Monthly Archives: July 2011

Taiwan’s team comes in third in National Geographic World Championship

For the first time, Taiwan’s three-student team made it to the finals of the National Geographic World Championship and won the bronze medal on July 27. This year’s finalists also included the Canadian team, who won in 2009, and the Russian team. In the end, the Russian team dominated and took home the World Championship during the face-off at Google’s headquarters.

The competition began with a warm welcome from the CEO and chairman of the National Geographic Society, John Fahey and the vice president of Google Earth and Maps, Brian McClendon. The competition was moderated by Alex Trebek from the popular quiz show “Jeopardy!”

This was the fourth time Taiwan participated in the Geo Bee and the first time it has reached the finals. The team’s accompanying teachers both said that this year’s team has performed the best since Taiwan began competing in 2005 and they were both pleased.

Cheering the team from the sideline was the Director-General Jack Chiang of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco. He passed along President Ma Ying-jeou’s congratulatory letter to the team and added, “Our team has already bested 15 other teams to reach the finals. This is a clear indication that the younger generation of Taiwan has a broader perspective and a sign of Taiwan’s internationalization.”

Started in 1993, the World Championship takes place every two years in different countries. In keeping with the Olympics, Taiwan’s team was asked to compete under  the name “Chinese Taipei.”

Gearing up for Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

Together with Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival is one of Taiwan’s three major holidays. The origins of the festival date back to Quyuan, a poet who lived in China during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). Hence, since ancient times, the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as the “Poet’s Festival.”

The highlight of the festival is the holding of the dragon boat races. Legend has it that when Quyuan jumped to his death in the Mi-luo River (located in Hunan province, China); the local people rowed their boats out to try to save him. The rescue has gradually evolved into the dragon boat races.

Today, dragon boat racing is a popular activity in Taiwan and the sport has become trendy in other Asian countries and further abroad. Now, several cities and counties on the island hold their own races, with some, even including international dragon boat races with teams from overseas.

The first photo is courtesy of the Kaohsiung City government. The rest is from Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau.

Taiwan takes pride in its quality of life

As China overtook Japan as the second largest economy in the world in 2010, Taiwan was not focused on competing with China, but more on creating a higher quality of life for its citizens. Nowadays few people in Taiwan are bothered with comparing the island’s economy, military power and infrastructure building with China. By taking advantage of the island’s “soft power” – a notion pioneered by American scholar Joseph Nye of Harvard University – most Taiwanese people are focused on rebuilding the national sense of self-confidence that came with Taiwan’s “economic miracle” in the 1970s.

As the old saying goes “Someone knows little how lucky he is for being born into a rich family,” Taiwanese people are increasingly unaware that they already have a remarkably wonderful way of life. In its June issue, Global View monthly published a 400-page special edition listing the 100 promising achievements by Taiwanese people. Nine of those achievements are highlighted in the following article.

The best health service in the world

Taiwan’s health service is one of the best in the world, according to Nobel Laureate Economist Paul Krugman.

In 2009, Taiwan’s life expectancy surpassed that of the United States. Li Fei-peng, superintendent of Taiwan Medical University Hospital, said that American life expectancy was 78.2 years, while in Taiwan it was 78.97. Taiwan’s medical expenses account for 6.6 percent of GDP, while in the US these expenses account for 14.6 percent of GDP. Taiwan’s medical system is both exceptionally good and affordable. 

In Taiwan, there are 8.56 clinics for every 10,000 people, although not as many as in Japan, Taiwan’s physician density is much higher than Japan’s. In 2009, there were about 200,000 doctors in Taiwan, an average of 23.56 doctors per 10,000 people, while there were 21.2 doctors per 10,000 in Japan, 21.4 in Britain, and 26.7 in the US. These figures show that Taiwan is on a par with other developed nations.

The most reliable Metro system

For Taipei residents, taking mass transportation is a part of daily life. But for foreign visitors, the Taipei Metro is a marvel. The highly regarded system ranked first in five straight years (2004-2008) in terms of reliability, according to a study by the Railway Technology Strategy Centre of Imperial College and data gathered by Nova/CoMET. Since the Taipei Metro joined the Nova International Railway Benchmarking Group and the Community of Metros in 2002, none of the other 27 members has won so many championships for reliability since Nova’s establishment in 1997.

In 2010, the system, which was established in 1996, consisted of 94 stations and 63 miles of track, carrying an average of over 1.5 million passengers per day. Its annual revenue was over NT$500 million (US$16.7 million) last year.

Easy access to convenience stores

The density of convenience stores has reached 99.9 percent in Taiwan with only 200,000 people out of Taiwan’s 23 million people unable to find a convenience store within 3 miles of their home.

The stores provide the widest range of services, more so than other countries. Inside the stores, you can pay tuition fees, parking fees, gas bills, taxes, cable TV bills and insurance premiums. Recently, new services mean that you can even use credit cards to buy tickets for local buses, airlines or high speed trains.    

Taiwan is also home to a large number of department and discount stores. Compared with an average of one department store per 300,000 people in Tokyo, one per 280,000 in Shanghai, one per 150,000 in New York, Taipei has one per 87,000 – giving it the highest density in the world.

Fifth in the world for higher education admission

There are 163 colleges and universities in Taiwan. Besides having ample schools, the island’s students also perform well in the rankings. In the 2010-2011, “Global Competitiveness Report” published by the World Economic Forum, Taiwan was ranked 5th for its higher education admission rate, 13th overall in terms of performance and, 11th in the category of higher education and training performance.

According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the average length of schooling for Taiwan’s population over six years old is 16.11 years, while in Australia it is 20.63 years, in Finland 17.07 years, in Britain 16.13, in France 16.15 and in the US 15.85.

Growing popularity of charity activities

Less than two months after Japan’s destructive earthquake and tsunami in March, Taiwan has donated almost NT$6 billion (US$200 million) to the disaster relief funds for Japan. With only a population of 23 million, Taiwan was the world’s top donor to Japan’s disaster.

According to a Ministry of the Interior report compiled in 2008, total charity donations by all Taiwanese people reached NT$42.6 billion (US$1.4 billion). On average, every Taiwanese person donates NT$1,891 (US$63) a year. In an island of 36,000 square kms, Taiwan has over 40,000 non-profit organizations.

Blood donations are one of the easiest basic measurements of charity services. In 1991, Taiwanese donors accounted for five percent of the population, and the quantity of blood donated without financial gain reached one million bags (250 milliliter per bag). This total has since reached a record high of 7.9 percent (2.509 million bags).

According to the Asian Pacific Blood Network, Taiwan’s blood donation rate is the highest in Asia, with an average of 25.2 kiloliters per thousand people a year, equaling that of the United States.

Highest gender equality in Asia

This is an important year in Taiwan, not merely because it is the centennial anniversary of the founding of the republic, but this is also the first year that Taiwan will have female presidential candidates – Tsai Ing-wen and Ellen Huang.

In terms of gender equality, Taiwan enjoys the highest ranking in Asia. According to the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics in January 2011, the gap between men and women in Taiwan is ranked No. 4 globally, only behind the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden. In Asia, Taiwan is followed by Singapore (11th), Japan (13th) and South Korea (21st).

The ranking is based on DGBAS’s gender inequality index (GII) of the United Nations Development Program, which includes maternal mortality, adolescent fertility, parliamentary representation, educational attainment (secondary level and above) and labor force participation. Among these indexes, Taiwan’s female legislator participation is 30.4 percent, ranking sixth in the world, behind that of Sweden, the Netherlands, and Norway, but close to Germany’s 31.1 percent, and taking the top spot in Asia and the Pacific.

Of Taiwan’s 340,000 civil service workers, in 2000 there were 22 times as many men than women occupying senior grade posts. By 2010, this figure was a mere 3 times as many.

58 percent of garbage recycled or reused

On a global scale, Taiwan’s recycling and garbage reduction is exceptional, outperforming the US and Japan. According to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), every year Taiwan recycles 4.5 billion PET bottles, 1.5 million metric tons of paper, 2,500 metric tons of batteries, and 200,000 metric tons of aluminum cans.

In the early1990s, the amount of garbage continued to increase as Taiwan’s economy grew and living standards improved. The amount of garbage collected reached a record high in 1998 with an annual volume of almost 9 million metric tons.

Taiwan started a new era of recycling when the revised “Act of Disposal Management” was passed in 1997, which imposed a recycling fee on electronic appliance manufacturers, established an independent recycling management fund, and provided subsidies for recycling businesses.

The first combined recycling system and factory of “Four plus One” (televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners plus computer information products) was established in Taiwan. The garbage recycling rate is remarkably high at 48.8 percent. The battery recycling rate is even higher at 53.5 percent, far ahead of the target rate of 45 percent set up by the European Union for 2016.

Taiwan has adopted the most advanced policy of garbage disposal in the world. Discount stores do not offer plastic bags to customers and every family has to buy special plastic bags for garbage disposal. Also, starting from July 2008, the EPA began to clamp down on the use of disposable chopsticks at convenience stores.

Today, the amount of garbage generated per person has dropped to 1.06 pounds from a high of 2.51 pounds in 1998. This is a reduction of up to 58 percent.

Eslite Bookstore – the landmark of Chinese culture

Eslite is not just a bookstore, it is a representation of Taiwan’s core lifestyle and culture. With a population of only 23 million, last year, over 100 million people visited Eslite Bookstore. It was named the best bookstore in Asia by TIME magazine in 2004.

Lin Hwai-min, founder and artistic director of the Cloud Gate Dance Company also said, “I am most nostalgic of Eslite when abroad.” Lung Ying-tai, a well-known Taiwanese writer, attributed Eslite’s success not only to the management skills of the bookstore owner, but to the diversified open society and community.

In addition to selling books, music and DVDs, the bookstore sponsors over 4,500 cultural events, and invited over 400 lecturers to provide 2,000 seminars last year. It also has 170,000 fee paying members.

Established in 1989, the Eslite Bookstore was operating for 15 years in the red before showing a profit in 2005. Today, there are 39 branches in Taiwan with plans to expand to Hong Kong, and Suzhou and Hangzhou, coastal cities of China.

Taiwan behind 80% of Chinese pop music

It is a well established fact that any singer or composer who wishes to hit it big in the Chinese music world must first be successful in Taiwan before continuing on to China and the other Chinese speaking countries. If he or she fails in Taiwan, it will be difficult to get a foot hold in the Chinese pop music world.

After the lifting of martial law in 1987, all styles of music flourished in Taiwan. It was a phenomenon attributed to the island’s democratic and nurturing environment.

With improved cross-strait relations, many of Taiwan’s talented music producers might cross the strait to make music DVDs for Chinese singers, but they are all fully aware that it is very difficult for those Chinese pop singers to enter Taiwan’s entertainment market. Still, it is almost certain that Taiwanese singers will be popular in China. Currently, 80 percent of Chinese music in the world is made in Taiwan.

In his New Year address to the nation, President Ma Ying-jeou urged the government and the public to “develop Taiwan into a respectable and admirable modern nation.” With only a small fraction of the world’s population and land, Taiwan is not able to compete with superpowers for news coverage or to play an important role in international organizations. But with developed soft power, Taiwan can win a respectable place for itself in the world.

Taiwan’s solar industries showcased at Intersolar

The strength and vitality of Taiwan’s solar and renewable energy industries were showcased at this year’s Intersolar North America exhibition and conference at the Moscone Convention Center (San Francisco) recently. Intersolar is a gathering of the world’s leading solar companies and provides an opportunity for learning and business, reported World Journal, the US-based Chinese newspaper.

On July 13, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) and Taiwan Trade Center in San Francisco organized a talk introducing the island’s solar industry, highlighting its strengths, including its innovative technology and production systems. Brian Lee, the deputy executive director of TAITRA, stressed that Taiwan has developed a robust environmental sector that is well established in Asia. Piggybacking on its strengths and experience of semiconductors and flat panel display production, Taiwan’s solar industry is equipped with world-class manufacturing capability, excellent industry infrastructure, and strong R&D talent. Taiwan is also the gateway and procurement hub for the Asia Pacific region, according to Lee.

Addressing the Intersolar audience, Dr. William Kao, president of the Chinese American Renewable Energy Society, delivered a speech entitled “Innovation and Business Opportunities in Taiwan’s Renewable Energy Technologies.” Kao, who is also a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said that since 2009 Taiwan has actively promoted its photovoltaic (PV), LED, wind power, biofuel, synthetic power, energy information and electric car sectors as key areas for green energy development. Taipei’s aim remains to build Taiwan into a “Green Silicon Island,” and to act as a leading supplier to renewable energy industries worldwide.

According to the Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association (PIDA), Kao said that Taiwan accounts for 16 percent of the global solar cell production, which is second only to China. This year, combined solar cell shipments from China and Taiwan are expected to account for over 60 percent of the global total.  

Taiwan’s Legislature has approved a US$88 billion budget for research and development into green energy over the next five years. Kao noted that Taiwan is also developing offshore wind power, although this technology presents many challenges.

PIDA has ranked Taiwan as the second largest producer of LEDs in the world after Japan. South Korea comes in third. Kao said, Taiwan is not only excelling in LED lighting, but is also developing LED televisions and LED monitors for notebook computers. The total market value of Taiwan’s LED industry is predicted to reach US$69 billion this year.

Kao noted that Taiwan is the ideal place for electric car development, adding that with a high population density, e-cars are likely to account for 40 percent of Taiwan’s auto market. Also, due to the island’s extensive experience in manufacturing motorcycles, there are many companies working on electric motorcycles as well.

In case you missed Intersolar, there is still PV Taiwan 2011, the largest solar energy event in Taiwan, which will be held from October 5 to 7. The event will host over 250 exhibitors in 760 booths. To be held in Taipei, the show  is expected to attract over 15,000 visitors from around the world, including from Germany, the US, Japan, Korea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and China, according to the World Journal.

Key themed pavilions at PV Taiwan 2011 will feature high concentration photovoltaics (HCPV), third generation dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC), copper indium gallium selenide solar cells (CIGS), and building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). There will also be a CEOs’ forum and a series of technical symposia spotlighting the latest trends according to experts from DuPont, Ferro, Inventec, MEMC, MOTECH and Taiwan Polyslicon.

For more information about PV Taiwan 2011, visit

New cookbook of Chinese-Taiwanese-American recipes by local author

After retiring from work, most people relax and slow down substantially, but that was not the case for Grace Chiu, who retired over a year ago. Since then, Chiu has written a cookbook entitled My Love, My Legacy: Traditional Chinese and Western Recipes for My Children that came out in March 2011. This spring, the Danville resident talked to Silver Streak about her love of cooking and her volunteer work teaching others to cook.

She did not learn how to cook while growing up. In fact, her mother emphasized studying and did not want Chiu to spend her time cooking. As a consequence, when she arrived in the United States for graduate school, she was still unskilled in the kitchen. Chiu credits her culinary education to the wife of her graduate school advisor, who taught her the basics. And now it is Chiu who is teaching others this life skill and sharing her treasure trove of favorite Taiwanese, Chinese and American recipes.

Chiu currently volunteers her time by teaching cooking classes for Danville’s Senior Service, the Golden Crane Senior Center in Alamo and the Taipei First Girls High School Alumni Association of Northern California.  You can order a copy of My Love, My Legacy by e-mailing Grace Chiu at . The paperback cookbook costs $16.95 each.

Shelley Rigger’s new book “Why Taiwan Matters” is a must-read

For  anyone who wants  to truly understand the origins of modern day Taiwan and its relationship with the world,  Dr. Shelley Rigger’s new book, Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse is a must-read. Published on July 16, Rigger crafts a concise and insightful volume that is accessible to scholars and non-academic readers alike. As well as addressing the crucial question of why Taiwan is important to the United States, she chronicles the island’s deep political split and helps the reader understand the complexities surrounding the different factions at work.  Through Rigger’s insightful observations, it is easy to understand why the small island of Taiwan has survived and thrived.

While Rigger is a leading scholar of Taiwan and a Brown Associate Professor of East Asian Politics at Davidson College, North Carolina, she effectively ensures that her book is entertaining. She peppers the book with stories of common life as well as conversations with Taiwan’s political leaders. The hardcover book is a mere 248 pages, but is rich in intricate detail.  

In the book’s preface, Rigger  writes, “Taiwan also matters because its history makes it a test case for values Americans and many others claim to cherish …  The United States has long encouraged free markets and democratic politics, both as a matter of national interest and as a reflection of its national values. Taiwan proves it is possible to achieve those ends peacefully, and to do so in a way that respects and enhances its turbocharged culture. For that, it matters.”

The book can be purchased on Amazon for $30.39.

Taiwan seeks US reciprocal visa-free status

On June 28, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that Israel and Taiwan had signed a mutual agreement allowing visa-free travel to each other’s nationals, effective August 11. Taiwanese passport holders can now enjoy visa-free entry to Israel for up to 90 days, according to the Central News Agency. In just three years and with only 23 formal diplomatic allies, Taiwan has secured reciprocal agreements for free landing and visitor visas from 114 countries.

When the Malaysian government formally granted visa waivers to Taiwanese visitors on March 18, 2010, the number of visa-free countries reached 100. That number jumped to 111 less than eleven days later when Taiwan received visa-free entry to 11 French overseas colonies, including Tahiti. On the same day, Tanzania and Mozambique granted Taiwanese visitors the rights.

According to the MOFA, these 114 countries and areas cover 96 percent of the places most visited by Taiwanese travelers.  Global View monthly reported that among the 114 countries, 41 are in Europe, 35 in the Asia-Pacific region, and 24 in Latin America. In a word, almost all the developed countries grant visa-free entry to Taiwanese passport holders. Depending on the country, the free visitor visas can range from 7 to 90 days.

As reported in the monthly, rising countries like China, India and Indonesia have no more than 51 countries granting free visitor visas to their citizens. Of the 114 countries granting Taiwan visa-free entry, 94 of them maintain formal diplomatic ties with China, but not with Taiwan. The mutual granting of free visitor visas is a big step towards closer exchanges and cooperation between countries, allowing Taiwan’s 23 million people to feel more welcome by the international community.

This push to help Taiwanese people attain visa waiver status when traveling abroad was initiated by President Ma Ying-jeou soon after he took office in 2008. In order to break through the diplomatic impasse, and to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China, President Ma asked the MOFA to initiate “flexible diplomacy” to replace the former “checkbook diplomacy,” and to actively work with foreign governments to grant Taiwanese visitors free entry visa privileges.

In 2008, only 53 countries granted Taiwanese travelers free visitor visas. By the end of March 2011, 60 countries were added to the list, an increase of 115 percent without any loss of diplomatic ties.

Initially, when Taiwan’s MOFA proposed that the European Union might consider granting visa-free travel to Taiwanese passport holders, as per the Scheme Agreement by which citizens of member states enjoy free travel without the need for a visa to other member states, the EU officials considered it to be “mission impossible.”

However, the proposal passed through the European Commission, and then the European Council, before continuing on to the European Parliament for discussion. In all, the road to obtaining visa-free entry underwent 15 complicated administrative and legislative reviews. It was finally approved by the Council of Ministers of the European Union on November 25, 2010 and went into effect on January 11, 2011.

In 2009, Canada sent a special mission to Taiwan to investigate the procedure of Taiwan’s passport issuance and security measures. After confirming Taiwan’s adoption of “chip passports” was in line with the specifications stipulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization for fraud protection, in materials and recognition, and low risk of illegal immigration, Canada finally granted visa-free treatment to Taiwanese nationals.

Whereas most countries have reciprocal arrangements in according visa-free status, it is not always the case. Taiwan offers visa-free entry for Americans up to 30 days, but the United States does not offer the equivalent privilege to Taiwan nationals thus far. The MOFA is hoping that the United States will include Taiwan in its visa waiver program at the end of this year. Minister of MOFA, Timothy Chin-Tien Yang, told Global View monthly that his office will focus on getting visa-free status with the United States since Taiwanese conduct a lot of business with, study in and travel to the United States often.

Although it was extremely difficult for the MOFA to get visa-free treatment from 114 countries, Yang gave the credit to Taiwan’s soft power for winning international recognition. He said, “Democracy and the legal system, economic prosperity, good civil affairs and an increasingly law abiding people… are the main reasons that Taiwanese people are winning respect from the international community.”

Taiwan’s military academies off limit to Chinese tourists

In order to attract more visitors to Kaohsiung after June 28, when individual Chinese visitors are permitted to travel in Taiwan, the Kaohsiung municipal government has proposed opening up the academies of Taiwan’s army, navy and air force located nearby. The idea was quickly rejected by the Ministry of National Defense, according to Taipei-based China Times.

The ministry’s spokesman, Luo Shao-ho, stressed that the training academies are not tourist attractions, and to open them to Chinese tourists would only elicit controversy. In fact, even Chinese tourists venturing too close to take photographs will be stopped by security guards.

The idea of planning a “three academies tour” was the brainchild of Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu of the Democratic Progressive Party who asked the municipal government’s tourism department to coordinate with the military on this matter. Many in the tourism industry see merit in the proposal.

The United Daily News commented that the plan is a good one, if the areas are fixed and do not involve any military secrets. The paper even suggested it could be Kaohsiung’s signature attraction for Chinese tourists by staging a couple of Military Honor Guard performances every day. However, Chen’s proposal is in conflict with the DPP’s China policy, which has urged Taiwanese people to be aware that Chinese tourists might serve as a “Trojan Horse.”

According to the paper, Chen Sheng-shan, the director of the Kaohsiung municipal government’s tourism department, said, “I do not think it is something difficult.” If there are no security concerns, he hopes to allow mainland Chinese tourists to take photos from “a distance outside the gates of each academy” to satisfy their “curiosity.”

So far, Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency has listed “22 allowed behaviors” and “11 behavior that are not allowed” by Chinese tourists. The list in itself has drawn some criticism. Permitted activities include: participation in an event where 10,000 swimmers cross Sun Moon Lake, attending the New Year flag-raising ceremony, dining with elected council representatives or government officials. The activities not permitted include: partaking in elections and political activities, working, entering military and national defense areas and talking on television shows.

Li Lin-feng, an official of the agency, said that these regulations have been in place for some time now, ever since Chinese tour groups were allowed to visit Taiwan. The restrictions are necessary due to the special cross-strait relations. She stressed that they only serve as a gentle reminder for the visiting Chinese tourists to avoid violating local rules.

Li pointed out, that visitors from other countries do not face as many restrictions, but they also cannot work without a work permit, whereas  Chinese tourists are totally banned from finding a job, delivering a speech in public, and teaching. If Chinese passport holders want to do any of these tasks, they should apply for a visa as a “professional” rather than as an individual visitor.

Given that Chinese tourists can “not enter the military defense areas,” according to current regulations, Li added that Mayor Chen’s proposal to open up the three academies as a tourist attrraction should best be addressed by the Department of Defense.

Taiwan strives to create international brand names

Over the past decade, Taiwanese businesses have actively sought to upgrade themselves by moving from being labor-intensive industries towards technology-intensive and high value-added industries. With this strategy in mind, Taiwan has sought core patent technologies in areas such as solar energy, light emitting diodes (LED) and flat panel displays. The result has been very positive for Taiwan’s ability to create recognizable international brand names.

Recently, Global View monthly focused on almost 40 business areas where  Taiwan has remained within the top three in terms of global market share, covering the pioneering wafer foundry industry, LEDs, smart phones and computer hardware. Taiwan Insights has chosen six core sectors from the magazine’s cover story to review these well-known sectors.

Smart phones

In February of this year, Taiwan’s smart phone maker HTC Corporation won the highest honor in the global mobile communications industry when it was named the “Device Manufacturer of the Year” by the GSM Association. HTC beat two other finalists, Apple and Samsung Electronics, to take the top honor in the device manufacturer category at the 2011 Global Mobile Awards in Barcelona, Spain. Peter Chou, HTC’s CEO and president, attended the ceremony and proudly accepted the award.

According to the information released by market researcher IHS iSuppli in May 2011, HTC ranked 5th in terms of global market share for smart phones, behind Nokia, Apple, RIM and Samsung. Its first quarter growth rate of 6.2 percent only lags behind Apple’s phenomenal 14.9 percent.

Established in 1997, HTC was originally an OEM maker of personal digital assistants (PDA). Later when Google acquired Android mobile operating system in 2005, HTC jumped on the bandwagon to partner with Android with a solid R&D and manufacturing ability. It developed the first Google smart phones based on Android’s platform.

In 2006, HTC made an important decision to promote its own brand name. At the time, most people did not think it was a wise move, but HTC understood that branding was the only way to upgrade its value and services.

Now, most of the global telecommunication giants, like France Telecom’s Orange, the UK’s O2 and Vodafone, and the US’s Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, are all partners of HTC. This kind of cooperative model is astonishing in the vastly competitive mobile device industry.

Solar cells

Occupying about 20 percent of the global market, Taiwan’s solar cell industry is ranked No. 2 by worldwide production value, reaching NT$128.4 billion (US$4.3 billion) in 2010. Taiwan has surpassed Germany and Japan, two leaders in the global solar energy industry, for many years, and only lags behind China. Despite this, Taiwan is technically more advanced than China in solar energy manufacturing.

Taiwan’s Solar Industry has a longer history than China with solar cell makers Motech and E-Ton Solar entering the industry in 1998 and 2001, respectively. Due to the similarity between the manufacturing of semiconductors and solar cells, Taiwan’s businesses have  jumped headlong into this expanding industry and successfully taken a solid chunk of the global market.

In the early 1980s, Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) entered the solar industry by developing and training many professionals who have continued to be competitive forces in the global solar energy market.

Due to the world’s declining crude oil reserves and concerns about the safety of nuclear energy, the solar industry is expecting healthy growth.

Digital cameras

According to information compiled by the Institute of Information Industry in 2010, Taiwan is the second largest digital camera producer in the world, after Japan. Taiwanese makers such as Altek Corp., Hon Hai Precision, and Canon (Taiwan), are important original design manufacturers (ODM) or original equipment manufacturers (OEM) of digital cameras for brands like Canon, Kodak, and others. Taiwan produced 60 million units in 2010, over half of the world’s supply.

As the first Taiwanese company to enter the R&D of middle to high-end digital cameras and to develop a mega-pixel camera, Altek has been making the core chips for digital cameras for over a decade. Its chips have been used in over 40 million cameras globally. Altek is a long-time partner of well-known brands like Japan’s Fuji and America’ s Kodak, and is the largest ODM maker in the world. It accounts for over 10 percent of the global ODM market share, with annual revenues of NT$28.8 billion (US$990 million) in 2010.

No longer limited to making digital cameras, Altek is combining digital cameras with global positioning systems (GPS), creating its own brand, Altek Leo. On display at the Singapore Telecommunications Show in 2010, it has three times the optical zoom and uses an Android-based mobile operating system.


It is a little-known fact that over 40 percent of the backlighting illuminations for notebook computers, and 40 percent of the LED displays in the world are made in Taiwan.  According to ITRI, Taiwan is the largest LED producer in the world in terms of output, retaining a quarter of the global market share. However, in terms of value, Taiwan comes  second, after Japan, with an annual production value of NT$80 billion (US$2.7 billion).

Epistar is the largest red LED supplier, and one of the three leading blue LED makers in the world. The other two are Japan’s Nichia and the American firm Cree.

The advantage of Taiwan’s LED technology over that of other countries is that ITRI has developed the alternating current LED, which does not need inverters as in a traditional direct current LED, thus requiring less power consumption and a smaller unit size. Also, one of the characteristics of LED is its ability to maintain illumination at a low temperature, making LEDs perfect for medical applications in a sterile and low temperature environment.

Portable navigation devices (PND)

According to the Department of Industrial Technology, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan is the largest PND producer in the world, with almost 90 percent of the global market share at a total annual production value of NT$122.2 billion (US$4.2 billion) last year. Major PND makers include Garmin (Asia), Tomtom (founded in Amsterdam), and Mio, ranking No.1, 2 and 3 in the world market, respectively.

Garmin was established in 1989 by Gary Burrel and Taiwan-born Min H. Kao (hence the company named GarMin) to produce global positioning systems (GPS). At the time, the US was engaged in the First Gulf War in the Middle East. Using his experience of developing military GPS applications, Kao led a team of engineers to redesign a huge GPS. Initially, it was so big; it took two people to carry. It was a far cry from something which now fits easily in the palm of your hand.

Today, seven out of every ten GPS devices in the world are made by Garmin. Their GPS devices help American soldiers locate their position in wartime and guide civilian drivers to their destinations. It is the modern re-envisionment of the ancient Chinese compass invented several thousand years ago.

E-Book readers

With the worldwide popularity of e-Books and tablet personal computers, there are many brands to choose from. They range from Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle to the European 7-inch Flyer by HTC Corp. Buyers can also try the ASUS 12-inch ePad Transformer, if they are willing to wait, since it’s currently out-of-stock due to its popularity.  

Regardless of the brand, 90 percent of these devices are either made in Taiwan or are made by Taiwanese companies. Kindle, which has taken 70 percent of the global e-reader market, are mostly assembled by Hon Hai Precision and the remaining 10 to 20 percent are manufactured by other Taiwanese companies. iPads, which accounted for 90 percent of the global tablet computer market in 2010, are also produced by Hon Hai.

Even though some core components are still controlled by international giants, Taiwanese makers supply many of the important components of e-Book readers, including iPad’s touch screen sensor modules (accounting for 13% of manufacturing costs), battery cells (7%), cases (5%) and printed circuit boards (5%). 

The key to the continued success of Taiwanese manufacturers has much to do with having the shortest lead time coupled with the most competitive prices. These conditions are also fertile ground for generating some of today’s most successful and recognizable electronics  brands.

Growing number of temples, churches reflects spiritual needs

On June 16, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) announced that the number of registered churches and temples increased by 116 in 2010. According to the ministry’s records, the number has jumped by 2,678 in a decade, reported Taipei-based China Times. This brings the island-wide count to 15,211 registered places of worship.

Tseng Shu-cheng, dean at the Visual Arts College, National Tainan University of the Arts, said that there are at least 15,000 temples that are not registered. Agreeing with Tseng, Lee Fong-mao, a professor at the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies, National Chengchi University, attributed the increase to two factors:  1) a growing trend for the legal registration of temples, and 2) the rise of new religious sects.

Lee said, apart from the five major religious categories (Buddhism, Taoism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Islam), new religious sects such as Xuan Men Zheng Zong are striving for legal registration. In addition, there are many informal temples that are not qualified to register. “So the number of total unregistered temples should be twice that of the registered,” Lee noted.

The increasing number of temples and the churches reflects the religious needs of the people, according to Tseng, “the desire to pray to gods and to seek guidance from fortune tellers reflects a feeling of insecurity.”

The largest concentration of temples belongs to the Taoists, mainly located in southern Tainan, Kaohsiung and eastern Pingtung Counties. Each area has over 1,000 places of worship, accounting for 35 percent of all the Taoist temples in Taiwan.

The China Times reported that there are 27 religions currently registered with the MOI, including the five major ones previously mentioned. In dividing up the temples, the largest numbers are Taoist temples accounting for 78.3 percent, followed by Buddhist temples with 19.6 percent. For Christian churches, the total increase was 240 over the past decade. There are currently over 2,200 churches, with Protestant churches accounting for 76.5 percent, followed by Catholic churches at 22.2 percent.

The MOI figures also show that Taoism and Buddhism are popular in southern Taiwan, while Christianity is popular in northern and eastern Taiwan. In all, the variety of religions and the high number of temples clearly indicate the high level of tolerance for diversity and mutual respect for religious freedom among Taiwanese people.