I recently came across an article in the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal that every Taiwanese should be proud of. This report was not about Taiwanese sport stars like Wang Chien-ming (王建民), Yani Tseng (曾雅妮) or Jeremy Lin (林書豪), but rather about Taipei.
Despite Taipei’s reputation for being architecturally unattractive and chaotic, the lengthy article focused on the special cultural achievements that Taipei has made in recent years.
The article, titled “In Taipei, Life in the Slow Lane,” described Taipei’s cultural scene over a two-page spread and included of number of attractions from the cultural events held at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park, the weekend market held at the 44 South Village and the Chung Shan Creative Hub to the 24-hour Eslite bookstore, as well as the ubiquitous coffee shops.
The report also talked at length about the various makeovers that Taipei has undergone during the past two decades to bring about higher standards of living.
These makeovers involved improving infrastructure, such as public transport, increasing the number of green spaces and improving air quality.
However, the article also added that “rising incomes are also a factor,” and talked about how many artists and creative people from various industries are engaging with their culture and the place they live.
In recent years, Taipei has attracted more Asian tourists and the article may shed some light on why.
Compared to the more aggressive approaches places like Beijing, Seoul and Hong Kong have used to attract tourists, Taipei has started to show the results of the efforts being made to embrace a higher quality of life and a more laid-back lifestyle.
Citing the example of the Huashan 1914 Creative Park, the article said that such a piece of land would have been turned into a shopping center or apartment complex long ago had it been in any other major Asian city.
However, in Taipei, it has remained a place where the public can enjoy culture and the arts.
In the 1980s, Taiwan gained worldwide attention for its “economic miracle.”
However, because of China’s economic rise, Taiwan’s economy can no longer be the only thing which makes the nation stand out.
Taiwan’s cultural “soft power” is the best tool for attracting interest from overseas and showing the world what the nation has to offer.
Many people in Taiwan will be encouraged by the conclusion of the Wall Street Journal article.
It said that Taipei has “become Asia’s answer to Portland, Oregon,” a place widely considered to be the best place to live in the US.
Chi Chun-chieh is a professor in the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University.
Translated by Drew Cameron