Story and Photos by Terry Miller
Double Tenth Day celebration was held on the square facing the Presidential office in Taipei, Taiwan, last Friday, Oct 10. Celebrating 103 years, Taiwan pulls out all the stops for this National Day celebration complete with a parade and dramatic air show. Thanks to The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Beacon Media’s News Editor and photographer was among a select group of international journalists invited to cover the festivities on the island of Taiwan which is home to 23 million people but few natural resources.
Much of the talk in Taiwan these past few weeks has been focused on the student protests in Hong Kong and the support these students have from nations all over the world, including Taiwan.
Having never visited the Far East, I was immediately struck by the polite and calm nature of the Taiwanese people. Everyone smiles at you, it seems. In fact, according to a study sponsored by Dr. Charles H.H. Kao of Commonwealth Publishing Group in Taipei their ‘Happiness Index’ (by which researchers are able to find out what locals like and dislike about their world), seems to indicate the glass is very definitely half-full.
It is an interesting sidebar when you consider that while salaries are low and housing prices high the average Taiwanese resident is satisfied with their life and goals. Food and basic commodities seem very reasonable by US standards.
The Ministry of Foreign Trade paints a slightly more foreboding picture, however; saying the country needs to have more vocational schools and stop the exodus of highly educated workers to mainland China and or Silicon Valley who are in search of top salaries, particularly in the highly-competitive electronics IT field.
During the 10-10 Celebrations President Ma addressed the cross strait relations and his hopes for the future of Taiwan:
“When it comes to cross-strait relations, the so-called 1992 consensus and ‘one China, different interpretations’ have been the grounds for peaceful developments between mainland China and Taiwan for the past six years. This is our unwavering stance, and I must remind China that now is the best time for it to embrace democracy. The democratic developments between China and Hong Kong are based on the leaders’ wisdom and acceptance in the face of change. Why can’t Deng Xiaoping’s famous proposal for some people to get rich first work in Hong Kong, to let some people go democratic first?” President Ma said.
In the face of major crises or issues, the government has been able to deal with problems in a legal and appropriate manner, said the president, who listed the Sunflower Movement, the Taipei Metro stabbings, the Penghu air crash, the Kaohsiung explosions and the contaminated oil scares as incidents that have rocked society and worried the people. “We have been working hard to turn crises into opportunities. After the joint efforts of the people and the government, we have seen actual results in infrastructure, economic growth rate, exports and record highs on the stock market,” Ma said. “Taiwan’s economy has entered a positive cycle, as nearly half of our enterprises are recruiting additional employees and our manpower demands are the second highest in the world.”
While showing support for Hong Kong students protests, Ma added during the 10-10 speech that he felt recent demonstrations in Taiwan, such as students occupying administrative buildings were “…an impediment to democracy.”
During his speech, Ma added a footnote to the massive lard controversy which has made front page news in all the local papers where some major businessmen resigned from the company in deep embarrassment:
“Just like all of the nation’s citizens, I find tainted, refuse lard oil and its manufacturing to be wholly unacceptable and have asked executive departments to deal out harsh punishments to put a stop to tainted foods,” said Ma.
In his speech, the president pointed out that the tainted oil scare has affected over 1,000 food retailers. “Despite how the government has efficiently located the manufacturers responsible and the whereabouts of the products, the people have become fearful and companies have suffered losses. Because of the coverage of foreign media, the country’s overall image has taken a blow that is not limited to the food industry. The government has vowed to stamp out tainted food products,” Ma said.
My trip to the Republic of China included meeting President Ma on the morning of 10-10 in the Office of the President amid very tight security. There had been some incidents in previous weeks prompting an unusually high security detail for President Ma.
Our hosts at The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan were Mr. Peter Sun and his colleagues Wei-han Jiang and Konrad Hao along with a young translator named Wellington. These gentlemen made sure we got to our numerous destinations on time and also made sure our needs were met and questions answered. We had a lot of questions.
We visited the northeast coastal town of Yilan on one of final trips, more on that spectacular village in a future story.
During the next few weeks, we’ll explore more of Taiwan and the important role the island plays in the lives of San Gabriel Valley and the world.