Elections for Taiwan's ‘Five Municipalities'
Who Can Deliver Happiness?
In a series of exclusive interviews, the candidates for mayor of Taipei City, Xinbei City and Kaohsiung City present their plans for governance after the reshuffling of Taiwan's administrative districts.
Who Can Deliver Happiness?By David Huang/Rebecca Lin
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 455 )
As Taiwan looks forward to a new division of jurisdictions, the election campaigns for the top five cities are heating up.
The island will soon have five "Municipalities Directly under the Jurisdiction of the Central Government," with elevated status and privileged funding.
While the capital city already enjoys top-tier status and will see little practical change after the redistricting, mayor of Taipei remains one of the country's most coveted political posts. Meanwhile, Taipei County, which forms an outer ring around the capital, will become a top-tier municipality in its own right, with a new title: New Taipei City ("New Taipei City"). Kaohsiung City – also already a top-tier municipality – will merge with surrounding Kaohsiung County and grow in scope.
While the upcoming elections will reshuffle the deck of political power in Taiwan and profoundly affect the lives of all the Taiwanese people, the battleground is shrouded by a thick veil of smoke and clamor.
To provide a clearer picture, CommonWealth Magazine has conducted exclusive interviews with all eleven candidates running for mayor in the five new top-tier municipalities in Taiwan. Featured below are the mayoral candidates for Taipei, New Taipei and Kaohsiung cities:
| Taipei city
In the following interview highlights, the two candidates for mayor of Taipei City – incumbent Hau Lung-bin of the KMT and challenger Su Tseng-chang of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – talk freely about their own ideals for governance and their vision for the future of the nation's capital.
Hau Lung-pin: Unleashing Taipei's Soft Power, Spearheading the Taiwan Brand
Taipei is Taiwan's brand. In the wake of hosting the 2009 Summer Deaflympics and with the upcoming Taipei International Flora Expo, the world has come to know Taipei as not lacking a thing when compared with other international cities. For the future I hope to unleash the soft power of Taipei and bring other cities and counties across Taiwan into a joint international marketing effort.
Taipei's soft power comprises four main facets, foremost among them the Neihu Technology Park. This is an area that can truly attract major international companies to come and set up their Asia-Pacific operational headquarters here. These companies will choose Taipei over Shanghai or Hong Kong because of Taipei's technology sector. This, of course, also includes horticultural technology. For example, there are more than 3,000 varieties of orchids throughout the world, and Taiwan grows more than 1,000 of them. The Netherlands can certainly sell orchids, but the technological know-how for growing them is right here in Taipei.
The second facet lies in the service sector. Following the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), our free trade arrangements with China will be two years ahead of Japan and South Korea. This two-year advantage in customs duties has prompted a considerable number of Japanese companies to plan investments in Taiwan. Consequently, we're looking to set up direct flight routes between Taipei's Songshan Airport and Shanghai's Hongqiao Airport, to be followed by the establishment of routes to Tokyo's Haneda International Airport and one or both of the international airports serving Seoul. We intend to approach the entire Asia-Pacific region through the auspices of ECFA, these areas are all within a four-hour travel radius, a comfortable one-day trip.
Alternative City Marketing
The third facet is our environmental industry. When we went to the Shanghai Expo and exhibited our waste reduction and recycling technologies, the Shanghai City Government directed their district offices to visit the Taipei Pavilion. Just think about that for a minute. If China's entire population of 1.3 billion began engaging in environmentally conscious practices, how big of a business opportunity would that be for Taipei's veteran environmental industry?
The fourth facet is culture and creativity. Culture is perhaps Taipei's greatest niche area. Dance, culture, all kinds of creativity come from Taipei. Pop acts like S.H.E., Jay Chou and Wang Leehom, and drama groups like Performance Workshop Theatre can achieve unrestrained creativity here, all because of Taipei's freedom and democracy.
Now we have completed the bidding process for the NT$4 billion Taipei Performing Arts Center to complement the Taipei Pop Music Center in Nangang and the Taipei Dome Complex in Songshan. Next year we're further planning to hold a world design expo, which will combine the three major disciplines of interior design, commercial design and industrial design in one major exhibition and put our design capabilities on full display in an alternative city marketing campaign to make the world stand up and take notice of Taipei.
Major international events such as the Deaflympics, the flora expo and the design expo not only raise Taipei's international visibility, but can also serve to improve the city's basic infrastructure, something that will require working together with New Taipei City (New Taipei City). For example, Taipei is working jointly with New Taipei City in our bid for the Asian Games. The Taipei brand offers a competitive advantage in the bidding, while New Taipei possess the needed space for the construction of the necessary new venues – a symbiotic twin cities relationship.
Su Tseng-chang: To Change People's Thinking, Policymakers Must Change Attitudes
Each year, 100,000 people leave Taipei City. Why? Because Taipei has let them down.
It's like in the old Chen Fen-lan song "An Orphan Girl's Wish" – everybody came to the bustling city that was Taipei. But Taipei has now gotten old, and the pace of progress has slowed. Housing is overpriced, jobs are scarce, and the cost of living is high. Taipei has become uninteresting and worrisome. Harboring a dream, I'm heading back to Taipei once again.
Citizen's Minor Worries Should be Mayor's Major Concerns
Actually, change isn't that hard, but it must first begin with changing the attitudes of the policymakers. They need to start paying attention to the 10 million residents of the metropolitan area, because the little worries of the citizenry should be the major concerns of the mayor. The same political party has now governed Taipei for the past 12 years. Now the people want change. Taipei is a metropolis that has what it takes to change, and it's the city that should be leading the charge to raise Taiwan's visibility, not merely leading in the industrial and economic spheres, but also meeting the expectations of the citizenry, first improving their lives to make the city a better place.
For instance, 77 percent of city residents believe the bicycle paths running the length of Dunhua Road should be eliminated, and the same goes for the bus lanes along Zhongxiao West Road. When I'm elected, they're as good as gone. Politicians of the past loved to play at being the gentleman scholar – it was an elitist leadership. But times have changed, and city residents are very concerned and involved. In my talks with city residents, I let them tell me what it is they want me to do.
Taipei needs updating. With urban renewal, for example, the vitality of the private sector is strong, and we need to simplify the bureaucracy to be more accessible to the people and eliminate administrative obstacles. Taipei needs to become a more interesting city of greater character. How can a city be expected to develop when even its own citizens don't like it? Taipei is actually a capital that has the right stuff. It simply lacks a comprehensive plan and the proper motivation.
International publicity and landmark architecture can admittedly score points in Taipei's favor, but that is merely a veneer. We should first address the physical substance before seeing to the cosmetic improvements. Taipei's natural attributes are pretty good. In wintertime we can head up to Yangmingshan to enjoy the beauty of the snow, and when summer comes we can head out to beach at Jinshan, all within an hour's drive. And the city boasts a diverse dining culture. These things can all drive a productive service sector, the so-called "Industry 2.5," and the city is quite tourist friendly for foreign visitors. Bringing these resources together to benefit the city will take administrative ability and proper policy planning.
"If you hear me say it, I'll definitely get it done" – that is my promise to city residents. The thrust of my entire political platform is predicated upon "envisioning the future you want" – that is to say, the Taipei City that Taipei residents want.
My top policy priority will be a Safe Schools policy, to provide students with friendlier "drug-free, bully-free" campuses. The city government needs to stand together with teachers in bringing together schools, neighborhood leaders, counselors and community volunteers in plotting out a roadmap to safer campuses. Problems and deficiencies must be identified if we are to banish drugs and bullies from our schools once and for all.
Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy
| New Taipei City
By David Huang
Eric Li-luan Chu: Turning Debt into Public Works
Under its new special municipality status, New Taipei City will gain an opportunity to redefine its relationship with Taipei City as that of twin cities. Were New Taipei City instead merged with the capital, the past pattern of sprawling urban development with Taipei City as the center would continue. I believe that once New Taipei City has become a special municipality with an elevated status, it can achieve an upgrade through a development plan based on multiple urban cores. We could create a new capital area, the best place in all of Taiwan. I call it the "new New Taipei."
With regard to its development, New Taipei City could be described as a late bloomer. How come? The land area of New Taipei City is eight times larger than Taipei City. With a population of 3.9 million people, the area has quite a strong economy. But in the past, infrastructure development was piecemeal, lacking overall macroplanning, because it was regarded as an extension of Taipei City.
Three Circles, Three Lines, Ten Cores
I think New Taipei City is Taiwan's economic locomotive. Particularly now that the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) has been signed with China, New Taipei City stands a chance of becoming a hub for Taiwanese investors who return from China to establish operational headquarters in Taiwan. Then citizens would be able to find employment right where they live. New Taipei City definitely needs to seize this opportunity.
For sure New Taipei City needs to take into account Taipei City's planning as part of its overall development. Even Taoyuan and Keelung need to be figured in. If we do this, then New Taipei City has two airports – Taoyuan and Songshan – and two international seaports – Keelung and Taipei – as well as many scenic features like mountains, rivers and the sea that will enable it to develop into an economic and cultural metropolis with a natural environment. But to achieve all this, we depend on transportation.
According to our plan, New Taipei City will have ten cores, which will be interlinked in the New Taipei metro system through three circular lines and three branch lines. The first of the three circles is the Circular Line (Phase I of which has already been approved by the central government). The second circle will link the Wanda-Zhonghe-Shulin line with the Xinzhuang Line, and the third circle will connect the Taoyuan International Airport Access MRT System with metro lines in Taoyuan County. The three branch lines refer to the Danshui light rail line, and extensions of existing lines to Ankeng and Xizhi. This would interconnect New Taipei City's public transport arteries.
We must clearly acknowledge one fact – that neither the central nor the local governments have an abundance of fiscal resources. If we wait until the central government has put together a budget for building the metro, the speed of construction will never be able to catch up with demand.
New Taipei City is already developing so quickly that "the people are moving faster than the metro." The traffic volume and the passengers are already there.
Therefore, we need to change our long-held thinking that the local governments can get by by piling up debt. We have to turn debt into public works. We could build the subway by establishing a public infrastructure fund. New Taipei City already holds a stake in the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC). It does not need to set up its own metro company. We only need to plan the lines and let TRTC build them. The pace of construction would then be much faster. These subway lines and stations will become the golden eggs of New Taipei City, allowing the city's finances to enter a positive cycle.
Tsai Ing-wen: Toward Autonomy, Economic Independence
Taipei City, this engine, has already developed to its maximum extent. New Taipei City's promotion to a special municipality provides just the right opportunity for developing several medium-sized engines. Within New Taipei City we already have emerging medium-sized metropolitan areas such as Sanchong/Luzhou, Banqiao, Xinzhuang/Wugu, Yonghe/Zhonghe as well as Xindian. Once New Taipei City is a special municipality, it will be on par with Taipei City and be master over its finances. If we adopt the strategy of developing a multi-core metropolitan area, the economy of northern Taiwan will be able to enter a positive cycle.
I have two photos that were taken in Sanjhih. One shows me together with several elderly ladies wrapping rice dumplings. The other shows me with some youngsters at a pop concert. These photos illustrate that there are several areas within New Taipei City where traditional and modern culture are both alive and where the current collision of these two worlds spawns a new cultural feel. That's also a reason why governing New Taipei City is a big challenge for politicians.
Developing Diverse Industries and Cultural Facets
We hope to redefine the farming communities of New Taipei City as country communities that have not just agricultural activities, but also offer a new rural life experience. Places like Sanjhih have a lot of artists. If these communities are defined as country communities, the local recreation industry can develop and the small towns will present very different, diverse faces.
Taipei County used to have the largest shoemaking industry in all of Taiwan. The Bihua Textile Street in Sanchong used to be a lively and prospering district, but now it has less than 150 stores selling cloth. I think we need to give these local industries a facelift so that these small companies and merchants are able to survive. If we gradually cultivate local industries, people will be able to find work where they live, and they will spend their money locally too. Then we can go back and help the shop owners to grow their businesses, and we can achieve an economically self-sufficient New Taipei City.
The new mayor's job will be to integrate urban and rural areas. For that we need to rely on transportation management. Due to the Taipei centrism of the past, which put Taipei City first, the rapid transit system planning emphasized radial lines rather than circular lines. As a result we have the odd situation that New Taipei City residents need to first take the subway to Taipei City before they can transfer to other lines to travel on to other destinations in New Taipei City.
Of course, New Taipei City needs to cooperate with Taipei City when it comes to urban development, but it also needs autonomy. As long as the subway network is not complete, we will establish a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that uses dedicated bus lanes, modern coaches with sliding doors, and almost matches the service level of subways. Yet BRT construction costs are only one tenth of subway construction, while transport capacity stands at 80 percent. Moreover, such bus systems can be planned and realized within a short time. We believe that efficient management could significantly and very quickly improve New Taipei City traffic.
Of course, this has a lot to do with funding. The Democratic Progressive Party is known to be poor. If I am elected New Taipei City mayor, I will adopt the spirit of a thrifty home economist. If there's no money, I'll use people instead. For instance, you can increase the police force if you want to improve public security, but eventually there's a limit to doing that. We hope to promote citizenship, to make people join hands to help the police keep order in communities, because city governance is everyone's job. It's better if you go out and do a volunteer job than sit at home in front of the TV getting upset over the news. This is one of the things that we the DPP hope to highlight with our ten-year policy manifesto.
Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz
| Kaohsiung City
The contest for Kaohsiung City mayor is a three-way race. Incumbent Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu represents the DPP, while Yang Chiu-hsing, the current chief of Kaohsiung County – which is set to merge with Kaohsiung City – is challenging Chen as an independent. Legislator Huang Chao-shun is representing the KMT in its bid to wrest control of this traditional DPP stronghold.
By Rebecca Lin
Huang Chao-shun: Wealth-creating City of Twin International Ports
Kaohsiung first and foremost boasts an outstanding geographical location within Southeast Asia, with Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai conveniently accessible via short plane hop, and has even become the first port of call for newly arriving immigrants from Southeast Asia.
Second, the shipping routes from Kaohsiung Harbor to China and Singapore are quite short, and the tidal range of Kaohsiung's waters is the smallest of any major harbor in the world. Strictly speaking, Kaohsiung can definitely surpass Singapore given its geographical location and the resources at its disposal.
For the future, Kaohsiung also possesses an industrial and commercial base, agriculture, a commercial fishing industry encompassing both coastal and blue-water fisheries and an international trade center. None of Taiwan's four other top-tier municipalities possesses these advantages. The political leadership must make the most of these advantages and bring the world to Kaohsiung while taking Kaohsiung out into the world, to create economic value.
For a nation to progress, for a city to develop, it must have a broad international vision. We can't allow ideology, closed markets and closed borders to drag Kaohsiung down.
Events are Fine, but Wealth Creation Needed
Tourism is one example. While various areas around the country have shown vigorous tourism development, Kaohsiung seems to have fallen off the map, because it hasn't attracted businesses or effectively marketed itself. To attract tourists the city needs to offer abundant amenities from within while engaging in effective external marketing. For example, when Premier Wu Den-yih was serving as Kaohsiung City mayor, he approached the Council for Cultural Affairs for funding for the construction of a folk arts park. Under the administration of former mayor Frank Hsieh, however, the proposed site of the park was turned into a wetland park. Wetlands are set aside for environmental protection purposes, and there are many areas where this can be accomplished. But it is a totally different matter from the objective of developing the tourism industry.
What we need is not more fireworks displays or event organizing but more private-sector wealth creation. Once the people are devoid of wealth, this city is dead.
But how does one create private-sector wealth? In 2008 China changed its domestic labor policy, and recently Foxconn Technology Group announced a major wage increase. The competitive environment in China is now vastly different from when the first Taiwanese businesses headed across the strait. I'm not only expecting the salmon to return, I'm hoping for some whales to return too. In the future, I plan to establish a "repatriating Taiwanese business zone" and put the Made in Taiwan intellectual platform to use, showcasing Taiwan's most outstanding R&D for re-export, taking advantage of Kaohsiung's outstanding geographical location.
Even more important is the reallocation of land resources in achieving a shift in the center of gravity of the new municipality and administrative center, creating a secondary center of gravity to increase the wealth of the people. It is only when the people have wealth that the government has funding. Reallocation of land resources will also benefit trade development by attracting Taiwanese businesses back from China. Tax revenue is contingent upon a robust jobs market and flourishing import/export trade, all of which will help bring down the city treasury's NT$200 billion in debt.
For Kaohsiung, the future is definitely not a dream. Becoming a dual-port international trading entrepot is a core value we espouse, and an aspiration no other place can surpass.
Chen Chu: Livable for All; A Sense of Integration
Today's Kaohsiung is now a city full of green space, and our values can be seen in this. The most seriously polluted places, as Kaohsiung once was, should be those engaging in the most greening efforts. This is what is called executive justice.
After the future merger of Kaohsiung city and county, Greater Kaohsiung will become a new "municipality," but our basic values remain the same – more green space, greater employment opportunities and better social welfare, to become a more livable city in which anyone may agreeably reside.
A livable city needs employment opportunities. Unemployment is related to changes in the industrial structure and to the offshore flight of conventional industries. Because we know that labor-intensive industries have no hope of survival here, we're working hard to explore other possibilities. Prior to the merger, Kaohsiung City has virtually run out of usable land. With the merger of city and county, our land area will increase 18-fold. With the establishment of Sony's R&D testing center and associated businesses, it is estimated that between 50 and 70 companies will be building plants in Kaohsiung over the next three years. Japan's Shogakukan Inc. will also be building its production chain for the manufacture of Chinese-language electronic books here in Kaohsiung.
Stronger Central/Local, Port/City Cooperation
In addition to the Lujhu campus of the Southern Taiwan Science Park, Kangshan's screw, fastener and hardware machinery industries boast fully integrated production chains. And the solar energy sector, which has been gradually developing in recent years, is centered on Kaohsiung. With 300 days of sunshine annually, Kaohsiung has the climate, the location and the people to make it a natural choice as an important and competitive location should the government today decide to get more heavily involved in solar power and green energy development.
The industrial structure in Kaohsiung must inevitably diversify for the future if it is to assume the role of an internationalized city and successfully compete with other cities. This will invariably require closer cooperation among the central and local governments, particularly in regard to the development of Kaohsiung Harbor, in which partisan bickering must be avoided at all costs.
Faced with globalized competition, the port and the city must by all means cooperate, because all of the land and the peripheral container terminals and roads around Kaohsiung Harbor are administered by the city. Although we don't have authority over the harbor, its fate is inextricably linked with the city. If central and local governments share similar visions on the administration of the harbor, including such concepts as international deployment, then any differences should be bridgeable. That is why we welcome future exchanges with China on the basis of "equity and respect," and we look forward to engaging with many other countries as well.
The future Greater Kaohsiung will encompass not only the city itself but a number of production and economic zones comprising people from entirely different walks of life. How to combine all of that into a municipality with a sense of cohesion and integration is something we're working hard to achieve. We should particularly endeavor to do so in the Cishan District, which suffered catastrophic flooding and landslides in the wake of Typhoon Morakot. Indigenous peoples have lived there for generations but subsequent over-development contributed to the disaster there.
Yang Chiu-hsing: Returning Talent a Springboard to ‘Singapore II'
Kaohsiung's economic development prospects are worrying. Once Taiwan's second-biggest metropolis, it continues to decline today. From its once-flourishing past, Kaohsiung Harbor has slipped to 13th in global rankings of international harbors. International flights out of Hsiaokang International Airport are fewer and fewer. What worries locals to no end is the possibility that Kaohsiung will be relegated to bringing up the rear among the five new municipalities. That's why I'm calling out for redoubling our efforts to make the city stronger. In the future, we must go forth into the world and become a second Singapore.
Kaohsiung has its considerable blessings: a nice climate, a commercial harbor, an international airport, numerous universities, a hard-working populace and affordable housing. In utilizing these advantages to attract businesses in the future, however, the central government should allow local governments greater autonomy. If the administration of the harbor and airport can be handed over to the municipal government, there would be greater room for future development and greater opportunity to attract international businesses after the city/port merger.
In the past the central government focused on the north and neglected the south. With development of heavy industry like petrochemicals, power generation, oil refining and steel-making centered in Kaohsiung, the city undertook responsibility for Taiwan's economic development while also bearing the brunt of the resulting pollution. The industrial realignment in Taiwan of recent years has left Kaohsiung even more in decline. So in a recent meeting with Premier Wu Den-yih, I told him that the central government should no longer separate high-tech R&D from manufacturing. High-tech R&D institutions should be located in southern Taiwan to bring white-collar tech workers back.
Using Environmental Industry to Solve Pollution Issues
I'm hopeful the central government will direct R&D into Kaohsiung, so I recently proposed creation of an industrial park for low-carbon businesses. The purpose is to solve the problems of high carbon dioxide emissions and pollution through technological development, and at the same time allow green technology and green industry to take root.
The government should really assist southern Taiwan to redress the unfairness of the past. Environmental protection is not just a business. It can also help solve our pollution problems, as tourism is also a future priority of mine.
The Cishan District, left devastated in the wake of Typhoon Morakot, has been like the old adage, "Break my hand, and I'll just fight harder." The Liugui Bridge and Sinfa Bridge are being rebuilt, improving future transport links. Everyone knows about the Baolai Hot Springs and Tengjhih National Forest Recreation Area. Another unique area of tourism is in religious tourism. Nearly all our visitors from China make the trip to Fo Guang Shan monastery. In the future, we'll also promote tours to Tian Tai Shan and Miao Chong temples in Liugui Rural Township. I think there's much room for growth here.
I don't believe the merger of Greater Kaohsiung will weaken the towns and villages of Kaohsiung County, because the living circles of city and county residents overlap so tightly and the transport system is convenient. I can make it to just about any town from downtown Kaohsiung in about a half hour's drive. There is no reason for Kaohsiung County to be marginalized. We just need to get our core development going, and other towns and villages will rise with the tide.
Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy