressure.

Professor C told his son it is not necessary to be in direct competition with those talented and hardworking classmates. “Whether you like them or not, you must know them and understand them,” Professor C said in an interview with Business Weekly. If you study at colleges in Taiwan, you need to pursue a master’s degree overseas. He suggested getting advanced degrees in both the US and China.

Architect Hong Di-kuan sent his eldest daughter to the US to study electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He would never let his daughter study in China. Despite speaking the same language, he finds Chinese students to be too materialistic. Also, he feels China needs to evolve concepts of law, freedom and democracy. As such, Hong feels it is not a good place to send his children for their  education.

Whatever your personal opinion, it is a fact of life that the top universities in any given country will usually have a hand in producing the next generation of the country’s political and economic leaders. And if your aim is to be a part of China’s economic growth, it only makes sense to be at a school that serves as a breeding ground for the future leaders of China.