Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: William Lai talks about his ‘Tainan Brand’

Despite its limited financial resources compared to other special municipalities, Tainan in recent years has constantly been voted as the best city in the nation in media surveys rating residents’ sense of well-being and the performance of local governments. In a recent interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Huang Tai-lin, Tainan Mayor William Lai talked about his approach to governance. In part one of a two-part interview, Lai discusses his aspiration to build the city into the nation’s cultural capital via city branding — the ‘Tainan brand’

Tainan Mayor William Lai, center foreground, wearing a suit, is surrounded by a crowd at a book-signing event in Tainan on Feb. 15.

Photo: Tsai Wen-chu, Taipei Times

Taipei Times: You were a doctor before becoming a politician. Does that experience provide you with a different perspective when tackling governance and interacting with the public?

William Lai (賴清德): There are three “spirits,” so to speak, that I adhere to in my role as a mayor when implementing governance.

First of all are the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) founding principles of “integrity, diligent government and love of country.”

Second, the “spirit of medicine,” and third, the “spirit of [Angus] MacGyver” [the protagonist of US television series MacGyver, who is known as a problem solver]. Despite difficult circumstances, MacGyver is always able to solve problems at crunch time by pulling together existing resources, with creativity and ingenuity. It’s a mindset different from one that otherwise always asks for money and personnel whenever a problem arises and cites the lack of them as an excuse for inaction.

As for the “spirit of medicine,” my past experience as a physician certainly has been helpful in my political career. When you are ill, you have to seek out the right type of doctor; the sickness could be said to be halfway cured when you find the right kind of doctor. For instance, if I am a nephrologist, someone who has cardiac problems should then visit cardiologist for treatment and not me, who would not have the expertise in treating heart disease as a cardiologist does.

Having trained as a physician, I adhere to the adage that “prevention is better than cure.” Such a mindset drives me to regard the city as an organic entity and treat it as if it were a human being, which means we approach issues by making a diagnosis first and find out what problems there may be, as in the case of the merger of Tainan city and Tainan county; then solve problems by proposing appropriate measures. That’s how the city progresses.

TT: In the book you recently published, you mention the term “Tainan brand” through which you have largely enhanced the city’s visibility. What exactly is the “Tainan brand”?

Lai: To do marketing, you must first have a brand. By having a brand, there can then be a representation, and therefore a “self-awareness” to allow for successful marketing. So we first market the name “Tainan.”

For instance, take the buses in Tainan. There used to be three bus companies — Sinying, Kaohisung and Singnan. We have integrated them all to be called Greater Tainan buses. It fosters a sense of identification among the Tainan residents, which then translates into support.

TT: What lies at the core of the “Tainan brand”?

Lai: Culture is the core of the “Tainan brand.” Tainan is Taiwan’s first city and has in its possession the richest cultural and historical assets, an aspect that’s incomparable with other cities and counties. In the past four years, of course, we’ve employed special approaches in all the various arenas to allow for the best effects, but without a doubt, at the core of the content is culture. Particularly so in light of globalization and the competition it brings, culture is the root; if you don’t have strong roots, you will be swept into oblivion by the tidal wave of international competition. When we strengthen our roots, technology acts as our wings.

TT: You have said that “without roots, there’s no culture” and “without the local, there’s no international.” With culture as the cornerstone in your governance of the city, how then do you link it to the aspects of pro-localization education and Taiwanese identity, and highlight Taiwan’s values via the promotion of Tainan’s culture?

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