Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sun Yat-sen Exhibition

In commemoration of Sun Yat-sen’s life, the Government Information Office (Taiwan), the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the Kuomintang Party Archives Library are proud to present the upcoming photo exhibition Sun Yat-sen: His Life and Legacy at the Pacific Heritage Museum (608 Commercial Street) in downtown San Francisco.

The exhibition is also sponsored by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, East West Bank, the Asia Society, the Center for the Pacific Rim at the University of San Francisco and the Chinese Historical Society of America.

The historical photos below are a preview of the forthcoming exhibition.

Celebrating the republic’s centennial, Sun Yat-sen’s image is reinterpreted

It was not until the first half of 2010 that the hit rate of Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), the founding father of the Republic of China (ROC), which relocated to Taiwan in 1949, was overtaken in the Google search engine by that of Sun Yun-yun, a Taiwanese entertainment celebrity with the same last name. With the coming of the centennial anniversary of the Republic of China in 2011, Sun Yat-sen has become a topic of renewed conversation and debate in Taiwan.

“I am human, not a god”

Last June, a Chinese translation of Sun Yat-sen, a biography written by French scholar Marie-Claire Bergère, was published in Taiwan. The author lavished both praise and criticism on modern China’s George Washington. It was followed by a documantary in August which quoted Russian Marxist leader Vladimir Lenin as suggesting Sun to be “virginally naïve”, alleging that Sun was “a revolutionary dreamer who randomly assembled Chinese and Western political theories.” Both generated disagreements among the historians in Taiwan and started a fierce debate in the news media. The United Daily News called it “a struggle between the human historians and orthodox historians.”

Meanwhile, the Kuomintang (KMT) Party Archives Library (KPAL) displayed the original letters written by Sun, who also founded the KMT. Among the items exhibited was a love letter he wrote to his illegitimate wife. Local newspapers and magazines then blared out the news that Sun had married four women, including – rumor has it – a Japanese woman. Even revered figures of history are apparently not immune from Taiwan’s voracious and free-wheeling media.

During the period when Chiang Kai-shek was in power in Taiwan, the majority of the people only knew of Sun Yat-sen’s first wife Lu Mu-chen, and had no knowledge of his second marriage to Song Qingling, the elder sister of Madame Chiang Kai-shek, who served as a vice chairperson of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China (PRC, established 38 years after the ROC).

The media has projected a different images of Sun, in direct contrast to the man personified in old textbooks. With regard to the conflicting impression of Sun in Taiwan as portrayed by the various images of the man, Shao Ming-huang, curator of the KPAL, and an expert on the history of the early ROC, pointed out that Sun himself said “I am human, not a god.” Shao said, “Our founding father was a great man, but he was also an ordinary human being like you and me.”

Sun Yat-sen is alive in the minds of the Taiwanese people, but now more multi-dimensional, changing from a great man who is serious-minded to one embodying idealism, romanticism and humor. It is interesting to observe the different interpretations of Sun expressed by Taiwanese people while under the hand of Chiang’s authoritarian regime and in today’s free society.

Commenting on the recent scholarly debates about Sun Yat-sen’s image, Pan Kwang-che, associate research fellow at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, wrote that “democracy and freedom are known to the world as Taiwan’s most precious assets. Today, if we are still buried in the thinking of worshiping a god-like political figure, it is the greatest insult to Sun Yat-sen.”

A rare image of selflessness

As the founding father of the Republic of China, Sun’s political vision paved the way for Taiwan’s transformation after 1949. Not only revered by ethnic Chinese people around the world, he was also named by TIME magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Sun was born at a time when China was weakened and profoundly humiliated by the Western powers. In his words, China was treated “worse than the colonies.” Having witnessed the corruption and incompetence of the Qing government, Sun was deeply committed to restoring Chinese national pride by overthrowing the non Han-Chinese feudal dynasty.

His vision would lead him to travel around the world seven times, soliciting financial and political support for the revolutionary insurrections in China. It would take him nearly 30 years – half of which he spent in exile – before finally establishing the Republic of China in Nanjing (China), the first democratic republic in Asia.

Chiang Kai-shek led his loyal KMT followers in retreat to Taiwan in 1949 after defeat in the Chinese Civil War. Sun was seen as the basis for the legitimate rule of Chiang’s government. In fact, Sun’s political theory the Three People’s Principles (nationalism, democracy and people’s livelihood) were required courses for high school and college students, and was a subject of every national examination. Huge portraits of Sun are displayed in major public places and the major streets in Taiwan are often named after Sun.

American scholar Harold Schiffrin said in his book Sun Yat-sen and the Origins of Chinese Revolution, “Humiliated by imperialism and disgusted by warlord politics, nationalists tended to channel their hopes into the one man who had consistently expounded the notion of a sudden great leap toward modernization and international equality, and who, despite the amazing convolutions of his improvisatory style, projected a rare image of probity and selflessness.”

Strong connections to northern California

Less known than Mohandas Gandhi, Sun Yat-sen had strong connections to the United States, graduating from the same high school in Hawaii that President Barack Obama would attend 100 years later. In 1908, Sun was held at San Francisco’s detention sheds for 17 days, compliments of US Immigration that only recognized the Qing government at that time. The experience did not dampen his admiration for an American-style democracy and his wish to establish a government “of the people, for the people and by the people,” based on Abraham Lincoln’s ideas.

The leader of the Chinese national revolution visited the United States seven times, mostly staying in northern California. Spending almost a decade of his life in America, he definitely touched the lives of overseas Chinese here. The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall of San Francisco (836 Stockton Street) was the original site for the Young China Morning Post, an official newspaper of Sun’s KMT to spread Chinese revolutionary ideas in North America. Chen Po-hang, director of the Memorial Hall, said for over 70 years there has been a bronze statue of Sun Yat-sen standing in St. Mary’s Square near San Francisco’s Chinatown, exactly the spot where Sun stood to lecture overseas Chinese. Chen also pointed out the location of the Presbyterian church where Sun used to stay and the noodle shop where Sun used to eat on credit.

There is also a bronze statue of Sun in front of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Sacramento, California. Late in the Qing Dynasty, a lot of people from Xiangshan County, Guangdong Province in China, where Sun was born, emigrated to the Sacramento Delta. Sun visited the delta several times to raise funds. Zhao Si Hong, a collector of Sun’s memorabilia, owns different denominations of the bonds Sun had issued through the Chinese secret society of Hongmen (or Chee Kung Tong) in San Francisco. Zhao also has some lottery tickets from those days, bought as donations by the overseas Chinese. As a result of Sun’s eloquence, an estimated US$400,000 was collected, which funded weapon purchases and recruitment for the 10 failed national insurrections to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. Without the support of overseas Chinese communities, the success of Sun’s revolution, though not impossible, would certainly have been delayed.

Even today, many overseas Chinese still love to share with the Taiwanese people the history of the founding of the Republic of China a hundred years ago and their family’s links with Sun himself. Living in Oakland, California, Deborah Quok is the great-grand daughter of Lu Hao-tung, who was born in Sun’s hometown and also his classmate. In the first uprising that failed in 1895, Lu was arrested and executed because he was caught trying to burn the list of revolutionary participants and did not have time to escape. Lu was formally honored by Sun as “the first martyr of the national revolution.” Deborah Quok proudly recounts the glory of her family history, saying “Were it not for my great grandfather’s (Lu Hao-tung’s) heroic and fatal act of returning to his home to destroy the records of fellow revolutionaries, the Qing soldiers would have found the names and killed many of them. This would have been a significant setback for the revolutionary movement.”

Photo Gallery, in memory of a great man and the spirit of Taiwan

In TIME magazine, American scholar Jonathan Spence wrote that “the physician-turned- revolutionary leader was never able to heal the divisions among his people, but they remain united in their reverence for his efforts.”

Reverence for Sun is shared by both Taiwan and China. Both sides have elevated Sun to an equally high historic position despite 60 years of keen ideological struggle between the communist PRC and the nationalist ROC. Sun is respected as the founding father by the Taipei government, while he is referred as “a revolutionary pioneer” by the Beijing government.

China’s CCTV published a set of 59-episodes “Towards the Republic” in 2003, a vivid description of Sun’s characters, but the last series was never screened because part of Sun’s speech was considered contrary to the current political situation in China as it cites examples of the early ROC. In 2009, the best feature film at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards was The October Rising, a fictional story about the Hong Kong revolutionaries’ protection of Sun who instigated the uprising. Taiwan’s Council for Cultural Affairs is planning also to shoot a documentary on The Biography of the Founding Father, and a Taiwanese television station is planning to come to the US to document Sun’s relationship with San Francisco.

The United Daily News said Sun’s greatness lies in his indomitable revolutionary spirit and the ideal of going beyond his own time, but also by historic necessity and accidence after his death. Sun becomes the protector and inspired the democratic movements in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. In Taiwan’s political reform movement in the late 1980s, the democratic transition process was justified by Sun’s democratic thinking and ideals. China’s Deng Xiaoping also took advantage of the policy essence of using foreign capital to develop China’s coastal areas, originally proposed in Sun’s national construction theory, to counter the stubborn ideology of the conservative Maoists. In recent years of fighting for democracy and universal suffrage, the people of Hong Kong also use Sun’s revolutionary image and theory as a powerful weapon to deal with the Beijing government.

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou sought a new position for Sun in explaining the significance of the centennial anniversary of the founding of the republic. He pointed out that “in the celebration of the centennial anniversary, we must remember the ideals of Sun Yat-sen’s national revolution. It is equally important we continue to develop ‘Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics’, and continue the fighting spirit of national survival and development in Taiwan of the last 60 years.” President Ma said historically, only 11 out of the 25 dynasties, lasted over a hundred years. Although the Republic of China government Sun established lost the mainland in 1949, it has succeeded in building Taiwan into the only democratic society in thousand years of Chinese history. He stressed, “I believe we will last longer than the 11 dynasties, and bring greater benefits to the people.”

In celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Republic of China, the Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco has produced a photo exhibit, Sun Yat-sen: His Life and Legacy, scheduled to be displayed at the Pacific Heritage Museum in mid-February. The museum in located near San Francisco’s Chinatown at 608 Commercial Street.

“We use these photos to remember Sun Yat-sen as a larger-than-life man,” said Manfred Peng, TECO’s press director and the person in charge of producing the exhibition. Peng noted, “In addition to celebrating the centennial anniversary of the founding of the republic, this photo exhibition aims to commemorate the spirit of Sun Yat-sen – patriotism, perseverance and not seeking fame or fortune for himself. It is about a strong passion for life, which is timeless, non-partisan and borderless.”

“Sun Yat-sen: His Life and Legacy,” a photo exhibition at the Pacific Heritage Museum, February 15 – March 31

Born at a time when China was weak and profoundly humiliated by the Western powers, Sun Yat-sen vowed to restore his people’s national pride and to establish an American-style government. It would take him 30 years – half of it in exile abroad – before he established the Republic of China. His vision would in turn pave the way for Taiwan’s transformation into a modern, democratic society.

An important political icon in both Taiwan and China, the photo exhibition will include 30 historical photographs of major events in Sun’s life. On the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China, the museum will hold an exhibition commemorating Sun’s life and legacy.

The museum is open daily from 10am – 4pm, except Sundays. Admission is free. The Pacific Heritage Museum is located at 608 Commercial Street (an alleyway between Sacramento and Clay Streets, the cross street is Montgomery Street) in downtown, San Francisco.

Legislative Yuan’s president to speak at UC Berkeley on Jan 28

Mr. Wang Jin-pyng, the president of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan will be a guest speaker at the Blum Center for Developing Economies on Friday, January 28. He will be speaking on “The Critical Power in Taiwan: The Role of the Legislative Yuan in National Development.” As one of the longest serving legislators in Taiwan, Wang is well-versed to talk about Taiwan’s economic and political developments, as well as the island’s relations with China and the United States.

First elected in 1975 and subsequently re-elected for another ten terms, he has served at the center of Taiwan’s political power in one capacity or another ever since. In his 35-plus years of civil service, he has seen Taiwan and its politics transition from authoritarian government to a vibrant democratic society. During his tenure as the Legislative Yuan president, the country has undergone two ruling party shifts. Through it all, his political experience has allowed him to remain as the head of Taiwan’s top legislative body.

Wang will speak from 10 to 11am at Blum Hall, B100, and Plaza Level on the Berkeley campus. The talk is also sponsored by the Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS) at UC Berkeley. For more information about the event, please visit the Blum Center’s website:

President Ma: Taiwan’s five strategies to play new role in Asia

President Ma Ying-jeou delivered the opening speech at the economic forum sponsored by Commomwealth magazine in Taipei on January 11. The theme of the forum was “The rise of new Asia: Asia’s conflicts, growth and new future.” During his speech, Ma said that Taiwan will play an important role in Asia in four main areas: Asia’s economic integration, as a regional headquarters for foreign investors, a global innovation center, and as a higher education center.

President Ma also talked about his strategies to promote the future role of the Republic of China on Taiwan in the emerging new Asia, where regional integration has been accelerating. After the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in 2010, Taiwan will play a new role and display a different image on the Asian economic map.

The initial strategy, said President Ma, is to become a major force behind economic integration in Asia. In addition to the ECFA with China, Taiwan will start to negotiate a trade partnership agreement with Singapore in 2011. He also expects negotiations toward a Taiwan-US trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) to resume soon. Citing the advantages of partnering with a Taiwanese company, Ma referred to a survey by a Japanese think tank that indicated the success rate of Japanese companies is 68 percent if they operate directly in China, but this rate increases to 78 percent if they partner with a Taiwanese company.

Taiwan’s second step, according to Ma’s strategy, is to promote Taiwan as the headquarters for Taiwanese businesses worldwide, and as a regional headquarters for foreign investors. Taking advantage of its geographic location as the center of East Asia, Taiwan can add other direct flight routes such as the one between Taipei and Seoul, in addition to the current Taipei-Tokyo and Taipei-Shanghai flights. Once the four major economies in Northeast Asia are connected through air links, Taiwan can easily be considered the best choice for a world headquarters by Taiwanese businessmen, and a regional headquarters by international corporations, said Ma.

The third strategy is to build Taiwan as a global innovation center, especially in new technology research and new business opportunity creation. In addition to reducing corporate income tax to improve the investment environment, production in Taiwan can reduce tariffs, or even have zero tariffs when entering China, the world’s second largest consumer market. Once the two sides sign an agreement to protect intellectual property rights granted in Taiwan, future patents or registered trademarks will automatically obtain priority in China, and this will help protect creativity on both sides.

The fourth strategy for Taiwan, according to President Ma, is to become the higher education center of the Asia-Pacific, with an aim toward attracting college students from Southeast Asia and Chinese language learners from around the world. Taiwan already has plenty of universities with a 100 percent admission rate, while only less than 30 percent of high school graduates in Southeast Asian countries go to college. Taiwan’s colleges should move in the direction of providing English-language courses in order to attract Southeast Asian students.  

The fifth strategy is that Taiwan can provide an education in traditional Chinese written characters and spoken language. Ma said that Taiwan can provide a better quality of Chinese language education, especially to those who want to learn traditional Chinese characters. A lot of people go to China first, then come to Taiwan to study Chinese because they want to learn classical Chinese, which is written in traditional Chinese characters. It is estimated that this type of education could potentially attract 160,000 students.

Ma concluded by stressing that he hopes that Taiwan will play a new role in the world: first as a peace maker, second as a humanitarian aid provider, third as a cultural promoter, fourth as a creator of new technology opportunities, and finally, as the Chinese cultural leader. With a combination of all these roles, Taiwan will have a new image, not only as a contributor to Asia, but also to the world.

Washington lauds ECFA, reduced tension in Taiwan Strait

During Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit to the United States, the two countries issued a joint statement on January 19. The U.S. commended the FTA-like Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China. The U.S. expressed its support for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, encouraging Taiwan and China to strengthen their dialogue and interaction in trade, politics and other areas so as to maintain a more positive and stable relationship.

The language used in referring to Taiwan was similar to that of the previous joint statement between Presidents Obama and Hu in 2009, the only difference being that the ECFA was mentioned by Obama, reported the United Daily News. The ECFA, a preferential trade agreement signed in June 2010 between Taiwan and China aims to reduce tariff and commercial barriers between the two countries. It is considered the most significant agreement since the two sides divided after the Chinese Civil War 60 years ago.

The United Daily News reported that this is the second such remark from Washington,  after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also lauded the ECFA and recent  cross-strait interaction.

Before Hu’s arrival, Secretary Clinton mentioned Taiwan twice in talking about U.S.-China relations. At a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart, U.S. President Barack Obama took the initiative to mention Taiwan as well.

“I welcomed the progress that’s been made on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in reducing tensions and building economic ties,” said Obama. “And we hope this progress continues, because it’s in the interest of both sides, the region and the United States.”

Obama reaffirmed his commitment to the one-China policy by abiding by the three communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). The TRA, a law passed by the U.S. congress in 1979 after the U.S. established diplomatic ties with China and broke off relations with Taiwan, requires the United States to provide the island with defensive weapons.

Taiwan’s representative in Washington would not comment on the U.S.-China joint statement, according to the United Daily News. However, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said later in a press release that “We are pleased to learn of President Obama’s pledge that the U.S. will continue adhering to the TRA following similar remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week.” The Foreign Ministry’s press release also said, “We are actively improving the cross-strait relations in the belief that relations between Taiwan, China and the U.S. are not a zero-sum game. We look forward to the United States’ continuing to fulfill its commitment to Taiwan so that we will be more confident in seeking the improvement of the cross-strait relations to bring up a virtuous cycle of win-win situations for all the three sides”

According to Taiwan Today, Taiwan received a thorough U.S. briefing prior to Hu’s visit and has a full grasp of the situation. In addition, Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, visited Taiwan directly after the meeting between Obama and Hu to update Taipei on any further developments.

2011 shaping up to be Taiwan’s FTA year

Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said on December 15 that talks will start in early 2011 between Taiwan and Singapore on an economic cooperation pact, the full name of which will be “Economic Partnership Agreement.”  This will be the first FTA-like agreement Taiwan will sign with a country that does not maintain diplomatic ties with the island, reported Global View magazine.

On the same day in Brazil, South Korea signed the global system of trade preferences (GSTP) agreement with 10 developing countries, including, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Morocco. In the agreement, 70 percent of the commodities traded among the 11 countries will enjoy a 20 percent tariff reduction, paving the way for South Korea to enter markets in the Middle East and Latin America. This is one of the 28 regional trade agreements South Korea has signed, is under consideration or will take affect soon.

Global View reported that Taiwan and South Korea have been busily fighting for a bigger slice of the international market share in sectors such as semiconductors, LCD displays, electronic terminals, machine tools and petrochemical products. With the same level of pricing and quality, customs duties will play a crucial role in each country’s competitiveness. In referring to South Korea, it comes as no surprise that Terry Guo, chairman of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, the largest electronics company in the world, said that “Taiwan’s strongest competitors are from Northeast Asia. They are fully supported by big conglomerates.”

Taiwan has already signed FTAs with five South American countries with which the island maintains diplomatic ties. However, these five countries account for less than 5 percent of Taiwan’s foreign trade volume. So the signing of these FTAs has not had much effect on Taiwan’s revenue stream. Except for the FTA-like Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, Taiwan has not yet signed any FTAs with larger trading partners.

The agreement with Singapore, Taiwan’s sixth largest trading partner, will be significantly different. After Singapore, the Philippines has indicated a willingness to sign a FTA with Taiwan. Hence, 2011 will be an important year due to the number of important South Eastern Asian trading partners willing to talk with Taiwan on trade.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs said recently that even negotiations over the US-Taiwan trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) – suspended for years  –  is expected to resume soon. 

Liu Bih-jane, vice president and director of the Taiwan WTO Center, Chung-hua Institution for Economic Research, told Global View in an interview that Taiwan is rather late in joining the economic integration game. Taiwan’s export growth had lagged behind other Asian countries over the last decade. South Korea and Singapore have actively participated in signing FTAs with other countries, enjoying the benefits of low or zero tariffs created by such agreements. Their exports grew 11.6 percent and 11.7 percent respectively, while Taiwan’s exports grew only at 7.17 percent as a consequence of not having such pacts.

Not only has export growth suffered, but also manufacturing quality. Liu pointed out that the OEM production model of Taiwan’s manufacturing sector has been facing difficulties with weak bargaining power and difficulty in  establishing its own brand presence. Intermediate materials (such as components and parts, intermediate products, and other processing components) have become the backbone of exports, accounting 70 percent of Taiwan’s total trade.

According to Liu’s analysis, the success of Taiwan’s businesses to develop their future economies of scale will very much depend on the market size and demand. This is why Taiwan needs to sign ECFAs and other FTAs to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers.

Construction of Taiwan’s Golden Gate Bridge starts

On January 10, President Ma Ying-jeou presided over the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction on the Kinmen Bridge. When completed in 2016, it will not only be the longest bridge in Taiwan, but also the longest suspension bridge in the world. Estimated to cost more than US$250 million, the bridge is expected to become a tourist attraction for visitors from Taiwan and China.

The 12 islands of Kinmen (also known as Quemoy) are located in the Taiwan Strait and cover over 93 square miles. Kinmen, which means “Golden Gate” in Chinese, is about 93 miles from the Penghu Islands and 172 miles from Taiwan proper. The shortest distance between Kinmen and mainland China, is just over 1.2 miles.

The archipelago, which once was part of China’s Fujian Province, has been held by Taiwan since the 1949 Chinese Civil War. Originally a military fortress, Kinmen was returned to civilian control in the mid-1990s. Direct travel between Kinmen and the mainland was opened in 2002, and there have been extensive tourist developments on the island in anticipation of this.

The Kinmen Bridge will be 3.35 miles long, linking Kinmen main Island (Greater Kinmen) with Leiyu (Little Kinmen). Three miles of the bridge will be directly over the ocean. The surface of the bridge will be close to 50 feet wide, with one lane each way and a third lane for cyclists and pedestrians. Allowing for the passage of 5,000–ton vessels under its span, the bridge will provide all-weather safe transportation, effectively improving communications between Greater Kinmen and Little Kinmen.
The body of the bridge will be supported by five towers, each 918 feet apart with main cables in between. When completed, the bridge will be internationally significant for its advanced engineering and technical difficulty.

At the ground-breaking, President Ma said that compared with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, which is 1.86 miles long, the Kinmen Bridge which will be 3.35 miles long, and will have the potential to be world famous as well, according to the Taipei-based China Times.

Construction will take place in two stages; the first was awarded to a local construction company with a bid of US$1.3 million on December 17 last year. The second phase of public tender notices is scheduled to be announced in April this year. The whole project is scheduled to be completed by June 2016.

The people of Kinmen have waited nearly twenty years to see the bridge built. Once it is finished, residents of Little Kinmen hope it will only take a quick five-minute drive across the bridge to take care of such things as hospital visits, plus it will bring an influx of tourist to their shores.

Lin Teng-huei, a former Kinmen County Councillor and long-time champion of the bridge is now eighty years old and in a wheelchair. Aided by a helper, he made the trip to attend the ground-breaking ceremony and could hardly conceal his excitement. “It is so great a joy!” he said.

The construction of the bridge, originally proposed by the Kinmen County Council in 1993, has been a campaign promise of former Presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian and current President Ma as each ran for the nation’s top office. It has also been a campaign promise for many magistrate candidates and legislators. Yet once the elections were over the infrastructure project was conveniently forgotten. This pattern was repeated so many times that many Kinmen residents joked “It is a floating bridge. It appears every time there is an election, but it sinks under water after each election.”

The China Times reported that President Ma promised to build the bridge after a visit to Little Kinmen shortly after coming to office. But it was not until the Kuomintang’s Li Wo-shi was elected magistrate that the Ma  government finalized its approval. President Ma said that he did not promise to build the bridge just for the election, adding that the future of the Kinmen Bridge will be a landmark in cross-strait tourism. “We need enough reason to attract our Chinese neighbors in Xiamen to visit Kinmen, and give the people of Kinmen a sense of pride when the tourists of Xiamen come.”

The United Evening News questioned whether the construction of Kinmen Bridge  will  be part of the “Kin-Xia Bridge” linking Taiwan’s Kinmen and China’s Xiamen. Both the local people in Kinmen and those in Xiamen are enthusiastic about it, but Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation officials responded, “It will be difficult to decide in a couple years to build the Kin-Xia Bridge due to political issues between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in addition to technical difficulty.”

Already, the Kinmen County government has come up with a proposal and commissioned a feasibility study on the construction of “Kin-Xia Bridge” in 2006. The initial plan estimated that bridge to span 6.4 miles and would cost an estimated US$373 million.

Taiwan’s private investment grows to 45-year high

Nobody would have predicted that in 2010 Taiwan’s economy would out-perform even the most optimistic economic forecasts to achieve the highest growth rate in 21 years, Commonwealth magazine reported. Kuan Chung-ming, an economist and a research fellow at Academia Sinica, believes that by any measure, from quantitative economic indicators to simply observing activity in neighborhood shopping districts, real prosperity has returned.

Noticeable recovery

Taiwan’s Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) has forecast that private consumption in 2011 will grow 3.51 percent, which would be the highest growth for the second year in a row since the credit bubble burst in the mid-2000s. Wholesale, retail, and catering sector spending have gradually risen, and outbound travelers and credit card spending have also seen substantial growth.

Commonwealth reported, Taiwan residents took 8 million trips abroad in the first 10 months of 2010, an increase of 18 percent from the previous year, according to the Tourism Bureau. With sharp increases in inbound tourists from China and Southeast Asia, arrivals to Taiwan exceeded 5 million in 2010 for the first time ever. An estimated 1.5 million Chinese nationals are forecast to visit Taiwan in 2011, and the DGBAS estimates they will pump NT$60 billion (US$2.05 billion) into the economy, based on an average of 3,500 visitors per day.

Other positive indicators came from the changing labor market of Taiwan’s biggest online employment agency, 104 Job Bank, whose revenues depend largely on enterprises posting job openings on their site. The site experienced a 30 percent growth rate in the first three quarters of 2010. Also, average salaries rose to a record high of NT$45,000 (US$1,500) per month in the first 10 months of 2010, a 5.9 percent increase.

Infusion of ready cash

In the private-sector, the NT$2.2 trillion (US$73.3 billion) worth of investments from the past year were divided between small-scale private-sector investments and major investment projects under the supervision of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) – each accounting for roughly half the total. SinoPac Securities lead economist Huang Yin-chi admitted that the development in 2010 which surprised him the most was the rapid growth in private-sector investment.

Commonwealth reported that Barings Asset Management, BNP Paribas, Nomura Securities and about a dozen other venture capital and privately offered funds are now taking a broad look around at whoever is willing to accept their financing for joint expansion and eventual forays into China. Among them, Barings alone has some US$4.5 billion in capital that could be pumped into Taiwan.

For 2011, Barings Asian investment consultant Wang Gui-ching will be seeking opportunities in Taiwan’s service and agricultural sectors. For example, Wang has been making numerous trips to aquaculture operations in Pingtung County to consider investments in the high-end niche of grouper husbandry, purchasing Taiwanese immunization technology in the hope of using international capital and Taiwanese management skills and technology to break into the Chinese market.

Government spending spree

In recent years, the government has been the “the big boss” in supplying the economic boost needed in Taiwan’s economy. In the current government budget, infrastructure alone has reached NT$700 billion (US$23.3 billion), with government funding of NT$500 billion and the other NT$200 billion coming from private entities. This is up from 2010 where the total budget was NT$600 billion. In addition, NT$3 billion will be spent on the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China.

With big budget government spending in two consecutive years, funding will be limited in 2011 with limitations on government borrowing capability and administrative procedures. Though, these two issues could also be business opportunities, according to Commonwealth. First, due to limited funding, the government will be more willing to lower the bidding premium of joint development and operations in order to attract more private funds into public works, thus reducing Taipei’s financial burden. Second, with the administrative process of the combined trillion-dollar construction budgets for the previous two years complete, many big projects will break ground in 2011, and thus a variety of subcontractor works will also begin.

The joint investment in infrastructure by private funds is not limited to Taiwanese businesses. Foreign capital is also welcome. Christina Liu, chairperson of the Council for Economic Planning and Development, emphasizes that for the coming year, “Taiwan has changed.” The biggest difference is the implementation of the FTA-like Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China.

Taiwan has changed with ECFA

According to Commonwealth, should cross-strait negotiations precede smoothly, the world’s top two automakers, Germany’s Volkswagen and Japan’s Toyota, may set up plants in Taiwan in 2011. In particular, Toyota, which is under pressure due to the appreciation of the Japanese yen, plans to relocate one-third of its production capacity offshore. If Taiwan can negotiate zero import tariffs on finished vehicles, it would mark a return of manufacturing to the island.

ECFA is also bringing Chinese investment capital into Taiwan. As of last November, Chinese investment capital funded 101 investment projects in Taiwan, valued at NT$4 billion (US$133 million). In the coming year, even bigger players in banking, restaurants and other sectors, are poised to move in. However, high-tech industries, the major driver of Taiwan’s past economic growth, are likely to have a rougher path over the coming year.

The primary reason export industries will be unable to sustain major expansion in production is that global demand has not yet returned to 2008 levels, and can only be expected to do so later in 2011 at the earliest, says Yang Jia-yan, Taiwan Institute of Economic Research. Overall, Yang predicts 2011 will be a big year of mergers and acquisitions in the manufacturing sector.

According to the United Daily News, Liu said Taiwan’s private investment grew 31.9 percent in 2010, the highest growth in 44 years and also the top among the four Asian Tigers. Statistically, Taiwan’s income distribution was also better than in the United States and Singapore.

Liu noted that the domestic unemployment rate was also greatly improved. The employment numbers in November 2010 were 10.06 million, a substantial achievement compared with an average employment figure of 9.79 million from the 2001 to 2007.

Oscars’ chief offers tips to Taiwan film industry

Bruce Davis, the executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who organizes the annual Academy Awards (informally known as the Oscars), was invited to attend Taiwan’s annual Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards in November and had some advice for Taiwan’s film industry.

At a seminar with Davis, Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien, who was the executive director of the 2010 Golden Horse Awards, expressed his admiration for the Oscars, , reported Taiwan Panorama. Hou said whereas the film industry in Hollywood view the Oscars as an opportunity to come together in a show of solidarity, Taiwanese actors or directors decline to participate in an award ceremony unless they are nominated in the competition. This is not a problem unique to Taiwan, according to Davis, who also spoke of this difficulty in recent years. The Academy would like audiences to think of the Oscars as a grippingly competitive process, but the embarrassing truth is that the public just want to see their favorite movie stars, according to Davis.

Unlike the Golden Horse or European awards, the Oscars has no film festival associated with it. There are no films to be screened or accompanying sales of international rights. This might be one of the reasons the academy is worried about its dimming star power, according to Taiwan Panorama.

The Oscars award ceremony is broadcasted in more than 200 countries around the world, reaching an estimated audience of several hundred million. But since 2003, the ratings in the US have been falling. In 2008, ratings hit rock bottom with only 32 million viewers. But the following year, audience numbers reached 42 million following the popularity of the science fiction film Avatar.

At the seminar, many in the audience were interested in the Oscars judging system. Made up of more than a dozen branches in the film industry, the directors, actors, cinematographers, art directors and so forth, these professionals select five nominees for each category within their area of expertise. Those nominated are then sent to all 5,500 members of the academy to vote on. This process is quite different from those of most film festivals, where typically a dozen or so judges are locked in a conference room making their case and even trading votes.

Davis said it is an honor system that all academy members respect the rules. He hoped that they would not blindly vote without even watching the films.

Although modestly professing a lack of qualifications to judge Chinese-language films, Davis did say Taiwan has a lot of talent including director Ang Lee. Lee has won the Best Director award for the 2006 film Brokeback Mountain and Best Foreign-language Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2001, plus a string of other nominations.

Davis believes Taiwanese film makers ought to choose “themes of universal appeal” and listed the example of Goodbye Dragon Inn. The movie represented Taiwan at the 2003 Oscars. Directed by Tsai Ming-liang, it showed a unique filmmaking style, said Davis, but is not an easy film to understand.

According to Taiwan Panorama, Davis said Taiwanese directors have an excellent command of artistic language and create beautiful works of art, but unfortunately do not usually choose more traditional – and commercially viable – narrative methods.