Monthly Archives: July 2012

Taiwan strives for brand recognition in 3D animation

From Pixar’s Toy Story to its recent blockbuster Brave, animated stories have a ready-made audience in Taiwan. Yet few would suspect that the Emeryville-based Pixar Animation is also rich in Taiwanese talent. In fact, Brave, the recent box office hit, had five people from Taiwan working in its production team.

Pixar creativity with roots in Taiwan

Benjamin Su and Bruce Kuei, the animators responsible for drawing the protagonists of Princess Merida and King Fergus in Brave, told Taiwan Insights that “the job of the animator is like an actor in the movie. After discussions with the director about how to present the character, it is necessary for the animator to personally simulate the action of the character.” In order to simulate the walking posture of King Fergus with a wooden prosthetic limb, Kuei physically went through the motions of falling several times.

After graduating from Fu-Hsin Trade and Arts School in Taipei, Frank Tai came to study in the US before working as the set’s technical director on Brave. In order to present the heavily misty Scottish countryside, he painstaking researched the different natural landscapes in Scotland. Thus, the forest scenes in the animation were presented so vividly that the audience felt like they were in the highlands of ancient Scotland.

Aaron Lo also worked on filling in the background by computer generating the crowds in his role as the technical director of the simulation division. Fond of painting since childhood, Lo was nevertheless discouraged by his parents from becoming an artist. Instead, he studied in the Information Engineering Department at National Chiao Tung University (Taiwan). Upon graduation, he did not follow his classmates into jobs at Hsinchu Science Park (Taiwan’s Silicon Valley). Instead, he went on to study computer graphics at Carnegie Melon University, and then joined Pixar. While at Pixar, he also worked on the production of the Academy Award-winning Toy Story 3.

Working at the opposite end of the animation spectrum is Hsu Wen-chin, who was the lighting technical director for Brave. Her job was to put the final touches of light and shadow effects into the animated movie. Hsu graduated from Tunghai University (Taiwan) majoring in social work. She then interned at children’s cancer wards in Taipei. While there, she observed how much the children responded to such films as Toy Story and realized she too wanted to have a hand in creating animation of that caliber. With this in mind, she began studying computer graphics and then relocated to the United States so she could continue her studies. After honing her skills at different animation companies, she accumulated a resume worthy enough to enter the elite ranks at Pixar.

All these animators made their mark in the highly competitive field of animation before joining Pixar. Even though they now work for the world’s leading animation company, they are still concerned with the animation environment in Taiwan, and hope to contribute to the promotion and development of the island’s animation industry.

The rise of Taiwan’s animation industry

The development of Taiwan’s animation industry parallels the overall industrial development on the island, starting from being an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for foreign companies.

Taiwan’s animation industry can be traced back to 1954 with a 10-minute black and white animation piece called Wu Song Fights the Tiger. Yet, due to insufficient capital and a lack of talent, Taiwan only produced a few short animated films at this time. During this period, Japanese TV animation boomed, and it gradually moved some part of its production to Taiwan, where labor was cheaper. This began the animation OEM industry in Taiwan.

In 1978, Wang Film Productions Co. Ltd. – Cuckoos NEST Studios was founded to mainly undertake OEM orders from American animation companies. In the late 1980s, Taiwan became the largest cartoon production exporter in the world. During that time, roughly 70 percent of American TV cartoons were produced by Wang Film.

Taiwan’s OEM experience with Japanese and American animation films would deeply impact the development trend of the island’s animation industry over the next 30 years.

Taiwan’s animation OEM production not only has occupied an important position in the world, they have been constantly upgrading their technology and capabilities. This can be seen from the earlier 2D OEM animation-based Wang Film Productions established in 1978 to the 3D animation-based CGCG Inc. Established in 1988, CGCG is now one of the largest 3D animation studios in the world. CGCG played a very important OEM role in the production of George Lucas’s first Star Wars series of 3D animated movies screened in 2008. . CGCG completed the entire high definition animation video of the film within 10 months, when the usual pace to produce a 3D animated film was at least three years.

Still, animation makers in Taiwan lacked the experience to plan and market at the pre-production period, so they were simply ghost animators instead of brand builders who directed and produced films.

Although there have been some excellent Taiwanese-made animated films that have been successful since 2000, they were all collaborative efforts with the US, Japan or China. These partnerships included the creative planning, capital funding and joint marketing.

Success despite restrictive parents, teachers

Chen Chieh-ying, a professor at Feng Chia University, said the OEM experience of Taiwan’s animation industry has limited Taiwan’s international marketing and distribution experience. He noted that the animation departments in Taiwan’s colleges tend to be more focused on hardware investment and technology training, instead of developing creative thought and cultivating marketing talent.

Much like Lo, Su started his animation career without parental support. While selecting his college in Canada, his father (a banker) wanted him to go to business school. Instead, Su secretly picked Sheridan College, which is famous for its animation department. After a year of family opposition, Su’s parents finally relented.

Since 2005, Hsu has returned to Taiwan to teach and lecture every year, sharing her experience and encouraging other students to hold on to their animation dreams. Now she finds there are more and more animation departments in Taiwan’s colleges and students are really enthusiastic. She said, “I think Taiwanese parents and the industry are more supportive now, and students can pursue their dreams without hesitation and worry.”

Familiar with the animation industry in Taiwan, Hsu noticed an increase in teachers at Taiwan’s animation departments, but not necessarily a translation towards improved quality. She attributes this to teachers who study animation in US schools without gaining much practical experience in the field. Hsu also feels that Taiwanese animation firms pay workers low wages, and expect them to do everything.

Pixar as industry model

One of the things that Tai admires about Pixar is its professionalism and its attention to detail. He acknowledges that the capital and financial resources of most of Taiwan’s animation companies cannot match the fine tuning at Pixar. He stresses that Taiwanese animation firms are intoxicated with 3D, which requires costly high-tech support and highly trained personnel. Taiwan’s animation market just cannot afford to shoot a high-quality 3D animation. In fact, the Taiwanese animation industry should make more 2D or take advantage of the available stop motion techniques. They can shoot low cost TV specials, but struggle with full-length feature films.

Su used India’s strategic planning as an example of another way to grow Taiwan’s animation industry. A few years ago, India started to recruit animators from Hollywood with creative, production and marketing experience. Su believes that the Taiwan government should work with foreign animation companies to set up a good animation school so that they can make full use of Taiwanese talent by outsourcing, while this animation talent can learn and adopt international standards. “These animators who have now had the work experience are brave enough to start their own companies and develop their original ideas.”

Jimmy Chen, who works in the animation industry in Taiwan, agrees with his Taiwanese counterparts at Pixar. He believes that the multimedia departments in Taiwan’s colleges do not divide the animation field into more specific sub-divisions, and do not know what kind of talent the industry needs. Therefore, most of the graduates do not meet the industry’s expectations, resulting in graduates having a difficult time finding a job after graduation and businesses not filling openings.

Better English, government incentives needed

Chen also points out that the English speaking environment in Taiwan is not as good as in India and Singapore. Taiwan’s animation department requires students to maintain an English proficiency threshold at graduation in order to understand English information in the future.

Meanwhile, Chen lauded the creation of the Digital Content Institute by the Industrial Development Bureau of the Economics Ministry, whose goal is to train animators. But he believes that there are still many things the Taiwan government should do to help the animation industry’s development, such as incentive programs for promoting investment in animation, creating a market demand (like in China), or to increase the foreign presence to set up production companies (as in Singapore). A good model to follow is that of the New Zealand Government, which extended assistance to the filming and production of the sequel of Lord of the Rings, successfully building a film industry chain in New Zealand.

New hope for Taiwan’s animation industry

Some of Su and Chen’s dream seems to have already been partially realized in Taiwan.
Following the steps of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., the largest incubation center in Asia, George Lucas now owns a 43 percent stake in CGCG Inc. Also, Rhythm & Hues Studios, a special visual effects company in Hollywood, is expected to set up a visual effects center at Kaohsiung’s Pier 2 in March 2013.

The Liberty Times reported that R & H, one of the world’s top five film visual effects companies, which had a hand in producing The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hulk, X-Men: First Class and other Hollywood movies, will invest NT$6 billion (US$200 million) to set up a Hollywood special visual effects center in Taiwan. The company has reached a joint venture with Chunghua Telecom and Quanta Computer to set up a computational center of visual effects aiming to enter the Hollywood market. R & H will recruit 600 animation employees within three years, and will employ visual effects experts to train Taiwanese animators. The company will also subcontract special effects work to local special effects companies in Taiwan, and take orders from Hollywood movie firms. Kaohsiung’s Pier 2 Art District is starting to make a name for itself as Taiwan’s 3D animation research and development center.

The OEM opportunities for Taiwan’s animation industry have gradually been lost to China, Korea, the Philippines, India and other countries since the 1980s. In the early 1990s, Taiwan’s animation firms started to invest in China’s coastal cities Suzhou, Wuxi and other places where you can easily see the influences of Taiwan’s animation industry. Today Taiwan’s animation industry is standing at a crossroads of OEM or cultivating a brand name. It is a serious issue for the government and businesses alike to rethink how to use international cooperation to make a breakthrough in OEM cultural limitations, and to pursue much-needed transformation and development.

Taiwan visa waiver would add US$1.8 bil. to US economy

If Taiwan is included in the US visa waiver program (VWP) by the end of this year, Taiwanese tourists would save US$100 million in visa fees, and would add an estimated US$1.8 billion to US tourist revenue, according to Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tung Kuo-yu.

Tung noted that the US is careful when screening its VWP countries, allowing only 36 countries visa-free status. On December 22, 2011, the US officially announced Taiwan as a candidate for the VWP. If approved, Taiwan would be the only country without formal diplomatic relations with Washington to be given the privilege, reported Awakening News Networks.

Tung said the US review process is still ongoing and there is no way to know when a decision will be forthcoming. But so far, his ministry has received the impression that Washington holds a very positive view of Taiwan’s efforts on passport security and border management, affirming that Taiwan is a high level country in this regard.

“We are pleased to hear senior US officials have made such a positive statement,” said Tung, adding that the US certainly recognizes the quality of the Taiwanese people. Otherwise it would not easily grant visa-free treatment to Taiwan. “I hope this can be realized by the end of this year,” he said.

According to Commonwealth monthly, since November 2010, when the European Union (EU) allowed Taiwanese passport holders to enter EU member states without a visa for up to 90 days, the number of Taiwanese visitors arriving in Europe has steadily increased. In 2011 alone, the number of Taiwanese visitors to the EU jumped by 39 percent.

Currently, Taiwanese travelers have visa free status or landing visa status in 128 countries around the world.

Bay Area’s largest Taiwanese/Chinese games to open on July 22

On July 22, the opening ceremony of the 28th Taiwanese and Chinese American Athletic Tournament of San Francisco Bay Area (TCAAT) will take place at Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California. As the largest annual sports event in the Bay Area, Taiwanese and Chinese communities and athletes compete in more than 20 games. Some of the team and individual sports include basketball, badminton, golf, shooting, softball, Chinese wrestling, swimming, tennis, volleyball, and ballroom dancing.

Janice Sung, chairperson of this year’s tournament, said that “TCAAT aims at developing the habits of sports and fitness in the communities of Taiwanese and Chinese compatriots, regardless of age. We particularly design the sports activities for all ages and hope more people will participate this year.”

A garden party will be held during the opening day to provide visitors with a variety of Taiwanese snacks and food. For more details about the tournament, please visit

Bay Area Taiwanese community bids farewell to TECO deputy chief

After working in the Bay Area for six and half years, Dean Wang, the deputy director of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco will be departing for his new post in Taiwan in late July. Due to his popularity and the extensive friendships he has cultivated here, Wang is busily attending numerous farewell parties before his return to Taiwan.

On July 14, more than two dozen Taiwanese-American organizations held a joint farewell party in his honor at the Cultural Center of TECO in Sunnyvale, California. In his speech, Wang thanked the attendees and also thanked God for his guidance. Wang expressed mixed feelings about his departure, since the Bay Area is truly blessed with beautiful scenery, human talent, and a large community of Taiwanese compatriots. He has enjoyed his tenure in the Bay Area and believes his time here has been well spent.

Upon reflection, when Wang first arrived, he realized that there would be many Taiwanese compatriots who would be split between the Blue (the ruling Kuomintang) or the Green camp (Democratic Progressive Party). And sure enough, people would ask if he was politically Blue or Green. But his answer remains the same, that he cares about Taiwan’s national interests, not about Blue or Green. He serves both colors, adding, “Taiwanese compatriots in the Bay Area have different ideas, but they have the same love for Taiwan.”

Wang has enthusiastically served the Taiwanese compatriot community in the Bay Area and in his success he has also forged deep friendships on behalf of Taiwan.

Taiwan Mandarin teachers in demand in Utah

The Utah government has been actively promoting Mandarin Chinese education in recent years, with nearly 100 primary and secondary schools offering formal Chinese language courses. In the school year 2011-2012, there are 57 bilingual curriculum projects at primary schools in the state, including 17 Chinese language courses.

In a bilingual curriculum, students spend 50 percent of their class time learning different subjects in English and the remainder in Chinese. According to an official at the state’s Department of Education, the Chinese Dual Immersion program is very popular with parents with many students on the waiting list. Utah is planning to expand the program to 25 primary schools next year, which should serve 3,900 students.

Given the program’s expansion, the demand for Chinese teachers is high. Dr. Larry Shumway, director of the state’s Department of Education, visited Taiwan in 2010 and signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Taiwan’s Ministry of Education for Mandarin Chinese teachers. During the first year of cooperation last year, 11 Mandarin Chinese teachers from Taiwan went to Utah’s primary schools to teach.

Those teachers from Taiwan have worked hard in preparing the curriculum, winning over parents, students and their fellow teachers. They have even garnered some media attention for their efforts. In 2012, the state’s Department of Education recruited 11 new teachers from Taiwan, including some from the previous year. In the coming fall semester, the two sides have selected 17 teachers to teach at primary schools in Utah, which will make Utah the state with the most Mandarin teachers from Taiwan.

Taiwan offshore island passes referendum to open casinos

The residents of Matsu, one of Taiwan’s offshore islands, passed a referendum on July 6 in favor of opening casinos, according to the Liberty Times. Yan Sui-sheng, Matsu’s county magistrate said that “Matsu will promote business investment within one year and set up international resorts in three to four years, before opening its first casino.”

The Legislative Yuan passed Taiwan’s offshore islands development act in 2009 to allow international tourist resorts on offshore islands to open casinos. But the Tourism Bureau has not yet completed the review of international tourist resorts, and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications is still working on the draft of the casino regulation. Although the regulation body for the casinos will be a newly formed Game Control Board, it is yet to be decided if the organization will reside under the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. According to the evaluation by Ministry of Transportation officials, even if the law were passed by the legislation, Matsu has at least another five and a half years to wait before its first casino can be opened, reported the paper.

With a population of 9,000, including 7,762 qualified voters on Matsu, only 40.76 percent went to the polls on this referendum. In the end, 1,795 voted to allow casinos on the island while 1,341 were against the proposal.

Hu You-wei, the spokesman for the Executive Yuan, said the government respects the results of the local referendum, but it should be considered as the starting point of Matsu’s overall tourism development program, and they should not just focus on building casinos. There are a lot of other things to be done, including the matching transport facilities review, environmental assessment, budget development, economic efficiency, and the regulation of mainland Chinese tourists.

The Liberty Times said that, before the referendum, Weidner Resorts had actively hosted investment seminars on Matsu. After the referendum was passed, they held a high-profile celebration. William Weidner, chairman of Weidner Resort Development Incorporated said, “The reason Weidner Resorts proposes to set up resorts in Matsu is because Matsu is about 50 nautical miles to Fujian, the coastal province of China, and would be a huge market for Chinese gamblers.”

The Taipei-based China Times reported that according to Weidner’s estimation, the resorts will attract 4.5 million tourists annually from other countries, creating 3,500 to 5,000 jobs. The total spending power of the resort’s visitors could reach between NT$15.51 billion (US$520 million) to NT$41.46 billion (US$1.38 billion).

The United Daily News reported that there are two opposite reactions to the passing of the casino referendum. The business community is happy, seeing it as an opportunity to improve Matsu’s air transportation, while others are worried that the island’s young people might focus on getting jobs as dealers in the casinos instead of bettering themselves through education. Moreover, that Matsu would become a “greedy island.”

Mr. Chen, 70, said that he was originally opposed to setting up casinos in Matsu, fearing that the society there might be degraded. He has since reconsidered, since Matsu has not been developed well for decades. If the coming of casinos to Matsu could improve the transportation and medical facilities, it would not be a bad thing, he said.

Wang Chian-hua, the principal of the island’s Ren-ai Primary School said the people passed the referendum in order to improve the infrastructure on Matsu, though he is worried about imparting important values to his students, such as not gambling or being greedy.

In 2009, Penghu, another offshore island, also held a casino referendum. The proposal was rejected by nearly 4,000 votes.

Why Taiwan Matters exhibition in Salt Lake City, July 27 – Aug 29

Come explore Taiwan’s way of life and the country’s unique influences around the world through a series of photo-essays at the Salt Lake City and County Building (451 Washington Square, Salt Lake City). Sponsored by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, the free photo exhibition entitled Why Taiwan Matters will be on display from July 27 to August 29, 2012.

Why Taiwan Matters

Come explore Taiwan’s way of life and the country’s unique influences around the world through a series of photo-essays at the Salt Lake City and County Building (451 Washington Square, Salt Lake City). Sponsored by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, the free photo exhibition entitled Why Taiwan Matters will be on display from July 27 to August 29, 2012.

The 34 photos explore Taiwan’s vitality and creativity with snapshots of life on the island. Why Taiwan Matters introduces Taiwan’s success stories and its unique journey as a trendsetter, from its ubiquitous convenience stores to its medical health sector, and from preserving traditional Chinese culture to developing a greener lifestyle. The exhibition shares Taiwan’s experience of “honing the people’s skills, which turns out to be the most valuable … resource in the world today.” (Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, March 10, 2012).

Here are some samples from the exhibition below. Please click on the pictures to enlarge.




Taiwanese pursue happiness through altruistic actions

For its 500th issue, Commonwealth monthly chose to focus on something that concerns us all and also forms a key part of the United States Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of happiness. In exploring the many different paths to achieve the goal of happiness, the magazine shone a spotlight on the countless anonymous and unsung heroes who are pursuing their own unique path toward happiness and fulfillment. Taiwan Insights has selected three of these stories to share with its readers.

Happiness in helping women in need

The noise level in the classroom is high as four groups of people are being tested in the folding and ironing of clothes, domestic cleaning and cooking skills. Those who pass these tests become qualified as a housekeeper for the Peng Wan-ru Foundation, an organization established in 1997 to support women wishing to enter the labor force.

“My hands were shaking while doing the tests,” said Chou Sin-chen, 51, remembering the look of a picky supervisor. “I was scolded and felt unhappy, but corrected my actions,” she said. After Chou’s husband died, she had to raise three children as a single parent. Passing the exam was crucial in her bid to find a job.

Chou has now been working for the foundation for almost two years. Her job is to provide a household service to 10 families. Now she has stable employment Chou no longer needs to worry about the uncertainty of temporary jobs or not being able to put food on the table for her children. “It is important to live a stable life,” she said with a smile.

Since 2000, the Peng Wan-ru Foundation has helped women to find employment by providing an in-home service. The foundation focuses on three types of service: home service, in-home companions and postnatal care, and has trained about 6,000 female quality service providers, and generates up to NT$1 billion (US$33.34 million) annually. In Taiwan, the organization has made a name for itself as a trusted brand providing quality home service care.

In order to make the programs sustainable and effective, the foundation adopted a method of “mutual donation.” The service recipients pay the providers a monthly wage, plus they donate another 4 to 10 percent of the wages to the foundation’s “mutual fund,” while the providers also contribute about NT$4,000 (US$133) a year to the mutual fund.

The purpose of the mutual fund is to pay an average of NT$13,000 (US$433) a year to each teacher or supervisor for training costs, and for the expense of recruiting, job matching and other providing logistical services.

Although, the foundation is frequently asked to provide full-time and monthly services, it declines, saying that well-to-do clients should not monopolize the service resources. Except for postnatal care and in-home companions to senior citizens, the foundation offers a maximum of four hours per day of home services to each family, so that more families can be served.

According to a senior supervisor at the foundation, “Most students are single parents. They are in urgent need of help and guidance so that these helpless sisters can find decent jobs.” The foundation does not just offer women students vocational training, but also helps them to develop more strength and independence.

Establishing non-mainstream media

In an non-descript building in a sleepy backwater in central Taiwan, you can hear the constant clicking of a 30-some year old man typing on a computer keyboard. He is connected to the largest blog in the world and the largest popular science social network in Taiwan. The man is Cheng Kuo-wei, a father of a 2-year-old daughter. He is also a senior volunteer at the Chinese edition of Global Voices Online.

Global Voices Online is an international network of citizen writers. Its co-founder and host is Rebecca MacKinnon, at one time CNN’s Beijing bureau chief. After leaving main stream media, MacKinnon worked with Harvard University to create a network platform, where bloggers from all over the world can contribute reports of local events, and write about issues that main stream media are less inclined to report on.

In 2006, Cheng applied to join Global Voices Online as a volunteer. At that time, he wrote in English about the news in Taiwan. Later he took the initiative to translate important articles about other countries into Chinese so that Taiwanese bloggers could also read them.

In 2010, Cheng founded an online news service to promote popular science. Although there were plenty of reporters dealing with technology, computers and consumer electronics, there were few popular science reporters.

He spent several months researching and looking for quality science bloggers in Taiwan, before issuing individual invitations to each one to write for his new site, PanSci.

Cheng said, “The purpose of launching PanSci was to remind our readers to question, and to think about issues surrounding us in a more scientific way, rather than to completely believe what is reported.” This is the characteristic of online media. Blog media operators must trust internet citizens to let them spread the power through discussion. PanSci is now the most popular online science media in Taiwan with more than 3000 like-minded science fans on Facebook. What pleases Cheng most is the number of digital citizens who have expressed their appreciation and encouragement since the site was launched.

Still, the activity that gives Cheng most joy these days is taking his 2-year old daughter to the park, playing with her, running around on the grass and letting her ride on his shoulders. “What I am doing now is to nurture a more diversified news media for a better Taiwan for when my daughter is older,” said Cheng.

Satisfaction in helping others build a home

Although most Taiwanese people are not familiar with architect Hsieh Ying-chun, his work in architecture has already been recognized internationally. For his work on disaster rebuilding projects in Taiwan and China, Hsieh was awarded the American Curry Stone Design Prize in 2011. He is the first Asian to win the prize.

When a devastating earthquake hit China’s Sichuan province in 2008, the local authorities asked Hsieh to help relocate the villagers and to build new houses for them. Recently, while traveling along the Min River, a tributary of the upper Yangtze River, Hsieh saw the newly built houses looking as if they had been there for a century.

The new houses at Yangliu village are built to withstand future earthquakes, yet they are environmental friendly and comfortable. Built with a skeleton of light steel, Hsieh erected the beams one by one, just like building a traditional Chinese wooden house or temple. He used local stone, wooden planks and mixed cement with welded wire fabric, so as to create a blend of local techniques and styles. The buildings themselves have attracted a lot of outside visitors and have increased business to the local bed and breakfast establishments in Yangliu Village.

As a graduate from the architecture department at Tamkang University, Hsieh worked as an architect and contractor before becoming known for his post-disaster reconstruction projects. For a while, Hsieh built high–tech buildings and facilities in Hsinchu, making a very comfortable living for himself. However, in September 1999, Hsieh’s life was changed dramatically by the devastating earthquake that hit Taiwan. In its aftermath, he was invited to start reconstruction efforts on behalf of the Thao Tribe community at Sun Moon Lake, Nantou County. His work there gained him international recognition.

There is only one simple criterion needed for Hsieh to take a project and that is he must be asked to do it. His architectural footprint has already become a reality in Taitung, Pintung (counties in Taiwan), Hebei province, Tibet or Sichuan province (in China), and even as far as to Aceh, a special region in Indonesia, at the northern tip of Sumatra.

Hsieh wants to return the freedom of building a house to the owners, stripping away the distorted joints of modern architecture and developing a system to let owners take a more decisive role. Actually what Hsieh builds is not a house, but a platform on which anyone can build his or her own home according to personal tastes and instincts, and without the influence of commercial and construction professionals. Hsieh breaks down the rule of the game established by the capitalist system, just as one might decode a Windows operating system to let everyone to download freely.

Three characteristics of the houses Hsieh has designed are relatively simple, but make the most of local characteristics and owner involvement.

In 2009 when Typhoon Morakot severely flooded Taiwan, Hsieh was commissioned by World Vision and the Red Cross to build homes and a new community for the aboriginal tribes. By the end of 2010, he successfully helped to construct houses for 700 families, but costing only 60 percent of the usual market costs.

So what is happiness for Hsieh? The answer is simple, “Helping others build their homes with their own hands,” he said.

De facto US ambassador to remain in Taiwan after retirement

On July 3, during an Independence Day party in Taipei, William Stanton, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan’s (AIT) announced his upcoming retirement at the end of July. He continued his announcement by saying, “ I have enjoyed living in Taiwan so much that I have decided to stay on here to teach at the Taipei American School.”

With a PhD in English literature, Stanton will teach US-Taiwan-China relations, comparative government and politics in literature, including George Orwell and Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Although he confessed to making limited progress with his Mandarin, when he gave the toast, he said “Bottoms up” in the Taiwanese dialect, endearing him to his audience. The United Daily News reported that Stanton, though not the first foreign diplomat to stay in Taiwan after leaving his post, is the first director of the AIT Taipei office to do so. In his speech, he said, “It seems like yesterday that I arrived in Taiwan as the AIT Director. Where did the 3 years go?”

Unlike his processors, Director Stanton has already turned down a few jobs in Washington, DC, saying, “I do not want to join the think tanks or lobby groups.” He has maintained a low profile in Taiwan as he connected with the different sectors of Taiwan’s society. His style has been likened to that of Darryl N. Johnson, who served as AIT director from 1996-99.

Addressing the AIT reception, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang said that Taiwan has maintained very close economic and trade ties with the US. Taiwan is the 10th largest trading partner with the US, the 15th largest export market and sixth largest agricultural product export market. It is also the world’s fourth largest holder of US government bonds. The two sides also have close non-governmental exchanges.

Nearly 25,000 Taiwanese students study in the US, making Taiwan the fifth largest source of foreign students there. Taiwanese travelers enjoy visa waiver status or landing visa status in 128 countries, and the country has been nominated as a candidate for the American Visa Waiver Program. Taiwan hopes to join the VWP soon to further strengthen bilateral civilian exchanges.

Minister Yang stressed that Director Stanton had spared no effort to promote Taiwan-US relations over the past three years and his decision to stay in Taiwan after retirement shows his deep love for Taiwan.

The United Daily News reported that President Ma Ying-jeou conferred upon Director Stanton the Grand Cordon of the Order of Brilliant Star on July 17 in recognition of his contributions to enhancing Taiwan-US relations. Stanton is the second dignitary to get such an honor since President Ma took office in 2008. The president also presented him a Taipei Metro Rail Transit Easy Card printed with Stanton’s photo with a credit of NT$999 (US$33.00) as a symbol of the permanent relationship between the US and Taiwan. In Chinese, nine is a homonym for forever.