Mon, Jun 28, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Cities reflect nation's political split

By Lao Pao老包

Through the combined efforts of the Kaohsiung City Government and the central government, using a host of indirect, roundabout and artful means, Kaohsiung won the right to host the World Games in 2009. This is an unprecedented event for Taiwan, and cause for great celebration. That we have succeeded in dodging China's vicious obstruction to participate in this international event and increase the visibility of democratic Taiwan is even more valuable.

At the same time as this joyous announcement, we heard that the Taipei City Government owes [the central government] a large amount of money for National Health Insurance subsidies. Rather than apologizing for the social disruption caused, the city has held high-profile press conferences to condemn the central government.

One city government is working to create opportunities (holding the World Games will increase the city's profile and create business opportunities); the other can only undermine the city's reputation. The relative ability and intelligence of the two protagonists (the mayors of both cities) is clear for all to see.

Regardless of how much support Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his team obtain from the pro-unification media, or how glibly plausible they are, it is at times such as these that people will most clearly realize that they are just a bunch of charlatans who only increase Taiwan's burden and make no contribution to its development.

Both Ma and Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) first took up their positions as mayors of the special municipalities of Taipei and Kaohsiung in 1998, and both won a second term in 2002. Looking back on the development of these two cities over the past five years is an instructive lesson in "comparative politics." Everyone agrees that under Hsieh, Kaohsiung has improved considerably. "It's different now" is the popular sentiment. This has been achieved by the mayor's sincere efforts. Construction has commenced on the Kaohsiung MRT (under Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule the project was halted because of local government disputes over a division of kickbacks), there is the City Light Corridor, the cleanup of the Ai River and the Chiencheng River, the improvement of Kaohsiung's tap water, a host of carnivals and the relocation and preservation of the old Kaohsiung railway station. All of these have helped to revitalize Kaohsiung.

On the other hand, there is Taipei, which has the exulted position of being Taiwan's capital. Since Ma took over the reins of government, the vitality Taipei had when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was mayor has gradually abated, and there have been few new developments. When Ma was seeking a second term, he was hard pressed to list any significant achievements during his administration except for a couple of media events in his own inimitable style in which he showed off his body. It is not difficult to find examples by which to judge him.

Before Ma became mayor, Taipei had two locations that could be considered "urban landmarks:" the 228 Museum and the "roundabout" snack market on Nanjing West Road. Where are they now? Both locations have fallen on hard times, and spots in which the memories and emotions of locals and tourists reside, where a unique sentiment reposed, have been plucked away. If such things can occur, there is really no point in talking about urban vitality.

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