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Differences between Germany and Taiwan

Recently I read an interesting blog post entitled “3 reasons why Taiwanese and German people think differently” (the original post is in German). The author is   Klaus Bardenhagen , a German journalist who has been living in and reporting from Taiwan for a few years. His blog and Facebook page have become major sources of information about Taiwan for German people as well as cultural bridges between Taiwan and Germany.  In his post Klaus Bardenhagen argues that Germany is a country of perfectionists in which everything has to be done according to a well-thought plan, with accuracy and exactness. On the contrary, he argues, Taiwanese seem to overlook even some of the most evident flaws and blunders. He demonstrates this point with the help of three pictures: the first picture shows a bus stop built right in the middle of a bicycle path; the second, too, shows a U-bike station that was built on a bicycle path; the third shows the shabby façade of a building.  After reading tha

Office of the President of the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan)

Located in the heart of Taipei , the Office of the President of the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) is not only one of the centres of political power of the island-state, but also one of Taiwan’s most important historic buildings. Surrounded by some of Taipei’s major landmarks such as the Bank of Taiwan, Dongmen (East Gate), Taipei Guest House ,   228 Peace Park , and the High Court , the Office of the President is one of the most characteristic symbols of Taiwan.  Constructed during the Japanese colonial era , the Office has witnessed more than a century of momentous political, social and economic changes that have transformed the small island. Built as the headquarters of the Governor-Generals sent by Tokyo, it became the Office of the President of the ROC when Chiang Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Since 1996 the building is the seat of elected presidents of a new, democratic Taiwan.  Overview The Office of the President of the Republic of China is located on

Does Hong Kong Lack Chinese National Identity?

The youth of Hong Kong lack national identity and should be taught to feel Chinese, declared Chen Zuo'er, former deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office and current president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies. "Hong Kong’s young students are intelligent and hard working. However, they lack a sense of national identity and of Chinese history," said Chen at a seminar held in Beijing on January 6. He argued that the participation of thousands of young students of Hong Kong in the recent Umbrella Revolution was a result of their lack of "national democratic [sic!] and civic awareness, life goals, and knowledge in geography, history and culture". He pointed out that Hong Kong's secretary for education is “under the supervision of the central government and Hong Kong society at all times”, according to articles 48 and 104 of the Basic Law . He urged Hong Kong's educators to take into

Looking Back at 2014, Looking Forward to 2015

I'm writing this post in my home in Sicily. I have no running water, and electricity comes and goes. An unusual way to end an unusual year.  Sicily is often associated with sunny, warm weather. But this winter is different. There was a snowstorm yesterday, and now all streets of my small hometown are covered in white. Unfortunately, this island is not accustomed to snow. Even in countries like Germany, snow can cause disruptions, but here it's a real disaster. Yesterday evening there was suddenly no running water. We thought a pipe was broken. But then we realised all our neighbours had no water, either. This morning we called a technician, and he explained to us that the water in the pipe had frozen. That's because the pipes are built outside and not inside the walls. Anyway, now I have to write quickly, I must go and see if there are candles (!) in case electricity fails again ...  2014 was a strange year. My father got sick and I spent six months in Italy. It wa

Chinese Nationalism and the End of Hong Kong

As the Umbrella Revolution unfolded and thousands of Hong Kong students and activists occupied various streets of the city demanding genuine universal suffrage , the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing and their allies in Hong Kong looked in dismay and astonishment, unable to understand what was happening. They condemned the democracy movement, which they considered an illegal act of subversion aided by foreign forces . Yet they didn't seem to take the true motives behind this popular protest seriously. If they had analysed these motives, they would have soon discovered that there are plenty of reasons why the people of Hong Kong might be dissatisfied with the status quo created by the ' one country, two systems ' model. One of them and, in my opinion, the most important one, lies in the ideologisation of society which the Communist state considers an integral part of its 'socialist' system, and which it is trying to extend to Hong Kong in

Huashan Creative Park, Taipei

In the heart of Taipei , in the middle of the sea of anonymous apartment blocks built in the decades following World War II, there lies a former industrial area that has remained virtually unchanged since its construction in the first half of the 20th century. This is the former 'Taipei Wine Factory' (台北酒廠), a complex of buildings that belonged to Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Monopoly. By the 1980s. when Taiwan's economy was booming and its capital, Taipei, was growing fast, the presence of this factory in what had become the city centre (but was periphery in the Japanese era ) raised environmental concerns. Therefore, in 1987 wine production was moved to Linkou Industrial Area , in the suburbs of Taipei County (present-day New Taipei City ). However, this 'museum-like' neighbourhood has not been saved by wise and history-conscious city planners, but - paradoxically - by neglect and indifference. Politicians were simply too idle and uninterested in order to make s

Hong Kong Journalists Denied Entry to Macau Ahead of Xi Jinping's Visit

On December 20 Xi Jinping , the president of the People's Republic of China (PRC), will visit the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty of the former Portuguese colony.   But while the Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will attend the ceremony in Macau, Hong Kong journalists have already been denied entry to the neighbouring region.  As the newspaper Apple Daily reported, yesterday  one of its journalists was denied entry into Macau.  According to the paper, on December 12 the journalist took a ferry to Macau. After his arrival at the ferry station he went to the Immigration Hall, where the police prevented him from entering Macau.  Public security officers took him to an examination room and asked for the purpose of his visit. The journalist replied he was there for an interview - without specifying whether he was the interviewer or the interviewee.  The officers checked his

Goodbye, Occupy Central

The Hong Kong police have given the students that have occupied Admiralty an ultimatum: they must leave before 11 am today. Whoever stays will be arrested.  Apparently the students have decided to comply. They are dismantling their tents, saying goodbye to the ' Umbrella City ' they have created. The images of the occupation - a symbol of civil disobedience - will remain in the collective memory, just as those of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement did. The power of those images and ideas is stronger than the short-term failure of the protesters' political objectives.  Rumours had been going around for weeks that the police would soon clear the sites of the protests. On the evening of December 1st I met a friend of mine. I hadn't seen her for a year. We went to a cafe' called Kubrick, in Yau Ma Tei. We talked a lot, and Occupy Central was one of our topics - it seemed impossible not to mention this issue when conversing with a Hongkonger, a proof

Taipei's Beimen MRT Station and Its Hidden Treasures

Two days ago I took for the first time the new Songshan-Xindian MRT line (松山新店線, Line 3), which opened on November 15 (I wasn't in Taiwan at the time). The new line is an extension of the former Xindian-Danshui Line , which connected Xindian, in the southern part of New Taipei City, and Danshui  (淡水), in the north. This South-North axis has now been split and two distinct MRT lines have been created: the Danshui-Xinyi Line  (淡水信義線), and the aforementioned Songshan-Xindian line. One interesting result of the completion of the MRT network is that all of the five city gates of Qing Dynasty Taipei Walled City now have stations named after them - Ximen (西門, 'West Gate'), Dongmen (東門, 'East Gate'), Beimen (北門, 'North Gate'), Nanmen (南門, 'South Gate') and Xiaonanmen (小南門, 'Little South Gate'). This highlights the infrastructural importance of the gates and of the boulevards which the Japanese constructed after the city walls' demolition

A Walk in Hong Kong's Wan Chai District: Old Post Office, Blue House, Hung Shing Temple, and Pak Tai Temple

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend of mine at a Thai restaurant in Central . After we finished our meal my friend went back to work. Since the weather was quite pleasant that day, I decided to take a walk to Tin Hau . During my walk I took a few pictures of some interesting old buildings in Wan Chai District . Surrounded by modern skyscrapers, these old structures are among the few ones that have withstood the urban development frenzy of the post-war era. Wan Chai In the morning of 26 January 1841 Sir James Bremer of the British Royal Navy, accompanied by army officers and Royal Marines, landed on the north-west part of  Hong Kong , a spot that came to be known as Possession Point  (which is now the site of the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal ). He toasted Queen Victoria and took formal possession of the small island in her name.  Hong Kong had been ceded to the British by the Qing Empire during the First Opium War . London secured the naval base through the  Convention of

Western Values vs Asian Values: Benito Mussolini and Western Collectivism

In two of my earlier posts I talked about the myth of Asian collectivism and Western individualism . In future articles I will examine several aspects of this myth. Here I would like to show an example of Western collectivism, in order to demonstrate that individualism is by no means a 'Western' concept, but simply one of the many values developed in the West over the course of its long history. In fact, a civilisation is never a homogeneous and coherent whole, but a combination of different cultural phenomena. The idea that East Asia is more collectivist than the West is based on the wrong assumption that family ideology , epitomized in the principle of filial piety , is the only true form of collectivism. While it is true that a Confucian-style family ideology never existed in the West, it would be a mistake to overlook the fact that the West developed its own collectivist worldviews and systems of thought. The four most important ones are: Christianity, nationalism, Co

Hong Kong's "Umbrella City"

When I left Hong Kong back in September,  Occupy Central had just begun. I went to Admiralty and Central on the first day of the protests, which was the 28th. The following morning I flew to Taipei.  I was very sad, not only because I was leaving a city which I love more and more each time I return there, but also because I had seen history unfolding before my eyes and yet I was suddenly cut off from those events. While I was sitting on the express train to the airport, I had already made up my mind that I would go back to Hong Kong as soon as possible.  And I was right. What I have seen in Hong Kong over the past few days is amazing, and I feel glad and privileged that I could be part of this historic moment. At least I'll be able to tell my grandchildren that I was here.