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TA I WA N R E V I E W July / August 2018

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台 灣 評 論

INSIGHT

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Healthy Growth

Tailored support and forwardlooking policies are spurring biomedical sector development.

DIPLOMACY

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Bearing Fruit

Agricultural entrepreneurs are deepening Taiwan’s commercial ties and friendship with Thailand.

TA I WA N R E V I E W Vo l . 6 8 No. 4

TAI WAN R EVI E W GPN2004000005 NT$120 / US$4.50

July / August 2018

I n d u s t r y o f To m o r r o w Taiwan is an emerging hub of biotech innovation.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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May Snow

The vibrancy of Hakka culture is encapsulated in the annual tung blossom festival.


Tunnel 88, a 200-meter-long structure once connecting Nangan Township’s Niujiao Village with Matsu Nangan Airport in Lienchiang County, is now used for aging sorghum liquor produced by Matsu Liquor Factory Industry Co. The facility is one of the archipelago’s major tourist attractions. (Photo by Huang Chung-hsin)

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Taiwan Review July / August


EDITORIAL

台 灣 評 論

Gaining Momentum

B

iotechnology is shaping up as one of the most lucrative industries in Taiwan. Comprising health and wellbeing services, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, the sector is characterized by an innovative approach to product development and high standards of care. A recent repor t by Par isbased Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed that bio-based sectors are expected to account for more than half of gross domestic product in developed countries in the future. Given the economic and social importance of this field, the government is sparing no effort in promoting biotechnology via a raft of comprehensive industry support measures while positioning Taiwan as a regional hub of related R&D. One of the key policies in this regard is the five-plus-two innovative industries initiative. A core component of the New Model for Economic Development, the undertaking covers the biotech and pharmaceuticals, green energy, national defense, smart machinery and Internet of Things sectors, as well as the circular economy and a new paradigm for agricultural development. Biomedicine is receiving the lion’s share of attention under the initiative. According to the Ministry of Science and Technology, industry revenues rose 3.4 percent year on year to NT$486 billion (US$16.2 billion) in 2017. This growth follows wide-ranging government measures in past decades rolled out by such organizations as statebacked Institute for Biotechnology and Medicine Industry. These include annual awards recognizing biomedical companies and researchers for significant contributions to patients, industry and Taiwan’s overall health care environment, as well as the Symbol of National Quality highlighting the safety of local biomedical offerings. Main government measures accelerating sector growth center on the Biomedical Industry Innovation Program. This undertaking aims to transform biomedicine into a trillion New Taiwan dollar industry by 2025

through fostering 20 new pharmaceuticals, bringing 80 high-value medical devices to market and cultivating at least 10 major health and well-being service brands. As part of these efforts, two laws were amended last year. The Act for the Development of Biotech and New Pharmaceuticals Industry, promulgated in 2007 to give tax breaks for investments in related R&D and personnel training, was expanded to cover emerging fields like preventative and regenerative medicine. The Fundamental Science and Technology Act was also revised to facilitate biotech talent flows between the academic and private sectors. Pharmaceutical development is the best signpost of progress. As of the end of April, 247 drugs produced by Taiwan companies were undergoing clinical research at home and abroad, an increase of 12.3 percent from the year before. Of this number, 140 got approval for trials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Local medical device manufacturers registered similar successes, with 55 innovations earning premarket approval from the FDA in 2017. Growth in the biomedical sector is expected to advance the government’s goal of promoting balanced regional development. Major biotech clusters are located at science parks nationwide, including in northern Taiwan’s Taipei City and Hsinchu County, central Taiwan’s Taichung City, and southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung and Tainan cities. The government is also throwing its weight behind platforms cultivating overseas-sourced opportunities for domestic firms. An outstanding example is the upcoming BioTaiwan trade show, which attracted around 600 local and foreign companies from 19 countries and territories displaying wares at 1,310 booths last year. In rolling out the right policies and providing tailored support, the government is ensuring the long-term success of the biotechnology industry. This will help strengthen the economy and keep Taiwan marching along the road to greater prosperity. 3


CONTENTS

July / August

台 灣 評 論

E DITORIAL

03

GAINING MOMENTUM The biotech sector is steaming ahead via astute government policymaking.

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12

S NAPSHOTS News and events concerning Taiwan from the past several months

I NSIGHT

BROADENING HORIZONS The pieces are in place to tap biotech opportunities in regional markets. BY PAT GAO

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FERTILE FIELDS Biotechnology holds the key to the agricultural sector’s future. BY PAT GAO

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HEALTHY GROWTH Domestic pharmaceutical development is hitting new highs. BY PAT GAO

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EXTRACTING VALUE Health supplement-makers are mining new veins of profitability. BY OSCAR CHUNG

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REVITALIZING THE ROUTINE Biotech firms apply fresh approaches to satisfy demand for skin care products. BY KELLY HER

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D IPLOMACY

PROJECTING INFLUENCE TaiwanICDF helps upgrade Thailand’s agricultural techniques. BY OSCAR CHUNG

PHOTOS BY CHEN MEI-LING, CHIN HUNG-HAO, OSCAR CHUNG AND HUANG CHUNG-HSIN


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BEARING FRUIT Farming unlocks opportunities for people-to-people exchanges with Thailand. BY OSCAR CHUNG

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C ULTURE

STORES OF CREATIVITY Taichung’s cultural and creative park is fostering a collaborative artistic ecosystem. BY KELLY HER

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ISLANDS OF INSPIRATION Matsu is embarking on a new tourism mission for the 21st century. BY KELLY HER

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P HOTOGRAPHY

CLASSIC COMFORT

Tradition and quality keep a long-established tatami producer in the game. PHOTOS BY CHIN HUNG-HAO

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MAY SNOW Tung blossoms are an iconic symbol of Hakka culture. PHOTOS BY CHEN MEI-LING, CHIN HUNG-HAO AND HUANG CHUNG-HSIN

Taiwan Review PUBLISHER Jaushieh Joseph Wu DIRECTOR Henry M. J. Chen EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Lester Liyen Yang MANAGING EDITOR Jim Hwang EDITORS Ciaran Madden, John Scott Marchant STAFF WRITERS Kelly Her, Oscar Chung, Pat Gao PHOTO EDITOR Dawa Hsiao PHOTOGRAPHERS Huang Chung-hsin, Chen Mei-ling, Chin Hung-hao ART DIRECTOR Tsai Mei-chu ART EDITORS Lin Chian-ru, Lin Hsin-chieh, Ma Ying-kai COVER PHOTOS BY CHIN HUNG-HAO AND HUANG CHUNG-HSIN; DESIGN BY LIN HSIN-CHIEH

PRODUCTION Cheng Hsiao-yen ADDRESS Kwang Hwa Publishing Co. 2 Tianjin Street, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China PRINTER China Color Printing Co., Inc. 229 Baoqiao Rd., Xindian, New Taipei City, Taiwan, ROC

SUBSCRIPTION Taiwan—NT$120/copy, NT$700/yr, NT$1,300/2yrs Other areas—US$4.50/copy, US$25/yr, US$50/2yrs Taiwan residents can subscribe to Taiwan Review at post offices by completing a giro deposit form (郵政劃撥儲金存款單). The magazine’s postal account number is 0009469-4, and its Chinese title is 外交部英文台灣評論. International readers please contact Kwang Hwa Publishing Co. CONTACT INFORMATION Editorial: Tel: 886-2-3356-8015 Fax: 886-2-2356-8233 Email: taiwanreview@mofa.gov.tw Subscription: Tel: 886-2-2397-0633 Fax: 886-2-2397-0655 Email: service@taiwan-panorama.com COPYRIGHT Taiwan Review (ISSN 1727-5148) is published bimonthly by Kwang Hwa Publishing Co. 2 Tianjin Street, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China © 2018 by Kwang Hwa Publishing Co. All rights reserved. The magazine was published as the Free China Review from 1951, the Taipei Review from 2000 and the Taiwan Review from 2003. 中華民國40年4月1日創刊

MICROFORM REPRODUCTIONS Taiwan Review is available in microform (microfiche and 16mm and 35mm film) from National Archive Publishing Company, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. OTHER LANGUAGE EDITION Taiwan Review is also published bimonthly in Spanish. INTERNET Multimedia information about Taiwan is available at http://www.mofa.gov.tw Taiwan Review is available online at http://taiwanreview.nat.gov.tw 中華郵政台北雜字第29號

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GPN 2004000005 The views expressed by individual authors do not necessarily reflect those of the Taiwan Review.


Taiwan pledges US$1 million to WHO Ebola campaign

SNAPSHOTS

台 灣 評 論

POLITICS President Tsai commits to strengthening

Taiwan-Haiti ties

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said May 29 that she will continue working with Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise to promote mutually beneficial collaboration across the board and deepen the friendship between Taiwan and its Caribbean ally. Tsai made the remarks while receiving Moise, first lady Martine Moise, Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue and other members of the Haitian delegation at the Office of the President in Taipei City. In response, Moise said Haiti is committed to taking ties with Taiwan to a new high. It is hoped the two nations will continue injecting fresh momentum into the relationship so as to create a diverse and strategic partnership, he added. Later in the day, Tsai and Moise signed a communique reiterating a joint commitment to bolstering exchanges and bestowed state honors on each other for respective efforts in promoting the two-way ties.

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Taiwan Review July / August

Taiwan plans to contribute US$1 million to a campaign by the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Announced by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) May 26, the donation will help the WHO reach its goal of raising US$26 million to fight the deadly virus within three months. The ministry said the pledge demonstrates Taiwan’s resolve to expand its pragmatic, professional and substantive contributions to global health care. Disease knows no borders and Taiwan will continue showing goodwill in raising medical standards worldwide, the MOFA added.

WHA delegation received by Tsai at Office of the President President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said May 26 that the delegation led by Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳 時中) to the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva strengthened awareness of Taiwan’s commitment and contributions to global health security. Tsai made the remarks while meeting with Chen and members of the representation at the Office of the President in Taipei City following their return to Taiwan earlier the same day. According to Tsai, the group held a record 60 meetings and five technical forums on the sidelines of the WHA, facilitating substantive exchanges between officials, medical experts and researchers from home and abroad. Chen also received the prestigious Diplomat of the Global Charter award from the World Federation of Public Health Associations, she said, adding that this represents wider international recognition of Taiwan’s health care achievements. Although the decision to shut Taiwan out of the WHA due to pressure from China is regrettable, Tsai added, the government will continue working to expand the nation’s international space and safeguard its dignity and sovereignty.


Tsai, King Mswati III ink joint communique in Eswatini

MOFA launches Indo-Pacific Affairs Section The Indo-Pacific Affairs Section was launched by Foreign Minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) May 11 in Taipei City, underscoring the government’s commitment to expanding exchanges and strengthening relations between Taiwan and countries throughout the region. Overseen by the Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the section is tasked with formulating Indo-Pacific region strategies in sync with those of like-minded nations like the U.S., as well as advancing the New Southbound Policy (NSP). Its establishment is one of Wu’s eight main objectives during his first 100 days in office. The section is the latest in a series of ministry measures aimed at maintaining the pace of NSP progress.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Eswatini signed a joint communique April 17 in the diplomatic ally’s capital Mbabane, pledging to advance exchanges and mutual cooperation for the benefit of both countries. Under the pact concluded in Mandvulo Grand Hall at Lozitha Royal Palace, the two sides agreed to enhance collaboration across areas spanning agriculture, education, public health, tourism, trade and investment, and women’s employment. Tsai is in Eswatini on a fourday state visit for celebrations marking 50 years of official ties, the king’s 50th birthday and 50 years of independence from Great Britain for the landlocked southern African nation. It is her first trip to the continent as president since taking office in May 2016. Looking ahead, Tsai said, Taiwan-Eswatini ties are set to go from strength to strength on the back of enhanced medical and technical exchanges, as well as greater bilateral cooperation focusing on education and talent cultivation.

ECONOMY Taiwan ranks 4th in global investment report Taiwan is fourth among 50 countries and territories in the latest Profit Opportunity Recommendation report by U.S.based Business Environment Risk Intelligence SA. Finishing equal with the Netherlands but behind first-placed Switzerland, Singapore and Germany in that order, Taiwan trumped its Asian neighbors South Korea, eighth; Japan, ninth; and China, 13th. This strong performance was tempered by a drop of one spot from the final edition of the triannual report in 2017. Taiwan’s combined score of 68 earned it a second-best investment rating of 1B, indicating that conditions merit sustained commitment of equity. This was the same for Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Singapore, with only Switzerland achieving the top 1A rating. Of the three rankings comprising the combined score, Taiwan finished 13th alongside the Netherlands in political risks. Concerning operations risk, it was assessed on par with Australia and trailed only Switzerland, Germany and Canada in that order. In terms of remittance and repatriation risks, Taiwan tied for first with the Netherlands.

Biotech industry training tie-up launched by VP Chen A training initiative by state-backed Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and Germany-headquartered firm Merck was launched May 7 by Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁). Aimed at producing 120 research professionals in 12 months, the undertaking is expected to expand the role of Taiwan enterprises in pharmaceutical supply chains, generate job opportunities and spur economic growth. According to Chen, the partnership between ITRI—based in northern Taiwan’s Hsinchu County—and the pharmaceutical giant is a milestone for the local biotech sector. It is anticipated that the initiative will enhance the country’s technical knowledge in disciplines like precision medicine, as well as bring the industry in line with global standards, he added. 7


Premier Lai touts 10-year plan for

Solar, wind power generation hits new high in Taiwan

The 10-year development plan for Taiwan’s three science parks will foster growth in innovative sectors by strengthening networking among industry clusters and promoting the facilities as proving grounds for emerging technologies, Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清 德) said April 26. Under the initiative, Hsinchu Science Park (HSP) in northern Taiwan, Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP) in Taichung City and Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP) in Kaohsiung and Tainan cities will receive additional support in boosting industrial upgrades, deepening academic-public-private sector collaboration and enhancing talent cultivation, he added. The plan also aims to transform the parks into hubs of next-generation technologies by leveraging their unique advantages. HSP will be promoted as a base for software development in fields spanning artificial intelligence (AI) and medical systems. CTSP is to establish a worldclass R&D ecosystem for AI, Internet of Things and robotics manufacturing, while STSP will foster industry clusters in sectors such as aviation, smart robotics and semiconductors, according to Lai.

Solar and wind power generation reached a record high in Taiwan for 2017, reflecting the effectiveness of government policies aimed at transforming the nation into a nuclearfree homeland. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) April 16, solar power climbed 49.4 percent year on year to 1.69 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), while wind power surged 17.1 percent to 1.71 billion kWh. Solar and wind accounted for a greater share of Taiwan’s renewable energy mix in 2017. The former was 13.6 percent, up from 8.9 percent the year before, with the latter, 13.7 percent, up from 11.4 percent. Hydro remained the top source at 43.5 percent, followed by waste materials at 27.7 percent. MOEA statistics reveal that in 2017, 46.8 percent of Taiwan’s energy was generated from coal, 34.7 percent from natural gas, 8.3 percent from nuclear power and 4.5 percent from renewable sources. By 2025, these numbers are forecast to be 50 percent for natural gas, 30 percent for coal and 20 percent for renewable sources. According to the MOEA, the 20 percent target will be reached through increasing the respective installed capacities for solar and wind power to 20 gigawatts (GW ) and 4.2 GW.

Taiwan’s science parks

NSP fast-tracks exchanges, regional integration The New Southbound Policy (NSP) is expanding Taiwan’s exchanges with target countries and ensuring the nation is included in regional integration, according to the Cabinet’s Office of Trade Negotiations April 24. Total trade with NSP countries climbed 15.61 percent year on year to US$110.9 billion in 2017; Taiwan investment in the region surged 54.51 percent to US$3.68 billion; and inbound investment moved up 15.8 percent to US$270 million. On the education front, the number of students from NSP nations enrolled in Taiwan institutions during the first semester of 2017 increased 18 percent to 37,999. A similar rise of 19.7 percent to 19,269 was recorded for locals studying in the region. Tourism metrics also trended upwards. Arrivals from NSP nations climbed 27.65 percent to 2.28 million, while Taiwan departures to the region gained 10.77 percent to 2.47 million.

SOCIETY Draft immigration bill focuses on attracting foreign talent A draft economic immigration bill relaxing work visa and residency requirements for skilled professionals, midlevel technicians, investors and overseas citizens and their children was unveiled April 15 by the Cabinet. Under the legislation aimed at strengthening industrial development and tackling challenges related to Taiwan’s low birthrate, capital requirements will be lifted for employers seeking to recruit foreign professionals in emerging sectors. Another measure is boosting retention of mid-level foreign technical personnel in fields like engineering, manufacturing, and information and communication technology. In addition, the bill adjusts capital limits on foreigners applying for residency as investors, as well as enables such immigrants to access financial products designated by the government as critical to national development. A streamlined points-based evaluation system enabling foreign workers to determine eligibility to pursue employment and permanent residency in Taiwan is also part of the legislation, which is seen as playing a major role in promoting the country as a leading destination for top-tier overseas talent. 8

Taiwan Review July / August


Local scientists uncover gene responsible for spread of cancer

World’s deepest underwater mailbox starts service off Green Island The world’s deepest underwater mailbox was inaugurated May 4 in Taitung County’s Green Island, southeastern Taiwan. Situated 60 meters offshore and 11 meters below the surface, the 1.8-meter-high mailbox is shaped like a Hippocampus colemani, a rare species of tiny seahorse found locally. Letter collection will be overseen by stateowned Chunghwa Post Co. and carried out by local dive operators three times a week from June to September. Services will be conducted every seven days at other times of the year. Egyptian Ahmed Gabr, who holds the Guinness World Record for deepest scuba dive, was among the first visitors to use the new mailbox. Green Island is home to a diverse marine ecosystem including coral reefs as well as a thriving scuba diving industry.

Taiwan tops Asia in press freedom

A team of scientists from Academia Sinica (AS), Taiwan’s top research institution, has identified a key gene responsible for triggering the spread of cancer. In a study published online by Nature Cell Biology in March, the paraspeckle component gene, or PSPC1, was identified as the primary activator of metastasis in cancer cells. The gene is believed to hijack a protein called transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF beta 1) that performs functions such as cell growth and proliferation. PSPC1 reprograms the protein to promote cancer cell duplication, invasion and metastasis. While the scientific community has been aware of the reprogramming of TGF beta 1 for many years, the gene responsible had proved elusive. The discovery was achieved through an integrated genomic approach that looked for abnormalities and gene mutations in malignant tumors of the breast, liver, lung and prostate, according to AS.

for 6th straight year

Taiwan, Indonesian universities sign cooperation agreements

Taiwan was ranked the top Asian nation for the sixth consecutive year in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released April 25 by France-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In the survey of 180 countries and territories, Taiwan jumped three places to 42nd, one ahead of South Korea, with Japan in 67th; Hong Kong, 70th; Singapore, 151st; and China, 176th. Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands topped the rankings, in that order. On the scale of zero to 100, with zero the best possible result, Taiwan scored 23.36, improving by 1.01 from the previous edition. This placed it among the 26 percent of countries and territories worldwide considered to have “good” or “fairly good” media environments. Published annually since 2002, the RSF index assesses countries and territories based on environment and self-censorship, infrastructure, legislative framework, media independence, pluralism and transparency.

A memorandum of understanding signing ceremony was held between Taiwan and Indonesian universities April 17 in Taipei City. Accords were inked by 40 local universities and 25 tertiary institutions in Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the Southeast Asian nation’s largest Islamic organization. Under the agreements, the universities will work to establish platforms for collaboration in talent cultivation. Business and medical cooperation pacts were also sealed the same day between Taipei-based TaiwanAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations Business Council, Asia University Hospital and Taichung Veterans General Hospital in central Taiwan’s Taichung City with NU. The accords were announced during the April 12-18 visit to Taiwan by a 30-strong NU delegation. Comprising presidents of member universities and other higher education officials, the group toured several local tertiary institutions including Asia University and Tunghai University in Taichung as well as I-Shou University in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung City. 9


C U LT U R E Exhibition on Taiwan comic icon set for National Palace Museum

NPM ranked 13th most visited in the world Taipei City-based National Palace Museum (NPM) was the 13th most visited worldwide in 2017, according to the Theme Index and Museum Index released May 17 by U.S.-headquartered project management firm AECOM and nonprofit industry group Themed Entertainment Association. NPM recorded about 4.43 million visits, down from 4.66 million in 2016. It placed third in the Asia-Pacific and is one of four Asian institutions to make the global top 20 along with three in China. Three other Taiwan museums ranked among the top 20 in the Asia-Pacific: National Museum of Natural Science in central Taiwan’s Taichung City, ninth; National Taiwan Science Education Center in Taipei, 12th; and National Science and Technology Museum in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung City, 20th. First published in 2006, the index spotlights attendance figures and industry trends at museums, theme parks and water parks.

An exhibition commemorating the life and career of late Taiwan comic book artist and writer Chen Uen (鄭 問) gets underway June 16 at National Palace Museum in Taipei City. Organized by the Ministry of Culture (MOC), “The Legacy of Chen Uen: Art, Life and Philosophy” showcases more than 250 pieces spanning original illustrations, scripts and sculptures. Running through Sept. 17, the event aims to foster awareness of Chen’s achievements in art and computer game design as well as the ideals underpinning his works. Chen is widely seen as a trailblazer in Taiwan’s comic industry and had a profound influence on disciplines spanning literature, film and music across the region. This is the first MOCorganized exhibition focused on comics, highlighting the government’s commitment to promoting the development of this creative sector.

National Human Rights Museum inaugurated in Taiwan The National Human Rights Museum (NHRM) was inaugurated with a series of events May 17-19 at Green Island White Terror Memorial Park in Taitung County, southeastern Taiwan, and Jing-Mei White Terror Memorial Park in New Taipei City. Administered by the Ministry of Culture (MOC), NHRM is the nation’s primary facility for collecting and preserving historical documents and materials relating to human rights from the end of 50 years of Japanese colonial rule Aug. 15, 1945, to the lifting of martial law five years after Taiwan proper in outlying Kinmen and Matsu islands Nov. 7, 1992. It is also responsible for researching and revitalizing sites where significant rights violations occurred as well as managing the two memorial parks, located at former jails for political prisoners. According to the MOC, the museum is the first institution in Asia transforming historic locations where rights abuses occurred into sites for human rights education. In addition to managing the Green Island and Jing-Mei parks, NHRM also comprises departments for archival research, educational affairs and exhibitions. 10

Taiwan Review July / August


Youth-friendly Taiwan museum network kicked off A youth-friendly museum network comprising 15 institutions around Taiwan was launched May 3 by Taipei City-based National Palace Museum (NPM). Part of NPM’s strategy for enriching grassroots culture, the initiative aims to foster cooperation among facilities in areas like access and marketing policies, advanced management practices, education programs, new technology adoption and staff training. It involves prestigious institutions such as Shihsanhang Museum of Archaeology in New Taipei City, National Museum of Natural Science in Taichung City, central Taiwan, and Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts in southern Taiwan. One of the first network-related collaborative events is a two-day forum at NPM. Top topics on the agenda include designing display spaces and learning projects for children, as well as identifying and implementing future technology trends. Another worthwhile initiative is a self-evaluation system encompassing 21 indicators like exhibitions, human resources and services. One component of this approach is an eye-catching website providing access to online collections, easily understood facility information and a forum in which visitors are challenged with thought-provoking questions. The platform, which will be released in English, is expected to play a central role in boosting visit numbers by local and foreign museumgoers.

Taiwan’s LGBT artistic, cultural expression stars in

New York

Tainan City releases English audio tours for 9 temples English-language audio tours of nine temples in Tainan City are set for release in July as part of local government efforts promoting the southern Taiwan metropolis’s rich religious heritage with international tourists. The 30-minute audio guides are accessible via smartphones by scanning QR codes at the sites. Participating facilities include Anping Matsu Temple, Beiji Temple, Luermen Tienhogong, State Temple of the Martial God, Tainan Grand Matsu Temple and Taiwan Fu City God Temple. The recordings are produced in collaboration with five foreign writers and voice talents based in Taiwan: Piera Chen (陳思祥) and Joshua Samuel, tour guide authors for Lonely Planet; Robert Dawson, a DJ from International Community Radio Taipei; Andrew Jackson, an English teacher; and Monica Mizzi, a blogger from Australia. Creating an English-friendly environment for travelers from abroad is key to heightening awareness of the temples’ architectural artistry and distinctive aesthetics, according to Tainan City Government. All stories are sourced from Taiwan Today and can be read in full at http://www.taiwantoday.tw/

A series of artistic and cultural events encompassing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) topics in Taiwan is taking place in the run-up to and on the sidelines of New York’s LGBT Pride March in June, according to the Ministry of Culture (MOC) April 9. The initiative will help raise awareness of Taiwan’s LGBT topics while highlighting government efforts promoting gender equality and safeguarding freedom of speech, the MOC said. The first is a salon on late Taiwan author Qiu Miao-jin (邱妙津) during World Voices Festival. Qiu published three novels and a novella before her untimely death aged 26 in 1995. The next involves a script reading at Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, as well as film screenings and postsession discussions at Taiwan Academy in New York. The reading features excerpts from “The Possible Memoirs of a Traitor” by Taiwan playwright Chien Li-ying (簡莉穎) and “Solo Date” by Tsai Pao-chang (蔡柏璋). The screenings and post-session discussions center on “Looking for?” by Chou Tung-yen (周東彥) and “Alifu” by Wang Yu-lin (王育麟). Photos: Academia Sinica, Centers for Disease Control, Chen Uen Studio, Huang Chung-hsin, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Palace Museum, Office of English as the Second Official Language, Office of the President, Reporters Without Borders, Taitung County Government

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INSIGHT

台 灣 評 論

Broadening Horizons The public and private sectors are redoubling efforts to bolster Taiwan’s biotechbased economy. BY PAT GAO PHOTOS BY HUANG CHUNG-HSIN

E

a r l i e r t h i s ye a r, wo rk started on the second main building at Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park (HBSP). Situated near Taiwan High Speed Rail’s Hsinchu Station in the northern Taiwan county, HBSP spans around 38 hectares and comprises a medical center, an R&D hub and a startup incubator. At the launch ceremony for construction of the building, scheduled for completion by 2020, President Tsai Ing-wen ( 蔡英文 ) said the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST)-overseen park underscores


the government’s commitment to promoting the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry in the areas of advanced medical devices, intelligent health care systems and new drugs. With firsthand experience running a pharmaceutical business, Tsai understands that creating a biotech cluster in Hsinchu and other sites around the country is key to positioning the biomedical sector as a pillar of Taiwan’s economic growth.

Organized by U.S.-based Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the annual convention is the largest of its kind in the world. Taiwan sent a delegation in June last year for talks and exchanges with around 15,000 business representatives, A researcher works at statebacked Industrial Technology Research Institute in northern Taiwan’s Hsinchu County.

National Approach

In addition to HBSP, the other clusters are Central Taiwan Science Park in Taichung City, National B i o t e c h n o l o g y R e s e a rc h Pa r k (NBRP) in Taipei City, Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park in the southern county, and Southern Taiwan Science Park in Tainan and Kaohsiung cities. With support from local academic and research institutions like state-backed Industrial Technolog y Research Institute (ITRI), as well as National Chiao Tung and Tsing Hua universities, parks such as HBSP can enjoy the benefits of cross-industry synergies and integrated road and rail transportation infrastructure. MOST Deputy Minister Su Fong-chin (蘇芳慶), who heads the ministr y-supported Biomedical Development Board of Taiwan headquartered at HBSP, said the governmen t aims to double the annual revenues of health and wellbeing, medical device-making and pharmaceutical businesses to NT$1 trillion (US$33.3 billion) by 2025. Citing a report from the 2017 BIO International Convention, Su said Taiwan is a leader in biomedical industry innovation among major emerging market players. “In Asia, Taiwan is considered on par with leading lights such as Israel,” he added.

Illustration by Lin Hsin-chieh Infographic by Cho Yi-ju

National Biotechnology Research Park (Taipei City) Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park (Hsinchu County)

Central Taiwan Science Park (Taichung City)

Taiwan Biotech Centers Taiwan High Speed Rail

Southern Taiwan Science Park (Tainan and Kaohsiung cities) Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park (Pingtung County)

Source: Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industries Promotion Office, Ministry of Economic Affairs

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Biotech Industry Revenue Unit: US$ billions

6.37

6.7

7.02

7.62

8.01

8.77

9.23

9.62

9.95

10.5

16

20

15

20

14

20

13

20

12

20

11

20

10

20

09

20

08

20

07

20

Source: Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industries Promotion Office, Ministry of Economic Affairs

policymakers and scientists from over 60 countries and territories.

Solid Numbers

Biotech applications extend from medicine to a number of fields spanning agriculture, cosmetics, food and environmentally friendly products. Together with the medical devices and pharmaceutical sectors, biotech revenues from 1,918 companies hit NT$315 billion (US$10.5 billion) in 2016, up from 1,116 and NT$191.2 billion (US$6.4 billion) a decade ago, according to statistics from the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industries Promotion Office under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA). Over the same period, private investment in the three areas reached NT$50.9 billion (US$1.7 billion), up from NT$26.3 billion (US$876.7 million). This is on top of financing from the Cabinet-administered National Development Fund, which has invested more than NT$10 billion (US$333.3 million) on biotech companies since the mid-1980s. In 2016, biotech exports were NT$129.5 billion (US$4.3 billion), up 10 percent year on year, and represented the bulk of the sector’s overall production value for that year, 14

Taiwan Review July / August

according to the 2017 White Paper on the Biotechnology Industry in Taiwan published by the MOEA’s Industrial Development Bureau. The definition of “biotechnology” varies in the international arena. It is defined by the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, for instance, as “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.” According to the MOEA’s white paper, the term is defined as the application of life sciences knowledge in such fields as cell and molecular biology, genetics, immunology and proteomics, as well as related engineering technologies to develop, manufacture or upgrade products for a better quality of life. The paper also enumerates features distinguishing the biotech industry from other high-tech sectors: internationally orientated, knowledge-intensive, multidisciplinary and value-added. These are characterized by the sector’s elongated, high-cost development phase followed by extremely strict trial and inspection processes for products to ensure maximum safety and effectiveness.

01 & 02. Sun Ten Pharmaceutical Co. operates a lab and production line for herbal medicine at Taichung Industrial Park in central Taiwan. Infographic by Cho Yi-ju

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03. An indoor plant production facility is run by Tingmao Agricultural Biotechnology Co. in Taoyuan City, northern Taiwan. 04. The Kaohsiung City section of Southern Taiwan Science Park houses companies crafting dental materials. 05. Cutting-edge dental treatment utilizes the latest biomedical devices. 06. Frozen samples at National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei City

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ICT Potential

Incorporation of electronic and information and communication technology (ICT) is viewed as one of the main ways of upgrading medical and health care services. “Taiwan enjoys a significant advantage in this regard given its outperforming ICT sector,” Su said. “Homegrown heavyweights like BenQ, Delta, Hon Hai and Quanta are working on extensions to digital medicine, a field requiring fresh approaches as compared to the industrial sector’s long-standing manufacturingoriented model.” Julie Sun ( 孫智麗 ), a research fellow with Taipei-based Taiwan Institute of Economic Research and director of its Biotechnology Industry Study Center, shares Su’s opinion. For a country with a tremendous scope of knowledge like Taiwan, it is a sensible move to develop the bio-based economy through utilizing local technology know-how. “This is not necessarily about branding,” Sun said. “Instead of devoting energy and resources to the high-profile goal, local firms should focus on forming an innovative research hub and transferring technology to foreign pharmaceutical companies.” In this way, the two sides can harness their respective strengths, get products quickly to market and foster global tie-ups, she added.

Long Road

Taiwan’s biotec h de velopment has come a long way since the establishment of the governmentsupported Development Center for Biotechnology (DCB) in 1984, according to Sun. Former Chairman Johnsee Lee (李鍾熙), now a standing member of its board of directors, 16

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said one of the center’s first missions involved production of hepatitis B vaccines as part of the government’s program to control the disease when Taiwan had one of the highest infection rates in the world. Par tl y due to D CB eff or ts, Taiwan was the first in the world to conduct universal vaccinations for all newborns against hepatitis B in the mid-1980s. Now headed by MOEA Deputy Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫), DCB seeks to coordinate resources from academic, private, public and research sectors to assist with commercializing biotech discoveries through forming strategic

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01 & 02. Aquatic weed seedlings and fish-scale jewelry are produced by Fongyu Corp. at Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park in southern Taiwan. 03. Department store cosmetics sections are increasingly selling items utilizing the latest biotech developments. 04. Visitors peruse health food items at STSP in Tainan City. 03. Photo by Chang Su-ching 04. Photo by Chuang Kung-ju


alliances and research collaborations, as well as spinning off startups. Before heading DCB from 2010 to 2014, Lee helped found ITRI’s Biomedical Technology and Device Research Laboratories. He also served as president of the Hsinchuheadquartered institute from 2003 to 2010. These days, Lee is president of Taipei-based Taiwan Bio Industry Organization (TBIO). Established in 1989, the group comprises around 130 companies and governmentsupported R&D organizations such as Agricultural Technology Research Institute in Hsinchu City, DCB, ITRI, and National Health Research Institutes in northern Taiwan’s Miaoli County. According to Lee, while initial membership was chiefly composed of food additive-makers producing monosodium glutamate, or MSG, using bacterial fermentation techniques, current members encompass the green, agricultural; red, health;

05. Herbal medicine is one of the main fields of research at ITRI. 06. A dental equipment demonstration is given at the 2018 Kaohsiung Biomedical Technology Expo. 06. Courtesy of Biomedical Development Board of Taiwan

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and white, environmentally related sectors. “Taiwan ramped up biotech and semiconductor development around the same time in the 1980s,” he said, adding that while the latter matured globally in a relatively short period, the former is still in its infancy at home and abroad.

New Direction

Su sees the potential-laden sector as finally ready for blastoff. Its more than 100 biotech companies, up from less than 40 in the late 2000s, listed on bourses and over-the-counter markets boast sales revenue exceeding NT$200 billion (US$6.7 billion). “Stock market value of these firms is NT$1 trillion [US$33.3 billion] and set to climb higher as they fulfill their promise,” he said. Similarly bullish on the industry’s prospects, Lee is busy cooperating with the government in identifying areas where significant gains can be made. Part of this undertaking involves the TBIO-staged BioTaiwan trade show, which attracted around 600 local and foreign companies from 19 countries and territories displaying wares at 1,310 booths last year. The 2018 edition of the annual expo takes place in July at Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center. Other activities held on the sidelines of the show include BioBusiness Asia Conf erence, bringing together corporate executives, investors and scholars from around Asia, especially those from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. For Su, a keynote speaker at the event, the massive population of this market glitters with allure for Taiwan firms. “The future is on our doorstep,” he said. “Patience and more hard work are all that’s required to bring home the bacon.” 17


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Fertile Fields Forward-looking policies are giving rise to a technology-intensive, valueadded agricultural model. BY PAT GAO PHOTOS BY HUANG CHUNG-HSIN

gricultural scientist Wa n g C h i n g - i ( 王 靜 儀 ) left the public sector in 2016 to join husband Liu Chien-shen’s ( 劉建 伸 ) aquaculture company Fongyu Corp. The couple, former employees of Kaohsiung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station in Changzhi Township of southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County, relocated the business to Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park (PABP) the following year. There they established a facility to farm bass and tilapia fingerlings cultured in seawater. The company’s fish are grown using probiotics-infused feed and tank water. Fongyu acquired the proprietary technology for massproducing and preserving the bacteria used in this process from the Fisheries Research Institute (FRI) in northern Taiwan’s Keelung City. The FRI, park and couple’s former employer all operate under the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA). According to Wang, probiotics promote fish growth by improving water quality and strengthening the creatures’ immune systems. “The use of this technology is becoming standard among park tenants,” she said. “Probiotics ensure stable aquaculture breeding environments while strengthening product branding.”

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collaboration and research commercialization programs. According to PABP DirectorGeneral Chang Su-san (張淑賢), the subsidies are awarded to a maximum of 20 projects each year with the aim of advancing a technologyintensive, value-added agricultural model. “We’ve helped tenants build connections and seek technical support from more than 300 experts at over 30 research and tertiary institutions including National Kaohsiung Marine University and National Pingtung University of Science and Technology,” she said. More than 99 percent of Taiwan’s agricultural producers are small and medium enterprises with less than NT$100 million (US$3.33 million) in annual revenues or fewer than 50 employees, Chang noted. “As a result, we offer guidance in such areas as updating core processes and promoting talent cultivation.” Foster ing ac ademic-publicprivate collaboration is essential if the industry is to achieve its full

Cultivating Collaboration

Fongyu received funding from PABP to purchase the probiotics technology as part of wide-ranging government initiatives to foster the agricultural biotechnology industry. Last year, the park provided subsidies ranging from NT$300,000 to $750,000 (US$10,000-$25,000) to 15 resident companies for cross-sector 18

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01. Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park in southern Taiwan aims to foster value-added production. 02. Ornamental aquatic weed seedlings produced by Fongyu Corp. at the park 03. Vegetables are cultivated at a plant run by Tingmao Agricultural Biotechnology Co. in northern Taiwan’s Taoyuan City. The company recently established a similar facility at PABP. 04 & 05. Pingtung-headquartered nonprofit Dr. Cecilia Koo Botanic Conservation Center collaborates with park tenants on flora research. 04 & 05. Photos by Chuang Kung-ju

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01. A lab affiliated with Academia Sinica in Taipei City provides bioagricultural testing services. 02. Fish scales are an important raw material for cosmetic and health food manufacturers at PABP. 03. A production facility at the park operated by TCI Co., the nation’s top exporter of dietary supplements 04. Seedlings are grown at Taiwan Orchid Plantation in the southern city of Tainan. Management of the plantation is being transferred to PABP. 05. A brochure featuring an image of Fongyu founder Liu Chien-shen and processed foods made from the firm’s fish 06. The company’s aquaculture facilities at PABP 07. Fongyu General Manager Wang Ching-i 02. Photo by Chuang Kung-ju 04. Photo by Chang Su-ching

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potential, said Wu Jen-leih ( 吳金 洌), a visiting fellow in the Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology at Taipei City-based Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s foremost research i n s t i t u t i o n . Wu f o r m e r l y l e d t h e D e v e l o p m e n t Pr o g r a m o f Industrialization for Agricultural Biotechnology. Running 2009 to 2013, the NT$2.4 billion (US$80 million) initiative was funded primarily by the COA, Academia Sinica and Ministry of Science and

Technology (MOST), with additional support coming from the Ministries of Economic Affairs, Education, and Health and Welfare. Over 160 companies participated in the program aimed at commercializing biotech innovations in industries spanning aquaculture, livestock and plant cultivation. The project led to the transfer of 277 locally developed technologies and the establishment of six companies. Today, Wu is continuing this work


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as head of the Academia Sinicabased Analysis and Promotion of Agriculture Biotechnology Office. The molecular biologist said that Taiwan’s high level of agricultural expertise results from its centurylong accumulation of research and technical advances since Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945). “Now it ’s time to embrace the era of smart agriculture by using biotech to create value-added products,” he said. “These efforts should leverage Taiwan’s strengths in automation and information and communication technology.”

Planting Seeds

Spanning 233 hectares, PABP is the tip of the spear in the modernization of Taiwan’s agricultural sector. Established in 2006, the park is home to 105 companies in industries such as animal feed and vaccines, biofertilizers and biopesticides, cosmetics, environmental control systems, health foods and testing services. Featuring on-site customs, inspection and quarantine facilities, it had attracted investment totaling NT$10.46 billion (US$348.7 million) by the end of April. Production value of resident companies exceeded NT$6.5 billion (US$216.7 million) in 2017, Chang said, adding that this figure is projected to reach NT$18 billion

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(US$600 million) following completion of a 165-hectare expansion project. Slated to open by the end of next year, the additional space is expected to raise the number of tenants to 180. Bioagriculture intersects several elements in the government’s core economic revitalization program. The five-plus-two innovative industries initiative targets biotech and pharmaceuticals, green energy, Internet of Things, national defense and smart machinery as well as the circular economy and a new paradigm for agricultural development. Given its expertise in the emerging field, PABP is taking on a nationwide role. The park authority is overseeing construction of a 98-hectare high-tech agricultural business facility featuring stormreinforced greenhouses in central Taiwan’s Changhua County as well as a 17-hectare logistics site for cold chain distribution near Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in the northern city.

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Also coming under PABP management is the 175-hectare Taiwan Orchid Plantation. The cluster of around 60 growers in the southern city of Tainan is currently overseen by the local government. “Integration of these parks in northern, central and southern Taiwan will help foster business exchanges, strengthen resource sharing among public and private sector groups and upgrade production processes toward the establishment of a comprehensive high-tech agricultural supply chain,” Chang said.

Growing Markets

According to the director-general, the growth of the nation’s bioagriculture industry is expected to deepen Taiwan’s economic ties with Southeast Asia. PABP residents hold technological advantages over competitors in the region and are eyeing rising demand for both consumer and industrial goods, she added. Fongyu is among the tenants growing its presence in Association 22

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of Southeast Asian Nations member states. The company exports to Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam and plans are in the works to offer aquaculture equipment and technical services in the countries, Wang said. A similar model is being adopted by fellow park resident Advanced Green Biotechnology (AGB), one of Taiwan’s largest biofertilizer and biopesticide manufacturers. The company was founded in 2002 at the incubation center of National Chung Hsing University in Taichung City, central Taiwan, to commercialize agricultural biotech research on microorganisms.

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01. Bacteria fermentation equipment developed by PABP-based Advanced Green Biotechnology 02. Microbial agents used in the company’s biofertilizers and biopesticides 03. AGB Chairman Ken Liu


It relocated to PABP six years later. “The international trend toward nonchemical pesticides and fertilizers offers abundant ecological benefits and business opportunities,” Chairman Ken Liu (劉健誼) said. AG B e n t e r e d t h e i n d u s t r y before a regulator y framework was established to distinguish biological and chemical formulations. This came in 2007 with the promulgation of the Agricultural Production and Certification Act, which provided a legal definition in Taiwan for the term “organic agricultural product.” Government initiatives encouraging farmers to use nonchemical fertilizers and pesticides soon followed, propelling the growth of AGB and other producers. The company has also benefited from government programs to support research commercialization and tie-ups. AGB’s biopesticide using the Bacillus mycoides bacteria to treat orchid seedlings with yellow-leaf disease evolved out of its participation in Wu’s five-year program.

In addition to biofertilizers and biopesticides, the firm sells fermentation systems under the brand Bio Bar to large farms in countries including China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. “Compared with buying ready-made agents, on-site cultivation can offer significant cost reductions,” Liu said. The system, comprising a fermentation tank as well as water filtration and heating devices, was designed for easy shipment in cargo containers. AGB has patented the technology in Taiwan, China and the U.S. “Microbiology holds the key to developing blue ocean markets in the traditional field of agriculture,” Liu said, referring to the concept of creating new business spheres devoid of competition. “Using bacteria can be more effective than chemical pesticides and protects the environment,” he said. “Such biotech applications will be essential going forward as consumers and regulators place increasing attention on environmental and food safety issues.”

04 & 05. Yai-Tai Aquaculture Center at PABP showcases a variety of ornamental fish and shrimp produced by tenants. 04. Photos by Chin Hung-hao 05. Courtesy of Yai-Tai Aquaculture Center

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I Healthy Growth The biomedical sector is gaining momentum on the back of comprehensive industry support measures. BY PAT GAO PHOTOS BY HUANG CHUNG-HSIN

n February, Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) welcomed representatives from some of the nation’s foremost biomedical companies and research teams to the Office of the President in Taipei City. The guests were winners of the 2017 National Quality Awards organized by the government-supported Institute for Biotechnology and Medicine Industry (IBMI). Chen praised the firms and researchers for fostering innovation and providing exceptional care in fields spanning health and well-being services, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. C i t i n g a re p o r t by Pa r i s based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the vice president noted that going forward bio-based sectors are expected to account for more than half of gross domestic product in developed countries. Given the economic and social signific ance of this potential-laden field, the government is committed to positioning Taiwan as a regional hub of related R&D, he said.

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Biomedical Boom

Taiwan’s biomedical sector is going from strength to strength. According to the Ministr y of Science and Technology (MOST), total industry revenues from products and services rose from about NT$330 billion (US$11 billion) in 2011 to NT$486 billion (US$16.2 billion) last year. The figure for 2017 represented an annual increase of 3.4 percent. T h i s g row t h f o l l ow s w i d e ranging government initiatives in past decades to bolster sector development. Helping spearhead these measures is the IBMI. “The institute’s primary role is to coordinate activities among the academic, public 24

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01, 02 & 04. Companies in the Kaohsiung City section of Southern Taiwan Science Park produce a wide variety of medical devices and materials including skull and dental implants. 03. A lab at the Development Center for Biotechnology, the first major resident of the under-construction National Biotechnology Research Park in Taipei City


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and private sectors,” CEO Chien Chung-liang ( 錢宗良 ) said. Other key responsibilities include honoring participants and certifying products and services. In 2004, the IBMI launched its annual awards recognizing biomedical companies and researchers for significant contributions to patients, the industry and Taiwan’s overall health care environment. Among the 2017 winners were Gray Biomedical Co. based in central Taiwan’s Taichung City and National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei. The former took home the prize for its

leading-edge air purifier equipment, while the latter won for its extracorporeal membrane oxygenation-assisted cardiopulmonary resuscitation system. Also in 2004, the I BMI unveiled the Symbol of National Q uality (SNQ) to highlight the safety and high standard of Taiwan’s biomedical offerings. Last year, some 250 products and services received the label, which must be renewed annually. “SNQ certification is a rigorous process involving written reports and onsite inspections by specialists in

areas like cosmetics, food, health care, herbal medicine, instruments and pharmaceuticals,” Chien said.

Fresh Focus

Government measures to accelerate sector growth kicked into high gear in 2016 with the introduction of the Biomedical Industry Innovation Program. The initiative aims to transform biomedicine into a trillion New Taiwan dollar industry by 2025 through fostering 20 new pharmaceuticals, bringing 80 high-value medical devices to market and cultivating at least 10 major health and wellbeing service brands. 25


Two laws were amended last year under the program. The Act for the Development of Biotech and New Pharmaceuticals Industry, promulgated in 2007 to offer tax breaks for investments in related R&D and personnel training, was expanded to cover emerging fields like preventative and regenerative medicine. The Fundamental Science and Technology Act was also revised to facilitate biotech talent flows between the academic and private sectors. These efforts are paying handsome dividends as evidenced by the rising number of locally developed pharmaceuticals. As of the end of April, a total of 247 drugs produced by Taiwan companies were undergoing clinical research at home and abroad, an increase of 12.3 percent year on year, according to the MOST. Of this number, 140 got approval for trials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Notable medications to gain commercial sales authorization this year include pancreatic cancer-treating Onivyde by PharmaEngine and HIV drug Ibalizumab from TaiMed Biologics. The Taipei-headquartered firms received market access for the pharmaceuticals in Singapore and the U.S., respectively. Taiwan’s medical device manufacturers have registered similar successes, with 55 innovations earning premarket approval from the FDA in 2017.

Nationwide Clusters

The growth of the biomedical sector is expected to further the government’s goal of promoting balanced regional development. Major biotech clusters are located at science parks nationwide, including in Taipei and Hsinchu County in northern Taiwan, Taichung, and the southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung. One 26

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of the largest of these, based in the capital’s Nangang District, is in the midst of a major expansion. Adjacent from the existing Taipei cluster, Academia Sinica, the nation’s foremost scientific institution, is overseeing constr uction of the National Biotechnology Research Park (NBRP). Future occupants will include the IBMI, Taiwan’s FDA and the National Laboratory Animal Center under the MOSTadministered National Applied Research Laboratories. The park’s first major resident moved in last year: the Ministr y of Economic Affairssupported Development Center for Biotechnolog y (DCB). The

institution was established in 1984 as part of early government measures to promote commercialization of local biotechnology research. DCB has since spun off four major enterprises in the fields of drug manufacturing and testing. These companies—EirGenix, Q uest Pharmaceutical Services Co. Taiwan, T F B S B i o s c i e n c e a n d Ta i w a n Advance Bio-Pharmaceutical—are headquartered near DCB’s former home in Xizhi District of New Taipei City. According to DCB President Herbert Wu ( 吳忠勳 ), the center’s current focus is promoting emerging fields like cell therapy and precision medicine. The Nangang park is expected to further these efforts by providing facilities for cutting-edge R&D and fostering exchanges between local startups and international pharmaceutical companies. “The NBRP will house infrastructure for critical phases of prototype drug development like preclinical testing on animals,” Wu


said. “Subsequent trials can then be conducted at associated Taipei medical centers.”

New Instruments

While the Nangang site is intended to serve as a research center for new pharmaceuticals, other clusters will primarily work to develop cuttingedge instruments. Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP) in Tainan and Kaohsiung is home to 73 biomedical firms, 55 of which produce medical devices. The total revenues of these companies increased 4.6 percent year on year to NT$9.53 billion (US$317.7 million) in 2017, according to Joyce Chou ( 周怡祺 ), head of the Industry-Academic R&D Section in the Investment Services Division at the STSP Bureau. Chou said that a growing number of devices from resident firms have been adopted by prominent Taiwan medical institutions such as the affiliated hospitals of Kaohsiung Medical University and National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan as well as Shuang Ho Hospital in New Taipei operated by Taipei Medical University. Tom Lee (李國宏), chief of the Investment Services Division, attributed this success to bureau initiatives aimed at promoting communication between manufacturers and practicing physicians. The MOST-overseen park bureau also operates assistance programs to help resident companies attend trade shows and build relationships with doctors in Southeast Asian markets like Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, he added. In line with these efforts, an STSP medic al de vice research a n d c o m m e rc i a l i z a t i o n c e n t e r was launched at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Ho Chi

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01. A researcher selects samples for testing at DCB. 02. Hepatitis B and C medications produced by Taipei-headquartered PharmaEssentia Corp. 03 – 05. Visitors attend the inaugural Taiwan Healthcare+ Expo staged Dec. 7-10 last year in Taipei. 03 – 05. Courtesy of Institute for Biotechnology and Medicine Industry

Minh City last November. The facility exhibits products from 13 resident firms and collaborates with the Medical Device Innovation Center at NCKU on product development.

Global Expo

The most significant recent step to promote international awareness of the nation’s biomedical expertise was the 2017 launch of the Taiwan Healthcare+ Expo. Organized by the IBMI, it is intended to serve as the most comprehensive trade show of its kind in Asia. Staged Dec. 7-10 in Taipei, the inaugural edition featured about 1,050 booths by more than 300 local and foreign companies and medical

centers, and attracted over 70,000 visitors and forum attendees. This year’s event, scheduled to run Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, is expected to be even bigger and will focus on highlighting smart health care solutions, according to Chien. “The strength of the local information and communication technology sector gives Taiwan a major advantage in developing innovative biomedical products and services,” he said. “In addition to spotlighting this competitive edge, we aim to deepen cross-sector collaboration so that the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, big data and robotics can benefit patients at home and around the world.” 27


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n 2017, Taipei City-based TCI Co. claimed the top prize at the Taiwan BIO Awards, marking the first time the prestigious honor was granted to a dietar y supplements company. The firm was lauded for its explosive growth in the potential-laden market. TCI’s annual revenues rose fourfold between 2008 and 2017 to about NT$4 billion (US$133.3

Extracting Value Taiwan health supplement manufacturers are investing in biotech research amid rising demand for wellness products at home and abroad.

Blossoming Market

The dietary supplements and health drinks market is booming. Related products accounted for at least 10 percent of the nation’s NT$613 billion (US$20.4 billion) food production sector in 2017, according to Jane Shiang-tang (簡相堂), director

BY OSCAR CHUNG PHOTOS BY CHIN HUNG-HAO 01

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million). Today, the original design manufacturer creates products for over 400 brands in more than 40 countries and territories. Prior to last year, the awards— launched in 2012 and overseen by Taiwan Bio Industry Organization— were dominated by pharmaceutical and medical device producers. Recognition for TCI highlights growing diversific ation in the nation’s biotechnology sector as well as industrywide investment in research and technological upgrading. “TCI functions more like an R&D institute than an enterprise,” said Aaron Chen (陳彥任), head of the company’s marketing department. “Our commitment to innovation is the primary reason for our impressive growth.”


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01. Demand for health supplements is growing worldwide. 02. Ginseng extract drinks in sachets and bottles made by Taipei City-based TCI Co., Taiwan’s leading exporter of dietary supplements 03. Cordyceps cicadae and a fermentation broth made from the fungus are displayed at the headquarters of Grape King Bio in northern Taiwan’s Taoyuan City. 04. A hericium mushroom on show at Grape King 05. Raw materials are tested as part of the company’s quality control procedures. 04

of the Planning Office at the government-supported Food Industry Research and Development Institute (FI RDI) in nor ther n Taiwan’s Hsinchu City. “Modern testing equipment makes it easier than ever before to demonstrate the effectiveness of natural health supplements, and as a result more and more people are willing to give them a try,” he said. Misha Li (李金霙), a senior brand specialist at New Taipei City-based Biozyme Biotechnology Corp., identified aging populations in developed markets as a major factor behind rising demand. “Consumers are also much better informed and far more

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01. Probiotics are a major research focus in Taiwan’s health supplements sector. 02. A Grape King employee conducts screenings to ensure product safety. 03. One of TCI’s nine research laboratories, the Gene Lab, seeks to identify functional properties of natural organisms through genomic analysis. Illustration by Ma Ying-kai

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health-conscious compared to three or four decades ago.” Founded in 1981, Biozyme is the largest manufacturer of enzyme supplements in Taiwan. The company produces a range of natural extracts from locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. These products, including detox powders and health drinks, are believed to boost metabolism and nutrient absorption. Having found success among traditional target groups, Lee said that Biozyme is reaching out to other demographics. “People tend to think about taking dietary supplements only after entering middle age,” she said. “That’s why we’ve developed options aimed at improving the health of pregnant women and teenagers reaching puberty.” According to Jane, consistent product development is the key to success in the supplements sector. “TCI is an excellent example in this regard. It has grown so quickly because it embraces pioneering ideas and constantly strives to sharpen its competitive edge,” he said. This commitment to innovation is spotlighted by the firm’s integrated bioscience design program. Launched in 2011, the initiative aims to combine cutting-edge research and technologies in areas


like applied material sciences, biology, consumer behavior research, genetics and industrial engineering. Last year, TCI also boosted its number of in-house research laboratories from four to nine. Among its core R&D facilities is Next Lab, which focuses on improving production techniques and examining additional organisms for health-enhancing qualities. “By constantly exploring fresh frontiers, we can stay ahead of our competitors, but also help grow the industry for the benefit of all participants,” Chen said.

Embracing Innovation

Integrating new technologies and exploring emerging trends has helped Grape King Bio remain at the forefront of the country’s health foods sector for almost five decades. The company headquartered in northern Taiwan’s Taoyuan City rose to prominence with the energy drink ComeBest, among the top-selling items of this type following its launch in 1969 until the 1990s. “But even with the popularity of that product, we were aware that future company growth would require diversification through long-term investment in biotech applications,” said Chen Chin-chu (陳勁初), vice president of the firm’s R&D Division. Grape King took steps to enter the supplements market with the launch of its Bioengineering Center in 1991. The first fruits of these labors, lactic acid bacteria-infused granules, hit store shelves six years later. Today, these products, thought to improve digestion, are the company ’s leading re venue source. “Patience is required as any R&D involving the study of organisms is unpredictable and time-consuming,” Chen said.

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Also in the late 1990s, Grape King began to explore methods of mass-producing fungal extracts. The company first created a product from Ganoderma, a genus of polypore mushrooms believed to strengthen the immune system, before applying similar techniques to Antrodia cinnamomea, a species of fungus said to boost liver function and reduce blood pressure.

04. Grape King’s Ganoderma mushroom supplements are said to bolster the immune system. 05. Banana peel extract products developed by TCI are intended to help relieve depression.

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01. Samples of Grape King’s supplements are checked for residues of harmful substances like heavy metals. 02. A staffer inspects the highly automated packaging equipment at the company’s factory in Taoyuan. 03. Probiotics supplements are prepared for shipment at the plant. 04 & 05. Workers monitor fermentation tanks at Biozyme Biotechnology Corp.’s manufacturing facility in Taoyuan. The firm’s enzyme supplements are produced from locally grown organic fruit and vegetables.

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04 & 05. Courtesy of Biozyme Biotechnology Corp.

Unlike exports leader TCI, Grape King primarily focuses on the local market. Domestic sales of own-brand items account for 85 percent of the firm’s revenue, with the remainder coming from original design and equipment manufacturing services for other industry participants. The company also continues to produce ComeBest, though the drink now contributes just 3 percent to the bottom line.

Research Collaboration

For Grape King and TCI, tie-ups with local academic organizations have proved crucial in strengthening commercialization and research expertise. The latter’s Next Lab is situated on the campus of National Chung Hsing University in central Taiwan’s Taichung City and partners with the tertiary institution’s Biotechnology Center on product development. Recent results of Grape King’s related cooperation include hericium mushroom extract supplements. Released in 2015, the products 32

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are said to support nerve regeneration. Since 2010, the company has invested some NT$40 million (US$1.34 million) on funding research into the functional properties of the fungus, with further studies ongoing. Grape King’s Chen also highlighted the impact of FIRDI’s work in developing new applications and transferring results to industry. “Our techniques for producing roseroot extracts, which lower blood sugar

levels, originated at the institution,” he said. Both companies have earned recognition for their innovative approaches in manufacturing natural health supplements. TCI’s technology for ultrasonic cold extraction of banana peels, used to create its Happy Banana supplements purported to relieve depression, won a gold medal at the 2013 International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva. And Grape King ’s method for


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preventing degradation of healthpromoting substances called erinacines during fermentation of hericium mushrooms earned gold at the International Trade Fair, or iENA, in Nuremberg, Germany, last year. In line with global trends, a major focus of current research initiatives across Taiwan’s supplements sector is probiotics. According to a report released in February 2017 by U.S.based market consultancy Grand View Research, worldwide demand for such products is expected to reach US$7 billion by 2025, up from US$3.3 billion in 2015. TCI is among the industry participants eagerly eyeing this fast-growing segment, with one of the company’s new in-house R&D facilities, the Human and Microbiome Laboratory, targeting probiotics.

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Ac c o rd i n g t o A a ro n C h e n , the sky is the limit in the rapidly developing supplements market and Taiwan biotech enterprises are well placed for takeoff. “The average human body has 10 times the

number of bacteria as human cells, yet so much about the role that microorganisms play in our health and well-being remains a mystery,” he said. “Now the whole world is paying attention to this area.” 33


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Revitalizing the Routine Local companies tap abundant biotech expertise to create innovative, costeffective skin care products. BY KELLY HER PHOTOS BY CHEN MEI-LING

eauty may only be skin deep, but a growing number of men and women are willing to splurge on products like cleansers, moisturizers, scrubs and wrinkle creams. “Once thought of as luxuries, skin care items are now considered necessities by many consumers amid improving living standards and greater social emphasis on physical appearance,” said Vicky Liu ( 劉依蓁), a project manager at the Biotechnology Industry Study Center under Taipei City-based think tank Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER). “Rising demand for anti-aging and whitening products is creating massive business opportunities not only for traditional cosmetic manufacturers but also biotech companies.” According to TIER, the value of Taiwan’s skin care market is estimated to reach NT$57.4 billion (US$1.9 billion) in 2020, up from NT$50.9 billion (US$1.7 billion) in 2015. Products with natural, organic and medical-grade ingredients are projected to carve out a larger share as consumers move away from standard cosmetics, Liu said, adding that local biotech companies are focusing R&D in these areas.

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“Firms are eyeing collagen, herbal and hyaluronic acid-based goods,” she said. “Taiwan enterprises have a wealth of experience in developing active ingredients and botanical extracts, and such skills will serve them well in devising attractive offerings for these blossoming market segments.”

In-House Knowledge

Soaring demand has drawn some of Taiwan’s foremost enterprises to the skin care sector over the past decades. Among these industry entrants is Formosa Plastics Group, a conglomerate with businesses in fields spanning education, electronics, energy, health care and petrochemicals. In 2004, it established Taipeiheadquartered Formosa Biomedical Technology Corp. (FBC) to explore various fields including cosmetics and health supplements. FBC’s two skin care brands, FORTE and DF, target the high-end and middle tier markets and are sold through local department stores and drugstore chains, respectively. Stephen Liu (劉慧啟), senior vice president of FBC, said the company was able to make rapid progress in product development due to its


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01. A tour guide outlines methods for assessing cosmetics at the production facility and visitor center operated by Formosa Biomedical Technology Corp. in central Taiwan’s Changhua County. 02. A dermatologist, left, teaches an FBC beauty consultant, center, about common skin conditions at Taipei Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. 03. Visitors to the FBC Health Center can take a skin test. 04. FBC’s FORTE and DF brands are sold through department stores and drugstore chains, respectively.

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01 & 02. Employees at the FBC Health Center introduce the company’s skin care products. 03 & 04. State-owned Taiwan Sugar Corp. is a major player in the biotech sector owing to its extensive agricultural expertise and decades of experience in extraction and fermentation processes. 05. Most of the raw materials in Taisugar’s skin care goods are produced from scratch. 06. Workers create cosmetics at Taisugar’s biotech plant in southern Taiwan’s Chiayi County. 01

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parent group’s diverse technological know-how and wealth of academic and medical resources. It draws on fellow subsidiary Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp.’s nearly 50 years of experience in the R&D of surfactants, compounds used in all manner of cleaning and detergent formulations. FBC also utilizes expertise at affiliated hospitals, working with dermatologists at Taipei Chang Gung Memorial Hospital on selecting cosmetic components and conducting clinical trials. In addition, the company’s beauty consultants are required to complete a training program in the Department of Dermatology before working with 36

Taiwan Review July / August

customers. “Our products emphasize quality and safety, and are designed to cater to the preferences and skin types of Asian consumers,” Liu said. The biotech company has also teamed up with Chang Gung University ’s Graduate Institute of Natural Products and Chang Gung University of Science and Te c h n o l o g y ’s D e p a r t m e n t o f Cosmetic Science, both located in northern Taiwan’s Taoyuan City, on studies of traditional Chinese herbal medicines as well as extraction methods for collagen, hyaluronic acid and other natural substances. To boost brand awareness and consumer engagement, FBC has opened the doors of its production facility in central Taiwan’s Changhua County, offer ing a c lose-up look at its research activities and manufacturing. Visitors can take skin and scalp tests and make facial cleansers. Since its launch in mid-2017, the FBC Health Center has attracted more than 130,000 people. “ V iewing our processes and learning firsthand about our active ingredients offer a sense of assurance about product quality,” said Alex Chen (陳俊男), the center’s director. “Seeing is believing and I’m confident these educational efforts have played a role in our firm seizing a decent share of the highly competitive skin care market, which has long been dominated by foreign brands.”

Farm to Face

Another local corporate giant capturing a portion of the skin care market is state-owned Taiwan Sugar Corp. (Taisugar). The company was founded in 1946 after the end of Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945) to operate sugar mills previously controlled by Japanese firms. Since the 1980s, it has expanded into a


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host of industries including horticulture, livestock production and tourism. In 2004, Taisugar invested NT$1 billion (US$33.3 million) in establishing a biotech plant in southern Taiwan’s Chiayi County to produce dietary supplements and skin care products. Sam Huang ( 黃民生 ), CEO of Taisugar’s Biotechnology Business Division, said core sugar processing technologies that the company has accumulated in such areas as extraction and fermentation facilitated its expansion into biotech. The firm’s extensive connections and expertise in Taiwan’s agricultural sector are

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similarly advantageous in terms of cultivating ingredients. “In contrast to the vast majority of cosmetic companies, which import raw materials, we strive to develop our own from scratch so we can be sure of their quality and safety,” Huang said. “We want to control every aspect of the product life cycle.” According to the CEO, the collagen and placenta for Taisugar goods come from pigs raised on company farms. In addition, botanical inputs are largely sourced from its plantations of Amur grape, balloon flowers and orchids as well as propagation of gentian root through

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tissue culture. These raw materials are used to create skin creams and lotions for its Smooth and Stanlen brands. The goods are sold at supermarkets, through online retailers and on television shopping channels. The company has placed much of its focus on developing brightening and whitening products owing to the local preference for a pale complexion. Other popular offerings include its all-in-one solutions purporting to reduce the appearance of lines, lighten age spots and tighten the skin. Tammy Tsai (蔡佳儒), manager of the Cosmetic Business Center in the

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biotechnology division, noted that price is a key factor in the appeal of Taisugar products. Compared to foreign options with similar formulas and ingredients, Taisugar’s are 30 to 40 percent cheaper. “This is due to our lower manufacturing costs resulting from in-house production of most ingredients,” she said. Ta i s u g a r i s a l s o s e e k i n g t o bolster its presence in regional markets by exporting its products and serving as a raw materials supplier for cosmetic-makers. Among related efforts, it is in talks with a Thai business group on sharing biotech expertise.

Regional Expansion

One of the region’s leading cosmetic and skin care enterprises is Taipeibased Chlitina Group. Established in 1989, it is the largest beauty salon operator in Asia, and the first to be publicly listed in Taiwan. The company sells own-brand products through its 300 franchises in Taiwan and nearly 4,000 across China. Chlitina has been named one of the Best Taiwan Global Brands annually since 2015, and is the only 01

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beauty company included in the list. The survey highlighting the nation’s top 20 international brands is a joint effort by the Industrial Development Bureau under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, New York-based consultancy Interbrand and TIER. According to Kao Shou-kang (高 壽康), general manager of Chlitina Taiwan and Southeast Asia, the chain’s popularity owes much to founder Chen Wu-kang’s (陳武剛) pioneering use of amino acids in skin care treatments. Amino acids, the building blocks for proteins, stimulate collagen biosynthesis, hydrate skin and accelerate the healing process, Kao said, adding that the company has developed more than 140 kinds of professional body and facial treatments with antioxidant and whitening properties. In addition to internal R&D, Chlitina carries out research projects in partnership with Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science in southern Taiwan’s Tainan City and the Biomedical Technology and Device Research Laboratories under the government-supported Industrial Technology Research Institute in the northern county of Hsinchu. Related initiatives span clinical trials as well as studies of plant extracts for skin whitening properties. And in 2015, it established a subsidiary in Paris to facilitate collaboration with France Lab, part of the Marie Claire Group, on product development. Next on the expansion agenda for Chlitina is Southeast Asia. In January, the company opened its first branch in Vietnam and plans are in the works for outlets in Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar. “Young populations and emerging middle classes are fueling sales growth in


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ASEAN markets,” Kao said. “And health, beauty and wellness is one of the most popular spending categories among these groups.” According to the general manager, efforts to boost commercial ties with the region are also in line with the New Southbound Policy (NSP). A key plank of the government ’s national development strategy, the NSP seeks to deepen Taiwan’s agricultural, business,

cultural, education, tourism and trade links with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand. “O wing to our technological know-how and extensive business development experience, I’m confident we can make successful inroads into emerging regional markets,” he said. “Eventually, we aim to gain a strong foothold worldwide.”

01. Taisugar skin care treatments made with orchid extracts 02. Tammy Tsai, manager of the Cosmetic Business Center in Taisugar’s biotechnology division, showcases skin creams and lotions from her company’s Smooth and Stanlen brands. 03 & 06. Taipei City-based Chlitina Group sells own-brand products through its 300 beauty salon franchises in Taiwan and nearly 4,000 across China. 04. Chlitina offers more than 140 varieties of body and facial treatments with antioxidant and whitening properties. 05. Kao Shou-kang, left, general manager of Chlitina Taiwan and Southeast Asia, is hoping to expand operations in emerging regional markets including Indonesia and Vietnam. 07. Chlitina is the largest beauty salon operator in Asia and one of the Best Taiwan Global Brands.

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DIPLOMAC Y

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台 灣 評 論

Projecting Influence Winning hearts and minds in the northern highlands of Thailand is the goal of TaiwanICDF cooperative projects. TEXT AND PHOTOS BY OSCAR CHUNG

or Boonsri Kaem, Taiwan never featured in his farming life in the mountainous area about 45 kilometers to the west of northern Thailand’s Chiangmai city. But that changed in February 2017 when the swarthy farmer started growing a high-quality, virus-free variety of passion fruit named Tainung No. 1 from Taiwan. The plant was introduced to Thailand under a cooperative relationship between Taipei City-headquartered International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF), the country’s foremost foreign aid organization, and Thailand’s Royal Project Foundation (RPF). Previously focusing on corn and cabbage farming, Kaem subsequently made an extra 100,000 baht, or more than US$3,000, last year by cultivating the fruit. “RPF offered to buy my produce and I’ve learned how to grow a new crop. Isn’t that great?” he said, flashing a satisfied grin under the April sun.

Raising Standards

Taiwan has been working with Thailand on improving farmers’ lives in the highlands near the country’s northern borders since the 1970s. Lee Pai-po (李栢浡), TaiwanICDF’s deputy secretary general, estimates the decadeslong cooperation has benefited tens of thousands of farmers in the region. Helping Thai technicians produce virus-free seedlings of Tainung No. 1, which are in turn promoted among farmers like Kaem, is just one part of the joint efforts made by the two sides in recent years. The passion fr uit plan was initially a component in RPF ’s Technical Assistance Horticultural Development Project running from 40

Taiwan Review July / August


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01. Thai farmer Boonsri Kaem cultivates a high-quality variety of passion fruit from Taiwan named Tainung No. 1. 02 & 03. Researcher Paothai Thayaping of Thailand evaluates measures for sustainable agriculture like bagging, netting and pheromone use via the International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF) and Royal Project Foundation’s Integrated Pest Management project.

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2011 to 2013. It continued to feature in another three-year project jointly implemented by TaiwanICDF and RPF from 2014 to 2016 for controlling pests and diseases for citrus and passion fruit crops. Since 2011, projects carried out by RPF in the highlands in coordination with TaiwanICDF are renewed every three years. Submissions are proposed by the former and evaluated by the latter for feasibility. The budget is funded by the two sides, with TaiwanICDF responsible for 45 percent. To date, three multicomponent projects have been completed in the first and second threeyear phases ending in 2016, with a third one aimed at diversifying varieties of mushrooms and persimmons, as well as improving cultivation techniques.

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Profitable Growth

Allison Hsu (許慧玲), a project manager with TaiwanICDF working at RPF headquarters in Chiangmai, s a i d Ta i w a n h e l p s m a i n l y b y

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introducing hardy cash crops, offering financial support and sending agricultural experts to Thailand where they impart the latest information to technicians from up to 39 RPF-run stations. The trainees, in turn, pass along the acquired knowledge to more technicians based in RPF network stations. By building capacity for RPF agricultural staffers, TaiwanICDF is enabling farmers to stand on their own after the joint projects are completed. Suthat Pleumpanya, director of RPF ’s Development Division, said Taiwan boasts advanced agricultural technolog y and knowhow, notably in the propagation of virus-free seedlings and pest control. “TaiwanICDF is the perfect platform through which to assist Thailand, with Tainung No. 1 a standout contribution.” According to RPF, the passion fruit has grown rapidly in popularity in Thailand over the years. A thousand seedlings of the champion plant were cultivated and distributed


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01. Suthat Pleumpanya, director of RPF’s Development Division, explains the origins of TaiwanThailand cooperation in the northern part of the Southeast Asian nation. 02. TaiwanICDF project manager Allison Hsu, right, is joined by senior Thai expert Nuchnart Jonglaekha in examining a Thai farmer’s produce. 03. Workers sort and pack peaches harvested by RPF-advised farmers in northern Thailand. 04 & 05. A plant laboratory staffer transplants Tainung No. 1 passion fruit seedlings grown by RPF. 04

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01 & 03. RPF’s Royal Agricultural Station Ankhang boasts a resort area and souvenir shop open to the public. 02. Another RPF station is situated on Mt. Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand. 04 – 06. Portobello mushrooms jointly promoted by TaiwanICDF and RPF are slowly gaining popularity with Thai farmers and consumers. 07. Thai researcher Sirisupaporn Khamsukdee demonstrates the tissue culture techniques she learned during a trip to Taiwan.

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to Thai farmers in 2011. Although demand quickly surpassed supply, production continued apace and the number reached more than 80,000 last year. There are high hopes that other plans such as the one promoting new mushroom varieties through six RPF stations could be equally successful. Patcharin Kengkarj, an RPF fungus specialist, said most Thai consumers are still not familiar with the varieties introduced through the TaiwanICDF-RPF partnership. “There’s massive market potential for varieties such as Portobello mushrooms, which local farmers started growing in 2015,” she said. Since the mushroom program sprang up in 2014, the number of farmers RPF has advised and purchased produce from has increased from 60 to 117, reflecting the effectiveness of ongoing outreach efforts by the participating RPF stations.

But as Taiwan sends more experts to Thailand to strengthen cooperative relationships, reciprocity is just as important. “Exchanging experiences between the two sides is crucial to the relationship,” Hsu said.

Progressive Partnership

According to Lee, the TaiwanICDFRPF tie-up constitutes one major channel through which Thai agricultural experts and technicians make study tours to Taiwan. Each year, he said, there are usually five RPF groups, each comprising five members, eager to learn and return home to share their newfound knowledge. Paothai Thayaping is a researcher responsible for analyzing data collected from experimental farms in one of the t wo third-phase TaiwanICDF-RPF projects from 2017 to 2019. This ongoing initiative focuses on IPM, or integrated pest management, a holistic approach to


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sustainable agriculture for managing diseases, insects and weeds through a combination of environmentally sound measures. The entomologist, who spent one week last August in Taiwan training at facilities like the Pheromone Center of Chaoyang University of Technology in Taichung City, central Taiwan, is extremely upbeat on the benefits of such undertakings. “I learned a lot about the ingeniously designed and highly effective pheromone traps,” he said. The use of pheromones is under evaluation by RPF, with more visits to the center— the only one of its kind in Taiwan— planned in the future. One of the Thai agricultural experts supervising the IPM project, Nuchnart Jonglaekha, is also impressed by what she saw during her numerous trips to Taiwan, especially the automated agriculture equipment developed at Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute under the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture in Taichung. “But personnel exchanges are really at the heart of the TaiwanICDF-RPF relationship, as they can often inspire

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participants to make greater contributions to their jobs,” she said.

Boosting Knowledge

A Thai farmer is benefiting from the TaiwanICDFRPF partnership via her plastic-sheeted mushroom cultivation house.

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T h i s p o s i t i on i s s u p p o r t e d by S i r i s u p a p o r n K h a m s u k d e e, a n RPF researcher. The academic took part in a TaiwanICDF-organized international workshop in 2014 on plant cloning techniques. Three years later, Khamsukdee set about cultivating virus-free sweet potato and gloriosa lily seedlings under the second third-phase TaiwanICDFRPF project. In September, Khamsukdee will be one of six Thai experts traveling to Taiwan for a weeklong study tour, which will improve the group’s knowledge of various kinds of flowers, notably those of the plants

grown as root and tuber crops. “I’ll combine the tissue culture techniques I’ve learned in Taiwan with what I’m going to discover during the coming tour in the hope of helping Thailand mass-produce its own plants,” she said. At the same time, TaiwanICDF and RPF are discussing fourth-phase candidate projects set for rollout from 2020 to 2022, with results to be finalized toward year-end. Nearly 50 years ago, Taiwan and Thailand committed to working together for a better tomorrow in the northern highlands. RPF’s Pleumpanya said cooperation between the two sides has facilitated the transfer of knowledge and collaborative research. “There’s every reason to sustain such a partnership.”


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Storied Partnership

he agricultural technical cooperation between Taiwan and Thailand began in 1970, one year after the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej launched a royal project aiming to eradicate opium fields and replace them with legal cash crops in the northern highlands bordering Myanmar and Laos.

That year, the king requested Taiwan’s assistance with the project when meeting with Shen Chang-huan (沈昌煥), the country’s ambassador to Thailand. Soon afterwards, Prince Bhisatej Rajani made an inspection trip to Fushoushan Farm in Taichung City, central Taiwan. During the on-site visit, he was highly impressed by the techniques for growing temperate fruit trees and vegetables, further strengthening the resolve of Thailand to work with Taiwan in related areas.

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In 1973, the two sides established an official partnership for technical cooperation regarding the project. The Cabinet-level Veterans Affairs Council (VAC), operator of Fushoushan, helped implement the initiative by sending specialists to assist farmers in the northern highlands with planting fruit trees and later growing crops. According to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration statistics, opium production in Thailand reached 200 tonnes per annum in 1970 but dropped to 4 tonnes in 1987. One year later, the Ramon Magsaysay Award— an annual honor named after the late president of the Philippines—was given to the project in recognition of its effectiveness in cutting cultivation of opium poppies and slowing related deforestation.

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01 & 02. Ankhang Mountain and other highland areas in northern Thailand bordering Myanmar and Laos are free of opium fields partly due to assistance provided by Taiwan.

“This is a milestone indicating that the project is a widely recognized success,” said Lee Pai-po (李栢浡), deputy secretary general of Taipei City-headquartered International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF), Taiwan’s foremost foreign aid organization. Since its founding in 1996, TaiwanICDF has been involved in the undertaking overseen by the Royal Project Foundation (RPF). Although poppy fields are few and far between in Thailand these days, Taiwan remains committed to the project. The TaiwanICDF-RPF partnership is a valuable framework for the VAC, as well as several Taiwan universities renowned for leading-edge agricultural research, to keep sharing technical assistance via various cooperative agreements. The project stands out as a major pillar in the friendship between Taiwan and Thailand. —by Oscar Chung

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Bearing Fruit Taiwanese engaged in agriculture in northern Thailand are integral to strengthening the bonds of friendship between their homeland and the Southeast Asian country. TEXT AND PHOTOS BY OSCAR CHUNG

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ne of the most influential business figu r e s f r o m Ta i w a n in Thailand is Chao Chih-hsiung ( 趙志雄 ). Setting up shop in Lamphan province in the northern part of the country in the late 1980s with a broom-making business using materials grown by farmers in the region, he now dedicates the majority of his efforts to producing cured longan fruit. The profits from the longan business allowed Chao to diversify into various sectors, the most recent being the services industry with the opening in 2015 of a 45-room high-end boutique hotel in Chiangmai, the largest city in northern Thailand. He said the secret to his success lies in a low-key strategy. “Blend in with the locals and adopt an adventurous but

firm approach before taking the next steps to grow your footprint.”

Shining Light

Chao sets a good example for recent Taiwan arrivals to the region like Chiu Mu-ying (邱睦瀛), who started growing fruit trees three years ago with her then boyfriend in Fang, a district three hours to the north of Chiangmai. “I wanted to try new things and experience living outside the box while I’m still young,” Chiu said, happily admitting that the 7.76-hectare plot of land is her bow in foreign farming. Chiu, who married her boyfriend shortly after moving to Thailand, is just one of hundreds of Taiwanese setting down roots in what is increasingly seen as a land of opportunity by her compatriots, according to Cheng


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Jih-te ( 程日德 ), chairman of the Taiwanese Merchants Association of Northern Thailand (TMANT). “ Ta i w a n e s e t e n d t o e n g a ge in manufacturing in and around Bangkok,” said Cheng, a 30-year veteran of the area. “But in northern Thailand, they seek out opportunities in agriculture and related sectors such as farming and food processing.” Longan trees, which abound in northern Thailand, are crucial to the development of many businesses in the region. Aside from the fruit, the flowers are the lifeblood for Taiwan beekeepers, the majority of whom arrived in the 1980s to find their fortunes. Cheng—one of these trailblazers—branched out from producing honey to tourism via his guesthouse in Chiangmai.

Cost Conscious

Chen Huan-hui ( 陳桓輝 ), a fellow apiarist from Taiwan, said rising labor costs in his hometown of Chiayi County in southern Taiwan forced him to fly south in search of fresh fields. “At that time, it was impossible for the labor-intensive beekeeping business to achieve the scale of economy I now enjoy,” he said. Back in the 1980s, Chen set up shop in northern Thailand with about 200 beehives and today owns more than 9,000, making him a bigtime bee baron. Taiwan’s shift away from an a g r i c u l t u re - b a s e d s o c i e t y a l s o explains why businesses remaining in the sector considered launching overseas operations. Hsu Chuan Foods Co. (HCFC), a family owned enter prise exporting processed

01. Chedi Luang Temple in Chiangmai city of northern Thailand, a region inhabited by hundreds of Taiwan expatriates 02. Beekeeper Chen Huan-hui, right, displays a hive with Cheng Jih-te, chairman of the Taiwanese Merchants Association of Northern Thailand. 03. Huang Cheng-hsing is proud of the mangos he grows in northern Thailand.

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Taiwan-grown ginger to Japan before moving to the northern Thai province of Chiangrai in the early 1990s, is one example. “A shortage of workers and fewer and fewer ginger farmers prompted us to rethink the viability of Taiwan and look to Thailand,” said James Lin (林君宇), a manager with HCFC. According to Lin, several other Taiwan ginger processors also relocated to the region around the same time. “The Thai farmers we’re working with didn’t grow ginger before, but they wasted no time in getting on board,” he added. As Taiwan businesses thrive in the region, which Lin believes is populated by honest, rustic people, the need to give back to the host communities is always a core consideration. From time to time, TMANT organizes charity activities. These include the one at the end of each year where members donate 50

Taiwan Review July / August

money for those living in orphanages or victims of natural disasters. Taiwan expatriates are playing their part as well. “Activities like religious festivals and the opening of a new temple are central to the lives of locals,” Chiu said. “We often try to make contributions on these occasions like donating cash and fruit.” Chiu sees this as an effective way of strengthening relations and building trust with Thais, an important ingredient in any foreign outfit’s business plan.

Philanthropic Approach

Huang Cheng-hsing ( 黃成興) first came to the northern province of Phayao in the mid-1990s to pursue a career as a beekeeper. He is now cultivating 39 hectares of farmland for mango and other fruit crops. For the better part of his life in Thailand, Huang helped consolidate ties between Taiwan and Thailand by practicing philanthropy in the rural community. Aside from giving financial aid to the needy in emergency situations, he provides annual allowances and shows respect to seniors in the village he has called home for 14 years. “I started out alone as a total stranger in the community, but I’m treated as a Thai today,” he said.

But advancing Taiwan’s goodwill in northern Thailand is not a straightforward proposition. The task can be complicated and, in Huang’s opinion, it is appropriate for the government to take such considerations into account as it implements the New Southbound Po l i c y ( N S P ) . A k e y p l a n k i n President Tsai Ing-wen’s ( 蔡英文 ) national development strateg y, the NSP seeks to deepen Taiwan’s agricultural, business, cultural, education, tourism and trade ties with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand. For Huang, the biggest recent challenge is the flooding almost two years ago in Phayao. Nearly half of his orchard was washed away, leaving him unable to keep his workers employed. “Taiwanese across Thailand offered to donate cash, but it was an Overseas Credit Guarantee Fund loan that helped me keep my head above water,” he said. O verseen by the Cabinetlevel Overseas Community Affairs Council, the fund helps overseas Taiwan businesspeople looking to expand their operations or cope with emergency situations. This is accomplished by providing partial


01. Longan fruit and flowers are the lifeblood of many Taiwan businesses in the region. 02 & 03. Brooms are the secret to Chao Chih-hsiung’s success as a manufacturer and owner of a boutique hotel in Chiangmai. 04. Thai workers process ginger at Hsu Chuan Foods Co. in northern Thailand. 05. Like many Taiwanese pursuing opportunities in northern Thailand, Chiu Mu-ying and her husband are ardent agriculturalists.

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guarantees in order to encourage banks to lend. Through this fund, Huang secured a loan of US$100,000—the maximum amount for any overseas Taiwan business in an emergency—from Ta i w a n’s M e g a I n t e r n a t i o n a l Commercial Bank. “The flooding posed a great threat to my livelihood,” he said, adding that without the loan, he would have had great difficulty moving on.

Policy Friendly

Notably, in line with the NSP, the fund treats growth-seeking Taiwan businesses preferentially in the 18 target countries. While an applicant in these nations is entitled to loans of up to US$2 million, the amount for those in the rest of the world cannot exceed more than US$1.5 million. In 2017, Taiwan overseas businesses globally secured loans of US$152.8 million via the fund, nearly 75 percent of which went to those in NSP countries. The Council of Agriculture (COA) is also on the ball when it comes to assisting Taiwan businesspeople abroad and advancing the NSP. Experts from the Cabinet-level agency regularly travel to Southeast Asia to make a pitch for Taiwan’s high-quality fruit tree seedlings.

This is especially true in the case of Thailand and Malaysia since last year, according to Li Wen-li (李 文立 ), an expert from the COA’s Fengshan Tropical Horticultural Experiment Branch in Kaohsiung City, southern Taiwan. During these journeys experts like Li also visit and advise overseas Taiwanese engaged in agriculture such as Chiu. “Through face-toface discussions, I learned a lot about various aspects of farming,” she said, citing examples like crop improvements through efficient fertilizer application. Although yet to fully find their feet in the region, Chiu and her husband are bullish on their future, due to accumulated experiences, support received from fellow Taiwan agriculturalists and guidance from the COA. “Taking up farming in a foreign country is by no means easy, but things are rapidly changing for the better,” Chiu said. As more enterprising young people from Taiwan create new lives in northern Thailand, and the government devotes more energy and resources to fast-tracking the NSP, the country looks set to establish a stronger commercial presence and further cement ties with its Southeast Asian neighbor. 51


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台 灣 評 論

Stores of Creativity A former distillery in central Taiwan’s Taichung City is a thriving hub of the cultural and creative industry. BY KELLY HER PHOTOS BY CHEN MEI-LING

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pening a studio at Taichung Cultural and Creative Industr ies Park (TCCIP) in 2016 invigorated the career of ornamental metalworker Ho Tang-li (何堂立). The store and workspace at the site in central Taiwan’s Taichung City attracts a steady stream of visitors eager to explore his assortment of handcrafted decorative and practical goods. Ho’s Fu Chi Ornaments Workshop also facilitates regular exchanges with fellow residents, prompting him to hone his skills in materials such as jade, lacquer and wood. “With the park’s packed schedule of events drawing audiences from Taiwan and abroad, I’ve ample opportunity to showcase my creations to new customers,” said Ho, who previously worked out of his home for 12 years. “Since setting up shop, I’ve also expanded my repertoire by tapping into the experiences of artists in many different disciplines.” According to the metalworker, other benefits of residency include the site’s prime location in


downtown Taichung, affordable rent and marketing support. “TCCIP provides an outstanding environment for business development,” Ho said. “The artists feel a shared responsibility to do good work so as to bolster the reputation of the park and foster collective growth.”

Historic Setting

Situated near Taichung Railway Station in the city’s South District, TCCIP was built as a distillery in 1916 during Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945). After World War II, the facility was administered by the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau, incorporated a n d re n a m e d Ta i w a n To b a c c o and Liquor Corp. (TTL) in 2002. Environmental and urban redevelopment considerations saw alcohol production relocated from the site in 1998 to Taichung Industrial Park. In 2002, the city government took steps to preser ve the then unoccupied distillery by designating 16 of its 28 buildings as historic

01 & 02. Taichung Cultural and Creative Industries Park in central Taiwan offers a variety of art, educational, entertainment and historical attractions. 03. A total 16 of the park’s 28 buildings are listed as historic structures by the local government.

structures. The following year, the Cabinet selected it to host one of five national-level cultural and creative parks planned across Taiwan. Redevelopment work began in 2007 when the Ministry of Finance, TTL’s sole shareholder, completed transfer of site ownership to the Ministry of Culture (MOC). After undergoing comprehensive restoration and redesign, the 5.6-hectare park opened to the public in 2009. It has since emerged as one of Taiwan’s most dynamic cultural centers, offering a melange of art, educational, entertainment and historical attractions. A variety of activities are regularly staged at the complex like bazaars, exhibitions, lectures, performances and

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01 & 02. A metal and jade decorative item is displayed at Fu Chi Ornaments Workshop. Operator Ho Tang-li, right, teaches silversmithing techniques to a student. 03. Diverse products by resident artists are shown at a park exhibition space and store. 04 & 05. Woodcarver Sparrow Chueh works at his TCCIP studio. A product he created in collaboration with a florist at the park was named by the city government as one of the top 10 souvenirs of 2016. 06. Educational services provider and toymaker Chen Han-zhun conducts classes at his Make Fun Studio.

workshops. In addition to art studios offering handcrafted products and do-it-yourself (DIY ) classes, the site boasts an array of dining options as well as a museum highlighting vintage distillery equipment and the history of alcohol production in the area. “TCCIP aims to preserve and promote the nation’s tangible and intangible heritage, as well as propel cultural and creative industry development,” said Yang Hong-hsiang (楊

01. Courtesy of Ho Tang-li

宏祥), deputy director of park opera-

tions. “We provide diverse spaces and services for artists and visitors, while also staging some of the nation’s most important cultural activities.” Among related efforts, TCCIP is slated to host this year’s Taiwan Design Expo, one of the leading events on the cultural and creative industry calendar. Running Aug. 15 to Sept. 16 and co-organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Taichung City Government, the exhibition is themed Here is the Future and expected to feature hundreds of companies and talents from home and abroad.

State Operated

Unique among Taiwan’s five nationally designated cultural and creative parks, TCCIP is operated by the central government. The others— Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei City; Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park in the eastern Taiwan county; Chiayi Cultural and Creative Industries Park, better known as G9 Creative Park, in

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southern Taiwan’s Chiayi City; and Tainan Cultural and Creative Park in the southern metropolis—are administered by private enterprises under contract from the state. Conversely, the Taichung facility is directly funded and run by the MOC’s Bureau of Cultural Heritage. Yang said this arrangement results in less pressure to maximize revenues, allowing management to offer cutprice rents to emerging talents and organize events spotlighting underappreciated or little-known aspects of local culture. Office and studio spaces at TCCIP are available for a monthly fee of about NT$150 (US$5) per square meter. At present, a total of 45 individuals and groups operate workshops at the park in areas spanning ceramics, leatherworking, metalworking, performing arts, photography, product design and woodcarving. The site also frequently hosts free activities ranging from glove and shadow puppetry performances to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) showcases.

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at the Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage, a major annual religious procession in central and southern Taiwan honoring Mazu, the goddess of the sea. Equally captivating was a show offering visitors the chance to experience Yanshui Beehive Fireworks, a Lantern Festival event in Tainan during which participants dressed in protective clothing withstand volleys of fireworks. Yang said that TCCIP is working to develop further VR experiences as part of its commitment to highlighting Taiwan’s cultural heritage in innovative and captivating ways.

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Support Services

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01 & 02. “The New Space Discovered— Underwater Cultural Heritage AR+VR Exhibition,” running until July 30 at TCCIP, takes visitors on a virtual tour of a submerged archaeological site at Dongsha Atoll, Taiwan’s first marine national park. 03 & 05. TCCIP regularly stages folk culture events such as shadow puppetry performances and temple parades. 04. A volunteer guide, center, explains design features from traditional Chinese wooden architecture to visiting schoolchildren. 03 – 05. Courtesy of TCCIP

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One ongoing event is “The New Space Discovered—Under water Cultural Heritage AR+VR Exhibition.” Running until July 30, the show takes visitors on a tour of a submerged archaeological site at Dongsha Atoll, Taiwan’s first marine national park, in the South China Sea. The technology provides spectacular 360-degree panoramic views of colorful marine creatures and a historic shipwreck. Pre vious VR exhibitions at TCCIP included an up-close look

According to Yang, TCCIP’s core mission is to enrich lives and foster community development by boosting public access to the arts and promoting the cultural and creative industry. “To this end, we work to strengthen the professional growth of local artists by offering a host of resources and networking opportunities,” he said, adding that related efforts span business and management courses, consulting services, publicity campaigns and skills training. These support programs helped kick-start the career of resident artist Sparrow Chueh (闕河慈) of That Wood Studio. “The park administration offers invaluable advice and assistance to help young companies like mine get ahead,” said the 30-year-old craftsman specializing in wooden stationery and household goods. Given the dust and noise generated by woodworking, it is difficult to find a suitable space in urban areas, Chueh said, adding that the advantages of TCCIP extend beyond conveniently located studios for low rent. Since moving to the park, the woodcar ver has cooperated


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with more than 10 fellow residents, including a florist, leather artisan and photographer. One of the products that emerged from these collaborative efforts—a handcrafted wooden pen presented in a gift box decorated with dried flowers and leaves—featured among the top 10 souvenirs of 2016 as selected by the city government. Chueh also touted TCCIP’s regularly scheduled exhibitions of works by resident artists as major sales and

marketing boons. “As small business owners, we can’t afford to spend large sums on promotion,” he said. “These events showcase our goods and services to new customers, allowing us to focus on creating products and honing our skills.”

Artistic Ecosystem

Like Chueh and Ho, educational ser vices provider and toymaker Chen Han-zhun (陳翰諄) has seen his business go from strength to

strength since relocating to the park. “My sales more than doubled and Facebook fans quadr upled after I launched Make Fun Studio at TCCIP in mid-2016,” he said. “Besides showcasing my products, I have enough space to host DIY workshops, something that simply wasn’t possible when I was working from home.” The 37-year-old, who strives to advance science education through developing innovative toys and hands-on activities, has received numerous offers to organize camps or deliver lessons at schools thanks to the increased business exposure. In addition, daily interactions with customers help him refine existing products and come up with new ideas. “I’m also planning to work with resident lacquer and metalworking artists on developing innovative teaching aids,” he added. Such collaboration is music to the ears of Yang. “Our mission is to create an ecosystem conducive to the overall development of the cultural and creative economy,” he said. “And in doing so, we also hope to nurture a premier visitor destination with unmissable cultural, educational and recreational experiences.” 57


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n the early 2000s, Tso Kaichi (曹楷智) decided to return home to Matsu and pursue an artistic career. After 20 odd years of working and studying fine arts in Taiwan proper and Spain, he was ready for a change. “It’s quite ironic,” Tso said. “As a young man, I couldn’t wait to get away as the isolation and restricted civil liberties during martial law

Islands of Inspiration Matsu boasts a distinctive and precious array of cultural, historical and military attractions. BY KELLY HER PHOTOS BY HUANG CHUNG-HSIN

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were too much to bear.” Although he never grew tired of freedom and the sights and delights of the broader world, Tso came to realize that Matsu under civilian rule was a place he could not only survive, but thrive. For decades, the archipelago of 36 islands lying nearly 10 kilometers off the coast of China’s Fujian province was on the front line of crossstrait tensions. On Nov. 7, 1992,


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01. Beihai Tunnel, built in 1968 to shelter amphibious landing craft and small naval vessels in Matsu’s Nangan Township, is a major tourism drawcard. 02. Matsu’s stone houses are popular with tourists from Taiwan proper and abroad. 03. The patriotic slogan “Man can conquer nature; human effort can achieve anything,” which adorns a rock in Dongyin Township’s Xiyin Island, is one of many in the archipelago. 04. An abandoned tank on Dongju Island serves as a stark reminder of Matsu’s military past.

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martial law was lifted in Matsu— five years after Taiwan proper— and administration transferred to Lienchiang County Government (LCG). By 1994, travel restrictions to and in many parts of the archipelago had been eased.

Maritime Creativity

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01 & 03. Tso Kai-chi’s oil paintings: “Niujiao Village” and “Dongyong Lighthouse” 02. The artist creates pieces featuring local characteristics and landscapes. 04 & 05. Writer Candy Liu’s seaside stone house in Nangan doubles as a venue for arts and cultural activities like a traditional Chinese opera performance. 06. Liu published “Eyes under the Sky: Stories about My Family and the Matsu Islands” in 2016. 01 – 03. Courtesy of Tso Kai-chi 04. Courtesy of Matsu Daily News 05. Courtesy of Candy Liu

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Over the years, Tso has produced paintings featuring Matsu’s blockhouses, fishing boats, stone houses and temples, as well as natural vistas like blue skies dotted with clouds, mountains and oceans. He is also involved in community arts and cultural development programs. “This is an outstanding environment for artistic development,” he said. “Picturesque landscapes, historic structures, a slow pace of life and unique military history are all sources of inspiration.” Candy Liu ( 劉枝蓮 ), a native of Matsu, shares Tso’s passion for promoting the islands’ culture and distinctive c har acter istics through artistic creation and resident participation. She has published several pieces of poetry and prose about Matsu’s charms and

military past, and is chairwoman of the Matsu Arts and Cultural Association (MACA). Matsu is renowned for its beautiful coastlines, century-old lighthouses and traditional settlements, Liu said. But the most important cultural properties are the artillery batteries, strongholds and tunnels throughout the county’s four townships of Beigan, Dongyin, Juguang and Nangan, she added. The modern military chapter in Matsu’s history opened in 1949 with the arrival of government troops. But advances in weapons technology and an easing in Taipei-Beijing tensions saw Matsu lose its value as a defensive base. From a peak strength of 50,000 in the 1980s, the armed forces numbers no more than a few thousand today. According to Liu, the military installations are stark reminders of high political tensions and the alltoo-real threat of cross-strait conflict during the Cold War. “They’re also testament to sad tales of loss and sacrifice during this 43-year period that should be preserved for future generations,” she said.


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Cultural Commitment

Not one for lip ser vice, Liu set about playing her part in the process with gusto. In 2016, she published “Eyes under the Sky: Stories about My Family and the Matsu Islands.” Based largely on interviews with

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seniors, the book is a retrospective of the experiences of her family members and important events taking place in the archipelago from 1949 to the 1980s. Another measure is the conversion of her father’s seaside stone house into a guesthouse

and venue for holding arts and cultural activities. MACA regularly uses the building for staging dance, drama and music performances, as well as exhibitions, lectures and writing classes. “We’re giving locals the chance to lead a larger cultural life while introducing fresh creative influences,” she said. “These efforts are helping foster a flourishing arts and cultural scene that is fast becoming a drawcard for visitors from home and abroad.” Wu Hsiao-yun ( 吳曉雲 ), director of LCG’s Cultur al Affairs Department, shares Liu’s sentiments when it comes to the cultural characteristics of Matsu. Studying history and discovering how major events have affected the islands’ overall development are key to shaping policies for the future, she said. Matsu experienced two waves of immigration during the early 1800s and 1910s, Wu said, with many fishermen from eastern Fujian settling and bringing beliefs, customs and the Fuzhou dialect to the islands. “This movement of people resulted in the formation of our unique society.” Military heritage is an equally important aspect of the county’s cultural makeup, and one of the reasons the Ministry of Culture identified it as a potential submission from Taiwan for the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009. “Both 61


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01. The landmarks of Lienchiang County 02 & 03. Qinbi Village in Beigan Township is home to numerous stone houses built in the eastern Fujian style during the late 1800s and early 1900s. 04. Iron Fort, which protects the entrance of Nangan’s Renai Harbor, is an outstanding example of a repurposed military installation. Illustration by Kao Shun-hui

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aspects illustrate Matsu’s history and provide a powerful sense of identity,” Wu said, adding that they are what make the islands unique and worth visiting. Based on this foundation, LCG has initiated numerous preservation and repurposing projects over the years. These save structures from collapse or demolition while developing cultural tourism as a viable means of creating employment and spurring economic growth.

Outstanding Structures

In Wu’s opinion, the best preserved eastern Fujian-st yle buildings, mainl y constr ucted during the late 1800s and early 1900s, can be

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found at Qinbi Village in Beigan. Characterized by free-standing outer walls, a square layout and high, small windows, the stone houses dot the steep hillsides in an orderly fashion. Military architecture is also thick on the ground. In addition to its 250-plus air raid shelters, Matsu purportedly boasts the highest density of tunnels in the world. Originally used as ammunition dumps, command centers, fuel depots, hospitals and docks, they now lie dormant awaiting a new mission. The best-known example is Beihai Tunnel. Built in 1968 for amphibious landing craft and small naval vessels, the 640-meter-long structure was carved out of granite by thousands of soldiers using picks, shovels and explosives. The blood, sweat and tears of these troops, as well as the ghosts of those who lost their lives in the process—according 64

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to local lore—can be experienced by visitors willing to descend into the gloom and explore the tunnel on foot or by boat. Wang Hua-di ( 王花俤 ), chairman of Matsu Battlefield Cultural Heritage Society (MBCHS), remembers the many inconveniences and restrictions locals endured when Matsu was under military rule. “We needed to apply for a permit when going from one village to another,” he said. “And there was even a political officer stationed among us keeping an eye out for subversive behavior.” All males between 16 and 55 and childless females between 16 and 35 were required to join the self-defense forces and take military education and training courses. But preserving these memories, as well as the physical remnants of those days—including patriotic signs—is needed to help young people learn from the past.

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MBCHS, established in 2015, is conducting an inventory of local properties with cultural or historical significance. This is complemented by designing programs for conserving these assets and related education courses for the county’s schools. The first collaborative project between the society and LCG involves the renovation and revitalization of Victory Fort near Fuao Harbor in Nangan as a cultural museum. Since opening last November, the structure has proved popular with residents and tourists seeking to learn more about Matsu’s role during the Cold War. The exhibits, interactive displays, photos and videos have lured about 10,000 visitors to date, according to LCG.

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Passion Project

As a retired history teacher, Wang has plenty of time to spend compiling materials pertaining to the archipelago’s geography, history and society, as well as conducting field research and writing about the county’s festivals and folk rituals. “I like to think that my efforts, and those of other culture and history enthusiasts,

01 & 02. Dongyong and Dongquan lighthouses, built on Dongyin and Dongju islands in 1904 and 1872, respectively, are designated national monuments by the Ministry of Culture. 03 & 04. Beigan’s Qinbi and Banli temples, erected in the 1800s, encapsulate the fi nest traditions of eastern Fujian architecture. 05. Processions moving from village to village are part and parcel of Baiming Carnival held during the Lantern Festival throughout Matsu. 06. Wu Hsiao-yun, second right, director of Lienchiang County Government’s Cultural Aff airs Department, prepares to participate in a local folk festival. 02 & 05. Courtesy of Wang Hua-di 06. Courtesy of Lienchiang County Government’s Cultural Affairs Department

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01 & 02. Victory Fort near Fuao Harbor in Nangan is a cultural museum featuring interactive displays, old photos and videos highlighting major events and developments in Matsu during the Cold War. 03. The Blue Tears phenomenon, caused by algae Noctiluca scintillans, is one of Matsu’s topfl ight attractions between April and September every year. 01 – 03. Courtesy of Wang Hua-di

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are helping spark a broader interest in Matsu’s heritage,” he said. For Wang, one of the most interesting elements of the islands’ culture is the worship of Mazu, the goddess of the sea. Matsu is bristling with temples dedicated to the deity, and the annual festivals and rituals are a source of great pride for locals. The largest and most lively celebration is Baiming Carnival, which takes place during Lantern Festival around the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, he said. Baiming ceremonies, originating in the rural communities of Fuzhou city in Fujian, are held at different temples countywide. They feature eye-catching food offerings prepared by villagers at night to thank the

gods for their protection and colorful processions to ward off evil spirits. Another time-honored eastern Fujian custom is the Burning Pagoda ritual held during Moon Festival in Nangan’s Renai Village. It symbolizes replacing the old with the new and consigning bad luck to the annals of history. Wu is a true believer in Matsu’s potential as a world-class tourism destination. “Eastern Fujian culture, disused military facilities, quaint stone houses, temples and the Mazu religion form an extraordinarily rich cultural tapestry,” she said. “They’re also invaluable assets giving the county a real chance of successfully embarking on a new mission for the 21st century.”


ROC Embassies,

Consulates and Missions

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) operates embassies, consulates and representative offices across the globe. To learn more about these missions and the services they provide, visit www.taiwanembassy.org or scan the QR code.


PHOTOGRAPHY

台 灣 評 論

Chuen-Hing Tatami, founded in 1947, is one of the few stores in Taiwan still producing the Japanese-style mats by hand.

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Classic Comfort Chuen-Hing Tatami retains its founder’s commitment to making mats by hand using time-honored techniques. PHOTOS BY CHIN HUNG-HAO

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he light, pleasant fragrance of dried rush and straw emanates from ChuenHing Tatami on Xinmei Street in southern Taiwan’s Tainan City. Founded in 1947 by Li Jin-shui ( 李金水 ), the shop is one of just two in the metropolis still making the Japanesestyle mats by hand. Li retired in 2008 at age 81 and handed over the shop to his grandson, Li Zong-xun ( 李宗 勳). According to the younger craftsman, the key to producing a good tatami lies in perfectly stitching together the components: compressed rice straw core, woven rush surface and cloth covering for the edges. Chuen-Hing, as one of the oldest industry participants, has witnessed the trade’s rise and fall. The mats retained their popularity in Taiwan for several decades after Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945). At its peak, Tainan was home to 46 producers. Most of them shuttered in the 1980s as consumers adopted spring mattresses. Tatamis have experienced a comeback in recent years amid the growing preference for handmade, environmentally friendly products. Seeking to embrace this trend, craftsmen at Chuen-Hing eagerly engage with customers, sharing insights into their materials and processes as well as the history of the craft. —by Jim Hwang

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01 – 03. A tatami is formed by stitching a woven rush surface (top) onto a compressed rice straw core (bottom). The edges of the mat are wrapped in fabric (above).

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01 – 05. The technique used to stitch the components together determines the quality of the final product.

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01. Tatamis are experiencing a comeback amid the growing consumer preference for environmentally friendly products. 02. Chuen-Hing still uses the same tools and techniques after more than seven decades in business. 03. Li Zong-xun, right, and an employee complete a tatami.

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May Snow Taiwan’s annual tung blossom festival helps promote and preserve Hakka culture. PHOTOS BY CHEN MEI-LING, CHIN HUNG-HAO AND HUANG CHUNG-HSIN

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he Hakka Tung Blossom Festival kicks off at locations across Taiwan in midApril each year. Around this period, large numbers of the white flowers begin to drop from trees, blanketing the ground in May snow, as the fallen petals are known. To capitalize on public interest in the stunning visuals, the Cabinetlevel Hakka Affairs Council launched the festival in 2002. It has since grown from a oneday to monthlong celebration, drawing tens of millions of visitors to events in more than a dozen cities and counties. Tung trees were first brought to Taiwan’s hilly regions as a cash crop during Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945). The water-resistant oil extracted from tung seeds was much sought-after among makers of boats, furniture and paper umbrellas. Since the trees were primarily cultivated in places with large Hakka populations, tung oil became an important income source for many members of the ethnic group. Over time, the oil was replaced by cheaper synthetic alternatives. Yet the blossoms remain a prominent symbol of Hakka culture as well as an important tourist draw for many communities. The festival in particular provides a financial boon and helps promote and preserve Hakka traditions. Sampling local cuisine, buying souvenirs and viewing cultural performances are all popular activities among participants. As Hakka author Fan Wen-fang (范文芳) writes in “Tung Blossom Poem”: When my father was living, tung trees covered the mountain. Merchants wanted to purchase their seeds. Now my father has died, tung blossoms cover the mountain. Poets cherish the flowers. The economic value of the tung tree may have decreased, but its rich cultural significance endures. —by Jim Hwang

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01 – 05. The monthlong Hakka Tung Blossom Festival is celebrated at locations across Taiwan in late spring each year.

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01 – 07. In addition to soaking up the scenery, visitors to tung blossom events can sample Hakka cuisine, shop for souvenirs and view cultural performances.

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01 – 03. Tung blossoms are a prominent symbol of Hakka culture and a major tourist draw for many communities.

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