Monthly Archives: March 2013

Amid massive anti-nuclear protests, Taiwanese rethink their desired lifestyle

On March 9, 200,000 people took to the streets in Taipei and three other major cities, demanding construction be halted on the fourth nuclear power plant, located in Gongliao at the northern tip of Taiwan. The protest in Taipei was the largest ever anti-nuclear demonstration in Taiwan. Protestors also demanded the early decommissioning of the other three nuclear power plants currently in operation and the removal of nuclear waste from Orchid Island, located off Taiwan’s southeast shore, and home mainly to aborigines.

The rallies, held in Taichung, Kaohsiung, Taitung, and Taipei, were staged as the government prepares to hold a referendum – possibly towards the end of the year – on whether to scrap the fourth nuclear plant project.

In a statement, President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated the government’s policy to move gradually toward a nuclear-free homeland, without causing power shortages or exceedingly high energy prices that would hurt Taiwan’s economy, according to the Central News Agency.

Plant viewed as a dinosaur  

Taiwan’s electric power industry has been managed and monopolized by the state-owned enterprise Taiwan Power Company (Taipower). The electricity generated by Taipower’s 27 coal-fired power plants accounts for 69.4 percent of the country’s total electricity production, while 11 hydroelectric plants generate 13.8 percent and three nuclear power plants generate 15.7 percent. As for the production of renewable energy, Taipower’s 15 wind farms and three photovoltaic power plants account for less than one percent.

The life span of each nuclear plant was set at 40 years. The two generators at Plant One are scheduled to be decommissioned in 2018 and 2019 respectively, with those at Plant Two are set to retire in 2021 and 2023, and Plant Three will follow in 2024 and 2025.

On March 12, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said in the Legislative Yuan that all nuclear power plants in Taiwan will be decommissioned by 2055, based on the 40-year operating lifecycle for each nuclear power plant. According to the Central News Agency, the calculation includes the fourth nuclear power plant.

Commonwealth monthly reminded its reader that when the construction of the Taipei Mass Rapid Transportation system started, costing US$14.8 billion, and Taiwan High Speed Rail, costing US$15.3 billion, these projects were strongly criticized during their construction. Since their opening, they have greatly improved the quality of life for Taipei City residents, and are now a source of pride for all Taiwanese.

However, since construction started on Plant Four in 1997, it has met with numerous protests, and twice leading to the halting of construction. With a total cost of nearly US$11 billion, the power plant is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Over 6.5 million people, or nearly a third of Taiwan’s population, live within 50 miles of the plant. Thought of by anti-nuclear activists as a dinosaur, they are hoping Plant Four will meet the same fate and become extinct.

Tug-of-war between political parties

The Taipei-based China Times reported that nuclear power was first introduced in Taiwan 40 years ago. At the time, nuclear energy was said to be the most advanced technology in the world. However with the nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island (United States) and Chernobyl (Ukraine), making the headlines, it awoke possible safety concerns of nuclear energy among Taiwanese. The seriousness was driven home with Japan’s nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011.

By the end of October 2000, then President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) announced the cessation of construction on Plant Four. In January the following year, the Council of Grand Justices further explained that the suspension of construction on Plant Four was an important national policy change, so that the Executive Yuan needed to report to the Legislative Yuan in order to come up with a compromise among the parties involved.

Subsequently, an overwhelming number of votes were passed in the Kuomintang (KMT)-dominated Legislative Yuan to oppose the cancellation of Plant Four. Both the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan signed an agreement to resume construction at the plant in mid-February 2001, ending a four-month delay.

To be decided by referendum

The Commercial Times noted that in the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear disaster, President Ma announced the principles of “ensuring nuclear safety, steady reduction of nuclear energy to create a green low-carbon environment so as to gradually move towards a nuclear-free homeland.” He also reassured Taiwanese by promising that the new plant would begin commercial operation only under secure conditions, the early decommissioning of Plant One, and that the lifespan of Plant Two and Three would not be prolonged.

The tide of rising voices are not only limited to the DPP now, but also to civilian organizations at the site of nuclear power plants. They have been joined by other civic groups like Mom Loves Taiwan, which consists mostly of housewives, as well as artists, celebrities and intellectuals. Premier Jiang Yi-hua, who only recently assumed office, is facing unprecedented pressure. In order to appease the growing number of opponents, on March 1, he proposed holding a national referendum to decide the fate of Plant Four.

Taiwan’s “referendum law” requires a high threshold of votes to pass it nationally. A nationwide referendum needs to have a voter turnout of more than half of the total number of people eligible to vote, and has to receive more than half of the valid votes to pass. Taiwan has had six national referendums, and none has passed.

Some consequences reconsidered

The China Times reported that the Environmental Protection Administration’s Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen said that the immediate abolition of nuclear energy is a romantic idea, and is in conflict with the Taipei’s goal of carbon reduction.

Taiwan has made international commitments to such agreements as the Kyoto Protocol, promising to cut its carbon emissions to the 2000 level by 2025. Such a cut would reduce emissions by 90 million tons of carbon. Even with the three old nuclear plants extended passed their decommissioning dates and with Plant four online, Taiwan’s annual carbon emissions will still be 170 million tons by 2030, which far exceeds Taiwan’s international commitments of 90 million tons.

Minister Shen estimates that if Plant Four should canceled and be replaced by coal-fired plants, Taiwan’s carbon emissions would soar to 187.76 million tons, that is, 97.76 million tons over the committed carbon emissions target. He is worried that there would be 17.56 million tons more even if Plant Four started commercial operation.

Commonwealth reported that if Plant Four were scrapped and replaced by natural gas, Taiwan’s electricity generation costs would increase 40 percent. Based on the calculation of an average electricity bill of US$67 every two months, that would translate into an increase of US$27 every two months or an increase of nearly US$167 a year.

Wu Min-shuan, director of electricity development at Taipower, said the worst scenario could happen by 2024 when Plant One, Plant Two and Plant Three each have one generator decommissioned. In this situation, there will be electricity rationing island-wide if any one generator goes offline.

The goal of zero electricity growth doubted

As for the question of whether Plant One or Two will see an extension to their period of use, Tsai Chuen-horng, Minister of the Atomic Energy Council of the Executive Yuan, did not give a specific answer, but added that there have been many cases of extensions of nuclear power plants in other countries.

Irene Chen, one of the founders of Mom Loves Taiwan, an association for mothers against nuclear power, told Commonwealth that she disagrees with the idea to extend the life of Plant One and Two. She said the continuing service of nuclear power plants only increases the risks and feelings of insecurity. Besides, extensions would still continue the production of nuclear waste.

Green Citizens’ Action Alliance (GCAA) board member Chao Chia-wei said the government still predicts Taiwan’s electricity needs by using calculations based on current industrial structures. If it does not change its calculation method, there will always be a deficit, no matter how many plants are built. Therefore, the question of Taiwan’s electricity shortage depends on whether the government can develops new thinking to compensate for electricity demand.

The GCAA plans zero electricity growth by 1) reducing the ratio of electricity thirsty industries, 2) increasing the generation of renewable energy and 3) increasing the improvement of energy efficiency. With all three ways working, the energy saved would be equal to the production capability of Nuclear Power Plant Four.

Yang Jyh-shing, senior superintendent of the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan, has said that except for the United Kingdom, all other countries have failed to achieve zero electricity growth. He pointed out, “The UK has drastically reduced the proportion of industry in its economy, which is not feasible in Taiwan.”

A choice of value and lifestyle

The United Daily News commented that during the decade-long fight between the KMT and the DPP over Plant Four, the two sides never put forward a complete alternative, including the planning of alternative energy sources, the proportion of renewable energy, transition of energy-intensive industries, nor even the decommissioning schedule of nuclear power plants. If suspension of Plant Four becomes a reality, the immediate impact will be rising electricity prices. But a much bigger problem is power rationing, which will have a greater impact on daily activities. Both the ruling and opposition parties seem ill-prepared for this; while the anti-nuclear activist groups probably don’t have any answers either.

When questioned by Commonwealth on what to do if Plant Four is never operational, anti-nuclear activist Wu Wen-tong said, as a resident of Gongliao, he only cares about enjoying the beautiful ocean beach where a lot of tourists will come in the summer. When the construction of Plant Four is scrapped, people there can start their tourist and fish farming industries, reviving the local community.

Ho Ron-shin, chief editorial writer of Commonwealth, noted that the referendum on Nuclear Power Plant No. 4 serves not only as a physical examination of nuclear energy safety in Taiwan, but also a vote of confidence by the Taiwanese people on its government. It is also a value choice based on their desired lifestyle.

Taiwan’s high-end products catch consumer trend in China

Ferro Carbon’s dual suction cups hold up two big mineral water bottles, suspending them from the wall securely. This is an example of just one Taiwanese high-end product that is popular in Chinese boutiques and department stores. According to the Commonwealth, these water bottle holders are commanding prices in excess of US$16.

“They can hold up to six kilograms (13.2 lbs), are water resistant, heat resistant, and cold resistant. They work fine at temperatures below 40C (104F),” said Lin Liang-li, president of the Ferro Carbon Group.

Ferro Carbon was established about 20 years ago in Taiwan, manufacturing cutting tools for ceramic tiles. European companies, including Bosch are among the firm’s customers.

Dissatisfied with being merely an OEM, Ferro Carbon started to create a secondary brand. Feca was created three years ago by transferring the super strong suction technology into creating gadgets for everyday use.

Satisfying people’s everyday needs

Ferro Carbon first took its products to the Japanese market, securing accounts with 500 stores, before moving into China. Currently, it is in 30 department stores, racking up over US$16 million in annual revenue. Lin predicts it will be in over 200 department stores by 2014.

The hand tool markets in Europe and the US have shrunk by half since the financial crisis, but the Chinese market is expanding rapidly. Ferro Carbon expects to grow by 40 percent this year, mostly due to the continuing surge in the Chinese economy.

Ferro Carbon insists on keeping all aspects of the company in Taiwan, including its R&D, manufacturing, and assembly. Their production line continues to expand, from showerhead holder to bike holders. They hope to satisfy people’s everyday needs, becoming a winner among the many companies entering the Chinese market.

Winning Chinese consumers’ confidence

Another company popular in high-end Chinese stores is Bello Enterprises. According to Yang Wan-gui, Bello’s CEO, he waited three years before getting a health certificate issued by the Chinese government to enter the local market. With this certificate, local distributors are allowed to put their products on its shelves.

Yang, who was originally in the business of computer assembly in Indonesia and Vietnam, switched his focus after realizing that the profit margins were too small. He decided to enter the market of making beauty products made from hyaluronic acid and acquired a processing patent in Taiwan, reported Commmonwealth.

Although the Hyaluronic acid collagen made by Bello sells for US$478 per box, double the price of Japanese brand name products, it is nevertheless the top seller in Chengdu department stores, and among the top sellers in three department stores in Tianjin (northern China) and Chongqing (western China). Sales are expected to double this year.

Yang said many Japanese and South Korean companies opt to cooperate with local Chinese manufacturers to avoid the complicated issue of health certificates demanded by some countries. So even with Japanese or Korean technology, they are still locally made. He pointed out that Chinese consumers are still not fully confident with locally made products.

Competitiveness lies in quality

Chen Lung-chih, chairman of the Ferro Carbon Group, said that imitation Chinese-made suction disks look similar outside, but they are of poorer quality.

Commonwealth noted that in the past 30 years, Taiwanese exports to China had been bought by Taiwanese investors there with 80 percent of the money being spent in processing of products for the electronics industry. Now consumer products account for six percent of Taiwanese exports to China, but both segments are steadily growing.

“It is expected to continue growing,” said Huang Wen-ron, deputy secretary general of Taiwan External Trade Development Council, adding that Taiwanese exports of consumer products to China amounted to US$1.9 billion in 2008, while the amount exceeded US$7 billion in 2012.

The most popular are items above mid-level prices, such as electronics, bicycles, golf equipment and beauty products. The competitiveness of these products lies not in their price, but in their quality.

The image of high quality consumer products made in Taiwan is the best asset when entering the Chinese market. Liu Meng-chun, a researcher at the Taipei-based Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, told Commonwealth that currently Taiwan’s lifestyle is still five to ten years ahead of China’s. In order to maintain this advantage, Taiwanese firms need to consider how consumer trends in China will develop over the next five years.

Taiwan’s top documentary screened in Bay Area

Selected for the San Francisco CAAMFest 2013, the documentary Go Grandriders follows a group of octogenarians on their 13-day journey around Taiwan. The film shares their individual stories, their camaraderie and the hurdles they faced during their fall 2007 journey. The Taiwanese documentary premiered in the US on March 15 and 23, with its director, Huan Tien-hao, and producer, Ben Tsiang, there to answer questions after the screenings.

All of the riders were in somewhat decent health given their years, but they all suffered from aches and pains which accompanies old age, so completing the trip did not come easy. Among them, two had survived cancer, four were hearing aid dependent, five had high-blood pressure and eight were suffering from cardiovascular disease.

The participants came from all walks of life, and at times, their life stories were interwoven with pivotal moments in Taiwan’s history, including Japanese colonialism, and the inflow of immigrants from the mainland after WW II. They had diverse careers and religious beliefs, but they all encouraged and helped each other towards fulfilling their dream.

The ride was initiated by Taiwan’s Hondao Senior Citizens Welfare Foundation, with the goal of promoting a positive image of the island’s aging population. The zest for life shown by the grandriders is important, especially given Taiwan’s aging society. By 2016, the elderly population (65 and over) will outnumber the young on the island.

Huan told the American audience that he originally planned to shoot a 15-minute short film, but was later touched by the story of each rider, and decided to develop it into a 90-minute film. Donald Young, program director for CAAM, said Go Grandriders tells not only the story of the elderly in Taiwan, but also the serious issue of global population aging. Tsiang said, the significance of the documentary film lies not in the domestic box office success, but that the film evokes the courage of many elderly people to realize their long dormant dreams.

The film was produced by CNEX, the non-profit organization founded by Tsiang to develop documentary films in the Chinese-speaking world. After graduating from Stanford University, Tsiang co-founded the Chinese web portal,, in the Bay Area. When a heart attack sidelined him for two months, he returned to work only to find things had continued pretty smoothly without him. When he considered his next challenge, CNEX was created in 2007.

Tsiang pointed out that Peter Starr, producer of the Discovery Channel and reporter of Motorcyclist magazine, was very touched after watching the short teaser for Go Grandriders on YouTube. Starr then led a team of five American senior riders to Taiwan to start a weeklong motorcycle journey in October 2012 and invited the grandriders from Taiwan to participate in a 398-mile grand tour of the coastal highway, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, this August.

Go Grandriders was released in Taiwan in October 2012, and topped Taiwan’s documentary box office. Tsiang was excited that both screenings were sold out at CAAMFest in San Francisco and added a special screening in Palo Alto especially for the Taiwanese-American community there.

Matsu Temple of SF

Matsu is one of Taiwan’s most popular folk deities. Known also as the Heavenly Mother, she is the indigenous goddess of the sea, widely worshipped in Taiwan, the coastal provinces of China, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries.

The Chinese have been migrating from the mainland across the Strait to Taiwan since the 16th century. With a strong seafaring tradition, Taiwanese sailors turned to Matsu for comfort and shelter. There are over 500 Matsu temples on the island.

The Matsu Temple of San Francisco was established by Taiwanese immigrant Kao Ke-ta in 1986. On August 19 of that year, he received permission to set up the temple as a house of worship. In order to set up the American temple, the Chaotian Temple conducted a spiritual ceremony blessing the Matsu goddess for the San Francisco temple. The Chaotian Temple is one of Taiwan’s oldest temples. Built around 1700, it is located in Beigang, Yunlin County.

The Matsu Temple in San Francisco was originally located at 554 Vienna Street but moved to 30 Bechett Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1996. Kao said the temple is a place for ethnic Chinese to worship, offering psychological comfort to those seeking solace from life’s difficulties and their fortune. In the last thirty years, the temple has become a well-known San Francisco attraction, drawing many visitors from around the US.








After five years, Taiwan-US trade talks resume

On March 10, talks on the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) resumed in Taipei. While the US is concerned about opening up Taiwan’s markets further, the island is looking forward to signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States and joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), an 11-member FTA block in the region.

The TIFA was signed in 1994 as a framework for Taiwan-US dialogue on trade-related issues in the absence of diplomatic ties, but talks have been suspended since 2007, largely due to the controversy over US beef imports. President Ma Ying-jeou relented on the issue of US beef imports, paving the way for the resumption of the TIFA talks.

In July 2012, Taiwan’s Legislature Yuan passed three revisions and one additional binding resolution to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which conditionally eased Taiwan’s zero-tolerance policy against US beef imports containing traces of ractopamine, a disputed leanness-enhancing drug. The amendments are based on a maximum residue level (MRL) of 10 parts per billion for beef, dictated by the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius Commission.

According to the Central News Agency, South Korea has signed FTAs with large economies such as the US and EU in the last five years, while Taiwan was unable to expand economic and trade cooperation further due to the US beef issue. Taiwan’s markets have not opened further since its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. Now the TIFA serves as a general review of Taiwan’s economic and trade system. In order to join the TPP, or to negotiate any bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with the US, Taiwan needs to further open its market.

The resumption of the seventh round of TIFA meetings was co-chaired by Taiwan’s vice minister of Economic Affairs Bill Cho and Deputy US Trade Representative (USTR) Demetrios Marantis. The two sides issued two statements on the principles of international investment, and on information and communication technology (ICT) services, and the establishment of the investment working group and technical trade barriers working group. In addition to confirming cooperation on APEC and WTO, both sides will enlarge cooperation on the talks of the information technology agreement (ITA) and the international services agreement.

This round of TIFA talks touched on the eight topics of: agriculture, investment, digital economy, regional and multilateral trade cooperation, energy cooperation, intellectual property, medicines and medical equipment, and technical trade barriers.

The Taipei-based China Times reported that the current areas of US concern include rice, medicines, and intellectual property rights. For rice, the US wants Taiwan’s procurement system to be fairer, more transparent on pricing to fulfill the commitment Taiwan made to the WTO. With regard to medicines and medical equipment, the US is concerned about Taiwan’s procurement process and pricing. Besides, the US is also concerned about how Taiwan’s national health insurance will evolve, and what impact it will have on the US pharmaceutical and medical equipment industry.

The United Daily News pointed out that the level of TIFA is lower than that of FTA, but it serves as a starting point for a Taiwan-US FTA and the TPP, mainly because Taiwan can start some individual negotiation topics like initiating the investment protection agreements, reconciling inspection standards and e-commerce cooperation, to strengthen bilateral economic and trade relations, which will lay the cornerstone for Taiwan’s future FTA, and to be on its way towards joining the TPP.

For Taiwan, the goal of the TIFA is to promote the island’s participation in regional FTA blocks, but Washington is more focused on the elimination of trade barriers. The extent and force that Taiwan exercises in removing barriers are topics for the US to test the determination of Taiwan’s liberalization.

The paper said that the thorniest issue is whether Taiwan will allow imports of American pork containing clenbuterol. Beef production in Taiwan accounts for only 7 percent of consumption, and has little to no serious impact on Taiwan’s cattle industry. However, pork consumption is much greater among Taiwanese consumers, with local farmers supplying 94 percent of domestic demand. The price of American swine is much lower than that of domestically produced animals. If American pork is allowed to be imported, the issue would carry far greater significance than the beef issue based on the impact.

The Commercial Times noted that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on March 15 that Japan will enter the TPP negotiations led by the United States in July. With Japan in the TPP, the Pacific economic group will account for up to 38.19 percent of the global GDP.

In 2012, President Ma put forward the goal of joining the TPP in eight years. Why eight years? So Taiwan needs to start a pragmatic review of its economic and trade liberation in preparation to meet the TPP’s requirements. This way, Taipei can propose specific market opening timetable and mode to enter into TPP negotiations at an earlier date, suggested the paper.

As for multilateral cooperation issues, Taiwan has high hopes for US support in joining the TPP, but the US representative reiterated that it is not determined by a single country, rather, it is a decision made by member states after they have determined that an applicant country is adhering to the high standards of the TPP. It is not until all these requirements are met that Taiwan can have room to negotiate, reported the Central News Agency.

After world games, Taiwan’s baseball revival urged

According to the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), Taiwan’s performance at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) games in March raised its world standing by one notch, to 4th place. The Dominican Republic won this year’s WCB championship, jumping from 13th to 7th place, but the top three places remain unchanged, with Cuba on top, followed by the United States and Japan, reported the Central News Agency.

Despite a high world ranking, systemic problems persist in Taiwan’s national sport. In early March, Taiwan’s baseball team, playing as Chinese Taipei, lost to both Japan and South Korea by a single point each at the WBC tournament. On the surface, it might not seem like a big deal, but the one point difference reflects some systemic problems in Taiwan’s teams, according to Business Weekly. Taiwan’s team might be able to lead Japan or South Korea with a couple of ace players in the first half of the semi-final games, but they eventually gave up their lead in the second half when Taiwan’s ace players were no longer available. As Tseng Wen-cheng, Taiwanese sports commentator, said about the Japan-Taiwan game, “We have Wang Chien-ming to lead us up to the sixth inning, but not another Wang to keep the lead to the end.”

Why do Japan and South Korea have more players going to bat than the Taiwan team? The bulk of WBC players are from each country’s professional teams, taken from the junior, senior and big leagues.

Business Weekly reported, while in little and senior leagues, Japanese baseball activities focus on sport promotion and leisure. Those elementary school students who are interested in playing baseball can join the school’s baseball clubs. Japanese elementary school students are not required to miss lessons once they join a club, but rather, baseball is considered an extra curricula activity in addition to their schooling. With this system, the team attracts more elementary school students to join without worrying their parents over missed school work.

By contrast, in Taiwan, baseball is used as a tool to bolster Taiwanese patriotism and self-identity, in part, due to its diplomatic isolation enforced by Beijing. In order to ensure national glory, only talented kids are recruited to join the baseball team and to undergo rigorous training. Then they are sent abroad to compete with kids from other countries.

Taiwan won the triple baseball crowns (championship wins in all three leagues) six times between 1974 to 1991 and baseball is considered the “national sport.” But not many Taiwanese play baseball. The game has become an elite sport, with only a handful of kids given a chance to play. As a result, the number of previously fanatical fans has dwindled. And now, only international games attract viewers in big numbers, due to an enthusiasm to root for the national team.

South Korea started professional baseball tournaments about seven years earlier than Taiwan, and they will expand to 10 professional teams in 2015. However, since not many Taiwanese watch baseball tournaments, it is hard convincing people to invest in a baseball due to its shrinking market. Taiwan used to have six professional teams, but now only has four.

Business Weekly noted, since childhood, Taiwanese players are trained to win games as their only goal. Young players are under centralized management at a very young age and accept spartan conditions day and night. Forced to miss school lessons, few parents are willing to send their kids to this type of training.

Also, in Taiwan, the broad media coverage, government financial aid and subsidies will follow, as long as they win championships. So many baseball players play to win by whatever means. It is apparently less important to keep their sportsmanship during the process.

Additionally, training is relentless. The ace pitchers might play 20 innings in a couple of days and many talented players suffer injuries as a result of this over exertion. Many promising players extend themselves to please their coaches, only to end up with permanent injuries. The lucky ones might be able to play post-surgery, but the ones who do not fully recovery are discarded.

If baseball is only treated as a tool to boost nationalistic sentiment and winning by any means necessary, then interest in the game will surely die. It is time for Taiwanese to be reacquainted with the pleasure of the game so that baseball will not gradually dwindle and lose its reputation as Taiwan’s national sport, stressed Business Weekly.

Third wave of Taiwanese business people heading to China

In recent years, another wave of Taiwanese business people has headed to China. Considered the third wave, this group of business migrants headed for China when Ma Ying-jeou assumed the presidency and established direct flights.

China has seen three big influxes of Taiwanese business people in the last 30 years. The first wave saw a massive transplantation of manufacturing to China in the 1980s and1990s. The second wave followed with small to mid-sized service businesses relocating to the mainland around 2000. And now, with newly relaxed business and travel regulations, a new wave consisting of Taiwanese students, business people, tourists, managers, and sole proprietor businesses are descending on China.

In 2002, there were about one million Taiwanese business people in the Chinese mainland with around 400,000 living in Shanghai. A decade later, the number has doubled, with two million Taiwanese in China, and 800,000 of them in Shanghai. In essence, this means that one tenth of Taiwan’s population lives in China, according to Global Views monthly.

More Taiwanese willing to work in China

Taiwan’s economy has stagnated in recent years, while China is still maintaining impressive growth. Given this fact, China has a greater need for skilled workers, it makes sense that Taiwanese business people would relocate to China to further their careers.

Earlier this year, Rising Sun International Real Estate Investment Consulting (RSIC), the largest Taiwanese business in Sichuan province (western China), returned to Taiwan to fill positions in architectural design, engineering construction, financial marketing, including 35 mid-to high-level managers, in order to further expand in Chongqing (Sichuan province) and western China. They were surprised when 3,000 resumes were submitted in the first week, reported Global Views.

“We are short of talent, but not money,” said Lin Chih-liang, chairman of RSIC. The company decided to recruit in Taiwan because Taiwanese workers have a reputation for good work ethics, are professional, and provide good value. Whereas mainland Chinese workers are prone to easily jump companies for merely US$100, Taiwanese are more stable.

This past January, a survey of a worker’s willingness to move to western China conducted by 1111 Recruiters showed that up to 94.92 percent of the respondents said they were willing to work in China. It is significantly higher than when the question was asked four years ago (64 percent) or just 18 month ago (77 percent).

The mainland opens further for Taiwanese businesses

In 2006, Xiamen City, Fujian province took the initiative of allowing Taiwanese to run a sole proprietor business with less than 10 employees. Now more regions have followed suit. Starting the first of this year, Taiwanese can run sole proprietor owned restaurants and retail stores in nine cities and provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hubei and Sichuan.

Among some of these owners are Taiwanese who are highly educated, with stable social and economic positions. Some have even made the career shift from technology or financial industries. In one instance, many of those who joined the famous Taiwanese franchise drink stores, CoCo, in China, were high ranking staff members of Hon Hai Precision, ASUS and Citi Corp, reported Global Views.

At 39, Chris left his job in finance last year and joined two friends to co-invest US$300,000 in running a CoCo in Chongqing. With a sigh, he said that Taiwan’s banking growth has slowed in the last ten years. He changed jobs several times, but without much optimism, and then decided to try his luck in China.

Adjusting to a new life not for employees alone

There are always two sides to every coin. Not every Taiwanese can adapt to the situation in China. For example, if you move to China with a family, retaining quality education for your children might be a problem. Huang Chi-chang, president of a Taiwanese business association in Xiamen, said in the whole of China there are currently only three schools run by Taiwanese (two in Shanghai, and one in Guangdong province). If your kids do not live in these three areas, it is very difficult to transfer to a primary school or elementary school in China during the middle of a school term. And, you need to have special connections in order to be admitted to the exceptional local schools.

For this reason, most Taiwanese business people working in Chongqing and Chengdu (Sichuan province) arrange for their families to live in Shanghai or Guangdong so that their kids can attend a Taiwanese-run school, said Global Views.

If you are single and go to China alone, there is little chance your status will change since employees leave for work in the morning and go home after dark, rarely having time for leisure activities.

China is changing and trying to become better, so this is a good opportunity for Taiwanese businesses to be there, said Huang. Taiwan’s service businesses are ahead of China’s, with a focus on quality improvement and customer service.

Taiwanese must discard their feelings of superiority over the Chinese, said Huang. Even though Taiwanese have creativity, and good work ethics, most business owners believe it is better to maintain local connections, even when dealing in a huge market. If you do not understand Chinese people, your future is limited, so he told Global Views.

Taiwan’s grouper king retains his top position in Asia

The signing in 2010 of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), Taiwan and China’s FTA-like agreement, has boosted the number of Taiwan’s grouper farms substantially. Even with a flood of new businesses, Long Diann Marine Bio Technology located in Fang-liao, Pingtung County in southern Taiwan continues to dominate the industry. The company is the largest and most pricy grouper farm on the island, concentrating much of its stock on the Potato grouper (Epinephelus tukula) and the Giant grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) from the Philippines.

Business Weekly reported that when Taiwan and China signed the ECFA, China not only agreed to include Taiwanese grouper in the early harvest list for tariff reduction, but also allowed live fish stocks to be shipped directly to Chinese harbors so it could be served on their dinner tables. In Taiwan, this started a wave of new companies raising grouper for the Chinese market.

Also in the past three years, China has encouraged fish farmers to enter the industry. Today, many indoor grouper farms line the coast of China’s Fujian and Zhejiang provinces sheltering this cold-sensitive fish. In Hainan Island (southern China), where the climate is similar to that of Taiwan, many people started to raise Taiwanese species and have also developed a new species of dragon tiger grouper.

As a result, in 2012, Taiwan grew record quantities of grouper, but at the same time, the prices fell by up to 23 percent, hitting a new low. Accounting for 90 percent of Taiwan’s exports, the sale price of the green species grouper even dropped below the cost of production. As more firms entered this business due to the ECFA, the greater the losses for individual fish farms.

Long Diann Marine Bio is the exception, reported Business Weekly. Nicknamed the king of grouper, Dai Kun-tsai, chairman of Long Diann, has made an estimated US$3.5 million from the fish. Currently there are only eight species of grouper artificially produced, and six are in the hands of Dai. He can sell over 100 million eggs of giant grouper annually, controlling over half of Taiwan’s market. Every day he ships three to six tons of grouper to Hong Kong from the Philippines, being the top seller in Hong Kong’s market. His annual revenue is expected to reach US$10 million. After the signing of the ECFA, many Taiwanese fish farmers started to produce the cheaper green grouper, but Dai insisted on one principle, he would not raise any species cultivated by Chinese fish farmers.

Instead, Dai expanded his fish farm by purchasing a 29.6-acre farm in Pingtung, and focusing on the Potato grouper and Giant grouper as his main exports. He also improved his competitive edge by going to the Philippines to control the hatching and farming of groupers there, according to Business Weekly.

In the Philippines, Dai went on to purchase pricy wild grouper, and then to successfully breed them artificially, thus controlling the supply. The famous Potato group cost NT$420 (US$14) per kilogram in Hong Kong because Dai prevents others having easy access to the hatching and farming of this fish.

From the beginning, Dai has set out to stay at the top of the industry. Business Weekly noted Dai did not just get on the bandwagon after the passing of the ECFA, but has carefully factored in the possible competition from Chinese and domestic fish farmers. With over a thousand highly valuable breeding fish, Dai controls its quality and quantity, thus determining the market price for the most desirable grouper.

Among 12 US states, Utah passes resolution supporting Taiwan

On February 25, the Utah State Legislature passed a joint resolution reaffirming their sister-state friendship with Taiwan, and called on President Obama and Congress to support the signing of a free trade agreement between Taiwan and the US. Additionally, Utah’s representatives encouraged Washington to support Taiwan’s participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization and President Ma Ying-jeou’s East China Sea Peace Initiative.

On the same day, Bruce Fuh, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, flew to Salt Lake City, to thank the state’s representatives for their continued friendship and support of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. On behalf of the Taiwan government and people, Director General Fuh conveyed his gratitude to the people of Utah and promised that the island will continue to serve as a model of democracy in East Asia.

In view of the destabilizing influence of the territorial disputes in the East China Sea, the Utah resolution praised Taiwan’s East China Sea Peace Initiative, which hopes to reduce regional tension. Believing that the peace initiative is in the interests of all the parties involved and serves as a stabilizing effort, the resolution calls on all parties to refrain from taking antagonistic actions, and encourages open dialogue and other peaceful means to resolve the East China Sea disputes.

The resolution points out that Taiwan is the world’s 18th largest exporting country, the US’s 10th largest trading partner and the 6th largest importer of American agricultural products. Nevertheless, there is still no free trade agreement between Taiwan and the United States. The Utah State Legislature urged the US president and Congress to support the signing of a free trade agreement with Taiwan, and to support Taiwan’s participation in the multi-lateral free trade negotiations.

Meanwhile, the Utah resolution also supports Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the United Nations and its umbrella organizations. It specifically mentions support for Taiwan’s effort to gain observer status in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), since the island’s airlines carry Taiwanese travelers worldwide, including  over 580,000 businesspeople and students traveling between Taiwan and the United States each year. Still, for over 40 years, Taiwan has been barred from participating in ICAO and prevented from gaining full and timely access to international flight safety requirements and information. This has hindered Taiwan’s airlines from practicing international aviation norms.

Since 1980, the State of Utah and Taiwan Province have established a close sister state relationship. The resolution reconfirms this relationship, and praises Taiwan for its democratic development. It noted the core values shared between Taiwan and the United States such as freedom, democracy, human rights, open markets, peace and prosperity.

As a long standing supporter of the ROC, the Utah State Legislature has passed many resolutions in support of Taiwan in recent years, including the country’s participation in the World Health Organization, the US Visa Waiver Program, United Nations specialized agencies, and the island’s efforts to re-open bilateral free trade talks with the United States.

According to the Central News Agency the ROC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed gratitude to all the state representatives in the twelve states for passing resolutions in support of Taiwan. The states include Alabama, Washington, Rhode Island, Idaho, Iowa, Georgia, Montana, South Carolina, Massachusetts, South Dakota, Utah and New Mexico. The various resolutions on Taiwan cover a wide range of topics, ranging from support for Taiwan’s participation in the international arena to an affirmation of friendship between the state and Taiwan. In addition, the resolutions also commended Taiwan’s democratic and economic achievements, and the island’s contributions to international humanitarian relief.

Adultery law debate reignited

On March 15, the Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu gave a report on the status of Taiwan’s promotion of national human rights in a cabinet meeting. The report accidently reignited the controversy over Taiwan’s adultery law. During the meeting, the Minister of Culture, Lung Ying-tai, suggested decriminalizing the law, saying she was embarrassed by the island’s adultery law when talking with foreigners. She believes the law is “not democratic enough,” according to the Liberty Times.

Later in an interview, Lung said, “It is a different era now. It is absurd that marriage should still rely on the support of judges, police officers and detectives.”

Taiwan’s feminist groups have long been concerned about the criminalization of adultery, with plenty of women for and against. Lung supports repealing the law, while Tseng supports the status quo.

The Taipei-based China Times reported that in the cabinet members’ heated debate, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said the government’s role is to lead the country forward and not to be satisfied with the status quo. The government should weigh the opinions of legal scholars, experts and people from all walks of life, so it can work harder in the interests of all parties. However, he did not express his position on the issue of decriminalizing adultery.

The United States and most EU countries have abolished the crime of adultery. Japan has decriminalized it. China does not list adultery as a crime. Among the major countries, only Taiwan, South Korea, and the Islamic countries, still list adultery as a “criminal offense”.

The 239th article of Taiwan’s criminal code provides that “married spouses who commit adultery be imprisoned for up to one year.”

The United Daily News reported that Lin Jinn-tsun, deputy director of the prosecutorial department of the Ministry of Justice, said there is room for discussing the abolition of adultery as an offense. But speaking from the principle of gender equality, Taiwan punishes persons of either gender without discriminating on sex, race, religion, social class and therefore does not violate the principle of equality of Article 26 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

Taiwan’s Justices of the Constitutional Court issued an explanation on adultery constitutionality in 2002 that as the basis of the social formation and development, marriage and the family are guaranteed by the Constitution. Although limiting people’s sexual freedom, the law is aimed at protecting marriage, the family system and social order, and therefore it is not unconstitutional.

Though considered a misdemeanor offense in Taiwan, it is often used as a weapon of “counter attack” by wives to control a cheating husband and his mistress, reported the Taiwan-based China Times. Previous judgments by the courts show that sometimes, a wife will discover her husband having an affair, and submit a suit immediately. Then she will choose to forgive her husband, and withdraw the case, while ultimately insisting on suing the mistress. This is the wife’s way of getting repentance from her husband, but placing the disciplinary penalty on the mistress. The newspaper stressed that adultery as an offense “creates more problems than solutions.”

The United Daily News reported that the Awakening Foundation’s Secretary General Lin Shih-fang indicated that the current laws have become a weapon to punish women while exempting men. Lai Fang-yu, a lawyer and the director of the Modern Women’s Foundation, also said that criminal penalties should not apply to marriage, but rather, the use of higher civil compensation to protect victims.

For example, Lin said, out of the over one thousand cases of adultery brought before local courts in the five years, 1999 to 2005, 50 percent of the wives who accused their husbands of adultery withdrew their cases, but still insisted on filing a suit against the mistress while only 23 percent of the husbands who accused their wives of adultery withdrew the cases. In looking at the data, wives were convicted more than the husbands, showing that Taiwanese society treats men and women differently when it comes to adultery.

“It is better to let the spouse go, rather than spending the time intimidating and punishing the parties involved through the criminal justice system,” said Yao Shu-wen, chair of the Modern Women’s Foundation. She pointed out that feminist groups proposed abolishing the adultery offense ten years ago, adding “the existence of the crime of adultery does not help promote positive feelings among married couples. She urged the people suffering betrayal of their spouse to face reality, and to be happy on their own,” according to the Liberty Times.