Monthly Archives: June 2013

Taiwan’s NARLabs signs Letter of Intent to cooperate with Plug and Play

With the goal of enhancing “global excellence, local impacts,” Dr. Liang-gee Chen, president of Taiwan’s National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) led a delegation to California from June 23 to 30. Among one of the trip’s highlights was the signing of a LOI between Chen and the Sunnyvale-based Plug and Play Technology Center (PnP) President Canice Wu on June 24. PnP is a renowned global accelerator specializing in cultivating the next generation of revolutionary technology start-up companies.

The LOI signed by NARLabs and Plug and Play opens up new prospects for Taiwan’s innovative teams, offering more hands-on experiences, funding opportunities, social networking and added exposure to the highest technical caliber of assistance. It is the type of cooperative efforts sought by Taiwan’s National Science Council (NSC) to stay at the forefront of the technology industry.

On the home front, NSC has also worked hard to encourage entrepreneurial programs aimed at helping Taiwan’s young innovators to start their own business. One such program is called FITI, From IP (Intellectual Property) to IPO (Initial Public Offerings), combining the resources from Taiwan’s business and government sectors. Administered by NSC, NARLabs facilitates the program to assist young innovators in taking their ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace.

As part of FITI, an Entrepreneurial Camp is set up consisting of 200 teams. The program is chaired by Acer’s Founder Stan Shih, who selects the top four to six teams for final consideration in August.


Taiwan International Student Design Competition 2013

The Taiwan International Student Design Competition encourages international creative design exchange and development; further enhancing Taiwan’s standing in creating international designs. The competition is open to students in senior high school and up to 29 years of age. Winners will be awarded a certificate along with a cash prize up to US$12,000.

The competition is a two-stage process. Preliminary selection will rely on the applicant’s electronic file submission and is due by August 15, 2013. Upon making it to the final selection, participants will need to submit a concrete mockup or rending of their idea by October 15.  The final selection will be announced in early November, with the award ceremony and exhibition in late December 2013.

This year’s theme is “Sights and Sounds,” so participants should try their best to incorporate these themes into their creative pieces, whether it is a product design, visual design, digital animation or brand specific.

The competition is sponsored by the Cultural and Creative Industries Center of the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan. To learn more about the procedure, please register online at

In dispute with the Philippines, Taiwan flexes its muscles

Relations between Taipei and Manila have been especially tense since the recent killing of a Taiwanese fisherman, Hong Shi-cheng, by a Philippine Coast Guard vessel on May 9. This incident has strongly stirred Taiwanese anger. So much so, that Director General Bruce Fuh of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco penned a letter to politicians and opinion leaders saying, “I hope you can see the merit of keeping abreast of this escalating situation. Please join us in seeking justice for Mr. Hong, and to prevent such a cruel murder from taking place again by putting pressure on the Philippine government. Your attention to this incident and support for a fair, transparent investigation is greatly appreciated.”

In his May 21 letter, Fuh explained the situation that has been brewing between Taiwan and the Philippines as one that could influence the stability of the region. His letter was a part of the global protests launched by Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry after the incident.

Coldblooded murder, callous attitude

On May 9, a Taiwanese fishing boat Guang Da Xing No. 28 was fired upon by a Philippine government vessel in the overlapping Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between Taiwan and the Philippines. The coldblooded attack left Hong Shi-cheng, the 65-year old Taiwanese captain, dead and the fishing boat adrift. The use of excessive force was apparent by the 48 bullet holes that riddled the defenseless fishing boat.

The attack was so shocking that the Taiwan government immediately asked for a formal apology, compensation, an expedited investigation with the appropriate sentencing of the perpetrators, and a forum to negotiate fisheries matters to prevent a repeat of such an incident.

Although the Philippine government made an apology, it has done little to soothe the anger felt by Taiwan’s people, particularly when Manila characterized the shootings by its coast guard as “unintended”, and postponed a joint investigation by turning away Taiwan’s investigative team on May 18. Furthermore, the Philippine government claimed that the GDX 28 rammed its official ship and the latter acted in self-defense. Both claims are outlandish, given that the fishing boat is seven times smaller.

Unnecessary use of force on an unarmed fishing boat truly violates international law, especially the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Piracy in the Philippines, sometimes under the guise of the coast guard, is rampant in the waters south of Taiwan. In the past, many perpetrators were not punished by the Philippine government. Seeking justice for the murdered fisherman, the Taiwanese government has instituted contingent measures, ranging from ceasing to process the applications of Filipino laborers, imposing sanctions on bilateral economic exchanges, to stepping up its Navy patrols in these EEZ waters.

Neighbors, yet strangers

The shortest distance between Taiwan and the Philippines is only 141 kilometers (87 miles). There are now about 88,000 Filipino laborers in Taiwan, half of them work as caregivers for the elderly or disabled, while the other half are mainly construction workers. However, the squabbling resulting from the GDX 28 incident shows that Taiwan is ignorant of its next door neighbor, reported Commonwealth monthly.

After the incident, Taiwan sent an ultimatum to the Philippines to apologize within 72 hours coinciding with their parliamentary and local election campaigns. Manila ignored it on the grounds that it was “off duty on weekend.” Although close in proximity, the distance culturally is clearly apparent.

Commonwealth reported that Filipinos are the second happiest people in Asia, only after Thais, according to the latest poll by Gallup. Whenever disaster strikes the Philippines, victims are often seen smiling and happy in pictures taken at inflicted areas. However, what has riled the Taiwanese is learning that the Philippine coast guards laughed while firing upon the GDX 28, and worse, when the Philippine government spokeswoman addressed the incident at a press conference, she did it with a smile. Although Filipinos have a reputation for being happy people, their lack of remorse in this case has not endeared the country to Taiwanese people, but rather, added fuel to the fire.

Sea of troubles between Taiwan and the Philippines  

Taiwan’s territory is smaller than three-fourth of the UN’s member states, but the island has maritime clout in the world, the Taipei-based Business Weekly reported.

According to UN statistics, Taiwan’s tuna fish catch is the fourth largest globally, only behind Japan, Indonesia and Spain. The big purse seine fishing boats Taiwanese own rank No. 4 in the world in terms of the number of vessels. Taiwan’s small and medium sized fleets of tuna longline fishing vessels rank No. 2 only behind Japan. Taiwan’s annual production value of offshore fishing reached NT$40 billion (US$1.33 billion) last year. This figure did not include those from actual Taiwanese fleets but those registered under foreign countries. If all were included, the total Taiwanese fishing value would reach NT$100 billion (US$3.33 billion).

Sixty percent of the global tuna fish comes from the mid-Western Pacific Ocean near Taiwan, but the largest tasty black tuna favored by many connoisseurs mainly come from the overlapping EEZ between Taiwan and the Philippines.

Taiwanese fishermen from Donggang and Lamay Island, both in Pingtung County in southern Taiwan, catch tuna for a living; while the Philippines depend on these Taiwanese fishermen entering this overlapping area for money. Captain Lin Han-de of Lamay Island told the weekly that they have been catching black tuna fish for three generations – from his grandfather to his father, now to himself. They have apparently come under numerous attacks from the Filipino Navy, coast guards and militia. A member of the Donggang Fishing Association said, “The Taiwanese fishing boats are expensive, and equipped with advanced devices. Besides, Filipinos believe Taiwanese are rich anyway.”

Given these circumstances, Taiwanese fishermen always carry up to US$10,000 onboard to pay ransoms in case they are arrested by the Philippine Coast Guard. When confronting greedier Filipinos, their boats would be towed in the direction of the Philippines, and their US dollars confiscated. At times, the sailors have been asked to pay more – sometimes from US$60,000 or even up to US$300,000. In all cases, the fishermen were released, but only after their families had wired the ransom money, Business Weekly reported.

However, before the GDX 28 incident, there were over 600 Taiwanese boats going there to fish with only a catch of 50 tunas. Up to 90 percent of the Taiwanese fishing boats returned empty-handed. So far this year, the catch of black tuna by the fishermen from Donggang are at record lows, only 119 tunas, a contrast with the historic record highs of 300-500 tunas a day.

Professor C.C. Hsu, from the Oceanography Institute, National Taiwan University, told Business Weekly that the GDX 28 incident is only the tip of the iceberg between Taiwan and the Philippines. As the ocean resources get scarcer and scarcer, the struggle to grab those precious resources will get fiercer, not less so.

Following a similar model with Japan

Lacking membership in the United Nations, Taiwan is not able to be a signatory on many international fishing agreements. Taiwan usually concludes separate memorandums of understanding that obligate the island under regional or global fish-quota systems.

The relations between Taiwan and the Philippines have never been tense before. Both sides signed a memorandum on fisheries cooperation in 1991, designating two routes for Taiwanese fishing boats to pass and in turn Taipei offered financial aid to Manila for fisheries cooperation. It was not until 1998 that the Philippines passed their own fisheries law and unilaterally abandoned this memorandum. Thus this part of the ocean became a point of conflict, Business Weekly reported.

After the GDX 28 incident, the Taiwan government asked the Philippines to restart the fishing negotiation, following the model of the fisheries agreement between Taiwan and Japan, regulating the fishing operations of both countries in these overlapping territorial waters.

Taiwan and Japan finally signed a fisheries agreement this April after 17 negotiation talks since 1996. At a time of conflict over the sovereignty issue of the Diaoyutai Islands between Taiwan and Japan, the two sides still reached an agreement on fishing operations in the overlapping EEZ, without touching upon the sovereignty issue. The agreement has been effective since May 10.

According to the Central News Agency, on June 14, Taiwan and the Philippines reached an initial consensus during a preparatory meeting in Manila over fisheries issues. Both sides agreed to address the mechanism: to not use force during enforcement, to notify each other in the event of fishing boat incidents and to immediately release fishermen and boats detained.

President Ma Ying-jeou stressed if the dispute between Taipei and Manila are not solve soon, it will affect the bilateral relations and the peace and security of the region as well, reported the United Daily News.

Winning greater regional influence

According to the British newspaper, the Guardian, Taiwan’s fishing deal with Japan “may have finally been clinched by China’s recent naval assertiveness, about which both Japan and Taiwan are wary… Taiwan is winning for itself greater regional influence.”

The Central News Agency reported that Taiwan is seeking to revise the principles of protecting its fishing boats in the overlapping EEZ by considering expanding patrols to the area surrounding the whole Batan Island off the Philippines, and letting its Navy and coast guards regularly patrol further south to protect fishing boats.

Near to the Batanes Archipeligo lie important navigational channels for commercial vessels passing through the Bashi Channel. The expansion of Taiwanese Navy patrols in the EEZ will show the island’s determination to stand toe to toe, so that neighboring countries need to pay more heed to the situation.

The Navy’s expanded area of patrol will go a long way to protecting Taiwan’s fishing rights and sovereignty. Through the routine protection of its fishing boats, Taipei will force the Philippines to face the reality of Taiwan’s regional power and seriously sit down with Taiwan in negotiations, stressed the Central News Agency.

Taiwanese doctors develop new optical slit lamp at Stanford University

By combining optical, medical and wireless transmission technology, two doctors from Taiwan, Jonathan Tsung-yu Ho and David Tsu-wang Shen, have successfully developed a simple and easy-to-operate slit lamp for eye observation. Unlike traditional models, that are big and bulky, the newly developed SlitEYE is only 12.5cm (4.9 inches) in length. It is not only lightweight, but is also compatible with smart phones. Its portability makes it suitable for use in a physician’s office and for providing emergency first aid.

Dr. Ho and Dr. Shen are members of the Stanford-Taiwan Biomedical Fellowship Program (STB), sponsored by the National Science Council (NSC) of Taiwan. Initiated by a cooperation agreement between Taiwan’s NSC and the School of Medicine, Stanford University, in November 2007, the program accepts Taiwanese physicians and engineers for a year-long training program, where they are immersed in Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture. So far, a total of 24 members have participated in the program, and 19 have completed their training, returning to Taiwan with significant research and development experience to add to the medical equipment industry on the island.

The STB participants are already talented practitioners in Taiwan’s engineering, medical, life sciences and a multitude of other areas. Dr. Ho was a former resident physician in the Ophthalmology Department of the Taipei Veterans General Hospital. While working with patients there, he felt that the traditional slit lamps were not user friendly. Ho met Dr. Shen from Tzu Chi University (Hualien County, eastern Taiwan), where he specializes in biochemical machinery, biological signal processing and artificial intelligence. They joined forces to develop the SlitEYE, which is vastly more user friendly in taking eyeball measurements and assessing eye focus. The device is easy to carry, attaches to different lenses, and uses energy efficient LED lights.

Silicon Valley venture capitalists also see a promising future for the device  and hope to have it in production later this year. They will be entering a global market estimated to be worth US$947 million by 2017, with a projected annual growth rate of 4 percent. The price will be tagged at less than US$500, while a traditional lamp costs over US$2,500 per set.

Fusion House, authentic Taiwanese food in the South Bay

The Yu family opened Fusion House two years ago in Fremont, and looking around the crowded dining room; it is quite clearly a resounding success. Although relatively new to Northern California, the Yus are seasoned restaurateurs, having opened eight restaurants specializing in Taiwanese food in Southern California.

Yu Chien-hsiang arrived here with his parents and opened their first restaurant in 1988 in San Gabriel. Like many first generation immigrants, they arrived not knowing what might be their new occupation. According to Yu’s wife, Manette, her husband did not know how to cook then, but gradually taught himself how to recreate authentic Taiwanese dishes he so enjoyed.

Hao Nien Dong, the Chinese name for all the family’s restaurants is the same, roughly translated, it means “Harvest Day” but each restaurant has a different English name.

Taiwan Insights have included some of Fusion House’s most popular dishes in our Photo Gallery. If you are hungry for some authentic Taiwanese food after seeing the photos, then drop by Fusion House at 46228 Warm Springs Boulevard #452 in Fremont.










Taiwan’s aboriginal children’s choir to perform in San Jose on July 6

In early July, the Wisdom Culture and Education Organization will sponsor the Vox Nativa Children’s Choir on a visit to Northern California. During their visit, the children will give a concert at the Jubilee Christian Center (105 Nortech Parkway, San Jose) on July 6 at 6:30pm. The choir’s beautiful vocal compilations have already earned them a reputation at home and aboard, so do not miss this rare opportunity to hear them live in concert.

Under the directorship of principal Buket, the group is comprised of aboriginal children from 11 tribes from across Nantou County, central Taiwan. Because the children’s homes are so spread out, it takes the school bus about four hours to pick up all of the choir members. In addition, they often give up their evenings, weekends and holidays so they can practice together.

The children often sing in aboriginal dialect, as well as Mandarin Chinese and English. Although the group receives supplemental English lessons, they also study under the group’s English volunteer, Alfred Wu. The choir’s distinct vocal training is especially evident as their clear full-bodied voices mesmerize the audience.

Whereas the aboriginal tribes in Taiwan might share similar historical hardships as the American Indians, Taiwan’s aboriginals are famous for producing outstanding singers and baseball players. During the group’s visit, the children will get a chance to visit some of San Francisco’s famed sights, including cheering for the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 5.

Although the choir is made up of 90 members, 35 children will take part in the trip and concert. To purchase tickets to the concert, please contact  extension 101/105 or .

Taiwan-made BB guns seen in the US military and TV series

As the world’s largest producer of BB guns, Taiwan is reaping the rewards of the resurgent popularity of survival games that employ such air guns. Even the Netherlands – the only European Union member country to ban the use of BB guns – lifted the ban in January 2013.

Over 50 percent of all BB guns are made in Taiwan, Business Weekly reported. According to trade data from the Ministry of Finance, under the category of toy guns, Taiwan’s exports reached NT$2.2 billion (US$73 million) in 2012. If other parts and accessories are included, the total production value of Taiwan’s survival games would reach NT$4 billion (US$133 million), as estimated by Lin Hao-chu, of the Economics Ministry. Though the number might not rival the hundreds of billions of dollars generated by the technology sector, the island’s guns have gained better brand recognition worldwide.

Not only are people purchasing Taiwan-made BB guns for games, but the US federal government is purchasing them as a training tool. A recent purchase came from the US Homeland Security Department, for US$420,000 worth of training guns made by Taiwan’s KSC.

In fact, 90 percent of US Army approved vendors for BB gun purchases over 200 units are Taiwanese companies such as G&G Armament, KJ Works, and WE Model Company. Even Japan’s Self Defense Forces, a fiercely nationalistic organisation, turned to Taiwan’s Vega Force Company to order their training BB guns.

They are also popular as stage props. Business Weekly reported Taiwanese BB guns frequently appear in European and American television series such as CSI: Miami, Fringe, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

Taiwan’s BB guns have also earned rave reviews from users and experts. Airsoft GI, the largest BB gun web reviewer and seller in the US, ranked G&G’s BB guns as the champion in the category of most practical guns, and the products of KCS as the first choice of professional BB guns, while Vega’s small but refined products are regarded as the best by gun collectors and enthusiasts. Wang Zhi-zhong, chief editor of Taiwan’s Combat King magazine, added that all experts know that BB guns made in Taiwan are of a high quality.

Liao Ying-xi, G&G Armament chairman, told Business Weekly that the key to Taiwan’s thriving BB guns business is the island’s excellent metal processing technology such as lathing, stamping press and surface treatment, which is capable of producing the quality plastic modeling and injection molding at a low cost. “The molding cost here in Taiwan is only one third of that in Japan. This makes a big difference,” said Liao. With the support of many local mid- to small-size satellite factories, he dares to test all kinds of new structural designs to make G&G capable of offering over 100 kinds of guns and various accessories, totaling 6,000 spare parts.

Business Weekly reported that with strong industrial support, BB guns can become an asset for local governments to attract recreational visitors to their region. In recent years, Kinmen County and the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology of the Defense Ministry jointly set up a survival games play area. In 2012, eager to promote tourism, Penghu County staged a tournament with over 400 participants. The tournament garnered attention from survival game magazines from Japan and France who sent reporters to cover the event, making the restaging of these games a top priority for this fall.


Taiwan’s contest seeks ideas for dream trip

As a pioneer of innovative youth travel in Taiwan, the Youth Trekkers Wanted Campaign now seeks your help in creating the next truly memorable Taiwan trek. Sponsored by the Ministry of Education’s Youth Development Administration and its predecessor the National Youth Commission, the Campaign assists international young travelers in making their Taiwan travels truly unique. Now, the 6th Campaign is seeking creative ideas for an island trek lasting at least 10 days. Twenty winners will be eligible for cash prizes of US$2,000 or $3,000 to offset their travel expenses. Submissions will be accepted until July 14, 2013 and eligibility is open to all international participants 18 to 30 years of age.

The Youth Trek Wanted Campaign enjoys a strong fan base among international travelers. Over the past 5 years, nearly 80 winners from around the world have used the awards to explore Taiwan. All have put their own creativity and interests to excellent use – designing customized travel itineraries that have deepened their ties with Taiwan and its people.

As someone committed to nature and environmental protection, former participants such as Spanish architect Eduardo Giménez-Cassina found true pleasure in the traditional homes on Orchid Island and the environmentally friendly designs of Taiwan’s temples. And from landlocked Switzerland, the sea’s beauty and diversity inspired Ornella Weideli in her study of sharks. Ornella’s Taiwan itinerary took her to many of the island’s fishing ports to learn about Taiwan’s rich ocean culture and marine ecology. In meeting Taiwan’s leading shark specialists and sharing insights on these ocean predators, she hopes to incorporate her experience in her work and research back home.

American Erica Schlaikjer designed her itinerary to focus on Taiwan’s graffiti and street art scene. She sees this art form as a powerful cohesive force capable of not only enlivening stagnant urban spaces, but also creating dialogue between city dwellers, especially youths. Kenya’s Shelmith Wangechi Gitahi was the first Youth Trekkers Wanted Campaign winner from Africa. She considers Taiwan as an island of mystery, hidden away from the world. It was “love at first bite” for Shelmith, who pursued a passion for Taiwan’s diverse culinary temptations. Expressing a particular fondness for Taiwan’s seafood, she confessed to enjoying a night market staple of charcoal grilled squid. From start to finish, Shelmith couldn’t say enough about the warm, friendly reception she received from all the Taiwanese people she met along the way.

The Youth Trekkers Wanted Campaign sets no boundaries, so travelers can design their trip the way they want and create a unique journey that they can remember in the years to come. The 6th Campaign welcomes young backpackers from around the world to put their talents and interests to good use by creating experiences that will unlock their own potential and deepen their bonds with Taiwan.

Please submit your itinerary and completed application by the July 14due date for the chance to be one of this year’s Youth Trekkers Wanted Campaign winners! Visit the official activity website at: for all the details and application information.

The winners of this year’s trek will be announced on July 31, with travel expected to take place from August 1 and November 20, 2013. This is a wonderful chance for young, outgoing adventurers to explore Taiwan’s natural, social and cultural wealth on someone else’s dime.



Taiwan and China discuss establishing bilateral offices

After the June 13 meeting with China’s new leader Xi Jinping, Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Honorary Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung said that he was confident Taiwan and China will establish official representative offices so as to facilitate the handling of bilateral affairs, according to the Central News Agency. The Wu-Xi meeting is the first high-level meeting between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since Xi became the general secretary of the party last November.

In the meeting with Xi, Wu sent regards to Xi on behalf of Taiwan’s president and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and has reiterated Taiwan’s stance on developing its relations with China. Apart from discussing mutual representative offices, Wu underscored the Taiwan government’s adherence to the “1992 consensus” and its stance against independence as the basis of political mutual trust.

The “1992 consensus” refers to the understanding reached by both sides’ representatives at the 1992 talks in Hong Kong discussing the definition of “one China.” The core content of the consensus is “one China, respective interpretations.” In simple terms, “one China” is recognized by Beijing to mean the People’s Republic of China (PRC), whereas Taiwan interprets it to mean the Republic of China (ROC). The two sides recognize each other as a political entity and are willing to shelve the sovereignty dispute in order to promote mutual exchanges.

Wu said that Taiwan hopes to take part in more international affairs and become further integrated in the regional economy. He made a case for greater and meaningful participation for Taiwan internationally. He also called for deeper economic cooperation and conveyed Taiwan’s hopes for admission into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade body led by China, Japan, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) member states, the Central News Agency reported.

Since President Ma took office in 2008, Taiwan and China have institutionalized cross-strait consultations, signed 18 agreements, and held eight meetings so as to lay a solid foundation for cross-strait exchanges. At present, the relations between the two sides are in the best shape in 60 years.

The United Evening News reported that during President Ma’s re-election campaign in October, 2011, he promised to promote the setting up of mutual offices. At the consultation meeting this January, the two sides decided to limit offices to public service level so as to circumvent the sovereignty dispute. Both sides have agreed that the major functions should be economic and trade, culture and education, and emergency relief. Taiwan expects to set up offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and to be able to engage in business of consular affairs such as issuing travel documents.

President Ma said that the opening of official offices is a major part of building healthy relations between Taiwan and the mainland, managing both sides’ yearly interaction of 8 million people and trade worth of US$160 billion. According to the Central News Agency, he noted that it is unimaginable that the two political entities have no official offices at this level to help facilitate this.

Discussions on the establishment of mutrual offices will be conducted through Taiwan’s semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). Established in 1991, it is responsible for cross-strait affairs, and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).

At the same time of the Wu-Xi meeting, Taiwan’s Legislature was reviewing the regulations of cross-strait mutual establishment of offices.

The KMT stressed that cross-strait relations are a “special relationship of equal footing,” but not a state-to-state relationship, and the two sides set up offices, not consulates, while the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party argued that the cross-strait relationship is one between countries, and that cross-strait mutual establishment of offices must follow “the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” and shall be in accordance with the norms of international law and international practices, including national flags being hoisted at these offices and the national emblem revealed. The lawmakers of both parties insisted that offices of the two sides should have the function of judicial visitation rights. The two parties have not been able to reach a consensus on the contents of the regulations, reported the Central News Agency.

Increased triathlon enthusiasts bolster Taiwan’s fitness industry

The growing popularity of triathlons (swimming, cycling and running) in Taiwan has made this form of exercise big business.

On April 20, the Dajia Riverside Park in Taipei was packed with thousands of people taking part in a running event co-sponsored by National Geographic and the Taipei City government. Despite a light drizzle ahead of the start of the tournament at dusk, the enthusiasm of its 6,000 participants did not waiver.

On the same day, ASICS, a sports equipment company, sponsored a running tournament in Wulai on the outskirts of Taipei, while the Asian Triathlon Confederation (ASTC) also held its Asian Cup in Tainan (southern Taiwan) featuring over a thousand participants.

The cabinet-level Sports Affairs Council (SAC) urges people to adopt the 3-3-3 principle, which refers to the recommendation to take part in exercise at least three times a week, lasting 30 minutes per session, and reaching a heartbeat of 130 per minute during the exercise. People following this rule make up 30 percent of the island’s total population; meaning over 7.43 million Taiwanese are doing exercise regularly.

Commonwealth monthly reported that individuals doing regular exercise spend NT$4,050 (US$135) on exercise per year. Given this estimate, the fitness industry has the opportunity to generate at least NT$30 billion-worth (US$1 billion) of business in Taiwan this year.

According to the SAC report, the total income generated from sports-related industries reached NT$300 billion (US$10 billion) in 2012. Chen Hua-heng, secretary general of the Chinese-Taipei Road Running Association, estimates that if all the big and small events are counted, the number of marathons held each year in Taiwan would total at least 500, with 1.5 million participants. This figure represents a five-fold increase in the space of just five years. In the past, there was about one triathlon a year in Taiwan, now there are over a dozen a year.

Commonweath reported that Massa Lai, owner of Fun Triathlon and a graduate of the Taipei Physical Education College, decided to start his business in 2009 catering to the needs of triathlon enthusiasts. Initially, he thought of charging people by offering professional training and instruction. Now he promotes sales through service. The most popular items sold at his store are clothing and running shoes.

Over the last four years, Lai has also sponsored 10 two-week long triathlon boot camps. Places always fill up immediately after a new camp is announced. His business income jumped from NT$20,000 (US$666) per month to almost NT$400,000 (US$13,333) monthly, growing 20 times in four years.

Chen Wei-ying, public relations manager with Nike (Taiwan) observed that the age of runners has fallen, and that the number of female runners has grown exponentially in recent years, according to Commonwealth.

Taiwanese runners used to be dads jogging around the park in their under shirts and short pants. The situation has changed in recent years. Now Nike promotes many running clubs with professional coaches.

When such activities were first held in Taipei five years ago, there were only 30 attendees. Now these classes are fully booked every time, with almost 200 people showing up. Businesses are very fond of sponsoring such events because of the potential to raise the company’s profile and generate additional sales. Fubon Financial, Super Supao, and ASICS are just some of the companies that have benefitted from this type of sponsorship, Chen Hua-heng told Commonwealth.

The net result is that the more companies that get involved in promoting an increasingly diverse range of sports, the greater the business opportunities that are generated. According to Nike’s Chen Wei-ying, runners today are not just asking for technology and functionality in sports’ products, they also look for comfort and fashion.

Consumers want lighter sneakers and high-end functional clothing. Nike introduced a watch with a GPS function, recording a jogger’s running statistics and immediately uploading this to social networking sites. The watch was so popular that it sold out within a month, even with a price tag of US$100 to US$130.

The big question is: will the sports and fitness industry be transformed from merely a casual hobby into a strong profitable industry in Taiwan? Ultimately, it will come down to whether sports enthusiasts are willing to pay the professional fees of greater participation, and whether the industry as a whole is able to come up with a more complete business strategy, noted Commonwealth.