Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why Taiwan Matters exhibition, County of Santa Clara Gov’t Ctr., Oct 6-19

In honor of the 101 National Day for the Republic of China on Taiwan, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, the County of Santa Clara and the Santa Clara County-Hsinchu County Sister County Commission will co-host the Why Taiwan Matters photo exhibition in the lobby of the Santa Clara County Government Center (70 West Hedding Street, San Jose).

The series of photo essays will be on display from October 6 – 19, with an opening reception planned for Saturday, October 6 at 9:30 am. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 8am to 5pm every weekday.

National Day Flag Raising in Santa Clara on Oct 6

Dozens of Taiwanese expatriate associations in the Bay Area plan to hold a flag raising ceremony to celebrate the 101th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China (Taiwan) on Saturday, October 6. The gathering will be held in front of the County of Santa Clara Government Center (70 West Hedding Street, San Jose) at 10 am.

The flag raising ceremony will be one of the first public appearances for Taipei Economic and Cultural Office’s new Director-General Fuh Gen-Gang. Invited honored guests include Supervisor Dave Cortese from the County of Santa Clara, leaders of the Taiwanese-American communities, overseas Chinese associations, and local communities.

Taiwan Film Days 2012, Oct 12-14

Seven feature films will be a part of this year’s line-up for Taiwan Film Days in San Francisco. The weekend-long event will open with Din Tao: Leader of the Parade on Friday evening, October 12 at 6:30pm. The opening reception will begin at 8:30pm in the Superfrog Gallery located on the third floor of the New People Building (1746 Post Street) in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown.

Immediately after the first screening of Din Tao, director Fung Kai will take questions from the audience. Alongside the director will be a Nezha the Third Prince full-body puppet. Added to the festivities, troupe members will be on hand to perform and to explain the costume and the customs related to this deity.

Din Tao: Leader of the Parade will show again at 9:30pm in the New People Cinema. The film has a wonderful Taiwanese flavor, with a mix of Taiwanese-Mandarin dialogue that is very much a part of Taiwan today. The story focuses on Ah-Tai, a mediocre guitarist who returns to Taichung, where his father runs a Nezha troupe. While at home, tensions run high as his father and Ah-Tai continue to butt heads. A gradual thawing takes place as the son begins to lead the troupe in his father’s stead.

Along with Taiwan’s newest blockbusters, audiences can also enjoy A Brighter Summer Day, made in 1991. Set in the 1960s, director Edward Yang meticulously reconstructs the feel of Taiwanese society during the tumultuous time of White Terror and rampant youth gangs. The story is based on Taiwan’s first juvenile homicide where a 14 year-old boy kills his girlfriend. Yang, who passed away more than five years ago, is still considered a figurehead in New Taiwanese Media. The film is 4 hours long and will screen on Sunday, October 14 at 2pm.

Jump! Ashin, the runaway hit from 2011 will be the first film in Friday’s line-up. Ashin falls in love with gymnastics at an early age, but when his mother yanks him from his high school team, he loses his rudder in life. Soon he gets involved with the wrong crowd and his life begins to spiral out of control. The movie will show on Friday afternoon at 3pm and again on Saturday evening at 6:30pm. The film is based on director Lin Yu-Hsien’s older brother

Saturday’s line-up begins with Joyful Reunion, a layering of love stories – one about a couple’s long-distance relationship between China and Taiwan, and another, an old love separated by war, but one that has been preserved through the decades. Visually stunning, the film is a celebration of food and eating, and how the remembrance of certain scents and tastes are forever inscribed in us. The film screens on Saturday, October 13 at 1:30pm and is the last festival film on Sunday, October 14 at 9pm.

Days We Stared at the Sun follows the friendship between two unlikely high school classmates, one a mellow honor student and the other, a volatile delinquent. Although their intentions are admirable, there always appears to be a foreboding shadow of violence and tragedy. The film will screen on Saturday, October 13 at 4pm.

Ye Zai (Chinese for coconut), is the nickname of a bounty hunter who makes his money by hunting illegal aliens. When his father’s foreign caregiver goes missing, he hurries to track her down before his family reports her to the authorities. In the process, Ye Zai’s callousness wears off as he begins to understand the woman’s driving motivation. The two showings are on Saturday, October 13 at 9:30pm and Sunday, October 14 at noon.

Another Sunday film is Blowfish. When Kizo-Zhun catches her boyfriend cheating on her, she auctions their pet blowfish online. She then brings the blowfish to the buyer in the countryside, and remains there. The most erotic movie in the line-up, the characters’ pain is conveyed in the desperate silence that is a part of their solitary lives. Blowfish screens on Sunday night, October 14 at 7pm.

To purchase tickets for the films, please click here.

Jump! Ashin
Friday, October 12 at 3pm
Saturday, October 13 at 6:30pm

Din Tao: Leader of the Parade
Friday, October 12 at 6:30 and 9:30pm

Opening Night Party
Friday, October 12 at 8:30pm

Joyful Reunion
Saturday, October 13 at 1:30pm
Sunday, October 14 at 9:00pm 

Days We Stared at the Sun
Saturday, October 13, 4:00pm

Ye Zai
Saturday, October 13, 9:30pm
Sunday, October 14, 12:00pm

A Brighter Summer Day
Sunday, October 14 at 2:00pm

Sunday, October 14 at 7:00pm

Third Prince God, from temple fairs to international stage

Just as sports teams have mascots, so do countries. In Japan, Momotaro, a popular figure derived from folklore represents the national spirit, while Uncle Sam is often associated with the United States. In Taiwan, Nezha the Third Prince (san tai tse) has become a wholly Taiwanese icon. Over the past several years, Nezha’s popularity has steadily increased as a younger generation has brought this traditional temple god out onto the international stage, attracting a large fan base by adding lively music and dance routines.

During the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung, some 20 costumed Nezha the Third Prince mascots roared into the stadium on motorcycles and proceeded to dazzle the tens of thousands of foreign visitors during the opening ceremony. As a result, Nezha the Third Prince troupes were subsequently invited to perform at international events like the 2009 Deaflympics Taipei, Shanghai World Expo, and Taipei International Flower Expo.

Nezha’s popularity reached the American mainstream in January 2010, when Taiwan’s national airline, China Airlines, created a Nezha themed float for the Pasadena Rose Parade. They faced stiff competition from China and Mexico, but came away with first prize. Then in August that same year, the Los Angeles Dodgers invited six Nezha the Third Prince troupe members to perform to a Lady Gaga song to cheer on Taiwan-born MLB pitcher Kuo Hong-chi. And elsewhere around the globe that same month, each of the 11 members of Taiwan’s marathon team took turns wearing the heavy costumes of Nezha the Third Prince as they ran the super marathon through the Sahara Desert. They did so in order to publicize Taiwan during the week-long event.

Furthermore, this July, while receiving an audience of Taiwanese cultural performers in a cross-strait exchange program, Chinese President Hu Jintao joined in with the Nezha dancers during their performance.

Originated from India, modified in China

The Third Prince, one of the protection deities in Indian Buddhist scriptures, was originally named Nalakuvara in Sanskrit. Its Chinese name was later abbreviated to Nezha. After being incorporated into the classic novels of Journey to the West and The Creation of Gods in the Ming Dynasty, Nezha became the third son of the North King (one of the four kings of Heaven), and became known as the third prince.

Embodying the figure of a child, Nezha is considered intelligent, clever and playful. He has a strong rebellious streak, leading him to frequent fights with his austere father. As the story goes, one day Nezha fought and killed the son of the Dragon King of the East China Sea. Jade Emperor of the Heaven scolded the North King. Nezha, fearing that his parents would suffer for his actions, committed suicide to prevent his parents from being punished. Praising him for his filial piety, the Chinese people worship Nezha as a marshal or grand prince of heaven.

As such, the Third Prince god has the face of a naughty boy and . The puppet shell consists of an enlarged head and its body is about twice the size of an adult. Usually dressed in traditional Chinese theatrical costume, many of them have colorful flags on their backs, jutting out like wings. Each full-body puppet weighs about 30 pounds. When performing, individuals must wear the bulky costumes as they dance, keeping up with the music, yet still incorporating a certain rigid walk associated with Nezha.

Temple culture in Taiwan

In Taiwan, there are over 300 temples that worship Nezha. With his boy-like appearance, he is considered a god especially good for protecting children. Also given that he has Wind Fire Wheels, a special vehicle that allows him to move fast and fly, he is also sought after by professional drivers (truck, taxi, bus) for protection. They carry a small figure of Nezha in their vehicles to ensure that the roads they travel on are safe and smooth.

There are always troupe performances in front of temples at every traditional Chinese holiday and birthday celebrations for the gods. Performances include singing, dancing and martial arts shows. Mythical tales and folklores are also retold during these celebrations. Each temple stages various performances to attract more worshipers in a competition with other temples.

Directly after World War II, troupes were formed by amateur organizations, consisting of the local residents in the villages. With industrialization in late 1970s, troupe membership declined to be replaced by professional performers. Temples used to attract young dropouts and unemployed juveniles to its troupes, helping them to turn their lives around in the process.

These youthful troupes were lively and informal, departing from the temples’ old-fashioned and conservative style. As reflecting their time, these young people frequented discotheques and nightclubs, so they used elements from this world to update Nezha’s image. Until recently, these troupes had thread-like connections to the criminal world.

Nezha underwent another rebirth with the new millennium, as more young people incorporated features that they loved to this temple deity. The updated Nezha often wore sunglasses and clothing decked out in LED lights and cables. Techno music also made the atmosphere more like a rave, then a temple fair. However, it would be difficult to find the origin of the “Techno Prince” (tien yin san tai tse), since both Puzi city in Chiayi County and Beigang city in Yunlin County, southern Taiwan, lay claim to it.

Rebirth into a carnival performance

Chang Chi-yuan, chairman of the Puzi Prince Festival, said that at one temple fair in 2000, some young members of Nezha the Third Prince performers abandoned traditional gongs and drums in favor of electronic music and innovative modern dances. They were well received, so electronic music was incorporated into the performance of the Third Prince troupes at temple fairs. Chang said that since 2005, troupes have started performing outside temple fairs, branching out into year-end corporate banquets, wedding celebrations and even political campaigns.

Yu Chung-pin, president of Beigang’s Prince Fraternity Association, claims that his group was the first to bring the traditional troupe of the Third Prince into the pop culture of Taiwan. He held a press conference to announce the adoption and naming of the Techno Prince. He also created television commercials, public charity videos, and appeared on television variety shows, to promote the Third Prince boom in Taiwan.

As the opening night film at this year’s Taiwan Film Days (October 12-14,, Din Tao (meaning troupe) revolves around a Nezha troupe and is called Din Tao. It focuses on the tense relationship between the president of a Third Prince troupe and his son, and serves as an analogy for the relationship between the mythical North King and his son the Third Prince.

When the troupes first began to perform to pop music at temple festivals, they were criticized by the older generations who found their performances “heinous.” However, attitudes have changed given the popularity of Nezha troupes. Yu said, “Changing the traditional performance into a carnival show can bring the performers closer to the audience to win more applause.” He estimates that there have been over a hundred Nezha the Third Prince troupes of various sizes in Taiwan, with about 20 being more well-known. Nowadays, troupe performances are considered normal activities, and are no longer connected with gangsters.

Lin Mao-hsien, professor of Taichung University of Education, said “The Third Prince troupe performing is a good example of spreading the traditional folklore by innovation.” But he also acknowledges that it is easier to change the image and style with Nezha with new clothes, music, dance and eyewear since the Third Prince is a teenage god. But it would be much more difficult to update the image of more serious and mighty adult gods.

Nezha helps increase Taiwan’s international visibility

Wu Chien-heng, a 24-year-old student from National Taipei University, has probably visited more countries than most Taiwanese diplomats. In February 2011, he traveled with a Third Prince costume decked out with a national flag in LED lights. In India, he performed shows in six cities, winning a considerable following from local residents and international tourists. Under the sponsorship of the Heavenly Temple at Beigang, Wu and his Third Prince puppet visited Egypt and Kenya to perform. In early 2012, they went to Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, in addition to participating in the Brazilian Carnival. After the trip to South America, he flew to New York on February 22 to perform at Madison Square Garden for Taiwanese-American NBA player Jeremy Lin.

During the London Olympic Games in July this year, Wu and his Third Prince puppet joined a parade of 300 overseas Taiwanese carrying Taiwan’s national flags through the streets of London. They performed street dances on the city’s famous Regent Street, where the national flags of the 206 participating countries were displayed, including the flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan). However, this flag was suddenly and unexpectedly removed and replaced by the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag, because Taiwan is not formally recognized by the United Nations (UN). Since the Republic of China on Taiwan lost its seat at the UN to China in 1971, Beijing has blocked the use of Taiwan’s official flag. During the Olympic Games and other international sporting events, Taiwanese athletes are required to compete under the name Chinese Taipei and fly the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag, which few Taiwanese recognize. Wu made an effort to return Taiwan’s official national flag to Regent Street.

As for his motivation in traveling overseas with an entourage of Third Prince puppets, Wu said, “Many people have no idea what Taiwan is. They consider us as Japanese or Koreans. Some even mistake Taiwan as Thailand.” He added “I did an internship at Disney when I was 19. The American manager asked a Chinese intern which group he wanted to join. The Chinese intern said he would join the Taiwanese because it is easy to communicate in the Chinese language. The manager said, ‘You’re kidding. The people of Taiwan should speak Thai.’”

Wu plans to travel to 60 countries with the Third Prince troupe by the end of 2013. He said he plays electronic music under the Third Prince body puppet in order to let more people know and understand Taiwan. He also encourages young people to choose their own way to show their love of Taiwan. He believes that he performs for himself, but is also a part of a story for others to share. He said those local residents and international tourists in each country would never have dreamt of meeting the Third Prince god from Taiwan during their life journey.

For more details of Wu’s travels around the world with the Third Prince troupe, please visit the following link: .

Like many in Taiwan, Wu feels frustrated with the island’s diplomatic isolation; however, his creative thinking has helped the national flag to be seen on the international arena once again. Nezha the Third Prince, a mythical teenage hero, represents a symbol of youth, bravery, agility and freedom from conventional bondage, a perfect mascot for grassroots diplomacy engaged by Wu.

Survey: most Taiwanese think cross-strait war unlikely

According to a recent poll published in the United Daily News on September 23, the bulk of Taiwanese people  think that the possibility of war with China is low and want to “maintain the status quo” in relations with the mainland.

With regard to Taiwan’s future, the survey found that 18 percent of respondents would like immediate independence while 13 percent preferred to maintain the status quo and then would defer independence until later. Five percent advocate for immediate reunification with the mainland while 10 percent desire gradual unification. While 4 percent were undecided, 48 percent wanted to continue with the status quo.

The the majority of Taiwanese still believe that Beijing will be a top world power, the percentage has dropped slightly in each of the last three years (69 percent in 2010, 66 percentage in 2011 and 65 percent this year). Meanwhile those who do not expect China to become a world leader have increased from 22 percent in 2011 to 26 percent this year. Despite China’s rapid expansion, only 33 percent are worried that China’s powers might pose a threat to Taiwan, while 62 percent disagreed. These numbers have not changed from last year’s.

For the first time, the United Daily News poll found that Taiwanese tended to view cross-strait economic and trade relations in a competitive light, with 38 percent considering Taiwan and China as direct competitors. Twenty percent believed that the two sides are both competitive and complimentary as well, while 25 percent believed that cross-strait economic relations are more complimentary than competitive.

Although the two sides might be economic competitors, overall the relationship appears relatively stable. Therefore, Taiwanese people generally believe that the possibility of a cross-strait war is low. In a scale of 1 to 10 – the lower number meaning war between Taiwan and China is unlikely while 10 meaning it is highly possible – the average score has reduced steadily in the last three years (3.2 percent in 2010, 3.1 in 2011 and 2.9 this year).

In considering the possible factors leading to escalating tension in cross-strait relations, the Taiwanese people still believe that declaring independence is the biggest issue (22 percent), followed by Taiwan’s growing economic reliance on China leading to qualitative change (10 percent), and the diplomatic deadlock between the two sides (7 percent).

The United Daily News has conducted this annual survey of cross-strait relations since 2010 and has conducted yearly follow-up every year since. This year’s survey was collected from 1,054 respondents in Taiwan from September 11 to 13.

Taiwan’s “Iron Ladies” make great strides

Since the 1980s, the Taiwan government, with the aid of a strong women’s movement, has taken ample measures to ensure that women are well represented in politics. In the area of gender equality and participation by women in politics, it is not only keeping pace with the international community, but has even been “setting the standard for achievement in Asia,” according to Taiwan Panorama. In 2003, the percentage of seats in parliament held by women stood at 21.5 percent, but by 2009, it had already reached 31 percent. This far surpassed any other Asian country, and even overtook long-established democracies like the United Kingdom (20%) and the United States (17%).

Among those profiled as Iron Ladies was Ma Wen-chun, a Kuomintang (KMT) legislator from Nantou County. Ma was not drawn to a political life at all, but things changed when her father – then the mayor of Puli Township – passed away the month before the elections. “His supporters were very insistent, so my only option was to grit my teeth and jump into the race,” Ma recalled. Since then, she has dedicated her life to public office, working to serve her constituents, first as mayor of Puli, then in the Legislative Yuan in 2009. This year, she was re-elected to the Legislature.

“The greatest lesson I learned from my father was to not fear those in authority, but to persist and do the right thing,” says Ma. “But I am at my best when I can bring into play the feminine traits of softness and accommodation, rather than always butting heads and refusing to compromise,” she told Taiwan Panorama.

Hsiao Bi-khim, an incumbent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator, also entered politics relatively young. With her multi-ethnic background, she was mostly educated overseas, and holds an MA in political science from Columbia University. At the age of 26, she was named director of the DPP’s Department of International Affairs and focused her attention on international affairs and cross-strait relations. She lists her inspirations as Xie Xuehong (who resisted the occupation of Taiwan by the Japanese and opposed the KMT), Annette Lu (the former DPP vice-president), and Chen Chu (the current mayor of Kaohsiung).

The success of women in politics is partly attributed to Taiwan’s strong women’s movement, but is also due to the measures adopted by Taiwan’s government. According to Fan Yun, a professor at National Taiwan University, the women’s movement spent a lot of energy breaking down the infrastructures underlying gender inequality. Part of it included keeping a close eye on the political parties to ensure they kept their promises to bring more women into government.

In Taiwan, the constitution has set a 10 percent quota for women in all elected bodies, with women’s groups on the island pushing to up the quota. While the constitution has not been amended, the 1999 Local Government Act did set a quota that 25 percent of elective local seats must be held by women. Currently, 33 percent of elected local government officials are women, and 33.6 percent of legislators in the Legislative Yuan are women.

Although women have made great strides in Taiwan, gender bias still exists. Given the paternalistic traditions of politics, they continue to fight the ideal that an unmarried woman is somehow “less than” or that “anyone in a skirt will never make a good commander-in-chief.” As Yang Tsui, a professor at Dong Hwa University noted, there is a double standard in society towards gender and power. Ambition and aggression in men are seen as attractive traits, while in women, such characteristics are seen as “showing the ugly side of her character.”

The double standard is well understood by Lo Shu-lei, a KMT legislator who has been cited as the most outstanding legislator by Citizen Congress Watch five times for her efforts to expose corruption and other financial inconsistencies. Her outspokenness has also isolated her somewhat from her follow party members. “A lot of people think that legislators from the same party as the president should just be a rubber stamp for the executive branch, but this is unacceptable. I came into the Legislature determined to protect the general good. I have no interest in fame or fortune, and seek only to keep a clean conscience,” she said.

Although it has been universally acknowledged that men and women are different, it does not mean that these differences are a handicap. Whereas women might focus more attention on interpersonal relationships, responsibilities and concern for others, as opposed to men who might invest more in competition, they both have a part to play in drafting public policies with gender consciousness. Ellen Huang, a political and social commentator believes, “If women are able to alter traditional political culture, it will be because they promoted a more reasonable and transparent distribution of resources and power” she said.

Taiwan resumes trade talks with US after lifting ban on US beef imports

On September 10, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) jointly issued a press release announcing that preparations were underway to hold the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks with the United States. In part, conversations to restart the talks took place between Taiwan’s former Vice President Lien Chan and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as they attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting earlier this month.

This is the first specific response from Washington on resuming the TIFA talks following the recent law passed in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan to lift the ban on US beef imports. The United Daily News reported that since the beginning of the year, the Ma administration, under strong boycotts from the opposition parties in the Legislative Yuan, has taken a very firm position to open US beef imports to maintain the status of Taiwan as a free and open market. The efforts and insistence by Ma’s administration are affirmed with this goodwill response on the US side.

It has been five years since both sides ceased TIFA bilateral contact in 2007. Taiwan’s largest trade partner is now China, followed by Japan. Taiwan has signed 18 free trade type agreements under the umbrella of ECFA with China, and an investment protection agreement with Japan. Taiwan’s trade with the US has suffered but the situation has worsened given that this bilateral issue cannot be fully addressed with the absence of a TIFA. Having an agreement in place would be beneficial and a win-win situation for both sides in promoting bilateral trade, stressed the United Daily News.

Friendship gate cements Nantou-West Valley ties, Sept. 29

The formal unveiling of the Chinese Heritage Friendship Gate will take place on September 29 in front of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City. The ceremony will further cement the city sister relations between West Valley City, Utah and Nantou City in central Taiwan established twelve years ago. The celebration will also include exhibitions of Taiwanese handicrafts, photos and other folklore activities.

The commissioned gateway took more than a year to build and includes words of goodwill from President Ma Ying-jeou on both sides of the center beam. Inscribed in Chinese calligraphy, one side reads “universal brotherhood” and the other, “world peace forever.”

Nantou County Magistrate Lee Chao-ching will lead a delegation to participate in the opening ceremony.

National Day flag raising ceremony

Dozens of Taiwanese expatriate associations in the Bay Area plan to hold a flag raising ceremony to celebrate the 101th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China (Taiwan) on Saturday, October 6. The gathering will be held in front of the County of Santa Clara Government Center (70 West Hedding Street, San Jose) at 10 am.

The flag raising ceremony will be one of the first public appearances for Taipei Economic and Cultural Office’s new Director-General Fuh Gen-Gang. Invited honored guests include Supervisor Dave Cortese from the County of Santa Clara, leaders of the Taiwanese-American communities, overseas Chinese associations, and local communities.

To mark the occasion, TECO, the County of Santa Clara and the Santa Clara County-Hsinchu County Sister County Commission will co-host the Why Taiwan Matters photo exhibition in the lobby of the Santa Clara County Government Center. The exhibition will be on display from October 6 – 19, with an opening reception planned for Saturday, October 6 at 9:30 am.

President Ma vows to protect sovereignty of disputed islands

On September 7, President Ma Ying-jeou toured the Pengjia Islet, 33 nautical miles from the northern tip of Taiwan to reaffirm Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Tiaoyutai Islands. He again urged China and Japan to relax their confrontational stance so that the three countries can work cooperatively to develop the resources in the East China Sea.

Pengjia Islet is not far from the Tiaoyutai Islands (also known as, Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China). A dispute between Taiwan, Japan and mainland China over the Tiaoyutai island chain is escalating, with increasingly nationalistic feelings being voiced within these countries. Anti-Japanese demonstrations have taken place in 60 Chinese cities. On September 15, a few thousand people crammed into Portsmouth Square in San Francisco’s Chinatown, to decry Japan’s claim to the Tiaoyutai islands.

The issue came to the surface again in April, when Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said he had begun negotiations to buy the Tiaoyutai islands from a Japanese family that has owned them for decades. This year happens to be the 40th anniversary marking the US transfer of “administrative power” of these islands to Japan after WWII.

President Ma said the areas around Pengjia Islet and the Tiaoyutai islands are rich in fish such as mackerel and bonito, and have been the fishing ground for Taiwanese fisherman for over a century. Because of the relationship between the monsoon and ocean currents, it is more convenient for Taiwanese fishermen to fish there compared with Japanese vessels that have to sail against the wind and the currents.

When Japan decided to assume control of the Tiaoyutai islands after the Sino-Japanese war in 1895, it was considered an act of aggression and in violation of international law. Before that, the island chain had been administered by the Qing government, under the jurisdiction of Taiwan Province, and not considered an “uninhabited land without owners” as classified by the Japanese government. The outside world was not aware of Japan’s actions, making them invalid under international law.

Speaking of his visit to Pengjia, President Ma said, “the purpose of my presence here today is not just to declare my country’s sovereignty over Tiaoyutai, but more importantly, to seek a pragmatic way to resolve this dispute with the ‘East China Sea Peace Initiative’ as I proposed on August 5, to shelve the sovereignty dispute and to co-develop the resources in a peaceful and mutually beneficial way.”

President Ma’s “East China Sea peace initiative” aims to promote cooperation between Taiwan, China and Japan in fisheries, mining, marine scientific research, marine environmental protection, maritime security and non-traditional security issues. President Ma pointed out that it is a pity that the rich resources of the East China Sea have been untapped for 40 years due to the inability of all three countries to cooperate. It is really wasteful given the high price of oil and food shortages experienced today, he said. President Ma cited the relationship between the neighboring counties in the North Sea which have put aside their sovereignty disputes to jointly develop oil and gas exploration, making Brent Crude oil an internationally recognized brand.

With a growing number of sovereignty disputes in the Western Pacific region, Taiwan’s strategic position is quietly becoming more important, said Lee In-ming, vice president of the Taipei-based China University of Science and Technology, writing in the Want Daily. At the first glance, Taiwan has little room to maneuver between two strong powers, but the island can indeed play a significant role given the relatively few players capable of tipping the balance, he said.

If Taiwan tilts to offer support in one direction rather than the other, this can make the reality of sovereignty and politics unbalanced. President Ma’s proposal of an East China Sea peace initiative means Taiwan is willing to play a role of maintaining a balance in the sovereignty politics to ensure regional stability, and this is why Japan and the US are responding positively to President Ma’s “East China Sea Peace Initiative,” according to Lee.