Monthly Archives: June 2012

No consensus on US beef issue in polarized Legislature

Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan failed to vote on the so-called beef amendments before its formal recess on June 15. President Ma Ying-jeou supports starting an emergency legislative session in late July, but said that he will not consider the use of an executive order to force the opening of Taiwan to US beef imports.

According to the Taipei-based China Post, Premier Sean Chen told reporters on June 16 that an executive order is a legal option, but that revising the law through the Legislature is the safest way to resolve the impasse.

For months, President Ma has actively lobbied legislators to pass amendments to the law governing food sanitation that would open Taiwan’s borders to US beef containing ractopamine. The amendments have faced vigorous opposition from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and other minor parties, who in the week before the legislative recess managed to prevent a plenary vote on the amendments. Of the 113-seat Legislature, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) holds 64 seats, and the DPP has 40 seats.

One day before the Legislature began its summer recess the long-stalled beef amendment remained stuck, as the DPP continued its boycott and the KMT failed to come up with effective measures to drive the DPP legislators away from the podium.

In a Taiwan-styled filibuster, DPP legislators slept in sleeping bags in the legislative hall for four nights, protecting the roped-off podium entrances and the wire-wrapped seat of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. KMT legislators finally decided that they would not force their way into the podium area, the China Post reported.

According to the United Daily News, on June 20, a number of KMT Central Standing Committee members proposed that President Ma use an administrative order to allow the imports of US beef to Taiwan. However, he demurred, expressing his respect for legislative resolutions reached by the ruling party in consultation with opposition parties and said that the executive order will not be used.

President Ma hopes that the Legislative Yuan will deal with the US beef case soon so as to resume the important Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) negotiations. The TIFA is a platform for dialogue between the two sides, to be able to create favorable conditions for a free trade agreement (FTA), so as to cut short the schedule of the Taiwan-US FTA negotiations. Taipei and Washington started the TIFA negotiations in 1992, but talks stalled in 2007 due to the US beef issue.

The United Daily News asked in an editorial, what is the real purpose of the DPP launching such battle to boycott US beef imports? If it is for the sake of pig farmers, hasn’t President Ma’s government made a policy of separating the US beef case from the importation of pigs?, they asked. If it is for the sake of national health, isn’t President Ma trying to achieve the same results by adopting the same strict control standards set in Japan and South Korea? And, if it is for the sake of Taiwan, then aren’t the issues of Taiwan’s trade and economic development as urgent as the issue surrounding ractopamine in US beef?

The Taipei-based China Times commented in an editorial that the United States has clearly stipulated that the opening of US beef imports is a precondition for continuing the TIFA negotiations, which can lead to talks about FTAs and a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Most Taiwanese people are in support of signing FTAs with other countries. An FTA has never been something where one side has benefitted exclusively without making some concessions to the other side. Negotiations between countries are about an exchange of interests, one of give and take. Why not let Taiwanese consumers make their own choice, just like allowing smokers to decide whether or not to take a risk by lighting up?

According to the Commercial Times, the survival of Taiwan’s economy and trade at stake, it is no longer an issue of “whether” Taiwan opens its border to US beef or not, but “how” to open it. The DPP group wants a “zero detection” level on US beef containing ractopamine, by adopting the “European Union model” to raise the level of Taiwan’s economic and trade position to that of the European Union, although Japan and South Korea, both of which have adopted strong protection measures for domestic agriculture, did not follow the EU model. However, it is wishful thinking for Taiwan to request an economic and trade status based on the EU model.

For an article in the Taipei Times, Tung Chen-yuan, a professor at National Chengchi University wrote, “Will the US really be more willing to sign an FTA with Taiwan if the ractopamine ban is relaxed? Washington has never said so. It has just reiterated that it would be prepared to resume talks on a TIFA. A TIFA would of course be a prerequisite for a US-Taiwan FTA, but the problem is whether Taiwan will ever be in a position to secure an FTA with the US. Given that the public has serious concerns about the health implications of ractopamine, it is important to know whether, if this compromise were made now, would there be a reasonable chance of getting an FTA further down the road?”

Taiwan Tourism Bureau partners with AAA

On June 18, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau hosted a cocktail reception to announce its new partnership with AAA, a 51 million member US motoring organization. The reception at Bistro Boudin (Fisherman’s Wharf) was well attended by members of the media, travel writers and representatives of the travel community. During the reception, Sylvia Yu, the director of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and Steve Chan, senior vice president of Strategy, Marketing and Product Management of AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah (AAA NCNU), introduced AAA’s new trip to Taiwan during the Lantern Festival next February.

Chan said that many people consider AAA, formerly known as the Automobile Association of America (est. 1902), merely as a domestic US organization. However, Triple A in fact began promoting overseas travel after World War II in order to help revive countries damaged by the conflict. In researching AAA’s first trip to Asia, Chan was surprised to find out that it was in 1961 and was a tour of Taiwan. He then shared his personal connections to Taiwan, speaking about studying at National Taiwan University as a college student in the 1980s.

On hand was Liam Mayclem, the host of CBS’s Eye on the Bay, who returned from a visit to Taiwan this April. Mayclem spoke of his trip in glowing terms, saying that “The heart of Asia” slogan was very appropriate, since “The heart really was the people. The genuine hospitality and kindness and the warmth shown by the people everywhere we stopped…” He was very excited to show the promotional clips for the two half hour programs they shot in Taiwan.

He also shared a special moment watching the sunrise at Sun Moon Lake. Not being a morning person, Mayclem said it was rare for him to get up for a sunrise. However, he had heard so much about the magical sunrise that he too made his way to see it at 6:18am. In February, he will host a group of 30 on an exclusive tour of Taiwan. “As for the extraordinary 2013 Lantern Festival Tour, I am excited to personally host the Sun Moon Lake itinerary because with every tour, different, new adventure awaits,” he said.

The Eye on the Bay specials on Mayclem’s Taiwan trip aired on June 18 and 19 at 7pm on CBS.

Wedding pictures, Taiwanese-style

Displaying prominent wedding photographs of the happy couple is very much a part of Taiwanese weddings. As such, Taiwan has a vibrant wedding photography industry, which is also popular with Japanese couples. Further attesting to the island’s quality wedding photography industry, many Taiwanese photography companies have now even set up branches in China.

It is generally believed that a bride’s wedding photos should capture her at her loveliest. So every Taiwanese bride takes great care to select her photographer. Interestingly enough, many Taiwanese brides see their wedding photos as an opportunity to try new looks, rather like a movie star. Perhaps their hope is that they too can be transformed into a beautiful illusion, something that is not the sole privilege of celebrities. They too can enjoy this experience of dressing up in a wide range of outfits.

The following photos are courtesy of the Sentendi Wedding Company () in Chiayi city, southern Taiwan. Founded by Mr. Huang Si-shuang over thirty years ago, he began his career as an apprentice in a darkroom, and improved his skills by taking part in many photo contests in Japan.

Five years ago, Huang’s son, Yao-shen assumed the helm of the company and entered the very competitive wedding photography industry. Since then, the young team has strived to maintain the high level of professionalism, and have added vitality and creativity by keeping up with the trends. The team has incorporated the shooting method of popular TV dramas, blending the romantic elements of the couples into a storyboard of artwork, merging reality and fantasy.

To photograph the new couples is to capture a treasured lifetime memory. Years later, they will revisit their wedding photographs and appreciate their efforts, and those of the skilled photographers, Huang Jr. believes.

Chinese students’ romance with Taiwan

The number of Chinese students admitted to US universities last year surpassed 170,000; a double-digit growth that has been the trend in recent years. After returning home, these students are likley to have a profound impact on China in the years to come.

Taiwan opened its doors to Chinese university students two years ago, and so far, about 1,000 Chinese students have seized the opportunity to study on the island. This number is not large compared to those studying in the States, but the process of adjustment is not as jarring since these students are staying in a country that shares a common language and cultural heritage. Yet, their stay might also be somewhat strange since politically, Taiwan still considers China as neither a friend nor an enemy. Given these similarities and contradictions, what then are these Chinese students’ impressions of Taiwan and how might they affect future cross-strait relations?

Allowing Chinese students into Taiwan is a highly political issue

President Ma Ying-jeou has promoted increased exchanges with mainland China since taking office in 2008. In the last four years, there were over six million cross-strait visits by the people of Taiwan and mainland China, with more than three million Chinese tourists visiting the island, plus 10,000 students on short-term and long-term exchanges. The first batch of 928 Chinese students came in September 2010, and another 724 came last September. Some of them left after one semester, while others will stay for four years, and even continue on to graduate studies in Taiwan.

In August 2010, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passed three bills relating to the entry of students from 41 selected Chinese universities to study at college campuses in Taiwan. The bills also set restrictions, with quotas that no more than two percent of the total freshmen population in Taiwanese colleges can be from China in any given school year, they are not permitted to work during their studies or to seek employment in Taiwan afterwards, and they are barred from applying for government positions in Taiwan.

There is a current over-supply of colleges in Taiwan given the island’s low birth rate and many schools have welcomed this opportunity to expand. However, due to the imposed restrictions, Chinese students have not even come close to the 2,000 yearly quota. This month, President Ma ordered a review of these restrictions to see if they may be amended in order to spur more cross-strait exchange of young students.

In May, the Central News Agency reported Chao Chien-min, the former vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council and a professor at National Chengchi University, held a discussion with Chinese students studying in Taiwan. In response to requests by these students that Taiwan’s government should relax the restrictions, Chao said that this is not a scholastic issue, but one which is highly political. Whenever there is a bill in relation to the exchange of people from the mainland, the Legislative Yuan becomes a battlefield between the ruling and opposition parties.

Bittersweet romance across the Taiwan Strait

A Chinese official in charge of Taiwan affairs also talked with the Chinese students studying in Taiwan during his visit last month, urging them to make use of this opportunity to make friends and even to date Taiwanese students. However, any romance is likely to be challenging given that Chinese students would need to leave immediately upon completing their allotted term or when they receive their degree.

The United Daily News reported on the story of Roger, a Taiwanese student who fell in love with a female exchange student from China. To maintain their relationship after his girlfriend’s return, he applied to a Chinese university for a one-semester exchange. Now back in Taiwan, Roger is in contact with his girlfriend through video phone. He hopes to continue the relationship by working in China for a Taiwan-funded enterprise after completing his 10-month military service in Taiwan.

In another romance, Deng Dong, a graduate student in Taiwan, was a part of a school group visiting China last year. While attending Beijing Union University, he met his girlfriend. It was love at first sight. Since becoming a couple, he has traveled to the mainland, while she has visited Taiwan as a tourist. However, there are barriers to their relationship. In the short term, his girlfriend complains about the expensive and difficult procedure in applying for an individual tourist visa to Taiwan. He plans to work in China, but worries that his future wife might not be able to find a job which matches her education as a foreign spouse in Taiwan.

The Central News Agency reported that Chen Po-yu, a mainland Chinese student studying at the University of Hong Kong, becomes anxious around 10 pm daily, which is the time she usually talks to her boyfriend in Taiwan via Skype. Chen met her boyfriend when she was a short-term exchange student in Taiwan two years ago. After dating for two months, she returned to Hong Kong. Since then, she met up with her boyfriend in China, Thailand, and Hong Kong. Her boyfriend even took a two-day flight to meet her parents in China.

Chen said she thought of pursuing graduate studies in Taiwan to be close to her boyfriend, but being from Gansu Province (western China), which is not included in the designated schools or areas from which individual Chinese can plan personal tours to Taiwan, Chen cannot visit Taiwan to study or visit relatives.

At the same time, Chen feels insecure due to the political uncertainty between the two sides. The couple has even discussed the possibility of a war breaking out between Taiwan and China in the future. Chen said, “The future is unpredictable, but I do not want the sad story of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu love story to happen to us.”

The love story is well-known in China. Niu Lang was a poor orphan cowherd, and Zhi Nu was the daughter of the God of Heaven. The fairy came down secretly to earth, fell in love with Niu Lang and married him. The God of Heaven soon found out and had Zhi Nu brought back to heaven.

Niu Lang followed Zhi Nu to heaven. He was about to reach his wife when the Queen appeared. She pulled off her hairpin and drew a line between the two. The line became the Silver River in heaven, otherwise known as the Milky Way.

Zhi Nu went back to heaven, spending her time weaving clouds. But she was so sad, and missed her husband across the Silver River so much that the clouds she weaved seemed sad. Finally, the Queen showed a little mercy, allowing the couple to meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month on the Silver River. Their meeting date has been called Chi Xi, the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

From misinformation to mutual understanding

The Want Daily reported that due to the disparity of land and population across the strait, it is easy for the people from Taiwan to visit the mainland but Chinese citizens face a lot of restrictions in return. Even though cross-strait relations have improved in recent years, only Chinese spouses of Taiwan citizens can receive permanent residency in Taiwan. Though Chinese students can stay longer, they must return to the mainland after they complete their studies.

The Central News Agency reported that Chinese students place Taiwanese into two categories – those who have been to China and those who have not. The latter are mostly ignorant about the situation in China. During his stay in Taiwan, a Chinese student was repeatedly asked, “Are you not free on the mainland? Is it dangerous there? Is it easily being under arrest and sent to prison?”

This student believed that many Taiwanese are not fully aware of the situation in China because they get incomplete information from the news media. Some students expressed the hope that Taiwanese people will have a comprehensive understanding of China.

On the other hand, this Chinese student confessed that he thought Taiwan was a part of China before his visit to Taiwan. But after his stay in Taiwan, he has mixed feelings seeing the Republic of China’s flags flying everywhere, dispelling his earlier teachings.

Xia Xiao-you, a Chinese student from Xiamen, Fuzhou province, wrote an article entitled “Taiwan syndrome” in her blog after returning to China. In it she described how she missed “Japanese cuisine, desserts, and the hot milk she could easily buy at convenience stores in Taiwan. They also offer services such as calling for a taxi, booking train tickets, paying cell phone bills, and the restrooms are generally clean there.” She added, “I miss the free WiFi in Taipei. When I visit scenic locations and search for WiFi, up pops ‘I love Taiwan’ on the front page. It happened at Sun Moon Lake, Taichung Railway Station and Green Island Harbor. Every time I saw this WiFi logo, the feeling would be echoed in my heart – I love Taiwan.”

The United Daily News reported that a Chinese student from Beijing with the surname Lu said, one day he lost NT$3,000 (US$100.00) at the Taipei Main Station, and thought that the money was gone forever. To his surprise, he found the money at the station’s customer service desk. On another occasion, he was touched when a child walked him 0.6 miles to set him on the right direction in central Taiwan. However, the most incredible thing for him was to hear Taiwanese people criticize their president so blatantly.

Let them know the meaning of diversity and tolerance

Li Kai-wei, professor at Chung Hua University, wrote in a letter to the editor of the United Daily News that the Chinese government has been actively encouraging Taiwanese students to enroll at Chinese universities while the Taiwan government is still hesitant. It is estimated that there are 7,000 Taiwanese students in China while there are only 1,000 Chinese students in Taiwan. He said it is predictable that Taiwan will suffer a brain drain in the future because Taiwanese students rarely return after graduating in China, yet Chinese students are forbidden to seek employment in Taiwan after graduation.

The Want Daily stressed, “Taiwan is a diversified society, and we should treat the Chinese students as part of this diverse society. We should use this opportunity to show them what is diversity and what is tolerance. The Chinese students are the ‘pioneers’ who have a deep understanding of Taiwanese society. They are young and as innocent as a white sheet of paper, and can develop in many ways. They will bring to China what they have learned in Taiwan and might even become Taiwan’s supporters.”

The United Daily News has collected and edited pictures of Chinese students in Taiwan. Please visit the link for details. (Unfortunately, the captions are only in Chinese).

Taiwanese young students talk about US trip

This month, a group of six students from the International Youth Ambassador Delegation visited the Bay Area to expand their horizons and to promote Taiwan’s grassroots diplomacy. During their two-week visit (June 3-16), the students from National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, met with other young leaders from local universities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media. For a majority of these young ambassadors, it was their first trip aboard, but they were eager to share their impressions with Taiwan Insights.

In their replies, the male students focused on local civic participation, while many of the female ambassadors commented on personal relationships. Scott Peng said he was impressed by how active Bay Area residents are in participating in community affairs by serving as volunteers or by becoming involved in community projects. Michael Chen could see Taiwanese learning from Americans as they take advantage of communication channels to express their views to government officials.

Monica Peng saw the increased interest in learning Chinese as result of China’s worldwide prominence, yet she worried about the decline in the number of Taiwanese students studying in America. Charlene Yeh and Cindy Shih’s general impressions were that there were “a lot of kids here and they are happy.” They also envied the American parent-child relationship which tended to be encouragement-oriented rather than punishment-oriented. Grace Hsiao was impressed with the advancement of special education for children in the US.

Among one of the questions asked by Taiwan Insights was whether these students saw much of a difference between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese students studying at their university. Since Taipei started to allowed Chinese college students to study on the island two years ago, many of the first 928 mainland students have enrolled at National Sun Yat-sen University, one of the first schools open to Chinese students. Scott Peng and Chen did not see much difference between Taiwanese and mainland students because they share the same language and culture.

Monica Peng and Yeh felt that the mainland Chinese students were more careful about doing their reports, with a stricter mindset, while Taiwanese students were more carefree and open. Shih learned that Chinese students are more committed to studying because of keen competition on mainland campuses. However, Hsiao believes that whether Chinese students are more open or conservative depends on each individual, and should not be generalized.

The six students unanimously agreed that their perception of Chinese people has improved due to the influx of Chinese students on campus. Monica Peng believes it is “beneficial and necessary” for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to cooperate. This cooperation brings more good than harm. Scott Peng noted the people on both sides should not be hostile towards each other since they are of the same race and culture. Yeh said that she would continue to take the initiative to contact Chinese students on campus and to learn more about them. Shih claimed that she has no prejudice against mainlanders and is willing to exchange ideas with them, but she is upset that the Beijing government continues to squeeze Taiwan out of the international community.

When asked about Taiwan’s future, Chen believes that as the only country in the world that uses traditional Chinese characters, which serves as a tool of integration between Taiwan and the traditional culture of China, thus enhancing the island’s soft power. Scott Peng is optimistic because Taiwan is economically strong, and manufactures many globally recognized products. Shih’s comments were also brimming with confidence, “Taiwan’s economic strength and democratic achievements are internationally recognized and enjoy a certain international status. We should promote Taiwan’s soft power and let the international community recognize our value,” she said.

In all, the group expressed tremendous optimism for their future, and as young ambassadors of grassroots diplomacy, they focused many of their comments on building bridges with the international community. Monica Peng said: “I am optimistic about exploring all the possibilities around me, and will try my best to communicate with foreign friends so that they have a good impression of Taiwan. Perhaps in the future some of them will make a friendly decision towards Taiwan in their position.”

Shih believes, “My future is not confined to Taiwan. I will aim my sights on the whole world.” And Hsiao said, “I will take all possible opportunities to spread the story of Taiwan among foreign friends.”

Hon Hai’s chairman vows to overtake Samsung within 3-5 years

On June 18, Terry Gou, chairman of Taiwan’s Hon Hai, said his company will be partnering with Sharp (Japan) to develop large-size LCD televisions. With Hon Hai’s marketing and manufacturing strengths and Sharp’s key technologies, the two are looking forward to defeating their arch-rival Samsung (South Korea), Gou said.

The Economic Daily News reported that Gou talked openly about the company’s cooperative plans for the first time at the regular meeting with Hon Hai shareholders. He said Sharp is expected to join forces with Chi Mei Optoelectronics and Chi Mei Materials Technology Corp., both subsidiaries of the Hon Hai Group, to create a model of manufacturing LCD televisions with a brand name and allowing them to integrate vertically in order to achieve cost advantages.

According to Gou, Sharp has a reputation for being strong on front-end technology of flat panel displays, while Hon Hai is better at the back-end section, such as backlight panels, molds, and assembly. The combination of these strengths is likely to put the two firms on a par with Samsung.

He stressed that the joint project between Hon Hai and Sharp is a very important leading industrial indicator, because more than 10 Japanese companies have expressed a willingness to join their effort. If successful, this type of cooperation will be repeated in the future so as to form a larger Taiwanese-Japanese alliance.

The Taipei-based China Times reported Gou as saying, “I guarantee with my life” this cooperation project with Sharp will succeed. He said, Sharp is good at technology but not at sales, while Hon Hai has a lot of production capacity and is good at quickly reducing costs. Both sides face a common enemy: Samsung. Gou stressed his current most important task is to make sure Taiwan and Japan join forces to beat Samsung “within 3-5 years.”

According to the Central News Agency, Hon Hai announced in late March its acquisition of roughly a 10 percent stake in Sharp for US$800 million, which made it the company’s largest shareholder. Hon Hai will begin operating Sharp’s plant in Sakai, Japan on July 1. Gou said he plans to list the factory on the Taiwan stock exchange within three years.

Under the deal, Gou agreed to acquire a 46.5 percent stake under his own name in Sharp’s Sakai-based 10th-generation LCD panel plant, for an additional US$800 million. The plant is the only facility in the world capable of mass producing 60-inch to 80-inch panels.

Part of the plant’s assembly line will be moved to Hon Hai’s headquarters in Tucheng City, Taipei, to create jobs in the area, the Central News Agency reported.

Taiwan’s RT-Mart tops foreign-invested retailers in China

The results of Commonwealth’s annual survey of the top 1000 companies in Greater China (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges) with the highest revenue stream are now out. Hon Hai Precision Industry was the only manufacturer to make it into Greater China’s Top Ten, and also the single Taiwanese enterprise in the Top Ten.

All other spots were taken by mineral resource, finance and telecommunications companies. Taiwanese companies faring best in the China market are retailers and food companies, led by the Sun Art Retail Group, parent company of RT-Mart, China’s largest hypermarket operator.

Peter Huang, chief executive officer of RT-Mart China, opened the first store in Shanghai in 1998. Although the last of the 10 large foreign-invested retail chains to set up in China, in 2009, RT-Mart China overtook Wal-Mart and Carrefour to become the market leader among the foreign-invested retailers.

According to Commonwealth, last year RT-Mart China had sales of RMB61.6 billion (US$9.74 billion), leaving Carrefour (RMB45.2 billion, US$7.1 billion) and Wal-Mart (RMB43 billion, US$6.76 billion) in the dust. As of the end of May, RT-Mart had 190 stores in China, and expects to increase this number to 220 stores by the end of the year.

One of RT-Mart China’s unique competitive advantages is Huang’s innate ability to open his stores in the right locations. Since entering the China market in 2001, Huang has rarely taken any time off. Instead he flies around China at weekends and holidays to look at potential store locations. “To date, I’ve already been to about 1,000 Chinese cities,” he said.

His suitcase is always packed with short-sleeved shirts and heavy jackets, allowing him to be prepared to fly north or south at a moment’s notice. Through his many travels, Huang has developed a nose for the ideal site that goes beyond objective indicators such as population and income. Among the other keys, he said, are things like traffic and parking convenience, the strength of rivals in the area, and the local preferences in food and clothing. “There are many things you can only get a feel for by visiting a potential store site,” he said.

A chairman of the Chinese retailers’ association once told Huang, “Do you know what impression the outside world has of you? You not only have the management knowledge of the West, which we Chinese lack, but you also understand the Chinese culture, which the Western people lack. That’s why you can win.”

Huang has also insisted on the importance of keeping a low profile in China’s business environment. He has done few interviews since launching his retail business in China, and RT-Mart has never advertised. He even declined Harvard Business School when it wanted to interview him for a case study on the retail giant.

Huang considers the stores’ low visibility to be an important factor in being able to make it this far in China. Compared with his rivals Carrefour and Wal-Mart, which are always mentioned by the media when discussing consumer issues or the service industry, RT-Mart has skillfully remained “hidden” behind the scenes.

Today, RT-Mart has emerged unequivocally as the largest foreign-invested retailer in China, yet Huang continues to follow the same schedule he adopted when he first became involved in the Chinese retail business in 1997, traveling around the country every weekend, checking on stores and selecting new sites.

“I am used to it. If you have a passion, you have a fighting spirit. Besides, there are a lot people chasing after us,” concluded Huang in an interview with Commonwealth magazine. To demonstrate, he enthusiastically got to his feet and pretended to run while looking back at his pursuers. Yet, his expression remained one of pride, aware that he and his company remain ahead of the pack.

SF-Taipei Sister City Committee celebrates Taste of Taiwan’s Delicacies

On June 2, the San Francisco – Taipei Sister City Committee jointly hosted a celebration of Taiwanese cuisine at an event named A Taste of Taiwan’s Delicacies, at the Hilton Hotel, San Francisco. The guest master chef for the evening was Taiwan’s award-winning Huang Pao-yuan.

More than 200 guests enjoyed the extensive menu which included such favorites as lion’s head meatballs, beef noodle soup, chicken rolls, and other popular dishes. Huang also gave a cooking demonstration of how to make lion’s head meatballs and stuffed coffin toast.

Anita Lee, the wife of San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, served as the honorary chair of the dinner, which was well-attended by community leaders. An introduction to Taiwanese cooking was offered by CBS television food critic Narsi David, who shared his experiences of Taiwan during his two previous visits.

In welcoming guests, Jack K. C. Chiang, the director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, said that Taiwan is located in a subtropical area which is favorable for growing various food products. Through constant innovation, research and marketing, the island has established a solid food industry and is known as a kingdom of the food lover. In Taiwan it is common to find traditional Taiwanese restaurants mingled with restaurants serving international cuisine on the same street.

Lee said she was most impressed with the people and the landscape in Taiwan. In particular, she spoke of the elegant manners and cultural upbringing of Taiwanese people, referring to their polite words and behavior, as well as their strong human touch and unique customs. She especially loves Taiwanese cuisine, and looks forward to more cooperation between the sister cities of San Francisco and Taipei. Together, she and David Chiu, the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, presented citations and awards to master chef Huang in recognition of his contribution to the promotion of cultural exchanges between San Francisco and Taiwan.

Taipei has had sister city ties with San Francisco since 1970. It is among Taipei’s oldest ties, second only to that with Houston, Texas, which was established in 1961.

Taiwan’s recycling giant turns stones into gold

In 1999, Lin Meng-chou was convinced by friends to take over an ailing recycling company about to be shut down. Since then, he has turned the business of trash into a US$100 million business.

Da Fon Environmental Technology Co., Ltd., the then paper recycling company on the verge of bankruptcy, is now Taiwan’ largest recycling company. In just ten short years, the company’s steady revenue has allowed them to explore expansion plans to China, USA, Mexico and Chile. With a 20 fold increase in capital to NT$400 million (US$13.4 million), the firm is expected to go public in two years, reported the Business Weekly. Not a bad return for Lin’s initial investment of NT$20 million (US$670,000).

Lin, chairman of Da Fon, 41, attributes part of his success to only having a primary school education. It allowed him to create a business at the bottom rung of society. “What can people like me without any specialty do?” Lin said shyly. “But there is an advantage for people with low education… If I had been well-educated, I would not have invented such a system.”

Soon after taking over the business, he realized that all the wholesalers in the recycling business had built up their companies through economies of scale, by contracting with several local waste collection stations to keep the volume large and the prices low. Since he could not get into these traditional stations, Lin decided to try his hand at approaching local recycling stations, then expanding the scope of recycling from waste paper to all household trash, reported the Business Weekly.

Realizing that the key to success was in the management, Lin decided to come up with a standard system to differentiate each batch of unsorted waste directly at the local collection stations. By pre-sorting it into paper, tin cans and plastics, it increased efficiency and reduced handling costs.

Da Fon also worked on making their stations more appealing. While most recycling stations were disorderly and dirty, Lin’s stations were designed with bright colors and ample storage areas (about 5,336 sq. ft) and retail space (about 1,423 sq. ft). Residents deliver what they collect during the day to each local station, where they deposit the waste into each shelf. Their recyclables are automatically weighted with the prices immediately given on the computer. Then small fork lifts organize all the collected waste into different categories. The whole process takes about five minutes.

Unlike traditional stations, which are located in more remote areas due to its recycled goods’ odors and dirtiness, Da Fon’s system has not only improved space and efficiency, but has also made the environment pleasant. This has allowed the chain to enter central locations that are easily reached by urban dwellers. The convenience has also increased the supply of waste and saved on transportation costs.

“Lin is creating a 7-11 chain in the garbage industry,” said Johnson Chuang, general manager of JYD group, a Taiwanese public company specializing in the recycling of precious metals. “If you can do it the 7-11 way, utilizing the franchise system, spreading the retail stores everywhere in the city, you can increase the supply resources.”

In 2006, Lin noticed China’s 11th 5-year plan was in favor of developing its recycling industry. He then joined a mission sponsored by the Taiwan Green Productivity Foundation to visit China to scout out the potential market there.

After a year of research, he started to negotiate with Yuanli Recycle Company of Fuzhou, China to enter a joint venture, with Da Fon taking a 70 percent stake. It was the first joint venture recycling business between Taiwan and China. In 2011, this joint venture produced an annual revenue of US$15.3 million, according to the Business Weekly.

Interior Minister: Taipei is overpopulated

Is the Taipei metropolitan area overpopulated? That is the suspicion of Lee Hong-yuan, Minister of the Interior. Lee believes the residency in greater Taipei should be less than five million people and has instructed his ministry to come up with a calculation of land use capacity within a year. In his speech on June 13 at National Chengchi University in Taipei, he said that upon confirmation that the Taipei metropolitan area is overloaded, the government should encourage redistribution.

Besides Taipei, the United Evening News reported that Lee’s ministry is also looking into land bearing capacity in Taiwan’s northern, central, southern and eastern regions, adding that the definition of overload considers not just population alone. It also includes the region’s industry, ecology and carbon footprint.

Lee said there are eight million people currently living in the Taipei metropolitan area. The consequence of overpopulation can be seen in the rising housing prices, the water shortage and flooding problems. There are only two dams for the Taipei metropolitan area: Shihmen Reservoir and Feitsui Dam. The flood flow rate of Taipei’s Tamsui River is faster than that of China’s Yellow River, so it is impossible for the government to ensure no water shortage or no flooding. He used the Netherlands as an example, saying that there are no cities larger than one million people there, while there are eight million in greater Taipei, taking a heavy toll on the land and other natural resources.

Added to the problem are torrential storms which have hammered Taiwan, starting from Typhoon Herb in 1996 to the accumulated rainfall from Typhoon Morakot three years ago. In fact, the latter dumped so much rain, it set a record rainfall in over 400 years and further demonstrating that extreme weather has become the norm in Taiwan.

According to the United Evening News, Lee also mentioned that the local governments would need to be reorganized so it could better assist in tackling the challenges brought about by climate change. The Ministry of the Interior is actively planning to redefine the territory of Taiwan’s administrative regions so that the resources of local governments can be integrated to solve similar problems such as immigration, prevention of natural disasters, and the planning issues of ecological zones.

Lee said that a point of reference is the map of natural disaster prevention produced by the Ministry of the Interior in 2011. It is a mapping of the disaster response scenarios (earthquake, landslides, etc.) for all the different areas, which can be used as the basis for planning the new administrative regions in disaster relief and disaster prevention.