Monthly Archives: January 2013

Taiwan Tech Trek internships

This year’s Taiwan Tech Trek (TTT) program will be accepting applicants from January 9 to February 4. According to Dr. Wang Ting-an, the director of the Science Division of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, “TTT gives young Taiwanese-Americans the opportunity to intern for eight weeks in Taiwan so they can further understand the island’s hi-tech development.” Spearheaded by Taiwan’s National Science Council, in conjunction with the country’s leading institutions, the TTT program offers young Taiwanese-Americans a chance to intern in Taiwan’s leading research institutions, science parks, national laboratories, universities, national museums and hi-tech companies.

As one of the largest information hardware producers for the semiconductors, optoelectronics, and information and communication products, an internship in Taiwan offers an excellent opportunity for applicants to gain work experience in a cutting edge environment and also to build relationship that can enrich their future professional careers.

The deadline for both programs is February 4, and applicants may not apply to both programs at once. The TTT program is currently recruiting 230 to 280 youths of Taiwanese ancestry between 18 to 30-year old. The eight-week summer program will begin with a 6-day internship orientation from June 23 to 28, while the seven-week winter internship will begin its orientation on November 29. During the orientation, food and lodging will be provided, with a daily stipend around $20 dollars thereafter.

The Taiwan government hopes this program will build strategic relationship in the workforce, attract long-term returnees in the future and increase future goodwill towards Taiwan. To submit an application or find out more about the Taiwan Tech Trek program, please visit the National Science Council’s website at .

President Ma: Taiwan is concerned about China’s human rights issues

At a recent press conference to unveil the government’s “National Human Rights Report”, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou repeated his call for the mainland Chinese authorities to release pro-democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Liu has been imprisoned as a political prisoner in China since December 2009. While President Ma has appealed to the Chinese government on the issue before, this is the first time such a demand has been made since Xi Jinping emerged as China’s new leader.

President Ma noted that in the last two years he has repeatedly called for the release of pro-democracy activists, Liu Xiaobo and Ai Weiwei. However, while Ai been released, Liu remains imprisoned.

President Ma said that there are no boundaries in human rights, thus Taiwan is concerned about human rights issues in China. When the Tiananmen Square incident occurred in 1989, the Taiwanese government supported the pro-democracy activists, and offered assistance to them in every possible way.

Ma noted that ever since the Tiananmen Square incident, he has delivered a speech or taken part in the activities commemorating the incident on June 4th every year. He stressed that cross-strait relations are special, particularly when there are more than five million Taiwanese visitors to China each year, and over a million who do business, study or work in China. As such, the Taiwanese government is naturally invested in the human rights situation in China.

Another reason that Taiwan’s government remains committed to improving human rights in based on the island’s own experience of human rights violations during the 228 Incident in 1947. At that time, the authoritarian government suppressed political dissidents during a period of White Terror.

President Ma said that protection of human rights is one of most important responsibilities of the government. And, while mistakes are inevitable, and can be forgiven, lessons learnt must not be forgotten to ensure mistakes of the past are not repeated.

And so far, Taiwan has learned from its past. The US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House released its annual report “Freedom in the World 2013” on January 16, which sets out annual scores representing the level of political rights and civil liberties in each country on a scale from 1 (most free) to 7 (least free). China scored 7 in terms of political rights and 6 for civil liberties, meaning that overall there is virtually no political or civil freedom in the country. In marked contrast, Taiwan is ranked 1 for political rights, and 2 for civil liberties, that means Taiwan is free politically and socially.

As some say good-bye to the Golden State, visitors pour in

Hsieh Zi-xi has been living in San Francisco ever since she immigrated to the US twelve years ago. But next month, she will return to Taiwan in the hope of finding a husband. She has already received a job offer from a well-known market research company on the island, and she believes she will have an easier time finding a husband there as well.

According to the World Journal, a major Chinese-language newspaper in the US, Hsieh has been working in the field of marketing at a supermarket chain. She is a naturalized citizen, has a house in San Francisco, but she decided to leave the Bay Area in order to increase her chances of finding a husband in Taiwan. If she does not go back now, she fears that it might be more difficult as she gets older.

Hsieh admitted she is somewhat hesitant to return to a place that she left so long ago. She is not sure whether she can adapt to the life and culture there. But since her life and social circle appears stagnant in the Bay Area, she has decided to try her luck and seek happiness in Taiwan.

The World Journal article also included the story of another woman named Chang. She has lived in theUS for 20 years, but is still intending to move back toTaiwan. She said that no matter how long she remains in the US, she still feels like a foreigner, with no progress in her career or love life.

With an American college degree and work experience here, she has already found a job with a well-known bank inTaiwan. It seems very reasonable to go back since her parents still live on the island. Chang said, “The US has slowed down more thanAsiain recent years. You need to be more flexible rather than stuck here.”

According to the World Journal, many California residents are preparing for the arrival of friends and family from Taiwan with the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Some will be busy with groups of Taiwanese visitors arriving just before the Lunar New Year’s eve, which falls on February 9 this year, and continues until the tenth day after New Year’s day.

This particular New Year is likely to be busier as a result of the US government waiving the visa requirement for Taiwanese travelers as of November 1, 2012. “This year’s Lunar New Year is likely to be the busiest,” said Hsu from Rowland Heights, Southern California. She has been in the US for 10 years, but her parents’ have yet to visit her. Now that Taiwanese travelers no longer need a visa to visit the US, a total of nine people, including Hsu’s parents who live in Southern Taiwan and have never traveled abroad before, four members of her brother’s family from Taipei, and three former college class mates, will come to visit her.

Hsu said her 70-year-old parents do not understand English and were previously worried about the complexity of obtaining a visa. Even though they would have liked to visit their daughter they were also nervous about flying. With nine days off for this year’s Lunar New Year, together with the convenience of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and being escorted by Hsu’s brother, they have finally agreed to come.

Ho from San Gabriel, California, said she will welcome the arrival of many Taiwanese visitors and will take them sightseeing, starting on Lunar New Year’s Eve. A total of six friends from two families will come to visit.

She said “They will spend the money they would have given in red envelopes in Taiwan to buy their flight tickets. I am the one who covers all the other expenses.”

Despite the introduction of the Visa Waiver Program, the World Journal reports that travel agents have not noticed an increase in their business from Taiwanese tourists visiting the US. This is likely to be because most Taiwanese visitors to the US already have relatives in the country, meaning that they do not need to go through a travel agent to make their travel arrangements.

Learning from the Life of Pi

Since it premiered at the end of 2012, box office takes from Ang Lee’s Life of Pi have reached almost US$400 million. Taiwan is basking in the film’s success because 80 percent of the movie was shot and produced on the island. In fact, Ang Lee told reporters in New York that “the movie couldn’t have been shot if it hadn’t been in Taiwan.”

Business Weekly reported that although the Taiwan government subsidized the film to the tune of NT$300 million (US$10.3 million), the film’s crew members pumped an equivalent amount into the local economy with expenditure on food, accommodation, and transportation.

Seeing the potential of the Taiwanese animation industry, US-based Rhythm and Hues Studios (R&H), has decided to invest in Taiwan. The studio is one of the world’s top visual effects companies, producing movies like Titanic and Harry Porter. It is expected that the studio’s investment will create a total of NT$6 billion (US$206.8 million) in related investments.

Babylon makes waves

In the movie, Lee uses high, tsunami-like violent ocean waves to depict the helplessness of the boy, the boat and the tiger in the face of nature’s onslaught.

“After watching the movie, I couldn’t tell if it was produced by my wave generators,” said Hsueh Yi-sen, general manager at Babylon Pool Systems Co., the company responsible for the wave-building technology and wave pattern design in Taiwan. In the two-hour movie, 90 minutes were shot at the ocean set, which was built by the company.

“No wave generators anywhere in the world could achieve the ocean effects required for the Life of Pi. It was almost ten times more difficult than that of a water park,” Hsueh told Business Weekly. He added that he ordered a dozen 150 horsepower vacuum water generators to achieve the effects required by the Life of Pi. There are different gates for upper and lower waves, and seven controls for wave strength adjustment in each machine, enabling them to generate a total of 14 different types of wave patterns.

Equipped with these generators, a 75-meter (246 feet) long, 30-meter (98.4 feet) wide and 3-meter (9.84 feet) deep pool, the wave pool is the largest ever built, being equivalent in size to five basketball courts.

Despite what was ultimately achieved, Babylon’s first wave pool presentation was a complete failure. Initially, the design team was confident when showing Lee ten kinds of simulated wave patterns. According to Business Weekly, Lee remained unsmiling during the presentation, and left before it was complete, saying grimly, “This is not what I want” and then walked away. In the two weeks that followed, Hsueh and his team worked 17-hour days and came up with designs for 100-wave patterns.

Finally Lee, a known perfectionist, agreed that the ocean waves produced by Babylon was not perfect, but merited a score of 90. He decided to shoot the movie based on the 90 percent score and to supplement the missing 10 percent with special effects.

Since the movie’s debut, the wave pool Hsueh built has risen to fame. Even renowned director and producer Martin Scorsese has stopped inTaiwanto inquire about renting the pool for special ocean wave effects.

With experience in producing the Life of Pi, Babylon now joins the elite list of only four other companies that are capable of producing such sophisticated wave generating technology.

Operating 400 animal puppets

The movie’s visually unique scenes were also provided by a special team of puppeteers. Initially Lee turned to Legacy Effects, a Hollywood-based special effects company, responsible for making almost 400 animal puppets for the Life of Pi. Its credits have included Avatar and Iron Man. After reading the screen play for the Life of Pi, Legacy Effects believed it needed at least 10 highly skilled puppeteers for the project. In all, they estimated 10 months would be needed to construct the entire screen shots of these animals based on the scale with an estimated cost of US$1 million in addition to the costs of air tickets, food and lodgings, Business Weekly reported.

In order to control costs, Lee decided to look for skilled puppeteers inTaiwan. As such, a team of puppeteers was formed by three American specialists from Legacy Effects supplemented with local Taiwanese puppeteers Lee Ca-why and Liu Yu-tsen.

It took four puppeteers, performing closely together, to create such scenes as the boy Pi feeding a giraffe at the bow of the boat.

There are 300 flying fish puppets in the movie. Each one is a different size, has different wing-like fins, different flapping strength, and even different facial expressions. While shooting the scene of Pi being attacked by these fish, careful calculations were needed to determine the exact degree and direction of flight for the flying fish.

After the conclusion of shooting, Lee Ca-why spoke emotionally about the experience of working with Legacy Effects. Rather than accept Legacy’s offer to work in Hollywood, he re-organized his work notes in order to form a new company. His dream is to nurture these puppet skills in Taiwan. After the project, Liu continued on to Germany to be a resident artist at a theater there.

Business Weekly concluded that Ang Lee started the engine of Taiwanese movies. As for how long it will travel depends on how widely Taiwan opens itself to working with international talent in order to globalize the island’s film industry. The shooting of the film may be over, but the seeds of future success have already been sown.

Okuma and Topkey: Two of Taiwan’s hidden champions

In his New Year speech, President Ma Ying-jeou noted a number of success stories while visiting Taiwanese businesses around the island. Specifically, he talked about the government’s new Champion Enterprises Project designed to nurture outstanding small and medium-sized enterprises who are highly competitive and also control key technologies in the global market. These firms may not be household names, but they are the “hidden champions” of Taiwan’s economy, said Ma.

For example, he noted, Tung Pei Industrial Co. is Taiwan’s largest manufacturer of professional precision components (ball bearings). The firm has managed to achieve market dominance and wrestle market share from foreign firms in Taiwan, and successfully market its brand worldwide. The president also mentioned Pai Lung Machinery Mill Company, one of the world’s top three knitting machine manufacturers which also holds the rights to hundreds of domestic and international patents, and markets its own-brand around the globe. Mosa Industrial Corp., is another renowned Taiwanese company. It is the world’s second-largest producer of small, high-pressure gas cylinders. The company is also the manufacturer of automotive airbag inflators.

In particular, Commonwealth focused the story on two hidden champions, Okuma and Topkey.

World’s No. 1 manufacturer of fishing tackle

Chang Liang-ren, chairman of the Okuma Fishing Tackle Company, originally ran a screen printing shop producing products for other companies. About 26 years ago, a friend of his brought him a spinning reel. “I was amazed to find such advanced mechanical technology in such a small reel. When I span it once, the inner circle of the wheel would turn six times, more interesting than a toy.” He decided to start his own tackle company, despite knowing little about fishing.

It was only after launching his own company that he realized his main competitors were Japanese Shimano and Daiwa, companies that had been around for over 60 years.

Fully understanding that technology was the lifeline of Okuma’s survival and growth, Chang searched for only those companies with highest-level of technology, and worked as an OEM to learn their technology tricks. When he found out that German DAM Tackle was doing poorly, he immediately recruited their R&D talent in order to set up an R&D center in Germany.

Chang’s continuous efforts in scouting out new talent paid off. As an example, the oval gear transmission structure, which made Okuma famous among fishing enthusiasts was invented by its German team.

In order to strengthen the technical leadership, Okuma has been actively working withTaiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute and Academia Sinica on technical cooperation and technology transfer.

Today, Okuma is the world’s No. 1 manufacturer of fishing tackle volume-wise, with annual production of three million spinning reels and 600,000 fishing poles. As for quality, Okuma stands on equal footing with Shimano and Daiwa as the world’s top three.

King of carbon fiber composite materials

Seven of the world’s 10 top tennis players use rackets made by Topkey. Almost half of the racers use its helmets in international motor racing. One third of all cyclists use its bicycle frames in the Tour de France. The compartment of the business class cabins on the Airbus A380 – the largest passenger aircraft in the world–are made by Topkey products, as are the engine covers of the US Army’s AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters. Topkey is the leading manufacturer of carbon fiber composite materials worldwide.

Walter Shen, chairman of Topkey, was working as a salesman and engineer at a trading company after college. At that time, the electronics industry was just starting to boom in Taiwan and Shen witnessed its transformation firsthand. However, Shen’s dream was not electronics, but to run a factory.

Through a friend, he joined Kennex, Taiwan’s pioneer tennis racket maker. There he learned about carbon fiber and decided to start his own business in the 1980s.

Yang Sheng-yung, a professor of finance at National Chung Hsing University, once used Topkey as a case study in his EMBA program. He pointed out that the company is different from other carbon composite firms because it controls the whole vertical process from prescription to products.

With strong core technology, Topkey has won several awards in the world market. “We are the largest carbon fiber composite manufacturer in the world with the most diversified products. We’ve placed first in various fields of global market share,” said Shen proudly.

The company’s R&D accounts for three to five percent of Topkey’s total revenues each year. Due to the huge labor pool needed in manufacturing carbon fiber products,  Topkey started a production facility in Xiamen, China as far back as 1988, with over 10,000 local employees. However, the main technology and R&D department remains in Taiwan.

Taiwan exports to grow as global markets warm up

“Taiwan’s economy will make a U-turn in 2013,” predicted Perng Fai-nan, governor of Taiwan’s Central Bank. His words are significant as Perng is known for choosing his word carefully and is not prone to painting an overly rosy picture of the state of the economy.

According to Business Weekly, the fact that Taiwan’s exports account for 70 percent of its GDP, reveal that the island is a heavily export-oriented country. When exports are healthy, Taiwan’s economy is healthy. The five largest markets that Taiwan exports go to are China (including Hong Kong, almost 40%), followed by the ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia (19%), the US (11%), Europe (10%) and Japan (6%). If these five markets reverse their declines or experience an about-face, Taiwan’s situation will definitely improve.

The largest factor influencingTaiwan’s economy isChina. The country’s economic boom and the growth of commodity prices gradually slowed in 2012. However, the Chinese government pushed for “stable growth” in the third quarter of 2012, fearing it could not sustain an eight percent economic growth rate. China’s think tank – the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences – even predicted a rate of 8.5 percent economic growth in 2013. This has led Chinese private enterprises to actively expand their investments. As the second largest economy in the world,Chinais steadily undergoing an economic recovery.

Business Weekly reported that although the US accounts for only about 10 percent of Taiwan’s direct exports, from the perspective commodity and monetary flows, it holds no less influence over Taiwan than China because the US is the largest commodity importing country in the world. The US helps push the exports of developing countries, in addition to being the major supplier of US dollars.

Also the US did not fall off the fiscal cliff as feared there is very good reason to be optimistic at the start of 2013.

However, the region to  watch is Southeast Asia and the countries that make up ASEAN, and where there is a burgeoning 600 million-person consumer market. This market was a bright spot for Taiwan as its exports declined in 2012. Taiwan’s exports to the ASEAN countries rose by 24 percent and 41 percent in August and September respectively. As a cheap labor provider in Asia, the ASEAN region takes in more and more manufacturers unwilling or unable to deal with rising labor costs in China. With rising wages brought about by foreign business investment, consumer consumption in the ASEAN countries has started to grow strongly.

Although not a member of ASEAN, Taiwan’s economy will be pushed up by the side effects of the growing wealth of ASEAN’s booming economies, even if suffering a decline in  the rate of domestic consumption on the island, noted Business Weekly.

As pressure eases from Greek and Italian bonds, even if the countries that use the Euro fall into recession, the European bonds crisis is still likely to remain under control. This will be good news as long as there is no additional crisis.

In order to stimulate its economy, Japan’s central bank has pumped money into the market to let the Japanese Yen exchange rate depreciate. A weak Japanese Yen will not only provide global mobility but will revitalize Japanese business exports.

With growing profits, Japanese companies will increase their investment, including several Japanese enterprises deciding to set up facilities in Taiwan. When Japanese enterprises expand their foreign investments, Taiwan will definitely benefit because Taiwanese companies are situated in the downstream supply chain.

The probability of the five large markets moving upward will mean the same for Taiwan’s economy in 2013, stressed Business Weekly.

Pursuing Taiwanese values in the shadow of a giant neighbor

President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration has been fond of using the term “soft power” to identify the values of Taiwan since he took office in 2008.

“Soft power” is a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe a nation’s ability to use its way of life, cultural assets or public diplomacy as a tool of persuasion, rather than choosing to compete on a political, military and economic level.

Soft power matters

“Soft power” has a special significance to Taiwan. To show “soft power,” you don’t need to hold a high academic degree, which has traditionally been considered important, if not superior, by the ethnic Chinese. You can still be a high achiever in non-academic areas (such as sport, hospitality, and social movements) even with a lower level of education. On several occasions, President Ma cited Kevin Lin, the ultramarathon champion, Wu Pao-chun, master pastry chef, Yani Tseng, the top seeded women golfer, and Chen Shu-chu, the vegetable vendor and philanthropist. In the past, only successful entrepreneurs, scientists, and academic scholars were praised as role models by the head of state.

The influence of “soft power” allows Taiwanese people to pause and reflect on the long-term pursuit of increasing GDP. Rapid economic growth has alerted the people of Taiwan to be more concerned about quality of life, artistic innovation and cultural refinement.

More importantly, under the pressure of strong competition from China in terms of politics, economics, military power, and international status, Taiwan has to find a value system capable of strengthening the self-confidence of its people.

Unreal anxiety

Columnist Yang Tu wrote in the Taipei-based China Times that current exchanges and interaction between Taiwan and China are at an all-time high. However, there is a growing concern in Taiwan that the island will become “a second Hong Kong”.

Since 2008, there have been several break-throughs in relations between Taiwan and China, including: direct flights, reducing trade and investment barriers, and allowing mainland Chinese students and tourists to visit Taiwan. As cross-strait interaction is gradually strengthening, Taiwan’s people are getting to know the mainland and its people better. However, the better that Taiwanese people understand China, the deeper their anxiety, Yang noted.

There has been a marked change in the dynamic between the two sides since Taiwanese residents were first allowed to visit relatives in China in 1987 – the first move to liberalize exchanges with the mainland since 1949, according to Yang’s analysis.

From an economic perspective, China relied on Taiwanese investment in the early days and ultimately fully accepted Taiwan’s capital and human talent. Now that China has become the second largest economy in the world, the largest global consumer market, and is the world’s chief economic driver, Taiwan is increasingly relying on China economically.

In terms of military strength, the two sides were basically relatively balanced in the past. Taiwan’s modernized armaments were not inferior to those of China. But now, even the United States and Japan are somewhat concerned about China’s military build-up. It is not surprising that Taiwanese people feel very insecure by contrast.

“In the face of the rise of China, it is not without reason that Taiwanese people are worried of becoming ‘a second Hong Kong’,” pointed out Yang. “Indeed, Taiwan is not Hong Kong. The most obvious difference is that Hong Kong has no democratic system. After democratization in the 1980s, Taiwan has twice experienced a change of ruling political parties, has established a consensus of democratic values, and has accumulated enough experience and dynamic energy to cope with the rise of social movements. This is the most fundamental difference between Taiwan and Hong Kong,” and “Taiwanese have formed a sense of self-identification based on Chinese culture and a Taiwanese consciousness. This is different from Hong Kong which returned to China from British colonial rule in 1997, and lacks a long-term and self-conscious cultural movement.”

Yang said that although the concern about “becoming a second Hong Kong” is exaggerated, it shows that Taiwanese people are worried about their excessive economic dependence on China, fearing a loss of the freedom of speech, their democratic system, and even their self-identity. These fears are not without basis, but have been formed from observing Hong Kong’s experience since 1997.

Ranking high in life-satisfaction surveys

Since 1980, Taiwanese people have developed a pride in their export-oriented economic miracle. However, in 2008 when the global financial tsunami started, Taiwan suffered a sharp drop in exports. Even though the situation improved in 2011, the European debt crisis negatively impacted the Taiwanese market. All this financial turmoil has resulted in a shift in the value structure of Taiwan’s people.

Awakening News Networks reported that what Taiwanese people want is not just the pursuit of business success or expanding their wealth, but increasingly how to live a meaningful life, how to spend time with family, a desire to improve the quality of life in their communities, as well as the pursuit of social justice. “In an economic environment that can not be improved and where frequent bad news is experienced, stable happiness has become a basic demand of most Taiwanese people now.”

The Taipei-based China Times pointed out in its New Year’s Day editorial that over the past ten years, the most criticized topic is the vicious fighting between political parties. The blue camp (ruling KMT) and the green camp (opposition DPP) attack each other, seriously upsetting the normal functioning of the Legislature.

In the authoritarian era before the lifting of martial law in 1987, the government tried to control everything, and was totally unwilling to contemplate the existence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). At that time, any NGO was considered as a potential threat to the government. Therefore there was a serious lack of NGOs to foster social cohesion in Taiwan.

But in the past decade, Taiwan’s politics has been extremely polarized, thus providing an opportunity for social movements to emerge, and form NGOs. In this way a new social order is gradually formed, according to the paper.

Now there is a boom of NGOs and religious groups in Taiwan, with about 40,000 NGOs and more than one million volunteers quietly dedicating their time and efforts. They supplement the lack of government resources and formal education, improve the quality of life for Taiwanese citizens in every corner of the island and become a part of everyday life in Taiwan.

The United Evening News reported that at the end of 2012 the U.S. Gallup poll announced its global happiness rankings. Abandoning traditional indicators of happiness such as GDP, education, and longevity, the poll measured “positive emotion” across 148 countries. Taiwan ranked 39th, the highest rating of the four Asian Little Dragons.

When The Economist’s “The World in 2013” ranked 80 countries according to where would be the best place to be born, Taiwan took 14th place based on various quality-of-life indices.

The United Evening News reported that Pai Hsiu-hsiung, chairman of the Taiwan Social Welfare League, said that Taiwan’s economy has been stuck in the doldrums in recent years, but the people are generally happy. Neighborhoods, families, and friends have developed a corporate social function by providing mutual assistance to each other to maintain a certain level of life satisfaction.

A learning journey for all Chinese

The China Times said in a comment that visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and other Chinese communities have noted a special social order has developed in Taiwan. No matter how crowded, Taipei Metro passengers always line up patiently to board trains, and always leave seats for those in need. Several major cities in Taiwan are promoting a campaign dubbed “keep-trash-off-the-ground” (namely, every evening residents of each city deposit their household waste at the designated times and points, where it can be collected by a garbage truck). This policy has resulted in a significant improvement in the city’s environment, reducing the quantity of garbage and realizing environmental protection goals by increasing recycling. These actions do not rely on government oversight or legal punishment, but build on the basis of spontaneous social action.

The Sing Tao Daily, a major Chinese language newspaper in the US, pointed out in an editorial that the evolution process of Taiwan’s social values has not followed the direction of a certain political party’s propaganda, but has been developed through an awareness of people’s participation and involvement and looking for solutions to solve social justice issues since Taiwan’s economic development reached a certain level.

The paper stressed that as the modes of Taiwanese thinking and mobilization are no longer following the instructions of political parties, their concerns are not limited to political issues, but extend to all levels of society. In 2012, there were several movements, including opposition to nuclear power plants and media monopoly. The leaders of these movements were not just a few organizations, but increasingly included students and scholars committed to giving a voice to vulnerable sectors of society.

Keeping the reins on China

The Washington Times recently summed up the relationship between Taiwan and China as “a small island in the shadow of a giant neighbor that claims its territory, Taiwan nonetheless holds a key to shaping China’s meteoric rise.”

Lung Ying-tai, Taiwan’s minister of culture, told the paper that “A democratic system with guaranteed freedom of expression has given rise to a creative and culturally vibrant society in Taiwan.” He said, “Taiwan is a center of gravity for the Chinese diaspora, especially on the cultural level, where the island’s vigorous book and movie industries often publish works banned on the mainland.”

Taiwan has repeatedly served as a stimulus for China to transform, from the patterns of economic development, democratic experience, even civil society consisting mainly of the middle class. As some Taiwanese people treasure their existing life-style and worry about “Taiwan being another Hong Kong”, many mainland Chinese people are willing to embrace Taiwan’s values, and to admire Taiwan’s democracy, freedom, and pluralism. At a time when China is intensifying its development efforts by building more skyscrapers, a high-speed rail network, aircraft carriers and maintaining double-digit economic growth, Taiwan has provided unlimited inspiration and encouragement for the mainland in how to develop its civil society and soft power.

China Airlines float wins in Rose Parade

Taiwan’s China Airlines (CAL) won an award at the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, on January 1 for the 22nd time, with its themed float “Cycling Through Paradise”.

CAL first took part in the Rose Parade in 1987, over a quarter century ago. This year, it used images of Taiwan’s famous scenic spots at Sun Moon Lake to decorate the airline’s float, which was 55 feet long, 30 feet high, and 18 feet wide.

Taiwan was chosen by the publisher of the Lonely Planet guide as one of the top 10 Best in Travel countries for 2012, because of the way the island’s authorities have embraced biking with such enthusiasm, vision and funding, linking 1500 miles of bike paths. The cycling route around Sun Moon Lake was also ranked the world’s No. 5 best route for cyclists by CNN’s “Cycling routes that’ll take your breath away.”

Established in 1959, China Airlines has more than 10,000 employees worldwide, with a fleet of 72 aircraft. It is the largest airline in Taiwan with the most frequent flights. CAL is a member of the 19-airline SkyTeam alliance, which serves 552 million passengers annually, and offers 15,000 flights daily, serving 1000 route points to 187 countries.