Taipei Times: Kaohsiung has changed a lot since you became mayor. We can feel the citizens' pride and confidence when visiting Kaohsiung City. Could you share with us your experience of governing Kaohsiung?
Frank Hsieh (
My administration also highlighted construction in culture and arts. In the past, Kaohsiung people could only take their friends from other cities to taste the local meals such as seafood. But now they have more choices to know the city.
For example, the Kaohsiung International Container Arts Festival began last week. The event was planned by our Bureau of Cultural Affairs and is a successful combination of Kaohsiung's features and local and international art. By using the old containers that had traveled around the world, the artists created various arts mirroring the personality of Kaohsiung City and provided chances to exchange culture with other countries.
I consider city esthetics when doing urban planning. First, I think public constriction and municipal infrastructure should not simply be buildings but also works of art. Second, I want Kaohsiung to transform into a unique city. We may not have the conditions or resources of Taipei or even Paris, but we take advantage of what we have. We have rivers as other great cities do. Therefore, in addition to the Ai River, we made a lot of efforts to purify and beautify the Chienchen River and Houjing River. Seeing rivers restored has gradually built up Kaohsiung citizens' confidence.
Meanwhile, the MRT system is also under construction. Kaohsiung people can see a bright future for the city. They found what I promised them has been carried out step by step. The drinking water, the rivers, the MRT and the multi-functional cultural center are all under way.
Many citizens or visitors would say to me: "Thank you, Mayor Hsieh. Thank you for beautifying Kaohsiung."
I think it is important to give people the feeling of euphoria. Now we are soliciting a song for the Ai River. We want to create something exclusive to Kaohsiung and make people identify with where they live.
Compared with the highly developed Taipei City, which has delicate cultures, Kaohsiung is a simple city with spacious hinterland. With globalization, it is important for a city to create its own style to gain a place on the world stage.
TT: Your successful municipal construction such as the dredging and renovation of the Chienchen River was crucial to your re-election as mayor last year. You grabbed decisive ballots -- about 20,000 votes -- in the Chienchen district, which was considered pan-blue turf. Could you talk about how you overcame obstacles in doing urban planning?
Hsieh: The Chienchen River was notorious as it was so stinky that people had to cover their nose and mouth when passing by. People who live beside the river never opened their windows. The Chienchen district was an area filled with residents from other cities and was full of buildings constructed without licenses. We spent NT$50 million to restore the river and the people felt satisfied.
In the past, the planning took more than 10 years and it still could not be done. But I only took three years to make it. The old government insisted on distributing land after planning was finished. But I thought we should be more flexible in this aspect, otherwise the municipal construction would never start. I demanded construction begin in areas for which the planning was finished. Thus, everything can proceed.
TT: Last year when Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Deputy Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) campaigned for Taipei mayor, he suggested that the Taipei metropolitan area and China's major cities form a common community. People could fly to Shanghai for work and vacation in Taipei. What do you think the relationship between Kaohsiung City and China's major cities will be in the future?
Hsieh: The relationship among all cities should be competitive and cooperative. If you don't cooperate with other cities, you will be eliminated from the competition. However, if you are not competitive and cannot catch up to the trend of globalization, you will be kicked out of the game too.
China's rise is like a magnetic field -- you can't help being drawn close to it. But at the same time, you risk being marginalized. With the fervor of investing in China, Taiwan has to realize that it holds an edge in research and development. It is a challenging task for Taiwan to combine its advantages in high-tech with China's low-priced labor. Otherwise it would be inevitable for us to be absorbed by the much larger economic entity.
I predict that Kaohsiung City's application for the Statute Governing the Establishment and Management of Free Trade Ports (自由貿易港區設置及管理條例) will be accepted next January, which is quite similar to the idea I proposed three years ago.
I have observed that Hong Kong's competitiveness has declined since it returned to China in 1997. And I thought it was a great opportunity for Kaohsiung to replace Hong Kong's position. In 2001, I proposed setting up a special zone in Kaohsiung to allow the investment of Chinese capital before the three links are opened. I suggested experimenting with tax-free and around-the-clock customs services in the special zone. But many people opposed this idea at that time.
Yet the upcoming passage of the statute is quite similar to my idea three years ago.
We hope many headquarters can stay in Taiwan because of the statute. We encourage foreign capital to invest in China via Taiwan, because Taiwan is a country with high law and order, which can protect investors' rights. But China, which is still quite unstable in terms of law, may not offer the same.
We hope to transform Kaohsiung into a base with an advantageous position for those heading to China. I think we should get rid of the extreme hostility to China at this point.
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