Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, January 29, 2016



The New Year is barely under way, but in Taiwan it's already shaping up to be the YEAR OF THE WOMAN. Two events on the Peaceful Republic of Taiwan ushered in a decidedly feminine tone for 2016. First, a 56 foot high replica of a brilliant blue stiletto high heeled shoe was unveiled in Chiayi on the southern coast. Secondly, for the first time ever, a woman was elected Taiwanese President. Tsai Ing-wen Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won in a historic landslide victory.

Let's start with the shoe. This glitzy modern masterpiece cost TW$23 million (that's US $686,000) to build. Steel beams provide the structure for 320 pieces of shimmering blue tinted glass. Billed as a non-denominational house of worship, it is scheduled to open on February Eighth (Chinese New Year). In today's selfie world, owners hope to draw ladies to visit the stiletto for that all important photo. "Most ladies love to wear high heeled shoes," explained spokesman Hung Chao. "I believe this building will match their imagination." Hung is right. The shoe has already been mentioned in top chick magazines like Marie Claire and Elle.

Now let's discuss the second item in Taiwan's YEAR OF THE WOMAN: President-elect Tsai Ing-wen. What a success story! Not only is she the island nation's first female chief, she is also Taiwan's first un-married president. How did she do it? Ing-wen was the first major politician to embrace the popular Sunflower Movement. This hugely influential group combines modern issues (Same-sex marriage, transparency in government, the environment) with their main political goal: Distance from mainland China. Like their counterparts in Hong Kong, these motivated students get things done. Last year, they stormed the Legislative chambers (The Yuan) and successfully persuaded lawmakers to nullify the Cross Strait Trade Agreement.    

When Ing-wen managed to get the DPP to join the Sunflower Movement, she formed a successful alliance between students, young professionals and liberals. In last week's general election, they demolished the Pro-China Blue Party. A new future for island nation looks bright and lucrative. Everyone knows that Taiwan is one of Asia's true success stories. The Trade Agreement would have allowed for hordes of mainland migrants to flood across into Taiwan. While there would be an initial boost to the workforce, it was feared this would also eventually lead to a drain on social programs.

While this all sounds adventurous and ambitious for every one's favorite Asian island, don't expect any instant, monumental changes from incoming president Tsai Ing-wen. She has re-iterated her goal to be more of a 'care-taker' of Taiwan than a brazen revolutionary. While she would love to see the People's Republic relinquish their claim to the '23rd Province' of China, she rationally knows better. Technically, the PRC still claims ownership of Mongolia, the world's 19th largest nation. (Qing Dynasty emperors never signed the 1911 peace treaty.) Nonetheless, in Taiwan it's time for everyone to strap on the stilettos and sing: "I am woman, HEAR ME ROAR!"

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