Monthly Archives: November 2012

Taipei at Night

Taipei’s sophistication shines brightly during the night, with unlimited things to enjoy for its energetic residents.

Beautifully outlined with lights during the night, the Presidential Palace and the Palace Museum reveal the elegance of its grand old architecture, while Taipei 101, the 1480 feet-high skyscraper, is lit up like a Christmas tree, serving as benchmark of the modern city. As people enjoy their evening strolls, the building’s height serves as a landmark, beautifully framed by the night sky.

In the small traditional alleys hidden between the tall buildings, residents relax and prepare for another day.

Photographer Chen Chong-heng calls himself an “amateur photography hobbyist”. His works in Taipei and is particularly interested in capturing the architectural styles around him. To see more of his work, please visit his photo album at:

Mainland Chinese have positive impression of Taiwan: survey

Four years after the cross-strait direct flights were established, a survey has revealed that mainland Chinese people have a positive impression of Taiwan society and feel that Taiwan’s government is friendly toward them. However, most Taiwanese respondents believe that the Beijing government holds an unfriendly attitude toward the island.

The survey, a collaboration between Beijing-based Horizon and Taiwan’s Global Views monthly, was commissioned to coincide with the fourth anniversary (December 15) on which direct flights were established.

Since December 2008, Taiwan and China have signed 18 agreements including the FTA-like Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), dramatically increasing exchanges between the two countries. Today, more and more mainland Chinese visit Taiwan, bringing more tourist revenue to the island. Yet, have these exchanges resulted in greater understanding and better relations?

With regard to the question “what agreements have helped change Taiwan’s economy, society and lifestyle?” The top four choices by Taiwanese respondents were: Allowing Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan (67.6%), the opening of direct flights (64.3%), cooperation in tackling crime (50.1%) and financial cooperation (42%). For mainland respondents, the top two picks were the same as for the Taiwanese, but number three was allowing mainland investment in Taiwan (41.2%), and number four was allowing mainland students to study in Taiwan and recognizing mainland diplomas (28.4%).

The survey shows that 81.2 percent of Taiwanese have not visited China in the last three years. But, if the chance arose, 64.7 percent of Taiwanese would like to visit China, 17.7 percent would like to invest in China, and 16.2 percent would like to work there. In answering the same questions, 96.7 percent of the mainland Chinese have not been to Taiwan in the last three years, but if the chance arose, 80.4 percent of mainland Chinese would like to visit Taiwan, 14.1 percent would like to work in Taiwan and 6.8 percent would like to invest on the island.

Apparently, Taiwanese people tend to hold a negative opinion of Chinese society. On a scale of one to ten, mainland Chinese received 3.7 in terms of respect for others, 3.8 for being law abiding, 3.8 for safety, 5.9 for progress, and 5.6 for unity.

However, mainland Chinese have a rather good impression of Taiwanese society, giving scores closer to seven. Taiwan society received 7s for progress, modernization, innovation, being law abiding, and 6.9 for safety, harmony, and unity.

In considering the advantage Taiwan has over China, Taiwanese people believe that they have better quality people (54.3%) and a better quality of life (49.4%), and an open society (32.7%). Mainland Chinese believe they have an advantage in terms of respect for traditions (43.9%), China’s international status (39.7%), attitudes toward work (33.1%), with the lowest rating given to having an open society.

Taiwan examines Obama’s re-election and China’s new leadership

On November 6, US President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term. On November 8, the convening of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) signaled the engineering of the decennial power transition, starting the era of China’s new leader Xi Jinping. It is the first time that the selection of the new leaders of US and China – the world’s two largest powers – have been decided and announced in the same week. Inevitably many will wonder what changes will take place in the international arena after this “super week”? And, how should Taiwan deal with it?

Positive Taipei-Washington relations set to continue

Government and public opinion leaders in Taiwan generally believe that Taipei-Washington relations will continue to develop smoothly after Obama’s re-election.

Through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Ma Ying-jeou sent a congratulatory message to President Obama saying that Taiwan-US relations have been close and friendly under Obama’s leadership over the last four years, reaching their best state in the past 30 years. President Ma also said that Taiwan is looking forward to continued cooperation and a further strengthening of the partnership between the two sides.

Taiwan’s Premier Sean Chen said that Obama is expected to continue to promote financially sound policies in his second term, which will aid long-term economic stability. The US is an important trading partner for Taiwan’s exports, and will continue to help drive Taiwan’s economic growth.

Premier Chen said that the US is the largest resource for Taiwan’s foreign investment and technology, and he hopes that both sides will base relations on the established good foundations and positive atmosphere, to grasp the opportunity of Obama’s re-election to further strengthen the development of bilateral economic and trade relations. Chen also expects to see the continued promotion of Taiwan-US industrial and trade cooperation, and the early resumption of talks relating to the semi-FTA Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

The Central News Agency reported that a series of actions including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s holding talks with Taiwan’s former Vice President Lien Chan while attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, the US publicly announcing the news of Taiwan’s Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang’s visit to the Pentagon, Washington’s agreement to grant visa-free status to Taiwan travelers, the resumption of negotiations towards the TIFA, all show that Taiwan and the US have entered a period of closer and stronger relations.

Su Tseng-chang, Democratic Progressive Party chairman, and former DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen also sent congratulations to Obama on his reelection. The DPP Central Committee said it will actively plan to restore the establishment of a DPP representative to Washington to deepen its relations with the United States. The DPP continues the exchange of visits and dialogue with the US to ensure that the US understands the policy direction and thinking of the DPP.

President Ma calls for greater cross-strait trust, cooperation

When Xi was elected as the CCP’s new General Secretary, President Ma, in his capacity as chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT), took the initiative to send Xi a congratulatory message, the first time such a gesture has been made. President Ma expressed his hope that the two sides would further strengthen mutual trust and cooperation to cope with new challenges and to strengthen peace initiatives between the two sides.

Most of Taiwan’s media outlets reported that China has made remarkable advances since it took the path of reform and pursued a policy of opening up over 30 years ago. However, the gap between the rich and the poor, environmental pollution, and corruption, have all surfaced at the same time in China. The thinking and behavior of the Chinese leadership have reached a point of being unable to continue its course without making a change, and this is the major mission of the 18th National Congress of the CCP as it is empowered by history.

The Want Daily commented that since the 17th CCP national congress, “Hu Jintao (party head) and Wen Jiabao (government head) system” have basically followed their predecessors “Jiang Zemin and Li Peng’s reform pace”, made some more adjustments and innovations in economic structure, pushing China’s economic development toward a big leap. The upgrading of economic power has also lifted China’s military and international status, changing the position of China in the world.

However, in the process of its modernization, China’s rapid economic growth has also brought many problems, increasing economic and social contradictions. Due to these contradictions, coupled with the effects brought about by the development of science and technology, microblogging has become the alternative channel for spreading gossip and rumors, expressing political feelings, and increasing demands for political democratization.

The Taipei-based China Times stressed that there are nearly 300 million middle class people in China. The basic demands of the middle classes are for decent economic comfort, the right to participate in politics, and the realization of social fairness and justice. The major topic of the new leadership of Xi and Li Keqiang (premier) is how to meet the needs of the middle class. The shoots of democracy appear to be emerging in China, but the Beijing government only really tries to control the proliferation of social problems, and has yet to review the system and make significant innovations.

The Want Daily reported that just like the preceding 17th CCP congress completing China’s economic reform, the 18th is expected to be able to complete the major tasks of reforming China’s political and social system, moving China to a modern country.

“Comprehensive development” in relations with China?

The Central News Agency reported that Liu Te-shun, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, Executive Yuan, believes that the Beijing government should continue its policy toward Taiwan, and take necessary steps. There should not be a dramatic change in its Taiwan policy because of a change in leadership.

However, according to the analysis of Taiwan’s former National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi, Xi is a standard “Taiwan hand” and is bound to play a strong “Taiwan card” in the fight for political achievements and performance. After taking power, Xi will launch a series of “systematic ideas and action” on Taiwan. The biggest achievement of Hu’s policy toward Taiwan was to reverse the downturn in cross-strait relations to safe waters. If Xi wants to do something beyond his predecessor, he will not be limited by maintaining “cross-strait stability” in his policy thinking and initiate a breakthrough policy in the next ten years.

The Commercial Times pointed out in an editorial that, after the leadership changes of the 18th national congress, that the new CCP leadership will launch a model to promote the “comprehensive development” in its relations with Taiwan, no longer placing economics and trade as the top priority. In other words, after the development of economic and trade relations, the two sides should also develop cross-strait cultural, political, and military exchanges and cooperation in parallel, rather than focusing on just one or two areas.

According to the paper, opinions in Taiwan agreed that it is best to build up an “economic and trade spindle” first to serve as a robust foundation between the two sides, so that a natural way can be paved for the comprehensive development of cross-strait relations to bear fruit in future.

And, in case cross-strait political issues were put on the agenda before the solidification of economic and trade cooperation, there would definitely be some argument and discord between Taiwan and China and thus the process of economic and trade negotiation would be impacted. However, Taiwan should also be prepared to deal with the arrival of “comprehensive development” between the two sides, facing the negotiation of non-economic and trade issues, the paper noted.

The Liberty Times stressed that it is apparent that Xi’s government will focus on the economy, people’s livelihoods and rectification of the Communist party style, rather than on the implementation of political reforms, since “reform” has not been mentioned in his speeches. However, today China must face political reform, according to the paper. If Beijing continues ignoring political reforms, it will be difficult for China not only to maintain the Chinese Communist dictatorship system, but also to sustain the pride of continual economic growth.

Dealing with future US-China relations

Despite the re-election of President Obama, the makeup of the US Congress remains little changed, continuing the frustrations of a seriously divided government. With Congressional members from opposing parties holding such divergent views, it remains extremely difficult for the president to promote his domestic policies; however this situation may leave the US president with more room to maneuver in terms of foreign policy, according to China Times.

The paper pointed out that, after the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the trend of a rising China has become increasingly apparent, yet there remain many contentious issues in relation to international affairs between the US and China. All signs suggest a pessimistic future for US-China relations. The Want Daily reported that the US and China not only have conflicts over trade and the economy, they also hold different positions on North and South Korea, on issues relating to the East China Sea and the South China Sea. With such entrenched misunderstandings, surely it will take a very long time to reach a compromise.

“Some people take a pessimistic view about the future of US-China relations, but I think just the opposite,” said Lin Chong-pin, a Taiwanese military strategist. According to his analysis, Xi has a much better understanding of the United States than any previous Chinese leaders. Besides, it is difficult for the US to return to Asia with its economic strength and national power. So the overall situation will be that the US and China will cooperate more to reduce confrontation in the coming four years, the Central News Agency reported.

The China Times pointed out that the Asia-Pacific region has become a contested field of strategic competition between the US and China and there is a trend toward more conflict between the two sides. In an atmosphere of growing US-China strategic suspicions, Taiwan-China relations also face a new set of challenges that are likely to become increasingly complex. It is apparent that when the US actively reinforces its military alliances with Japan and Australia that the common adversary will be China. And if Taiwan takes any position in support of US strategy in East Asia, it will possibly hamper Taiwan’s positive interactions with China.

Balance between the two powers

Sandwiched between China and the United States, what can Taiwan do? Edward I-hsin Chen, a professor at Tamkang University, stressed that Taiwan should maintain an “equidistant” relationship and not take sides, the Want Daily reported.

However, according to analysis in the China Times, the issue of Taiwan has diminished due to positive interactions across the Taiwan Strait. If no solution emerges to the Taiwan issue, this will only add new uncertainty to China’s security. In the event that China and the United States cannot live in peace in the future, and tensions rise, there will be ignition points of local confrontations in the Asia-Pacific region. By that time, President Ma’s balancing strategy between the US and China will face a daunting challenge.

Andy Chang, director of Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of China Studies, pointed out in an article in the United Daily News that the result of Taiwan’s presidential election in 2016 will be seen as the first important test of the acceptance of Xi’s Taiwan policy. This will be followed by the 19th CCP national congress in 2017. Therefore, whatever the outcome of Taiwan’s presidential election in 2016, Xi and his leadership will make every effort to ensure no change in the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait. So the major task of Xi’s Taiwan policy during his first term will naturally be to make all necessary preparations to deal with cross-strait relations after Taiwan’s presidential election.

Although Xi expects a cross-strait peace agreement can be signed during his ten year tenure, which would be an historic step in China’s history, President Ma is more likely to work first toward the mutual establishment of representative offices as a mechanism to continuing peaceful development within his remaining term of office. It remains to be seen whether political dialogue can be initiated between Taiwan and China in the coming decade, Chang noted.

Taiwan seeks to keep edge in hi-tech production

Whereas in the past, Taiwanese firms played a significant role in the production of the iPhone, this was not the case with the iPhone 5 when it was released in September, according to a recent study by iSupply. Taiwanese companies made a contribution of just 10 percent to the whole supply chain of the iPhone 5, accounting for profits of less than one percent.

Despite this worrying situation for Taiwan’s original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs announced that the share of Taiwan-made and OEM smartphones reached 37 percent worldwide, placing the island as the world’s leading manufacturer of smartphones. It is expected that Taiwan will continue to hold this top ranking into 2013, solidifying its position as the worldwide epicenter for makers of smartphones and other hand held devices. Taiwan’s domestic production is estimated to reach US$43 billion in 2015, bringing in new investment of US$678 million in 2015, and creating 150,000 job opportunities by 2020, reported the Commercial Times.

In the new age of tablet computing, Global Views monthly said, Taiwan is losing its edge in terms of component sourcing. This affects gross profit and reduces the influence of Taiwan’s electronics industry. Taiwan used to control this area, but now the ball is in Apple’s court.

In the past, Taiwan’s notebook ODMs like Quanta Computer, Compal Electronics Inc., and Wistron, enjoyed the ability to influence components ahead of global brand names such as HP and Dell. They could increase the importance of Taiwan’s component supply chain. But now Apple controls 70 percent of global tablet computing market, exerting more bargaining power and the ability to suggest components. Taiwanese companies are increasingly being relegated to mere assemblers of Apple products, rather than designers and innovators.

Of all the Taiwanese firms, only Foxconn maintained its previous share, accounting for 4.5 percent of the total component assembly for the iPhone 5, while other makers of touch screens and shells did not get any orders from Apple.

A senior product manager in Taiwan pointed out that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, who took over the reins of the company following the death of Steve Jobs, is an expert on hardware specifications and a tough squeezer of supply chain production costs. As such, the iPhone 5 mainly focuses on upgrading and improving, the hardware, such as adopting the 4G LTE chip set module made by Qualcom and Retina screens made by Sharp. For those component providers, if they were lucky to get orders from Apple, it was at a reduced price, according to Global Views.

In fact, it is getting harder and harder to get orders from Apple. Starting from 2012, many Taiwanese electronics manufacturers, including some ODMs of Apple products, have turned to China for orders. According to Topology Research institute, the global total cell phone production volume, including traditional cell phones, is expected to grow 4.5 percent in 2013, in which the total volume for the Asia Pacific region including China is expected to grow up to 51 percent, far more than the 10 percent expected in North America.

Global Views reported that Foxconn, one of Apple’s main manufacturers, has long been taking orders from China’s brand name cell phones. For example, the company started assembling the “Happy phone” series of smartphones in 2011 for Lenovo, which started by making PCs and is now positioned to take some market share from HP. Foxconn also started this year to take orders of the popular MI-One, a smart mobile phone designed by Xiaomi Tech Company.

Besides Foxconn, TPK Holding (a manufacturer of touch panels) and Catcher Technology (a manufacturer of cell phone shells), and MediaTek Inc. (a fabless semiconductor design house) are all turning to China. These Taiwanese companies have formed new market links between Taiwan and China.

However, when Taiwanese companies apply their smart phone manufacturing technology to China’s brand name products, the advantage of Taiwan’s smart phone technology over China’s counterparts has also narrowed. The challenge now for Taiwanese companies is how to maintain the lead, Global Views stressed.

Now the only irreplaceable value of Taiwanese companies is the optical lens made by Largan Precision Co., in addition to the system assembly.

According to analysis by Business Weekly, the electronics industry was one of the key locomotive forces driving Taiwan’s economic growth, but now most of those related job opportunities have moved overseas leading Taiwan to shift its focus increasingly toward the service sector. More and more manufacturing resources are drawn to the service industry, namely, the so called high technization of services. Once the service industry is integrated with high technology, more innovation will develop.

At present, no one can predict exactly where the next big economic growth momentum will come from, but opportunities are certain to open up. One suggestion is for the government to continue to lift restrictions and let new businesses emerge. In either case, Taiwan still has the most treasured resource – manpower.

According to the global competitiveness report 2012-2013 released by the World Economic Forum in September, Taiwan remains in 13th position due to its sufficient manpower in R&D, its industrial clustering effects, and the low cost of its financial services. According to Business Weekly, Taiwan’s high quality manpower provides unlimited potential for the future.

Climate change convention incomplete without Taiwan: minister

In pressing the point that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would not be complete without Taiwan’s inclusion, the director of the country’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Shen Shu-hung said, “Saving energy and reducing carbon are not just abstract concepts in Taiwan. Indeed, they have become very much a part of everyday life. Confronted as we all are with the severe challenges that climate change poses, I sincerely urge the international community to take Taiwan’s bid to meaningfully participate in the UNFCCC seriously, and to include Taiwan in its mutual assistance system.” Shen spoke before the annual conference of the UNFCCC set to take place from November 26 to December 7 in Doha, Qatar. The annual conference, COP 18, will address the appropriate and effective solutions to deal with the devastating impact of climate change.

Since Taiwan is neither recognized as a member state nor as an observer in the UNFCCC, Taiwan will be represented by a delegation from the semi-official Industrial Technology Research Institute at COP 18. Despite not having an official status, Taiwan has tried to do its part in limiting its CO2 emissions. According to the 2012 Key World Energy Statistics released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), Taiwan’s CO2 emissions amounted to 270.22 million tons in 2010, making it the world’s 20th largest emitter with 0.89 percent of the total. Taiwan is also ranked as the 20th largest emitter per capita, at 11.66 metric tons.

The Taiwan government has often voiced its wish to participate in the UNFCCC as an observer, voluntarily announcing energy saving and carbon reduction targets aimed at improving energy efficiency by more than 2 percent per year in the coming eight years. This in turn would reduce energy intensity by more than 20 percent by 2015 compared to 2005 levels, and 50 percent by 2025. Taiwan is also striving to bring national carbon dioxide emissions back to 2005 levels by 2020, and back to 2000 levels by 2025, in order to maintain global trends in this area.

Moreover, Taiwan has decided to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 percent by 2020 relative to the business-as-usual  benchmark, said Minister Shen. This scale of reduction, based on business-as-usual, is much higher than that of countries with similarly sized economies and much more ambitious that the reduction proposed by the IPCC.

Taiwan continues to play an important role in terms of reducing carbon emissions by making effective use of technology and innovation. First of all, Taiwan’s government initiated a project aimed at turning Taiwan into a low carbon island. Shen noted, Taiwan has made significant headway in upgrading its solar and wind power capacity. Taiwan is the world’s largest LED manufacturer and the world’s second largest solar cell manufacturer.

In 2011 alone, the output value of green industries in Taiwan exceeded US$13.7 billion, creating 59,530 job opportunities. Following Singapore, Taiwan is the second country in the world to change all of its 690,000 traditional traffic lights to LED lights. People in Taiwan have also been encouraged to install solar water heaters, making the island among the top five users of solar heaters worldwide. Furthermore, Taiwan is also the world’s eighth largest manufacturer of 2MW wind turbine generators and is currently building its largest solar power plant with a 4.6 MW capacity.

In 2009, Taiwan’s government set up the Committee on Energy Conservation and Carbon Reduction in response to the Copenhagen Accord, and also created the Master plan on Energy Conservation and Green House Gas Emission Reduction. Subsequently, Taiwan defined various measurement standards, which focused on promoting low-carbon energy development, reducing demand for fossil fuels, enhancing energy security, new opportunities for low carbon technologies, creating green jobs, designing blueprints for the establishment of a low-carbon society and highlighting the country’s willingness to adhere to international conventions.

“Taiwan continues to improve its carbon reduction regulations to meet international standards. Based on Taiwan’s efforts in assisting other countries to combat the impact of climate change, Taiwan is well qualified to participate in the UNFCCC as an observer. We seek the delegates’ support for Taiwan’s inclusion as they gather in Doha. The new UNFCCC agreement will not be complete without Taiwan’s participation,” Taiwan’s EPA chief stressed.

Taiwan’s health minister honored by APHA

Chiu Wen-ta, Taiwan’s Health Minister, was awarded the David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health at the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting in San Francisco on October 30. The award came as a surprise since Chiu is the first non-American to receive the honor.

The David P. Rall Award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions and achievements in the field of public health. Since its establishment in 2000, it has only been given to American public health professionals, such as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Deputy Minister of Health.

Chiu distinguished himself with his groundbreaking research into brain trauma over the past 30 years, leading him to build the world’s largest database with 180,000 cases of brain injury. He is also known for his advocacy for a helmet law for Taiwan’s motorcyclists. Since the passage of the law, the overall motorcycle death rate of nearly 7,000 has decreased by 50 percent.

With over 300,000 members worldwide, APHA is a professional organization for public health professionals based in Washington, D.C., long committed to the development of global public health and medical systems and related issues. At last month’s annual meeting, the association also awarded the APHA Presidential Citation to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Mayday still reigns as Asia’s top band

In Taiwan’s rock history, no band has matched the longevity and popularity of Mayday (wu yueh tien in Chinese, meaning “days in May”). Formed in 1997, Mayday released their debut album in 1999, but instead of waning in popularity like most bands of their generation, they have gone from strength to strength.

Mayday is the most profitable band on the island, churning out record after record. The band even has a biographic documentary produced in 3D, which follows the launch of their highly acclaimed new album and concerts in Asia, spanning the time from last New Year’s Eve to this New Year day. Most bands that debuted in the late 1990s have exited the limelight by now, but Mayday’s success continues, Global Views monthly reported.

In 2012, Mayday crested another pinnacle with two concerts performed at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, which sold out in just one day. By selling out 200,000 tickets, they have truly cemented their place as Asia’s top band. Their 2012 tour will continue with performances in London and Australia, before returning to Kaohsiung (southern Taiwan), Taiwan on December 21, with additional concerts scheduled for 2013.

Chen Yung-chih, CEO of the B’in Music Company, which has produced Mayday’s albums since 2006 talked about their two international marketing strategies. First, to focus on composing music that is relatable to all listeners and not just limited to a Taiwanese audience, and second, is to utilize technology in sound, lights and acoustic engineering so their concerts are of the highest quality and truly enjoyable.

According to Global Views, even though the band members say they play music for fun, Mayday’s attitude towards their craft is absolutely professional. The five-member band consists of Ashin (vocalist and lead song writer), Monster (guitarist, band leader and music production expert), Stone (lead guitarist and audio engineer), Masa (bass guitarist, also plays cello, piano, and mouth organ), and Guan-you (drums and keyboard).

Mayday members are dedicated musicians and workaholics. As an example, during a celebration party after winning their sixth Golden Melody Award this year, they made a quick appearance to greet their guests before returning to the studio to continue working, reported Global Views.

As a highly successful and popular band with expert musical skills, the band members all live pretty ordinary lives, with few pictures of them riding in luxury cars or living in mansions. Given their success, they continue to buy their lunch boxes and can be seen taking out the garbage themselves.

The band members are not focused on accumulating wealth, said Hsieh Chih-feng, chief operating manager of B’in Music. Generally the vocalist of a band stands out, but each Mayday member has his own special characteristic, each having his own following and fan base. And unlike most bands, their work is not heavy with love songs, rather, they delve into issues of social justice with a strong core of social awareness. According to Global Views, they encourage the audience in poetic ways.

Being older, the members are also reflective of their lives. They grew up after the lifting of martial law in the late 1980s. For them, politics has nothing to do with justice. They are not concerned with partisan politics between the blue camp and the green camp. Born into middle-class families, they have all been fortunate to receive a good education. They are concerned with improving the quality of life, and how to achieve this goal Mayday serves as the voice of their generation, according to Hsieh.

Unlike many bands of their stature Mayday concert tickets are not that pricey, so their fans can afford to see their idols. Ashin, said, “We do not have a monopoly over our music fans.”

Mr. Chang, a middle-age businessman, said “I feel younger when listening to Mayday’s music and my relationship with my sons has also improved.” Chang has attended nearly a dozen Mayday concerts, including the concert at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing.

If anything, Global Views reported, the band  is more aware of their social responsibility with each passing year. Yet, they strive to include certain music which offers encouragement, rather complain about their social environment. “In case the environment is unsatisfactory, we will create a new one,” said Ashin.

TECO chief welcomes first visa-free Taiwanese visitors

On November 1, as Tsai Mong-han disembarked from a flight from Taiwan to San Francisco, he was surprised to be welcomed by two giant Nezha Third Prince puppets, an iconic figure in Taiwanese temple culture. Tsai, an employee at a Taipei fashion technology company, was among the first group of Taiwanese tourists to take advantage of visa-free travel to the United States, which started that day.

Besides being greeted by the Nezha Princes, he was also welcomed by Bruce Fuh, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, Mark Chandler, director of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of International Trade and Commerce, Doug Yakel, San Francisco Airport spokesman, and Elizabeth Liu, co-chair of the Taipei Sister City Committee. Director-General Fuh said that the visa waiver status is a milestone in Taiwan-US relations. It will certainly go a long way towards strengthening bilateral trade and cultural relations, he said.

Chou Pei-yu, who came to visit the US while she was a freshman in college a few years ago, recalled that “at that time I had to fill in a lot of forms to apply for a visa to the US, in addition to going through interviews and strict regulations. I was very nervous, afraid I would be denied for saying something wrong.” This time when applying for a visa for her two-week tour, she just “downloaded the application forms from the web, filled them in, and paid US$14. I quickly passed. It was so easy, saving a lot of time,” she said.

Huang Wei-ming, a software engineer, said he came to the United States for a business trip, which happened to be the first day of the visa-free entry. He received a warm welcome, making him feel like he was on a tour instead of on a business trip.

Mr. Lin, who works at the Taiwan branch office of Trend Micro, said he felt lucky his trip happened to coincide with the first day of visa-free entry for Taiwanese tourists. He has previously been to the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan – countries that already grant Taiwanese travelers visa-free treatment. “It is really convenient to hold a Taiwan passport abroad. This is really a small step for me but a big step for Taiwan” he said.

Chandler said he expects a dramatic increase in the number of visitors from Taiwan, bringing a stimulating effect to the San Francisco economy.

On the same day that Taiwanese visitors received visa-free treatment from the US, Americans also received reciprocal treatment from Taiwan, together with an increase in the duration of stay allowed from 30 to 90 days. With this added convenience, the director-general hopes that more Americans will also travel to Taiwan.

Taiwan and South Korea, competitors or cooperative partners?

The process of negotiating free trade agreements (FTA) between China, Japan and South Korea is currently underway despite territorial disputes between the three countries. Global Views monthly reported that if everything goes according to plan,  leaders of the three countries might announce the initial FTA talks at the upcoming ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on November 20.

According to a study by the Chung-Hua Institution of Economic Research, commissioned by the Economics Ministry, once the FTAs between China, Japan and South Korea are signed, Taiwan’s economy will be greatly impacted. Taiwan’s imports and exports are expected to drop by 3 to 4 percent, cutting the total value by about US$15.9 billion.

Taiwan and South Korea are tightly competitive since they are both export-oriented economies and target the same export markets, which are China, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States. Tung Chen-yuan, a professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei, points out that Taiwan faces intense rivalry from South Korea because approximately 70 percent of the two countries’ exports overlap, according to the Taiwan Review.

Despite being fierce competitors, they also maintain strong trade ties, a fact that is frequently overlooked. Bilateral trade between the two economies is very high, reaching US$32.9 billion last year. South Korea is currently Taiwan’s fifth-largest trade partner, while Taiwan is South Korea’s ninth largest.

Semiconductor parts and ICT components are the two biggest trade categories between the two, which indicates that manufacturing in Taiwan and South Korea can also be complementary, especially in the ICT sector. “For example, Korean parts can be found in the cell phones produced by Taiwan’s HTC, and Taiwanese components can be found in the notebooks made by Korea’s Samsung Electronics,” Park Eun-woo, trade commissioner of the South Korea’s Trade-investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) in Taipei said in the interview with Taiwan Review.

There is great potential for further cooperation between the industries in the two countries, according to Cynthia Kiang, deputy director-general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade under Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA). One of the options, she believes, is for emerging Taiwanese companies to seek opportunities to provide components to South Korea’s multinational corporations, such as having Taiwan’s auto parts manufacturers supply aftermarket products and accessories for cars made by the Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea’s largest automaker.

Another way for Taiwan and South Korea to cooperate would be to join forces in the vast China market, noted Lu Hsin-chang, a professor at National Taiwan University, and particularly in sectors long dominated by Western companies. For instance, so far there have not been any large Asian retailers that can rival Western chains in China, he said, but by working together, Taiwan and South Korea would stand a much better chance of launching a large retail presence there. While South Korea could capitalize on its high production capacity to handle the manufacturing part of the business, Taiwan could use its familiarity with Chinese culture and language to develop more distribution channels, Lu explained.

Lu cautions, however, that Taiwan’s biggest impediment to further cooperation with South Korea could be the feeling of bitterness that many Taiwanese enterprises still harbor toward their Korean rivals. That opposition is generally believed to have resulted from Taiwan and South Korea’s intense competition in global trade, particularly the acrimonious relationship between flat-panel display makers, which has led to a rash of patent lawsuits and countersuits between rival firms in recent years.

If there is one thing Taiwan can learn from South Korea’s impressive economic growth, it is the importance Korean manufacturers have placed on developing brands, Kiang says. Although it takes years to build a brand, doing so is a worthwhile endeavor for Taiwan’s manufacturers, as companies generate much higher revenues by making and selling products under their own brand than from OEM items. “An international study indicated that the value of branded products is on average 57 times that of non-branded products,” she told Taiwan Review.

Lu agrees that Taiwan should expand its branding efforts beyond the ICT industry, but adds that regardless of the sector, domestic companies should establish a presence in every part of the supply chain and control the core technology of their products, just as South Korean firms have done. “For example, to tap the LCD TV market, Korean companies managed to develop all the necessary key parts for LCD displays,” he stressed.

80 percent of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi shot in Taiwan

Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee returned to Taiwan on November 7 to attend the premier of his latest film, Life of Pi. During a press conference, Lee voiced his initial concern that his Hollywood production team would have trouble adjusting to filming in Taiwan, but he was pleased with the results and proud of his home country. Lee came to Taiwan after his film premiered in New York with rave reviews.

The Central News Agency reported that Lee was uncertain if leaving the familiar environment of Los Angeles for Taiwan was the right decision, but said his crew members were impressed during their stay on the island, where 80 percent of the 3D movie was shot. The crew spent 10 months filming in Taiwan. Lee called his current trip one of thanks to show his appreciation to the people of Taiwan for their support. To show his gratitude, he took the film crew–167 members from 24 countries–around the island, much to everyone’s enjoyment.

In explaining his reason for filming in Taiwan instead of Hollywood, Lee said, “in Hollywood, the team members would think it is so familiar while in Taiwan they would take more care in a new environment.”

Lee also revealed that when he first took several crew members from Hollywood to Taiwan to familiarize them with the setting, the American filmmakers laughingly said, “The US is a third world country” while on board the modern high speed rail. Once worried about shooting 3D movies in an environment like Taiwan, Lee said, “Filming in Taiwan, I found that everything was available on the island.”

The production team ran into hurdles in Taichung, central Taiwan, while filming a scene involving a school of fish leaping out of the ocean and into a lifeboat. Lee said, “The fisherman was surprised to hear we wanted to buy 450 fish. After understanding the situation, other fishermen came to help and found enough fish in a very short period of time.” With this incident, the production team fully understood the cooperative enthusiasm of the Taiwanese people.

According to the Taipei-based China Times, Lee returned to Taiwan last year to shoot the Life of Pi in Taichung (central Taiwan). He converted Taichung’s deserted Shueinan Airport into a film studio, spending US$5 million and taking nearly half a year to build a large wave pool, the world’s third largest 3D water studio. Lee had to return to Taiwan to film Life of Pi in the hope of creating a studio in Taiwan to be used by future Taiwanese filmmakers, saying “even the production team was surprised to see our studio in the Shueinan Airport. Although the outside appearance does not look unusual, the equipment inside is more advanced than some Hollywood studios.”

Suraj Sharma, the lead actor in the film said, “Taichung is like my second hometown.” He said, while filming there, he fell in love with Taichung, because the people there are very friendly, and he also enjoyed its food culture, and developed a particular fondness for dumplings.