Monthly Archives: January 2012

Taste Chef Hou’s Beef Noodle Soup on Feb 8th in San Francisco

Chef Hou chun-sheng, the winner of the 7th Taipei International Beef Noode Soup competition will be serving his signature dish and chatting with Narsai David, food and wine writer for KCBS, at L’Olivier Restaurant (465 Davis Court, San Francisco) on Wednesday evening, February 8.

Tickets for the 5:30pm event are $25. To register online, please visit or read more about Chef Hou here.

The event is sponsored by Asia Society of Northern California and Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco.

Chef Hou’s recipe for Beef Noodle Soup

Created in Taiwan, the beef noodle soup (new row mien) is a popular street food on the island. This is Chef Hou Chun-sheng winning recipe at the 2011 Taipei International Beef Noodle Soup Festival. It has been modified to serve 10 large bowls.

As in many Taiwanese food recipes, the measurement of the ingredients varies, depending on your experience and personal taste. In addition, the special herbs are not easy to find outside Chinatowns. This recipe is not for the faint of heart, but then again, were you expecting a championship-winning recipe to be? For your reference, you can see pictures of Chef Hou preparing his signature dish. Good luck!

2.25 lbs boneless beef shanks
2.25 lbs beef bones, pieces
4 tbsp vegetable oil for sauteing
6 green onions, 4 roughly chopped into 3” for stock and sauce, 2 stalks finely sliced for topping
12-14 garlic cloves
2 inches ginger, sliced (not too think or thick)
1 red hot chili peppers, halved
2 tbsp rock sugar (about 1 oz)
¾ cup hot bean paste (or around 4 oz)
1 cup soy sauce, preferably Kimlan
½ cup spicy fermented bean curd (or around 5 oz)
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tbsp black peppercorn (around 1 oz)
2 Bay leaves, large (depending on size)
4 ½ tbsp soy paste, preferably Kimlan (around 2 oz)
2 ½ tbsp dark soy sauce, preferably Lee Kum Kee (around 1.3 oz)
1 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped into 1” slices (roughly 1 lbs)
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and chopped into .25” cube
¼ cup cilantro, (optional topping)
2 Chinese herb bags: contains one part (.8 gram each) of Star Anise (pa-chiao), Fennel (huei-hsiang), Angelica roots (tang-kuei), and dried orange peel (cheng-pi); as well as three parts (2.5 grams each) of Pericarpium Zanthoxyli (hua-chiao), Cassia buds (kuei-tze), Cinnamon peel/bark (kuei-pi), and Cinnamon stick (kuei-chi). (The Chinese herbal shop uses a measurement system that does not have an English equivalent, however we converted it to the metric system to give you a better idea of the quantities involved.)
Fresh noodle, depending on your preference and what’s available locally

Preparing the broth
1) Boil about 1 gallon of water and beef bones and filter out impurities.
2) Heat half of the oil and saute half of the green onions, ginger, garlic and red hot chilly peppers until you get a nice fragrant smell. Add half of the rock sugar, hot bean paste, soy sauce to the vegetables and cook slightly before combining it to the beef bone broth.
3) Then add half the fermented bean curd and all the tomato paste.
4) Lastly, include half of the the black peppercorn, bay leaves and one Chinese seasoning bag to the broth.
5) Simmer for 6 hours then strain through a sieve. You can skim the fat off, but Chef Hous believe leaving the fat locks in more of the fragrant favors, so he usually ladles around it.

Preparing the beef shank
1) Cook the beef shank with just enough water to cover the meat, boil the meat until it’s cooked through. Let it cool and then sliced into oval disks, about one-third inch thick. Save the beef water for later.
2) Sauté the remaining green onions, ginger, garlic and red hot chili peppers in vegetable oil until it’s fragrant. Add the remaining rock sugar, hot bean paste and soy sauce, cook briefly.
3) Add the remaining fermented bean curd, and all the soy paste and dark soy sauce, before adding the rest of the black peppercorn, bay leaf and Chinese herb packet.
4) Place the sliced beef shanks into the sauce and add just enough beef water to cover the beef slices. Stir to ensure even mixing. Cover and cook for at least 30 minutes, if you like your meat tender, cook for a couple of hours more. Keep the pot covered while it’s cooling down. Strain and save the sauce. Separate the meat from the dreg.

Preparing the noodle and assembling the dish
1) Boil the water, add the noodle and cook until done. Cool and Drain.
2) Remove the skin from the tomatoes, and chop them into ¼ inch cubes. (You can peel tomatoes easily by make a small cut on the skin, dropping it into boiling water for a few seconds. The skin will separate from the flesh. Take it out and dip into cold water)
3) Chop the Romaine lettuce into 1 ½ inch shreds. Flash cook the lettuce in boiling water, if your broth is not hot enough.
4) Combine four parts broth to one part sauce, or according to your personal taste.
4) Put noodles into the bowl, top with beef shanks, lettuce, tomatoes, chopped green onions and cilantro. Spoon the mixed broth on top. Enjoy.





President Ma re-elected with over 50% of votes

Incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou, 61, candidate of ruling the Kuomintang (KMT), was re-elected for another four-year term on January 14 by winning 6,891,139 votes, accounting for 51.6 percent of the total votes.

In a short victory speech in front of his supporters, President Ma declared: “This is not a personal victory, but a victory for the people of Taiwan!” He said the success of his re-election was mainly the result of the people’s appreciation of his government’s efforts in tackling corruption, reviving the economy, and striving to ensure peaceful cross-strait relations. Taiwanese people have given him a clear mandate: let him continue his policy line, the Taipei-based China Times reported.

His strong competitor, Tsai Ing-wen, the first female presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), garnered 6,093,578 votes, 45.63 percent of the total valid votes. Tsai announced her resignation as DPP chairwoman directly after the election defeat. The third-placed candidate, James Soong of the People First Party (PFP), received 369,588 votes, about 2.77 percent.

Pan-Blue dominance in the north, pan-Green in the south

Among Taiwan’s 23 million residents, there were 18.08 million eligible voters in the presidential and legislative elections. The voter turnout was 74 percent.

The United Daily News reported President Ma beat Tsai with over one million votes in northern Taiwan, where the KMT used to dominate while Tsai only won by 530,000 in southern Taiwan where the DPP used to win. In the final count, the key to the victory of the pan-Blue camp including the KMT and PFP this time was to achieve a “big win in the north and a modest loss in the south.” Overall, the DPP won majorities only in six counties in the south and in Yilan County in northeastern Taiwan while the KMT won the remaining 15 counties.

Out of a total of 113 seats in the legislative elections, the KMT took 64, losing 17 from the last election, while the DPP won 40 seats, an increase of 13 over last time. The PFP won three seats, an increase of two. The strongly pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), considered as a member of the pan-Green camp, won three seats. In an analysis, the Liberty Times wrote that although the KMT still maintains an absolute majority in the Legislative Yuan and will continue to dominate in the executive and the legislature in the future, while the opposition including the DPP and the TSU control 43 seats, passing the one-third threshold, and are in a position to act as a viable opposition bloc.

The China Times said in a comment that the KMT has only five legislative seats in southern Taiwan while taking almost all seats in the north. Such a fortification of the division between the pan-Blue dominance in the north and the pan-Green’s hold on the south will further regionalize Taiwan’s parliamentary politics, sharpening the discrepancy between South and North.

“Thanks to Taiwan, the Chinese know what human dignity is like.”

The United Daily News reported that this was a tough presidential race. In the latter stages of the election, the “1992 consensus” became the focus of the presidential debate. Although facing criticism from opposition groups, Ma won the election, meaning that debates around the “1992 consensus” had also been won.

The “1992 consensus” between Taiwan and China, refers to the understanding reached by the two sides at the 1992 talks in Hong Kong, where the issue of “one China” was discussed. The core content of the consensus is “one China, respective interpretations.” In simple terms, “one China” is recognized by Beijing to mean the People’s Republic of China (PRC), whereas Taiwan interprets it as meaning the Republic of China (ROC). The two sides recognize each other as a political entity and are willing to shelve the sovereignty dispute in order to promote exchanges and interactions.

The United Daily News commented that President Ma’s government has made some concrete achievements in cross-strait policies, such as opening of direct flights between Taiwan and China, allowing mainland Chinese tourists to travel to Taiwan, and in 2010 signing a free trade-like agreement with Beijing called the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). In contrast, the DPP has no clear-cut policy on cross-strait issues, and stresses the issue of independence for Taiwan. In the final stages of the election campaign, the US government announced that Taiwan would be included as a candidate country to enjoy visa waiver status, and Taiwanese business tycoons like Terry Gou of the Foxconn Group, Chang Yung-fa of the Evergreen Group, and Cher Wang of HTC came out in support of the “1992 consensus.”

According to an analysis from NOWnews, Taiwanese people have a stereotype impression of the DPP’s cross-strait policies because President Chen Shui-bian’s administration (2000-2008) maintained a hostile stance toward China, creating tense relations with Beijing. After the signing of the ECFA, voters have seen the economic benefits of such an agreement with China. They worried that should Tsai be elected, that unstable cross-strait relations would re-emerge. Due to a fear of lost business and jobs that could have resulted in increased uncertainty, they backed Ma rather than Tsai.

The Commercial Times reported that Zhang Nianzi, dean of the Shanghai Institute of East Asian Studies, said that this election was a test and a review of China’s policy direction with regard to cross-strait relations, the commitment to the “1992 consensus,” and an expression of whether Beijing’s goodwill towards the island since 2008 has been appreciated by Taiwanese people. The election results give China “a lot of encouragement,” he said.

NOWnews reported that all the four major internet portals in China, including Baidu, Sina, Netease and Tencent gave headline news coverage to Taiwan’s presidential election on election day. This is the first time this has happened since Taiwan held its first direct presidential election in 1996. However, China’s news media still use the term “leader of the Taiwan region,” instead of “President.”

Wang Weinan, a researcher at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, who specializes in the study of Taiwan issues, told the Central News Agency that Chinese people very much admire the Taiwanese democratic voting system, adding that Taiwan sets an example for the Chinese people to follow. He said that this not only inspires the mainland people to change, but also is a rebuke to the Chinese government.

Liang Chunxiao, vice president of Alibaba Group, told the United Daily News “The Chinese are touched, saddened and appreciates the Taiwan election. We have no more excuse to say that Chinese people are of poor quality, and are not suitable for democracy.” Chinese economist Han Zhiguo said: “thanks to Taiwan, the Chinese community knows what human dignity is like.” Tientien Wuwei, a commentator for Jilin TV said: “Taiwan’s presidential election is in full swing, and 1.4 billion Chinese people can only be spectators. I support either Ma Ying-jeou or Tsai Ing-wen whoever wins because it is the result of democratic elections.”

The Want Daily reported that it is a disgrace to the Taiwanese if you compare Taiwan’s presidential election with the forthcoming election of Hong Kong’s chief executive on March 25, because according to “the Basic Law,” Hong Kong’s chief executive is elected by the votes of 1,200 members of the electoral college. These members are chosen by some 500,000 rich people or those with administrative powers. The seven million citizens of Hong Kong can do nothing to decide who is the next leader there.

Three major challenges ahead

President Ma Ying-jeou and his running mate Wu Den-yih (Taiwan’s current premier) will be inaugurated on May 20. The 113 elected legislators (75 males and 38 females, with an average age of 52) will be inaugurated on February 1. Both the president and the legislators will serve four-year terms in office. The China Times learned that current Vice Premier Sean Chen will very likely be promoted as the new premier. After President Ma’s recent victory, three major challenges awaits his administration.


The Want Daily noted that this election was a victory for those who support the KMT’s economics-oriented policy over those who emphasize the DPP’s ideology-based policies. One of the top priorities Ma’s administration must carry out is to strengthen support from those “economics-oriented voters who benefit from his cross-strait policy.” However, the Commercial Times said over 70 percent of Taiwan’s economy depends on foreign trade and electronics products account for almost 30 percent of total exports, and most of the electronics industry is overly concentrated in OEM models. This is why every time there is a global financial slowdown, Taiwan suffers much more than Japan or South Korea. The global economy has been dangerously affected by the financial slowdown and European junk bonds with no possible solution. Taiwan’s industrial structure has not changed much in the past four years. This is the weakest point for Taiwan’s economy. President Ma’s government should do its best to adjust the industrial structure and strengthen the quality of Taiwan’s economy.

Income gap issue

Since 2001, Taiwan has had a positive GDP, but the income gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen. The United Evening News commented that President Ma has not solved the wealth gap in the past four years, but he must deal with the issue in the coming four years. The government’s coziness with large enterprises has created dazzling statistics of economic growth, but it does not bring substantial benefits for Taiwan’s regional prosperity, job creation or and raising wages in real terms. So President Ma’s future government must rectify the allocation of resources and address the policy issues relevant to small and medium industry. The government must help such enterprises, which are the backbone of Taiwan’s economy, to flourish, so as to achieve a relatively equal distribution of national income.

Cross-strait relations

Lawyer Chen Chang-wen said in a commentary to the China Times that, through this election, the “1992 consensus” can be recognized as the people’s political view in Taiwan. It is very difficult to criticize the consensus as lacking a popular mandate, or lacking legitimacy. Taiwan can not simply hope to benefit from the other side, without thinking of what “Taiwan can do to the mainland (or Chinese)?” Chinese internet users observing the Taiwanese election described it “as if a smell of barbecue coming from the other side of the strait.” China is bound to carry out political reforms, and can learn much from the reform process Taiwan has experienced. This is the special value Taiwan can contribute to the Chinese mainland.

Scholars to talk about post-election Taiwan

The Center of Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), Stanford University, will hold a seminar on the “2012 Taiwan Elections: What Happened and Why” on January 24, ten days after the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan. The talk will begin at 4pm at CISAC Conference Room, Encina Hall Central, 2nd floor (616 Serra Street), Stanford University.

Professor Shelley Rigger of Davidson College, North Carolina, and Professor Eric Chen-hua Yu of National Chengchi University, Taiwan, will join the panel discussion of Democracy in Taiwan project to review the results and implications of the elections, both in Taiwan and with regard to the US and the world.

CDDRL has collaborated with scholars, policy makers and practitioners around the world to advance the collective knowledge on the links between democracy, sustainable economic development, human rights and the rule of laws.

The Democracy in Taiwan project is sponsored by CDDRL in interaction with Hoover Institution. From 2005, the program expands and institutionalizes activities on democratic politics and social changes and the regional and international challenges confronting democracy in Taiwan, including the issues of cross-Strait relations with China.

Professor Shelley Rigger is the author of two books on Taiwan’s domestic politics, Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy (Routledge 1999) and From Opposition to Power: Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (Lynne Rienner Publishers 2001). In 2011 she published Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse, a book for general readers. She has published articles on Taiwan’s domestic politics, the national identity issue in Taiwan-China relations and related topics. Her current research studies the effects of cross-strait economic interactions on Taiwan and Mainland China.

Professor Eric Yu has been a research fellow and program manager of CDDRL at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies since 2006. His research interests include public opinion, electoral politics, quantitative methods, and American politics. He also participates in a number of joint survey projects such as Taiwan Election and Democratization Studies (TEDS) and World Value Survey. Yu recently published academic articles on Taiwan’s domestic politics in Taiwan Political Science Review, Journal of Electoral Studies, Review of Social Sciences, and Japanese Journal of Electoral Studies.

If you are interested in attending the talk, please RSVP at


Winner of Taiwan’s Beef Noodle Soup Festival to visit San Francisco

Join Chef Hou Chun-sheng for a demonstration of how to make his prize-winning beef noodle soup. Hou is the recent champion at the “2011 Taipei International Beef Noodle Soup Festival” in Taiwan. Out of 189 contestants, the top 40 chefs were weeded out for the final leg in four different beef noodle soup categories. Hou came in first in the most popular category – spicy braised beef noodle soup.

Created in Taiwan in the 1950s, the spicy braised beef noodle soup (new row mien) is a popular street food on the island. As an affordable daily main meal for Taiwanese people, the beef noodle soup costs about US$2.00 to US$5.00 per bowl at noodle shops or snack bars. However, at five-star restaurants and gourmet food stores which use expensive ingredients and exquisite cut of beef, prices may go up from US$100.00 to US$1,000.00 per bowl. There are currently more than 300 specialty beef noodle soup shops in Taipei alone.

Like Vietnamese phở and Japanese ramen, the dish has its own cult following in the United States. The soup’s wonderful flavor is in the long simmering broth spooned over stewed beef, noodles and vegetables.

The Press Division of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, sponsored by Taiwan’s Government Information Office, have already put together a schedule of cooking and food discussions in collaboration with Google Inc., the Asia Society (Northern California), Williams-Sonoma (San Francisco) and Sacramento from February 8th to 11th. These are just some of the initial programs to promote Taiwan’s cuisine in the United States.

Hou’s special culinary skills in making Taiwanese beef soup noodles, along with his recent championship title, will lend additional cachet to the programs and enable the attendees to experience a truly authentic taste of this treasured national dish. He will take the audience through the steps in creating his signature dish, which includes a rich broth flavored with tomato paste, fermented bean curd sauce and his own Chinese herbal mixture.

With a long career in the culinary arts, Hou spent two years observing, researching and developing his beef soup noodles in order to participate in the festival’s 7th competition. As the chef of a night club in Taipei, he won the championship competition on his first try and now hopes to open a beef soup noodle shop in the near future.

Taiwanese Americans in Bay Area celebrate New Year’s Day

Despite the chilly weather, hundreds of Taiwanese expatriates from San Francisco’s South Bay Area attended the Republic of China (Taiwan) flag-raising ceremony at the Culture Center of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Sunnyvale, California to celebrate New Year’s Day 2012.

Among the dignitaries were Jack K. C. Chiang, director of the San Francisco TECO, Paul Fong, California State Assembly member, Jose Esteves, Mayor of Milpitas, Kansen Chu, councilmember of San Jose City, Barry Chang, councilmember of Cupertino City, Kris Wang, former councilmember of Cupertino, Emily Lo, councilmember of Saratoga City, Cynthia Chang, member of Los Gatos-Saratoga School District, Lili Mei, member of the Fremont School District and Steve Cho, former councilmember of Fremont City.

Addressing the ceremony, Jack K. C. Chiang said in the past year, the Republic of China on Taiwan has celebrated its centennial anniversary with splendid achievements, while the world has witnessed a wave of demands for democracy sweeping the Middle East, mainland China and other places. Such movements show that democracy is a universal value, said Chiang. Through a century of efforts, the ROC on Taiwan has become not only a democratic country, but also a country of justice with mercy, boundless love, and a respect for human rights.

In 2012, Chiang said, Taiwan will continue to protect its 23 million people from military threats, and to strengthen the island’s soft power in the world by promoting further economic trade and development, technological innovation, tourism and culture.

Later in the day Chiang attended another ROC flag-raising ceremony held at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Taiwan Lantern Festival in Cupertino (CA) on February 11

The Northern California South Bay Taiwanese Association will host the 2012 Taiwan Lantern Festival at Quinlan Community Center, Cupertino, California on February 11 to celebrate the ending of Chinese Lunar New Year.

Activities will include an aboriginal dance from the high green mountains, a flower lantern dance, riddle solving, sing along, a play, and traditional ceremony with glutinous rice cakes as gifts. There will also be plenty of activities to keep the children occupied, including lantern-making, cartoon drawing and games. Attendees will also get an update of Taiwan’s future after the presidential election.

Sidney Chen, president of the association, said the event serves to promote the traditional folklore and improve the cultural understanding for Taiwan among the next generation growing up in the US.

A cooking expert will also demonstrate how to use red beans and glutinous rice to make red turtle cake, a popular festive snack shaped like turtle shell and served on a circular bamboo leaf. Taiwanese people see the turtle as a symbol of longevity and believe the color red brings good fortune.

For details, please go to

US considering adding Taiwan to visa waiver program

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) announced last month that the United States has put Taiwan on the candidate list of countries whose citizens are under consideration to be added to its visa waiver program. The American Homeland Security Department will send a team to Taiwan to investigate the related issues.

Foreign Minister Yang Jin-tian said that if Taiwanese nationals become eligible for visa free travel, from the second half of 2012, they will no longer need to pay the visa application fee. He said that this announcement shows that Taiwan has met the technical requirements of the US visa waiver program in terms of the security of its passports, the visa rejection rate, border control, and cooperation in the sharing of information. The move also demonstrates that Taiwanese travelers are law-abiding, and marks a further step forward in the development of Taiwan-US relations.

The United Daily News reported that there are 36 countries in the world that have already been granted visa-free access to the United States. Taiwan is now a candidate country. If successful, Taiwan will be the seventh country in the Asia-Pacific region to receive visa waivers after Japan, Korea, Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand. President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration has already succeeded in securing visa free travel for Taiwan passport holders to 124 countries. This is double the countries that grant Chinese passport holders free-visa status.

The Taipei-based China Times commented in an editorial: “We think that this is not just a major milestone in Taiwan-US relations, it is also a breakthrough with significant meaning in Taiwan’s international status and its foreign relations.”

“Of course, this has been achieved based on Taiwan’s economic strength, plus the excellent passport security technology, the high quality of Taiwan citizens, but there is an undeniable and important reason – with the improvement of cross-strait relations, the reduction of confrontation between the two sides is recognized by the international community. In developing relations with Taiwan, these countries no longer worry about the objections of Beijing.”

Due to the special Taiwan-US relationship and the historic friendship, the United States has always been the top destination for Taiwanese tourists, students, and migrants. The Economic Daily reported that, Yao Ta-kuang, chairman of the Travel Agent Association of the ROC, Taiwan, pointed out that there are about 400,000 to 500,000 Taiwanese visitors the United States each year, mainly to visit relatives and to study. Due to the complicated US visa application procedure, an increasing number of Taiwanese travelers have started visiting Europe rather than the US. Once the US grants visa free travel to Taiwanese passport holder, the number visiting the US is expected to increase by 20 percent.

The World Journal, one of the largest Chinese language dailies in the US, reported that many Taiwanese passport holders who have been applying for American green cards believe there will be no need to spend time, money and effort applying for a green card once Taiwan achieves visa-free status. Some are even thinking of abandoning their green cards altogether.

Levi C. Ying, an immigration lawyer, said that the majority of Taiwanese immigrants to the US are motivated by the prospect of improving the educational opportunities for their children, as well as for business convenience. Once Taiwan attains visa free status, many Taiwanese immigrants will reconsider the merits of applying for a US green card. However, Immigration lawyer Sheu Jiunn-liang said that after the US government strengthens the requirement of Americans to report their overseas accounts, it is justified that immigrants from Taiwan may want to give up their green cards. However, he does not believe that there will be another wave of people giving up green cards once Taiwan passport holder are exempt from applying for a visa, the World Journal reported.

Volunteer military service to start from 2013

From 2013 on, military draftees born after January 1, 1994 will no longer be required to serve one year of military service, and will only need to receive four months of military training, according to a recent report from the Central News Agency. David Lo, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense (MND), said that this policy moves Taiwan’s military from the current “parallel system of both volunteers and conscripts” into an all volunteer system.

The new system will not be implemented without certain challenges, such as the financial resources of increasing wages, incentives for those that enlist and the need to maintain the quality of the military after implementing an all volunteer system. Already, there have been changes. In 2008, the period of compulsory military service was cut from 14 months to one year. Also, a Private First Class professional volunteer receives a salary of NT$29,480 (US$990.00) a month, which is four times the base salary of NT$6,630 (US$221.00) paid to a conscripted soldier. The cost of supporting one volunteer soldier is equivalent to that of four conscripted soldiers.

According to the latest MND volunteer system implementation plan, the military is expected to reach the goal of recruiting all 176,000 volunteers by the end of 2014. Over the past few years, the MND has continued to maintain the parallel systems of both volunteers and conscripts, and the total number of military personnel has gradually fallen from over 300,000 to 185,000

The Taipei-based China Times reported that Li Po-hong, a high school student from Tainan, born in the afternoon of December 31, 1993 was very frustrated to learn that had he been born ten hours later he would have been exempt from military service

Most male students at the New Taipei Municipal Hai-Shan High School argue that without sufficient military training, Taiwan’s military will not be able to cope should war break out, and would inevitably be outmatched. Regarding their opinion about joining the army to fight, all the male students answered in unison that they would click “like” to this new policy, as they would do on Facebook.

Chang Yong-ping, a parent from Taoyuan County (northern Taiwan) believes that at a time of fast technological development, soldiers should be highly trained professionals, rather than the need for a large military population. Chang believes that it is better to let those who are interested in joining the army to have more professional training rather than to enforce compulsory military training on those who are not interested.

Liu Ho-shu from Hsinpei (northern Taiwan) said it is a good thing to consign the conscription system to history. Since both sides of the Taiwan Strait have embarked on a path for peace, it is a waste of life to be a soldier. Many years ago when Liu served in the military, Taiwanese people had a common enemy and knew what they were fighting for, “but now everything works for the economy and peace, there is no need for a military”, he said.

Lin Shi-cheng, whose son is studying at Tainan First High School and is exempt from military service, said he would prefer his son to join the army because soldiers learn more about self-sufficiency through military training.

The United Evening News commented that Taiwan has kept a fair and equitable military service system. In the past, all men were required to join the military when they reached conscription age, whatever their family background. They benefited from a collective life experience which enhanced their awareness of social groups and a sense of responsibility. However, this system delayed a lot of talented young men from investing their time in social and economic development, and had a negative impact on Taiwan’s economic competitiveness. The transition of the military system will enable more human effort to be devoted toward the country’s economic development.

The paper stressed that after adopting the volunteer military system, Taiwan will face major issues such as whether the military structure and the elite recruitment policy can cope with Taiwan’s potential threats, and will call into question whether the government can resolve conflicts through political rather than military means.

Taiwanese businesses face tough challenges in China

China is at a crossroads, as it strives to transform and upgrade its social and economic structures. The Chinese government’s 12th five-year plan (2011-2015) places the emphasis on three goals: a green economy, people’s wealth and national strength, and transition from the second category of manufacturing industry to the third category of service sector business. With the mainland’s rapid development and shifting landscape, Commonwealth monthly reported that Taiwanese business people are struggling to cope with the latest environmental protection regulations, labor issues and industrial restructuring.

Environmental protection now weighted with economic development

In China’s latest five-year plan, “Green energy takes the top priority. There are trends of prevailing nationalism and an anti-wealth sentiment. The combination of these three factors might get out of control,” Leu Horng-der, professor of business administration at Chung Yuan Christian University, told Commonwealth.

“You cannot expect China to remain as a cheap manufacturing base. All Chinese people want to be wealthy, and they also want to protect their rights,” said Li Chin-ping, general manager of the MiTAC computer factory, in Kunshan, Jiangsu, a coastal province of China. One of the most important new realities is that Chinese people are no longer willing to accept economic development at the expense of environmental protection.

The emphasis on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) has been the major business model adopted in Taiwan business for a long time. The flaw in this idea is that it pays attention to production efficiency, manufacturing yields, the supply chain and customer care, but ignores corporate social responsibility (CSR) and stakeholder engagement.

In the past Taiwanese business people only dealt with the government. Now they “must communicate frankly with the local community, and seek support from the local people to justify their operations,” said Leu.

China has adopted the most advanced environmental protection regulations from other countries, but has not yet been able to fully implement them. Taiwanese businesses are faced with an increasingly regulated environment, but must also work with government officials who are often granted with too much discretion with regard to the legal requirements.

Fair distribution of wealth expected in China

A goal that is clearly written into China’s five-year plan is that the income of urban and rural residents should be doubled. China wants to shake off the stereotype of the country as the low-cost factory of the world, and wants to let its citizens gradually enjoy a fairer distribution of national wealth. “The labor wages of the Yangtze River Delta region in 2015 will match those in Taiwan,” predicted Yorkson Chu, general manager of the AU Optronics factory, Suzhou, Jiangsu province.

Even if businesses go to set up factories in the less developed western Chinese provinces, they will not be able to pay low wages or seek preferential treatment, stressed Commonwealth. What worries the Taiwanese business community is not only labor shortages, but also the quality of the workforce. Due to a high rate of staff turnover in China, skilled workers are in short supply, which in turn affects production yields.

In July 2011, when China announced an increase in the workers’ provident fund, the turnover rate of employees soared. The 2011 the turnover rate of direct labor (DL) at AUO’s Suzhou factory was about 15 percent, 2.5 times the level in 2010. “We are doing fairly well. Many companies at the Suzhou Industrial Park suffer a turnover rate as high as 25 percent,” said Chu.

Rapid changes makes planning difficult

With China’s industrial structure transitioning from high energy consumption and polluting manufacturing industry towards a cleaner and greener service sector economy, Commonwealth reported a phenomenon in the Yantze River Delta region where factories are now surrounded by business districts and residential areas. This causes problems for Taiwanese businesses too.

About a decade ago when a Taiwanese manufacturing company came to Yushan township, Kunshan City, the factory was surrounded on all sides by rice paddy fields. Now the same factory is bordered on three sides by commercial developments.

The frustration felt by such companies by the rate of change and the unpredictable nature of the China’s officials was summed up by a spokesperson for the company who noted that land is expensive now, with a hundred acres worth a billion Chinese Yuan (over US$150 million) when developed. “At the time of setting up the plant, the local government repeatedly guaranteed that this was the industrial district, and was never designated for residential housing or retail developments, but now they do not follow the original planning,” he said.

There are 3,953 Taiwanese firms in Kunshan, accounting for 60 percent of the total industrial output of the city.

As the trade war between the US and China intensifies, other foreign companies fear they will lose out, especially Taiwanese businesses stuck in the middle.

The plight of such companies is clearly illustrated by the comments of a top executive at a Taiwanese food giant. “Taiwanese firms must take a low key approach because the sky above and the ground below are controlled by someone else,” he said. Commonwealth stressed that only through constant adaptation and innovation can Taiwanese firms avoid being sidelined from China’s economic transformation.