Thursday, November 29, 2007

Taiwanese students lack global perspective: survey

Taipei, Nov. 29 (CNA) A national survey of high school and university students has found that Taiwan's younger generation lacks a"global perspective" and knowledge of international affairs, although they think both are important.

According to the results of the survey by the King Car Education Foundation, only half of the respondents were aware that oil prices are controlled by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and just 31 percent of respondents were able to identify London as the host of the 2012 Olympics.

"English proficiency is important, but the survey results show that it does not guarantee you a global prospective, " said Morgan Sun, general director of the foundation, which has been involved in improving Taiwan's English-learning environment for many years.

"Global perspective is a vague term, but it can be loosely defined as global literacy and international humanitarianism -- your understanding of the basic facts of the world and your attentiveness to what is happening around the world, " said Huang Kuei-bo, a professor at the department of diplomacy of National Chengchi University.

Huang said that several factors contribute to youngsters' ignorance of international affairs, among which are the lack of holistic education in Taiwan's education system, the local media's neglect of international news and the education gap between urban and rural areas.

Of those young people who do pay attention to international news, most of them stick to the entertainment and sports sections, the survey also found.

Another interesting finding was that 89.5 percent of the respondents regard China as the most unfriendly country and 41 percent of the respondents see the United States as an unfriendly country, up from 26 percent two years ago when a similar survey was conducted.

The increasing hostility toward the U.S. might have something to do with Taiwan's failed application for United Nations membership and Washington's opposition to a U.N. referendum for Taiwan, Huang said, adding that this "probably suggests" that Taiwanese students do pay attention to at least some international affairs.

"But it's unfortunate that, for most Taiwanese students, the world in their eyes means four countries: China, Japan, South Korea and the U.S., " said Tsun Ching-yun, who was in charge of the survey.

The survey was conducted in late October among 1,959 randomly chosen high school and university students around the nation.

KMT candidate outlines economic platform to foreign chambers

Taipei, Nov. 29 (CNA) The presidential candidate of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) unveiled his economic platform at a luncheon Thursday to foreign chambers of commerce, reiterating his determination to place the economy at the top of his priorities list and pursue more open trade relations with China.

Ma Ying-jeou, who announced his economic policy earlier in the day along with his running mate, Vincent Siew, explained in detail the "i-Taiwan 12 Projects" and future economic plan for the country to hundreds of foreign businessmen.

The proposed projects cover transportation, industrial development, human resources and quality of living. Among them are a mass rapid transit network throughout Taiwan, industrial innovation corridors along the West coast, turning Kaohsiung into a freeport and making Taichung a sea and air logistics center.

According to Ma, the scheme will require investment of NT$125 billion (US$3.87 billion) in the public and private sectors and will create jobs. Increasing public investment to boost the economy was a measure taken by the Taiwan authorities during the first oil crisis in the 1970s and he will take the same approach and launch full-scale regulatory reforms, Ma said.

The former KMT chairman pledged that he will neither discuss the issue of unification or independence nor pursue Taiwan independence if he is elected president, adding that "no unification, no independence, no military action" and closer trade relations with China will be the cornerstones of his economic policy.

The European Chamber of Commerce (ECCT) later responded to Ma's speech in a press release, saying that while it recognizes that Ma touched upon several issues raised in the ECCT's recently released annual Position Papers, he failed to address the ECCT's recommendations regarding taxation.

Ma, who also described himself as a "pragmatic idealist, " reiterated his approach of "flexible diplomacy" and spent time questioning the competency and integrity of the current administration.

"The Chen administration during the last seven years has been creating political controversies and managing the country with unstable government personnel and policies, " Ma claimed, adding that Taiwan has been losing its competitive edge not because of its people but because of the government.

The luncheon was co-hosted by the ECCT, the American Chamber of Commerce and the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

EU offers scholarships for Taiwanese students

Taipei, Nov. 28 (CNA) Grants for students entering Europe's "Erasmus Mundus" master courses are open to Taiwanese students for the school year 2008-2009, the European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei (EETO) announced Wednesday.

The scholarship offers 2,100 Euros (around NT$90,000) per month over a period of 10 months. More than 30 students from Taiwan have already obtained Erasmus Mundus scholarships since 2005, the office said.

Each master course offers high-level training and an opportunity to experience life and studies in two different European Union countries, said Head of EETO Guy Ledoux.

Application deadlines for the scholarships vary from the end of December 2007 to mid-January 2008 as there are 103 masters courses to choose from. Available masters courses cover a wide range of academic studies, including engineering, electronics, information technology, environment, arts, history, agronomics, physics, economics, natural sciences and languages, among others.

With a budget of 2300 million Euros from 2004-2008, the Erasmus Mundus Program aims at improving the quality of higher education in Europe and promoting intercultural understanding with non-EU countries.

More information are available from the EETO's Web site:

Students experience diplomacy first-hand on Guatemalan trip

Taipei, Nov. 27 (CNA) Accusations and rumors that Taiwan is involved in "checkbook diplomacy" are incorrect, as Taiwan has been engaging in "down-to-earth diplomacy" with its allies, a group of students who recently completed a visit to Guatemala said Tuesday.

"After witnessing all of our cooperative projects there, now I understand the hard work Taiwanese diplomats and staff have done on foreign soil. They deserved more support from the people of Taiwan, " said Hsu Jen-he, one of six university and graduate school students who visited Taiwan's Central American ally Guatemala Sept. 22-30 after winning a blogging competition.

The trip was sponsored by the International Cooperation Development Fund (TaiwanICDF), the principal body overseeing Taiwan's cooperative overseas development programs with the purpose of strengthening international cooperation and enhancing foreign relations by promoting the economic and social development of partner nations.

The students, comprised of two teams named "Anti-Blase" and "Simply Love Taiwan, " participated in Taiwan's various programs in Guatemala, including growing papayas and cultivating Tilapia, and writing about daily life in their blogs. They also visited Taiwanese diplomats and agriculture experts based in the capital, Antigua.

"The aquaculture industry, especially the cultivation of Tilapia, is important for Guatemalans because some of them had been suffering from protein malnutrition, " said Hsieh Chung-an, a National Chung Cheng University student.

They were also surprised at local people's friendliness towards visitors and their understanding of Taiwan. Most of the Guatemalans, especially young people, have heard about Taiwan and would like to further their studies in Taiwan, said Hsieh Ya-shu, a graduate student at National Chung Cheng University.

"The trip definitely changed my earlier understanding about this Central American country and the situation of Taiwan's foreign diplomatic work, " she said, adding that she was considering working for ICDF as a volunteer after graduation and would love to visit Guatemala again.

For years, Taiwan has been trying to work with countries in need through various cooperative programs and via various channels rather than simply offering funding help, said ICDF Secretary-General Dickens Chen.

"Taiwan has sent numerous volunteers, civilian substitute servicemen, medical and agriculture delegations abroad to help foreign countries. It was not easy for Taiwan to turn itself from a country in need of aid, in the 1950s, into a country that capable of offering aid, " Chen said.

The program tries to offer young people first-hand experience of Taiwan's diplomacy and a global perspective. It is a relatively smaller program with a budget of a couple millions dollars, but it will help young people and Taiwan's diplomatic efforts in the long run, Chen said.

Campus film festival aimed at enhancing understanding of Europe

Taipei, Nov. 28 (CNA) An annual European film festival will take place this year on various university campuses throughout the nation in hopes of increasing Taiwan's understanding to the European Union, the head of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) in Taipei said Wednesday.

"There is no better way to understand the culture of a country than through watching films, because audiences can see the people, places, architecture and way of life in a movie, " said Guy Ledoux, who is the top EU representative in Taiwan.

The main purpose of the Dec.3-23 film festival, which is now in its third year, is increasing the Taiwanese people's understanding of Europe, Ledoux said.

A total of 10 films, representing 10 of the 15 EU member states with offices in Taiwan, will be screened during the third Taiwan European Film Festival, which was launched in 2005.

One difference this year is that organizers will be screening the films on university campuses rather than theaters with the idea of targeting university students.

"Hopefully, students will get a feeling of what Europe is like by watching the films and become interested in studying in European countries after graduation, " said Cedric Alviani, General Director of Infine Art and Culture Exchange, the co-organizer of the event.

For movie lovers and Taiwanese film workers, the film festival also presents a great opportunity to appreciate the works of some bright, young European directors, Alviani said.

A wide variety of topics are featured in the 10 films, which are being made available to Taiwanese audience with the assistance of various foreign representative offices, Ledoux said. The Polish film "Chopin: Desire for Love" portrays a love affair of well-known Polish piano composer Frederic Chopin, while "The Lives of Others, " an Academy-award winning German film, tells the story of East Germany's secret police, he said.

People say there are 27 member states in the EU, which makes it difficult to understand them all, Ledoux said.

"But that's exactly what's distinctive about the European Union. We [the EU] let all the countries be themselves, enjoy their traditions, and at the same time try to work together to make people's lives better, " he added.

Films will be screened at 12 universities: Soochow University, National Cheng Chi University, Shih Hsin University, Chinese Culture University, National Taiwan Normal University, Central University, Tunghai University, Providence University, National Chung Cheng University, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan University of the Arts and Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages, and also at the Image Museum of Hsinchu City and Kaohsiung Film Archive.

All films will be screened on DVDs, some without Chinese subtitles due to copyright issues, Alviani said.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Economists review 20 years of cross-strait economic exchanges

Taipei, Nov. 24 (CNA) Politics has been and always will be the dominant factor influencing Taiwan-China economic exchanges, and the current state of cross-strait economic ties may provide Taiwanese businesses with a great opportunity to re-position themselves, economists said in a seminar held in Taipei Saturday.

In an attempt to provide an academic point of view, economists showed cautious optimism in their review of cross-strait economic exchanges during the seminar which examined the evolution of cultural, economic, political, and agricultural exchanges between Taiwan and China.

"I believe it's time again for Taiwan to revisit its plan of making itself an 'Asian-Pacific Management Hub' which was proposed years ago, " said Kung Ming-hsin, vice president of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.

The imbalance in cross-strait trade relations is apparent, said Kao Charng, a professor at National Dong Hwa University, noting that Taiwan enjoyed a trade surplus of US$66.4 billion with China in 2006 but also had a deficit of US$203.3 billion in money remittances the same year.

"People have been talking about Taiwan being hollowed out and marginalized, but it is just a matter of time before Taiwanese manufacturers move their businesses to China or other countries with cheaper labor, " Kao said.

"In fact, the 'exodus' of certain manufacturing sectors did stimulate the process of Taiwan's industry transformation and forced Taiwanese businesses to think about their future, " he added.

Hong Hai Precision Industries has been a successful benchmark for Taiwanese business people, Kung said. Hong Hai has expanded its global operations from China to Vietnam, India and Eastern Europe while maintaining its base in Taiwan.

For the past several years, local companies have shown their strength in innovation. Unfortunately, most of them have failed to take advantage of this by working with their counterparts in China to achieve greater commercial success, Kung said.

Political factors should never be left out in discussions on Taiwan-China economic exchanges, because of the unique situation on both sides of the strait, Kung and Kao both said.

"Looking back, you will find that the intensity of cross-strait economic activity has been closely linked with the political atmosphere in Taiwan and China. And for the foreseeable future, this will continue to be the case," Kung said.

"I've believed all along that Taiwan should actively re-position itself on the economic map of the future. We should have self-confidence and have a more open-minded mentality toward investing in and trading with China, " said Hong Chi-chang, chairman of the Strait Exchange Foundation who moderated the session.

The two-day seminar, organized by the Institute for National Policy Research, concluded Saturday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

German official speaks on scientific ethical controversies

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) There have been no perfect solutions to scientific ethical controversies, such as stem cell research, and perhaps there never will be, but maintain a dialogue is important if all sides are to arrive at a consensus, a visiting German official in charge of national ethical affairs said Friday.

Ethically controversial scientific issues, including stem cells, euthanasia, organ transplantation and gene banks, were among the topics discussed in a topical speech by Kristiane Weber-Hassermer, chairwoman of the German National Ethics Council, who spoke to more than 100 medical students from National Taiwan University (NTU).

Scientific breakthroughs make great contributions to the health and sustainable development of mankind, she said, but we have to give a second thought if "it takes a life to protect another life."

Germans have paid greater attention to such issues than people from other countries because of the historical legacy of Nazi human experimentation during World War II, she noted, adding that this is why Germany tend to be conservative on such controversial topics.

National constitutions are very important in thinking through such issues because they provide a guide to much social development. The German constitution made it clear that both people's rights of self-determination and lives should be protected and respected, she said.

However, she said, this is also a source of conflict because advocates for each of the premises find themselves on opposite sides of many issues. The objective of the national ethics council is to make sure that both sides remain engaged in an ongoing dialogue, she said.

Weber-Hassemer noted that an area of society at which human rights advocates and the government should take a seriously look is the underprivileged, who often either became a part of scientific and new drug experiments, unaware of their rights, or can't afford to avail themselves of the benefits of new scientific discoveries, such as the pre-implantation diagnosis (PID) -- a procedure used to decrease the chance of a particular genetic condition.

Protection the underprivileged is a point on which all German citizens have arrived at a consensus, she said.

Speaking on the same occasion, Ho Hong-nerng, an NTU professor who moderated the session, said that compared with Germany, Taiwan has adopted a more open stance on medical ethical issues, the same as those of the United States and the United Kingdom.

Discussions of scientific development should include legislation and ethical issues at all times, Ho further told students in the audience, while also pointing out that our ethical standards continue to evolve with time.

"People's view on ethics were different in different societies and at different times. Most of the time, the involvement of legislation comes at the end of the process," he said.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Taiwan making effort to eliminate discrimination against women

Taipei, Nov. 22 (CNA) Taiwan has been making substantial moves toward eliminating discrimination against women, but government officials and civil workers will need to increase participation in international networking to achieve higher goals, U.N. representatives said in a conference held in Taipei Thursday.

The ultimate goal is Taiwan's accession to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), one of the few U.N. conventions which allows non-U.N. members to actively participate.

What Taiwan can do is increase its visibility by actively engaging in international non-government organization (INGOs) events. Aside from the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) , women rights advocates can also participate in the U.N. DPI-NGO (Department of Public Information-Non-government Organizations) , said Denise Scotto, Vice Chair of U.N. NGO Committee on the Status of Women (NGOCSW.)

"You can also work around the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) , " she said, stressing that it will show the world Taiwan's progress in women's rights issues and help Taiwan's accession in the long run.

In February 2007, the Legislative Yuan passed and adopted CEDAW. President Chen Shui-bian has also ratified the convention, stressing the importance of promoting women's human rights. Taiwan's ratification of CEDAW was not accepted by the U.N. because of it the country's political status, however.

In examining the status of women in Taiwan, the Awakening Foundation found that Taiwan has done well in several international reviews, such as the Gender Development Index (GDI) and Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) , ranking in the Top 25 in the world in both. It has also found that Taiwan ranks among the best in the ratio of female representatives among public officials, national and local legislators, and management in private corporations.

However, Taiwan needs to make improvements in areas such as the rights for female immigrants and migrant workers, human trafficking, and the implementation of regulations and laws, the foundation stated in the "checklist".

The ratification of CEDAW could mean much to Taiwan, said Theresa Yeh, a professor at National Taiwan University who's also a women's rights advocate. It provides Taiwan with an all-dimensional platform for cross-national dialogue on women's issues and situates the contribution of Taiwanese women in the global women's human rights movement, while, of course, keeping women's rights issues at the top of the priority list.

Changing attitudes and behaviors are sometimes even harder than legislation and the implementation of the law, noted Nancy Wallace, Treasurer of the U.N. NGOCSW.

"Sometimes it's not happening fast enough for those who are suffering from discrimination. And that's why we have to hit the streets: to help and empower them, " she said.

Asian magazine publishers find ways to cope with digital challenge

Taipei, Nov. 22 (CNA) The magazine industry will be as strong as ever facing the challenge of the Internet and the "digital revolution, " but it still has to adjust to and accommodate current trends to sustain its development, publishers from Asian countries said in an international conference Wednesday.

"We all have to adapt and change, " Adi Satria Ahmad, Chairman of Magazine Publisher Association Malaysia (MPAM) summed up in a forum, titled "Asian opportunity in Digital Revolution, " the final event of the two-day International Magazine Conference of Taipei (IMCT.)

Speakers at the forum cited several statistics as showing that the magazine industry is "alive and well" and "holds strong pull" over other media given the impact of the Internet and various digital development.

Surveys showed that over three-quarters of readers still prefer printed version of magazines and that online versions only complement hard copies, said Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) Chairman Alan Lammin, who also serves as the Publishing Director of Time Asia.

And while it's true that the circulation of most magazines has been decreasing and the advertisement market is as competitive as ever, there's no need to panic or fear. The global magazine market is expected to grow from US$100.7 billion in 2006 to US$117.2 billion in 2011, said Ho Sum-kwong, President of Magazine Publishers Association Singapore (MPAS.)

It's also true that the media landscape in Asia has been complex and dynamic, Lammin said. However, he noted, nowadays technology will always be the key driver and youth a critical driving force.

Satria cited the case of a Malaysian magazine Mangga, which had seen its circulation drop, as an example. Mangga revamped its Web site and created another ManggaTV Web site, which is similar to the online video sharing site Youtube, to increase its interaction with young readers. It is now one of the most popular magazines in Malaysia, Satria said.

Adopting another strategy, the Singaporean government is promoting the industry with a "Singapore Media 21" initiative, which seeks to increase the industry's contribution to the gross domestic production (GDP) from 1.56 percent to three percent in 10 years, Ho said.

For Taiwanese publishers, they have a "short cut" to take: China, said James Yang, Chief Advisor of Magazine Business Association of Taipei (MBAT.) The digital revolution and the rise of China, he said, present two of the most important opportunities in Asia.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

EP member advocates stern position on Taiwan's returned application

Taipei, Nov. 20 (CNA) Taiwan has a right to hold a referendum on pursuing membership in the United Nations (U.N.) and European Parliament members will call for the European Union (EU) to take the same position as the U.S. and Japan, a visiting European political party leader said Tuesday.

Graham Watson, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the EP, said one of his priorities upon returning to Europe will be "pressing Javier Solana, EU's Minister of Foreign Affairs, to align his position with the positions taken by the U.S. and Japan regarding the way in which Taiwan's application was returned" by the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The U.S. and Japan have strongly rejected Ban's interpretation of U.N. Resolution 2758 that Taiwan is a part of China.

Watson is leading a seven-member delegation on a three-day visit to Taiwan, during which the delegation was scheduled to meet government officials as well as the representatives from both the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

The party leader said that in a few weeks, "you will see in the major newspapers in Brussels a statement signed by EP members from all political parties supporting Taiwan's bid for U.N. membership."

Even if it's not quite the same as the positions adopted by EU member states, it reflects the collective position of Europeans and the EP on such issues, he said.

Regarding Taiwan's U.N. referendum, Watson said that he disagreed with the Americans' view that the referendum was "neither necessary nor helpful" because Taiwan had a legitimate right to exercise this democratic tool.

"What we see in Taiwan... is a logical conclusion of the doctrine that was summed up by Woodrow Wilson in the 1920s regarding the self-determination of peoples. And that doctrine is having implications that Wilson did not even foresee, " he said.

"In a globalized world, we [the EU] need to have relations with everyone. But it's easier to have relations with someone who shares your values, " said Watson, summing up the EU's relations with China and Taiwan.

Magazine publishers look to embrace digital revolution

Taipei, Nov. 20 (CNA) Magazine publishers from all over the world gathered in Taipei for an annual conference looking to embrace the opportunities and challenges in Asia of a digital revolution that has taken the industry by storm.

Twenty speakers will make topical speeches to more than 300 participants in the 2007 International Magazine Conference of Taipei (IMCT) , which will be held from Nov. 21-22 on the theme of "Decomposition and Recomposition: Asian Opportunity in the Digital Revolution."

"This is probably a topic in which the government and our readers are not interested, but it's important for a content business like ours because we need to find a new way and a new strategy to survive in an Internet age, " said IMCT chief executive officer Johnny Duann, who is also the publisher of Rock Publications.

"I do believe the business model [of the magazine industry] is changing. And it has to, " said Donald Brown, managing Director of International Magazine Publishing, on the impact of digitalization and the development of the Internet on the industry which has seen its profitability and circulation fall in recent years.

In the past, he said, most advertisement money went to television networks and newspapers with very little going to magazines. Now that the Internet is overshadowing print, the magazine industry is facing an even bigger challenge.

Brown, with over 30 years of experience in the industry, including a career with the well-known Time magazine, is scheduled to address China's impact to the Asia-Pacific region with particularly attention paid to the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Taiwan's magazine industry should try to turn the challenges into opportunities, Duann said, adding that Taiwan should take advantage of the technology and exercise its muscles to the Greater China region.

The keywords to success in publishing are engagement and convergence, Brown said. In the future, advertisers and publishers should be able to use the combination of multiple platforms to capture its audience's attention.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Burmese humanitarian wins 2007 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award

Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) Dr. Cynthia Maung, a Burmese physician who has been providing medical services to Burmese refugees for almost 20 years, was selected as the recipient of the 2007 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award (ADHRA) , Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) announced Monday.

Maung was selected by the Final Review Board for her tenacious and long-term commitment to Burmese refugees suffering from the oppression and violence of the military junta in her homeland now known as Myanmar, and for her dedication to training and educating refugees in order to build a community based on respect for life and human rights, said TFD Chairman Wang Jyng-ping in the announcement ceremony.

The 48-year-old doctor, herself a refugee and member of the ethnic Karen minority, established the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand, near the Thai-Burmese border, in 1988. Since then, the clinic has been providing not only medical care, but also job training, social services, health education, child protection, and community-building activities.

"Dr. Maung is going beyond her mandate as a physician by turning a refugee population into a community based on shared values and respect for human rights, as well as by linking her cause to the international community, " said Wang, who is also Legislative Yuan speaker.

Maung is scheduled to visit Taiwan and receive the award and grant worth US$100,000 from President Chen Shui-bian in a Dec. 13 ceremony, said the foundation, which established the award in 2006.

The inaugural ADHRA was conferred upon the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

This year the organization opted to salute the dedication of Maung, who provides direct services to those who in need, said Michael Hsiao, a researcher at Academia Sinica who sat on the review committee.

"The award also directly represented the concerns the people of Taiwan have regarding oppression and the suffering of the Burmese under the junta regime, " said Hsiao, who described Maung as "another Mother Teresa."

The other nominees for the 2007 award were: Afghani human rights advocate Sima Samar, the People in Need Foundation of Czech Republic, Chinese dissident Wang Dan and the Belgium-based Human Rights Without Frontiers International.

A total of 34 individuals and organizations representing 22 countries and territories were nominated for the award.

Monday, November 19, 2007

World Robot Olympiad opens in Taiwan

Taipei, Nov. 17 (CNA) More than 800 students on 170 teams from around the world are participating in the 2007 World Robot Olympiad, an annual international robot competition for youth in which competing teams assemble robots to rally and ambulate.

The competition, which is being held in Taipei from Nov. 17-18, has been divided into two categories. In the regular category, the teams are required to assemble robots to solve a specific problem within an hour. The open category is a project-based, exhibition style competition in which teams present their robot designs.

The teams in both categories are divided into three age groups, namely elementary school students, junior high school students and senior high school students.

All the teams went into action Saturday on the floor of the National Taiwan University Gymnasium, with teachers, family members and friends watching in the stands.

The participants had to assemble their robots with LEGO plastic bricks and controllers, such as light, sound and temperature sensors. According to the rules, the robots must accomplish the assigned missions by themselves.

The topics for this year's competition categories were assigned by the Taiwan organizers who wanted to add a local flavor to the event. For example, the teams in the regular competition had to design robots that simulate the Mount Ali train's z-line switchback movement.

"Competitions like this help kids build their thinking skills, which is important for the future development of students who plan on entering engineering or related field, " said Kerry Bailey, an information technology consultant who works for the Abu Dhabi Education Council in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The competition helps develop various skills of the participants, such as problem-solving and teamwork skills, Bailey said, adding that the event exposes students to an innovative environment from a very young age.

The World Robot Olympiad was established in 2004 by the WRO committee, which is comprised of experts from various universities around the world, with the purpose of promoting innovation and education.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Baseball World Cup: Taiwan loses to U.S., awaits quarterfinal

Taipei, Nov. 14 (CNA) Taiwan lost to the U.S. in a 10-7 thriller Wednesday and finished as runner-up in Group A of the Baseball World Cup as eight teams advanced to the quarterfinal round which begins Friday.

The U.S. team, which is comprised of Minor League players, led Group A with a 6-1 record. Taiwan tied with Japan at 5-2 but ranked second having earlier beaten Japan. Panama finished in fourth place in Group A.

Topping Group B were defending champion Cuba and Australia, but Cuba ranked first, having beaten Australia. The Netherlands came in at third. South Korea, which tied Canada at 4-3, advanced as the fourth seed after Canada's 7-6 defeat to Australia.

All four games of the quarterfinal round, which adopts a single elimination format, are scheduled to be played Nov. 16 in Tianmu Stadiums and Hsinjhuang Stadium in Taipei. Taiwan will meet the Netherlands and the U.S. will meet South Korea. Cuba will take on Panama while Australia will face Japan.

The Americans dominated the host team with its high-power offensive game, which managed 14 hits, including three home runs, and a brilliant pitching performance that delivered 12 strikeouts. However, Taiwan kept the game tight from start to finish.

Trailing by four, Taiwan made the final push in the bottom of the ninth inning. Chiang Chih-hsien's single off U.S. closer Chris Booker loaded the bases before Cheng Chao-han's sacrifice fly drove in a run to make the score 10-7. Booker struck out Peng Chen-min and the final batter Chen Chin-feng was called out on a fly ball to centerfield.

Taiwan was forced to play catch-up all game but did not give up. Chang Tai-shan doubled to send Chen Chin-feng home. Hsieh Chia-hsien followed with a sacrifice as Chang scored to tie the score at 3-3 at the bottom of the fourth inning.

With two outs and bases loaded in the top of the sixth, Hsieh Chia-hsien drove in three runs with a double and tied the score again at 6-6.

Justin Ruggiano almost single-handedly held off Taiwan's rally with two late homers, blasting a three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning and a solo homer in the top of the ninth to make the score 10-6.

The Netherlands stunned Cuba 2-1 in its final preliminary game earlier in the day to snap Cuba's 32-game winning streak in the Baseball World Cup. Cuba still finished in first place in Group B.

In other games on the final day of the preliminary round, South Korea beat Germany 8-1 and Venezuela pounded Thailand 17-3. Panama routed South Africa 13-3 and Mexico beat Italy 11-2.

The final preliminary standings are listed below:

Group A: 1. U.S. 6-1(wins-losses) ; 2. Taiwan 5-2; 3. Japan 5-2; 4. Panama 4-3; 5. Mexico 4-3; 6. Italy 3-4; 7. Spain 1-6; 8. South Africa 0-7.

Group B: 1. Cuba 6-1; 2. Australia 6-1; 3. The Netherlands 5-2; 4. South Korea 4-3; 5. Canada 4-3; 6. Venezuela 2-5; 7. Germany 1-6; 8. Thailand 0-7.

Universities in Taiwan, U.S. work hard to globalize

Taipei, Nov. 14 (CNA) Universities in Taiwan and the United States have been working hard to globalize in the context of the "flattening of the world" -- an important, but difficult task -- to improve universities' core competitiveness, educators from Taiwan and the U.S. said Wednesday.

"All universities want to internationalize because we now face a world of global networks, which means you can't go anywhere, or do anything, without interacting with people and receiving information from foreign countries," said Susan Sutton, Associate Vice Chancellor of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), in a digital video conference hosted by the American Cultural Center.

Most local universities didn't make efforts to internationalization until 10 years ago because an internationalized campus meant extra work and posed "troublesome" tasks to the foreign students service, which is why most schools concentrated only on sending students overseas, said Ellen Chen, Chairperson of the International College, Min Chuan University.

Currently, the U.S. is still the No. 1 destination of Taiwanese students seeking to study overseas. In the 2006-07 school year, there were 29,094 Taiwanese students studying in the U.S., according to the annual report published by the U.S. Institute of International Education (IIE) . Taiwan is now the fifth largest source of foreign students in America.

Taiwanese universities are also working to recruit international students and faculty with foreign experience, in part by setting up diversified curricula and various joint courses with international partners. For example, National Taiwan University (NTU) currently has 1,938 foreign students and offers 13 dual degree programs, said Shen Tung, NTU's Dean of Office of International Affairs.

NTU, with more than 56 percent of its full-time faculty being U.S. alumni, also offers video conferencing courses with Japan's Kyoto University, one of its 251 international partners, Shen said.

To create an internationalized campus, it's important to provide scholarships and services to foreign students and to take advantage of modern-day technology to maximize the university's "web presence," said Martin Bennett, who serves as Director of International Services at Ball State University, a school located in Muncie, Indiana.

Enrollments from Taiwan have been on the decline in recent years after peaking in 1993-94 with 37,581 students in America, the IIE report stated. China displaced Taiwan as the leading source of overseas students in 1988-89, and Taiwan has fallen gradually ever since, with 2005-06 and 2006-07 being the first years showing a significant increase in enrollment since the late 1990s, according to the report.

In 1987-88, Taiwan was the leading source of students to the U.S., taking up 8.4 percent of all places held by foreign students.

Taiwan, U.S., Cuba, Australia clinch advance in Baseball World Cup

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) Taiwan enjoyed a five-run sixth inning explosion en route to a 10-0 victory over Panama Tuesday to clinch a quarterfinal berth in the Baseball World Cup.

Cuba, Australia and the U.S. also secured places in the next round.

With one game left to play in the preliminary round, Taiwan advances to the final eight with a 5-1 record and will meet the U.S., which advanced with an identical record after beating South Africa 4-2, in its last Group A game Wednesday.

Defending champion Cuba beat Thailand 11-1 to lead Group B and remains the only undefeated team in the tournament. Australia also advanced with a 4-2 win over Germany.

Taiwan finally woke from its offensive slump with four hits from Chen Chin-feng, Liao Ying-chieh, Lin Chih-sheng and Cheng Chao-hang, and taking advantage of Panama's two defensive errors to score five runs at the top of the sixth inning to boost the score to 8-0.

Peng Chen-min, who had three of Taiwan's 10 hits, had two RBI singles in the second and the fifth inning as Taiwan took a 3-0 lead into the sixth. His RBI double in the top of the eighth inning led to the ninth run of the game.

Hsieh Chia-hsien added a solo home run, his third home run of the tournament, in the top of the ninth inning.

Seven Panamanian pitchers combined for eight walks in the game.

The top four teams from Group A and B advance to the single elimination quarterfinal round of the biennial tournament, which runs through to Nov. 18 with games being played in four baseball stadiums in Taipei and Taichung.

Taiwan, Czech look to closer technological, economic relations

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) A seminar Tuesday brought together government officials, scientists and business representatives of Taiwan and the Czech Republic, which have been seeking to establish closer ties in recent years, in the hope of fostering joint research and development project in the fields of science and technology.

Both Taiwan and Czech are relatively small countries, but "we both want to be seen as competent, " which is one of the reasons Taiwan and Czech should work closely together to create a win-win situation that benefits both sides, said Miroslava Kopicova, the First Vice-Chairman of the Research and Development Council of the Czech Republic.

Kopicova is leading a 16-member Czech delegation on a two-day visit to Taiwan, including the one-day seminar titled: "Czech-Taiwan Science and Technology Days 2007."

In addition to having taken similar paths in fighting for democracy, Taiwan and Czech also share similarly competitive edges in terms of manpower, said Jaroslav Dolecek, Representative of Czech Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei. Dolecek added that Czech scientists have come up with many breakthrough discoveries and innovations that have pushed the limits of human knowledge.

National Science Council (NSC) Minister Chen Chien-jen praised Czech achievements in basic academic research and said that Taiwan will be able to collaborate with its Eastern Europe partner and draw on its expertise in developing applications and related products.

The NSC has for some time been keen to cooperate more closely with Czech, as evidenced by its establishment of a division in the Czech capital Prague last year, Chen said.

Other than academic collaboration, the strong presence of Taiwanese industries has also been felt in Czech Republic, where Taiwanese companies Foxconn, ASUS and Tatung now have a footprint, although the South Koreans are doing even better job of establishing themselves in the country, said Dolecek.

"In a globalized world, not only do we have to know our neighbor next door, we need to know the next-next door neighbors. And that's why we are here, " said Karel Zebrakovsky, the Ambassador at Large of Czech's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Indian human rights advocate praises Taiwan's health care system

Taipei, Nov. 12 (CNA) Health is a basic human right and Taiwan has shown that it is truly a country which makes human rights a priority through its implementation of one of the best health care systems in the world, an Indian human rights advocate said Monday.

Taiwan's strong national competitiveness comes from the health of its 23 million people, said Shri D. R. Kaarthikeyan, India's former inspector-general, who is visiting Taiwan from Nov. 12-15.

He also said it is not easy to find a health care system that covers 98 percent of its population, "But Taiwan did it," he said in his topical speech titled "Health and Human Rights: Taiwan's Participation and Contribution".

The success of health insurance lies in two factors -- the efficiency of the system, and the compassion of medical workers. Taiwan has been doing well in developing both, Kaarthikeyan observed.

Taiwan, which has been excluded from the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1962, has been both fortunate and unfortunate, said Wu Shuh-min, President of Foundation of Medical Professional Alliances in Taiwan (FMPAT).

"We're fortunate because we're doing well in decease control and establishing national health care system almost single-handedly. We're unfortunate because the world has ignored Taiwan's contribution," Wu said.

Kaarthikeyan shared the same sentiment but said he was confident that Taiwan's stress on "soft power, " which includes democracy and human rights, will succeed some day.

The visiting scholar also encouraged closer ties between India and Taiwan, pointing out that two-way trade up to September this year was US$ 3.5 billion, which was more than last year's total of US$2.9 billion. The number of Taiwanese tourists to India has also been on the increase.

"With more exchanges and cooperation, a lot of things can happen," he said.

Kaarthikeyan's speech was the first in a series at the Global Health Forum, which is a product of collaboration between the Department of Health (DOH) , FMPAT and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

Baseball World Cup: Lin Chih-sheng helps Taiwan beat Italy 1-0

Taipei, Nov. 12 (CNA) Lin Chih-sheng's game-winning hit led Taiwan to a tough 1-0 victory over Italy in the Baseball World Cup Monday. Taiwan tied the U.S. 4-1 in Group A after the crucial match in the preliminary round.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and runners on first and second base, Lin Chih-sheng's base hit sent Yeh Chun-chang home for the winning run and the home crowd crazy as well.

Another Lin -- Taiwan starting pitcher Lin En-yu -- had 13 strikeouts in the shutout. The 26-year-old right-hander, who is playing for Japan's professional team Rakuten Golden Eagles, pitched Taiwan to the victory with one of the best performances in his national team career by delivering 13 strikeouts in the shutout.

Lin Chih-sheng produced his third game-winning hit this past year in the major tournaments. He had a game-winning homerun in the game versus South Korea's Samsung Lions in the 2006 Konami Cup. Less than four weeks later, Lin's game-winning hit helped Taiwan beat Japan in the gold medal game in Doha Asian Games.

Both team had trouble to produce a hit, let alone a run in the first eight innings. Italian starter James Fiore, who briefly played in Taiwan in July, had seven strikeouts in seven innings before being relieved. Taiwan had six hits in the game while Italy had four.

The game was scheduled to be played Nov. 6, the opening day of the tournament, but was rained out. It was the only game Monday. The preliminary round games resume Tuesday in Taichung and Taipei.

As each team has two games left to play in the preliminary round, Taiwan was in a comfortable position to advance to the quarterfinal round after the crucial victory by defeating Italy and Japan, which tied with Panama at 3-2.

The sixteen teams participating in the tournament are divided into two preliminary groups in the biennial tournament, which runs through to Nov. 18, with games being played in four baseball stadiums in Taipei and Taichung. The top four teams in Group A and Group B will advance to the quarterfinal round.

Taiwan, Canada renew sci-tech MOU

Taipei, Nov. 12 (CNA) Taiwan and Canada renewed a science and technology Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Monday for an additional five years of bilateral collaboration, hoping to strengthen a relationship that will result in future scientific, technological and commercial gains.

The MOU extension, which will run 2007-2012, was jointly signed by Ron MacIntosh, Director of the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei (CTOT) and Dr. Pierre Coulombe, President of National Research Council (NRC) Canada along with their Taiwanese counterparts: David Lee, Representative of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Canada, and Minister of National Science Council (NSC) Chen Chien-jen.

"The NSC and NRC have made significant commitments to building bilateral science and technology cooperation. The collaboration between the two organizations is expanding in a productive and rapid manner, " Chen said in the signing ceremony.

Taiwan has been collaborating with Canada on energy, health and the environment and working on fields such as fuel cells, biomass, solar, wind and nuclear energies, biophotonics and medicine, Chen said. Most of these technologies, he added, aim at reducing Taiwan's carbon dioxide emissions.

In 1997, the NSC and NRC formally inaugurated the first MOU, which was extended for another five years in 2002.

The relationship between Canada and Taiwan is expanding on all fronts, MacIntosh said, noting that both sides have extended MOUs on education and information and communication technology (ICT) earlier this year. Since 1997, bilateral trade has grown by 30 percent, he said.

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung was also impressed by the collaboration, saying that Taiwan and Canada have worked together over the past 10 years and produced research results that have benefited both countries.

The MOU signing was held in conjunction with the 2007 Canada-Taiwan Innovation Week, which included a series of workshops and speeches by Dr. Arthur Carty, National Science Advisor to the Government of Canada, at universities in Taipei, Hsinchu and Tainan.

Baseball World Cup: Taiwan beats Spain, tops group standing

Taipei, Nov. 10 (CNA) Thanks to outstanding pitching performance, Taiwan overcame a sluggish offensive game and beat Spain 8-4 Saturday and stayed atop the Group A standing with a 3-0 record in the 37th Baseball World Cup.

Chen Chin-feng had three hits in five at-bats, incuding his three-run homer in the top of the first inning to help the home team seize the momentum. But Taiwan hitters were outplayed by their Spanish counterparts, who outhitted Taiwan 12-8 in the game.

National team newcomer Liao Yu-cheng, who relieved starter Huang Chih-lung in the second inning, had five strikeouts as Taiwan took a 7-2 lead into the seventh inning. Spain, the third-place team in the European Championship, refused to give up, adding two runs in the bottom of the seventh to make the game interesting again.

Reliever Shen Yu-chieh had five strikeouts in 2.1 innings and Chang Tai-shan's single homerun in the top of the eighth to ice the game for Taiwan, which entered the game with less than 24 hours rest after beating Japan Friday night.

Spain, which dropped to one win and three losses after the loss, was hurt by nine walks from its pitching unit.

In other day games Saturday, Mexico defeated South Africa 13-3 for its first win in the tournament. Canada blanked Germany 10-0 and the Netherlands beat Venezuela 7-4. Four night games will be played later in the day.

Right-hander Hsu Ming-chieh, who plays for Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional Baseball, is schedule to start Taiwan's Sunday game versus Mexico.

The sixteen teams participating in the tournament are divided into two preliminary groups in the biennial tournament, which runs through to Nov. 18, with games being played in four baseball stadiums in Taipei and Taichung. The top four teams in Group A and Group B will advance to the quarterfinal round, which adopts the single loss elimination format.

Baseball World Cup: Taiwan beats Japan 6-1 to win two straight

Taipei, Nov. 9 (CNA) Taiwan had 13 hits on its way to beating its long-time Asian rival Japan 6-1 Friday for its second straight win in the Baseball World Cup. Taiwan is now the only undefeated team in Group A of the preliminary round.

Starting pitcher Yang Chien-fu gave up just one run and five hits in six innings. Taiwan's hitters did not disappoint either, scoring one run in each of the second, third and fourth innings to take a 3-0 lead. The home team added three runs with five consecutive singles in the sixth to secure the victory.

Taiwan is leading Group A with a 2-0 record and will face Spain Saturday, with 18-year-old pitcher Huang Chih-lung is expected to start. Japan fell to 2-1 after the defeat. The U.S. is also at 2-1 after being upset by Italy 6-2 earlier in the day.

In Group B, tournament favorite Cuba beat Canada 6-3 and South Korea routed Thailand 18-2. The two teams share the lead in their group with three wins a piece.

In other games, Spain beat South Africa 7-4 and Mexico edged Panama 3-2. Australia beat Venezuela 7-4 and the Netherlands defeated Germany 15-5.

The sixteen teams participating in the tournament are divided into two preliminary groups in the biennial tournament, which runs through to Nov. 18, with games being played in four baseball stadiums in Taipei and Taichung. The top four teams in Group A and Group B will advance to the quarterfinal round, which adopts the single loss elimination format.

U.S. envoy reiterates opposition to Taiwan's U.N. referendum

Taipei, Nov. 9 (CNA) The U.S. government opposes Taiwan's planned referendum on whether to apply for U.N. membership under the name Taiwan because it is "not necessary nor helpful, " but the U.S. has no intention of infringing on Taiwan people's right to exercise their democratic will, the top U.S. envoy in Taipei said Friday.

Stephen Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Taipei Office, also said at his biannual news conference that the U.S. government has no favorites in Taiwan's upcoming presidential and legislative elections and no objection to the use of referendums in Taiwan.

However, "as in most democracies, just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should, " he said, noting that the referendum poses a threat to cross-strait stability and is inconsistent with President Chen Shui-bian's public commitments.

The U.S. has been more concerned with the DPP (ruling Democratic Progressive Party) proposal because it touches upon the "name change" of the nation, which was inconsistent with Chen's commitment to the U.S., Young told CNA.

"The way you ask questions has a lot to do with the answers you get back, " Young said.

But that did not mean the U.S. does not oppose the KMT (opposition Kuomintang) proposal, which asks whether the nation should seek to "re-enter" the United Nations and join other world organizations using the name "Republic of China, Taiwan or other practical titles that would facilitate a successful membership bid and uphold the nation's identity."

"Basically, we oppose both proposals, " he said.

Young stressed that the U.S. is not indifferent to Taiwan's quest for international space, but the politicians and people of Taiwan are encouraged to "avoid acts that couldn't really help Taiwan to gain more international space."

Young discussed Taiwan-U.S. relations against the background of the referendum, arms procurement and military cooperation and economic ties during the one-hour press conference.

The U.S. has been and will be focusing on providing Taiwan with a defensive capability able to protect critical infrastructure, and opportunities of joint military cooperation, training and development, he said.

The U.S. was aware of Taiwan's interest in buying F-16 C/D jet fighters, he said, but "it's a long process" and the U.S. is waiting for Taiwan to formalize its request.

On Taiwan's development of Hsiungfeng 2E missiles, Young declined to make further comment, but denied that Taiwan has promised to consult the U.S. before launching missiles.

Showing confidence in Taiwan's economy, Young said that the total two-way trade between the U.S. and Taiwan was US$60 billion last year and that is expected to rise by 4 percent in 2007. He encouraged further discussion from both presidential candidates of economic issues.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Host Taiwan opens Baseball World Cup with win over South Africa

Taipei, Nov. 8 (CNA) Home team Taiwan opened the 37th Baseball World Cup, which started Wednesday after an one-day rain delay, with a seven-inning, 16-1 win over South Africa Thursday in the central Taiwan city of Taichung.

The home team got off to a good start when Chen Chin-feng blasted a three-run homer and Hsieh Chia-hsien added a two-run shot in the top of the first inning to open with a 5-0 lead. Taiwan took an 8-1 lead into the seventh, then added another eight runs to seize an insurmountable 16-1 lead.

Starting pitcher Lin Ying-chieh had 10 strikeouts in six innings before being relieved by Lin En-yu, while Taiwan's batters had 17 hits with Chang Tai-shan going four-for-four.

Tournament favorite Cuba, which has won 25 of 36 titles in the World Cup, and is looking for its tenth straight gold, beat Germany 7-3 after Wednesday's shaky start -- a 3-2 win over Australia. Both Cuba and the U.S., which beat Panama 7-0, are now 2-0 and leading the Group A and B standings.

Sixteen teams were divided into two preliminary groups in the biennial tournament, which runs through to Nov. 18 with games being played in four baseball stadiums in Taipei and Taichung. The top four teams in Group A and Group B will advance to the quarterfinal round, which adopts the single elimination format.

In other games Thursday, South Korea shut out Venezuela 4-0 and Japan defeated Mexico 14-3. Australia beat the Netherlands 4-3. Italy routed Spain 11-1, while Canada pounded Thailand 18-0.

Taiwan previously hosted the tournament in 2001 in Taipei. Its best finish came in 1984 when it won silver. Taiwan also won bronze three times in 1986, 1988 and 2001.

The tournament was launched in 1938 by the International Baseball Federation (IBF) . Starting in 1996, U.S. Major League and Minor League players have been allowed to participate in the tournament which was previously reserved for amateur players.

DPP presidential candidate outlines policy vision to U.S. business

Taipei, Nov. 8 (CNA) Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh elaborated on his "well-being economy" policy vision and reiterated his "mutualism" philosophy to U.S. business people Thursday while emphasizing that he will try to rebuild trust between Taiwan and the U.S. once elected.

In his speech, titled "The Well-being Economy: the strategies for Taiwan's economic development", to business people of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei, Hsieh also said he will deliver on his promises to the U.S. after being elected and called for a regular high-level meeting between the two sides on the Taiwan-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The presidential hopeful outlined his thoughts on the "well-being economy" in seven points and vowed to replace the current political polarization with an approach stressing mutualism and to form a coalition government for the sake of Taiwan's economic and democratic development.

Hsieh pledged to implement his cross-strait policy with more "openness" under the prerequisite that Taiwan's sovereignty and identity not be jeopardized. Hsieh said he supported direct chartered flights, relaxing Taiwan's investment ceiling in China, and opening Taiwan's capital market to Chinese investment.

Noting the differences between his cross-strait policies and those of campaign rival Ma Ying-jeou, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) , Hsieh said he supports the dynamic "case-by-case" management of Taiwan's investment in China while Ma proposes an across-the-board easing of restrictions.

Management of Taiwan's investment in China is a must because "China is still considered a country hostile to Taiwan, " he said. While the 40 percent investment ceiling is debatable, hi-tech national defense elements, agriculture, and other important sectors will have to be managed carefully or social justice and the welfare of the people of Taiwan will suffer, he said.

The DPP candidate stressed that revitalizing the manufacturing sector would be one of his most important economic policies. He pointed out that the sector created job opportunities although it contributed only 23 percent to Taiwan's gross domestic production (GDP) in 2006.

"I always think that creating jobs is the best thing a government can do for workers, " he said.

Hsieh said his economic policies are based on a "Golden Triangle" of sustainable development, economic prosperity and social justice. The economy is "something but not everything, " he said, adding that Taiwan's national identity and security are also extremely important.

"Here I will draw a red line... Taiwan becoming a local government of the PRC (People's Republic of China) is our red line, " he said.

Hsieh also pledged to develop key industries such as WiMAX, biotech and biomedicine, create a competitive tax environment, strengthen the capital market, promote tourism, and stimulate domestic demand through investing in further public infrastructure projects.

Taiwan issue unlikely in U.S. presidential campaign agenda: analyst

Taipei, Nov. 7 (CNA) Candidates of both the Republican and Democratic parties of the 2008 U.S. presidential election are unlikely to elaborate on their positions on the Taiwan issue during the campaign because the main focus is the war in Iraq, a U.S. political analyst said Wednesday.

Foreign policy has generated much more attention than usual in the long U.S. presidential campaign process that started surprisingly early, but most of the focus and debate has been on the war in Iraq, although "the Bush Administration has been strong in maintaining U.S. commitment to Taiwan over the years, " said Allan Lichtman, a political analyst for CNN Headline News.

Speaking in a digital video conference organized by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) , Lichtman described the 2008 U.S. presidential election as "interesting" and a "transitional election," as there will be a major presidential transition and the most wide-open nomination in the two parties.

More than 100 professors and students from universities discussed with Lichtman the outlook of the U.S. presidential primary elections in the video conference that connected Washington, Taipei and Kaohsiung.

The U.S. is at a crossroads, especially in its foreign policy, Lichtman said, as the Bush Administration has an approval rating of around only 30 percent. However, the Democrats, who control the U.S. Congress, have not been doing well either, having failed to change U.S. policy, he said.

In the 40-minute speech, Lichtman addressed the audience with background information on the election and a number of the hopefuls, such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama of the Democratic Party and Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney of the Republican Party.

"Most voters feel shaky about the economy, but the war overshadows all the other issues in the campaign, " he said.

He also talked about the impact of fund-raising, polling, interest groups, and social and moral issues on the primaries.

Taiwan-born U.S. Major League pitcher returns for vacation

Taipei, Nov. 6 (CNA) Taiwanese New York Yankees pitcher Chien-ming Wang returned to Taiwan Tuesday for vacation and said he will approach the next baseball season with the same pitch-by-pitch, game-by-game mentality.

The right-hander, who finished with a 19-7 record in his third Major League season, also expressed disappointment over the departure of former Yankees manager Joe Torre but said he is ready to work with new manager Joe Girardi.

Wang will take time off and enjoy some time with his family in his hometown of Tainan in southern Taiwan before resuming light individual training to prepare for next season.

His most unforgettable game of the year, Wang said, was an Aug. 8 game versus the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada, in which he gave up eight runs in only 2.2 innings, his worst outing of the season.

Wang's return has become one of the most anticipated local sporting events of November since 2005 and organizer Nike Taiwan issued more than 250 media credentials for Tuesday's one-hour press conference.

Wang said Torre has molded the Yankees into a competitive team. He also thanked Torre, who left New York to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers, for trusting him during the last three years.

He said he was disappointed with his performances in the division playoffs in dropping two decisions to the Cleveland Indians but that he had put those games behind him. In both games, Wang's sinker -- his best weapon -- failed to contain the hitters and the Yankees were eliminated by the Indians 3-1.

The 27-year-old finished 8-5 in 2005 and 19-6 in 2006.

Australian television network added to Taiwan's MOD channels

Taipei, Nov. 6 (CNA) The Media On Demand (MOD) television service has added the Australian Network (AN) to Taiwan's MOD channels, an AN official announced Tuesday in a press conference.

Taiwan is one of the most important markets for AN, which was previously known as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Asia-Pacific, because there have been always good political and economic relations between Australia and Taiwan, said AN Chief Executive Officer Bruce Dover.

Taiwanese audiences will be able to leverage the network's programs on children's learning, English learning and news as a tool for education and understanding Australia, with MOD services provided by Chunghwa Telecom and other cable TV companies, Dover said.

Subscribers will also be able to enjoy multimedia content that is difficult to find in Taiwan, such as rugby and rules football.

The move symbolizes AN's attempts to expand its impact in the Asia-Pacific region, where it now has 7.6 million viewers per month, as well as the first step in increasing exchanges and collaboration with Taiwan's TV networks, he said.

"I'm very glad that an Australian TV channel has been launched in Taiwan because it offers a different view to CNN and the BBC, " said Manfred Peng, Deputy Director of Government Information Office's International Information Department.

Dover said the network is interested in collaboration with local counterparts on travel and food programs, documentaries and other programs that can increase bilateral understanding.

AN delivers its programming to more than 43 countries in Asia, the Pacific and the Indian subcontinent.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

ECCT recommends 10 remedies to new Taiwan president

Taipei, Nov. 5 (CNA) The European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT) released its annual position paper Monday together with 10 recommendations to remedy Taiwan's economic difficulties, including normalizing cross-Taiwan Strait economic relations and deregulating the financial services sector, which it offered to Taiwan's future government leader to be elected next March.

"This year's position paper provides a road map with 10 suggested remedies that, from the ECCT perspective, deal with the sluggish economy and should lead to renewed prosperity for Taiwan, " said ECCT Chairman Ralf Scheller.

The annual report stated that in the global race for economic prosperity, Taiwan has dropped out of the group of leading economies in the region -- South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore -- while others like China, India and Vietnam are catching up fast. It also pointed out that Taiwan's competitiveness is falling behind its Asian Tiger rivals in creating a more globalized business environment and in opening the market.

It also claimed that, among rival economies, Taiwan has the lowest GDP (gross domestic production) growth, the lowest GNP (gross net production) per capita; the lowest number of IPO's (initial public offering) , the weakest growth in exports of ICT (information and communication industry) products; the lowest number of inbound tourists, and has the heaviest tax burdens for its companies and citizens. Also the level of consumer confidence is among the lowest in region.

The European Chamber further stated that candidates from the main political parties have until now failed to come up with a clear and comprehensive economic program for the next presidential and legislative terms.

ECCT urged Taiwan government to develop a competitive taxation and tax incentive climate; open the public procurement market and upgrade infrastructure; accelerate the development of services and other related industries; and secure a sufficient supply of skilled labor for high-tech and service industries.

Taiwan government was also encouraged to provide clear direction and leadership in the development of policies for new industries; step up Intellectual Property Rights protection; create a sustainable healthcare environment; and work on carbon emissions and energy efficiency.

ECCT represents over 650 members from 450 European companies and organizations. European business is the largest group of foreign investors in Taiwan with US$18.3 billion in investments.

Six prominent Taiwanese to be featured in TV series

Taipei, Nov. 5 (CNA) A television series featuring six prominent Taiwanese with outstanding achievements in culture, science and technology will premiere Nov. 11 in Taiwan and 24 other Asia-Pacific countries on the Discovery Channel, the TV network announced Monday.

"Portraits: Taiwan, " a six-hour series, the result of collaboration between Discovery Networks Asia and Taiwan's Government Information Office (GIO) , will feature late puppetry master Huang Hai-dai Nov. 11 in the first episode, and will be followed by five others, with one showing every Sunday night until Dec. 16.

Other Taiwanese to be introduced in the series include Trend Micro Inc. founder Steve Chang, Eslite Books founder Wu Ching-yu, entomologist Lee Sung-yang, entertainer Chang Hsiao-yen and illustrator Jimmy Liao.

These six personalities helped put Taiwan on the world map, GIO Minister Shieh Jhy-wey said during the launch ceremony, adding that Taiwanese are always "beautiful, successful and wonderful."

"However, in the last 20 years few people have been discussing Taiwanese success stories," noted Shieh, saying that "it's important for people to know who we are and what we have accomplished, which is what the series is trying to do."

This is the second time the GIO and TV networks have collaborated. The new series follows the successful debut in 2005 of "Portraits Taiwan: Lin Hwai-ming", which was the runner-up of the Best Infotainment Program at the 2006 Asian TV Awards, said Tom Keaveny, executive vice president and managing director of Discovery Networks Asia.

Referendum issues discussed, debated in international conference

Taipei, Nov. 3 (CNA) Is referendum an efficient way of direct democracy? Is it legitimate for political parties to use referendum as a tool of moblizing voters in election? Should referenda set high thresholds? Those questions were up for debate Saturday in an international conference.

Not surprisingly, academia from Taiwan, Japan, Europe and the U.S. came home without definite answers to those questions, which were discussed in the International Conference on Comparative Studies of Referendum.

There has been no conclusions on whether referendum is a good instrument of direct democracy, and setting up high thresholds is not necessarily a bad thing, argued Wu Nai-teh, a research fellow at Academia Sinica.

Referendum is a good way to aggregate public opinions and let people participate in the decision-making process of social and national affairs. The process, not the results, is the key, said Chou Yong-hong, Director of ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) Department of Youth Development.

Scholars also paid attention to one of the hottest topics in Taiwan's political scene: the U.N.-bid referendum. Dane Waters, Chairman and Founder of Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California, said that "there's no doubt the U.S. government has double standard when it comes to Taiwan" since it has always routinely supported the use of referenda by other countries as a means of showing the sovereignty of the people.

"The U.S. has a very practical reason [for opposing Taiwan's U.N.-bid referendum] for wishing to avoid a showdown with China" as it's so focused on issues in the Middle East, especially Iran, Iraq and Turkey, Waters said.

Boris Voyer, Coordinator of Initiate and Referendum Institute-Asia International Steering Committee, tried to explore a deeper meaning behind the international support for Taiwan's U.N. bid.

Voyer cited a number of survey results and pointed out that, while most people in America, Europe and Japan supported Taiwan's bid and called for their government to help Taiwan in obtaining the U.N. membership, the majority of these people did not know much about Taiwan.

The Americans supported Taiwan's referendum probably because America was born with a tool of referendum in its constitution, he said, adding that Japanese could respond favorably because of its long and close history with Taiwan and the animosity existing between China and Japan.

Simply put, Voyer concluded, Taiwan needs to tell its story to the world and re-brand itself.

More than 10 theses were presented in the conference, which discussed in three sessions of international experience on referendum development and legislation, retrospective and prospects of Taiwan's referendum, and demacracy and referendum.

The one-day conference was hosted by Taiwan Thinktank and sponsored by Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

Holding referendums alongside elections right and proper: president

Taipei, Nov. 3 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Saturday that holding a referendum simultaneously with a major election is right and proper and a "bird cage referendum" is meaningless.

A referendum on retrieving the Kuomintang's (KMT's) "ill-gotten" assets will definitely be held alongside the legislative elections next January, and a U.N.-bid referendum will be held simultaneously with the presidential election slated for March 22, 2008, Chen said at the International Conference on the Comparative Studies of Referendum held in Taipei.

Offering his observations to hundreds of conference participants, Chen said "there's no red line drawn in democracy, and any democracy with limitations and conditional requirements is not a true democracy."

Chen made clear that a referendum should be held alongside a major election because "it's a democratic norm" and it's only right and proper.

"It's a problem which is not a problem at all, " he said.

A "bird cage referendum" equals no referendum, he said, adding that referendums are expected to complement legislative politics. "It's unfortunate that the opposition party, which controls a majority in the legislature, has failed to uphold the people's right of participating in a referendum," he added.

"The current Referendum Law is anti-democratic and anti-human rights and needs to be amended in the future," Chen said.

As of Friday, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had collected close to 2.69 million signatures for its U.N.-bid referendum petition, Chen announced in his opening remarks.

Chen said he's confident that the DPP's U.N.-bid referendum will be passed eventually but added that other issues, such as the establishment of nuclear plants, might not garner too much public interest, which is why the law should be amended.

France keen to host outstanding foreign students: French official

Taipei, Nov. 2 (CNA) The French government has a longstanding policy of hosting outstanding foreign students, not just attracting as many foreign students as possible, and Taiwanese students are welcome to study in France, a French education official said in an interview with CNA Friday.

The French Institute in Taipei issued more than 700 visas to Taiwanese students last year, a 15 percent increase compared to the previous year and an encouraging sign that Taiwanese students have noticed the advantages of studying in France, said Gerard Binder, President of the CampusFrance (CF) Agency.

CF is an inter-agency government institution that has the goal of providing a one-stop service for foreign students who are interested in studying in France, Binder explained.

Taiwanese students have a preconception that France is a country that enjoys great achievements in culture, literature and the arts, Binder said.

While France has been doing well in those categories, he added, people tend to ignore its strong performance in technology, communication and aerospace, which is why Binder encouraged Taiwanese students to explore "the other side of France."

With an annual education budget of 2.5 billion Euros, France enjoys a rare advantage in that all its universities are funded by the government, which means local and foreign students can receive higher education "almost free of charge," Binder claimed.

Students have multiple options in school selection too, he said, as some may prefer to enroll in specialized schools with good reputations in design, cooking and business management.

Binder pointed out that students can take courses taught in English, although they are encouraged to have basic French proficiency. English is one of the most-used languages in the world, but Taiwanese students can learn French as a second foreign language, he said.

In the future, the French government plans to work on various collaborations, such as joint degree programs with Taiwanese institutions, to increase bilateral exchanges, he said.

France ranked third in the world in hosting about 250,000 foreign students, behind the U.S.'s 560,000 and U.K.'s 275,000. The French government is not looking to attract more foreign students to make money -- the main objective for other countries -- but to host outstanding students that can benefit both sides in the long run, he claimed.

CampusFrance office inaugurated in Taiwan

Taipei, Nov. 1 (CNA) CampusFrance Agency, a new institute to promote French higher education, inaugurated its office in Taipei Thursday, which it expects will better facilitate services for Taiwanese students in the future.

Increasing global competition and exchanges of knowledge prompted France to established a new operational structure, the CampusFrance (CF) Agency, in March 2007, to replace EduFrance, said CF President Gerard Binder.

The creation of CF corresponds to an ambitious public policy to reinforce the attractions France offers in the field of higher education, he said.

CF will provide with Taiwanese students with general information on the offers, daily life in France, and preparations before departure. It will also conduct obligatory interviews and personalized orientations as well as publish promotion guides.

The institute will have an interlocutor to help guide foreign students taking part in the project as they prepare for their studies in France, including: orientation, assistance with enrollment, taking care of administrative formalities, getting settled in France and the follow-up details related to their schooling, Binder said.

With more than 265,000 foreign students, France ranks third in the world in the numbers of foreign students, behind the United States and the United Kingdom.

Exhibition, conference brings UK higher education to Taiwan students

Taipei, Nov. 1 (CNA) Opportunities to pursue higher education in the United Kingdom (U.K.) will be on display during the upcoming week at a biannual education exhibition and academic conference organized by the British Council, it was announced Thursday.

The 2007 Education U.K. Exhibition, a biannual event which showcases offers and programs from various U.K. universities, will be held from Nov. 3-8 in Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung and Hsinchu. The inaugural U.K.-Taiwan Higher Education Conference will gather 220 university officials from both sides for discussion on collaboration and exchange issues.

Fourteen prestigious universities, including Cambridge University, Oxford University and Imperial College London, which ranked in the top 50 in Europe by U.K.'s Times Higher Education Supplement, are among 85 institutions that will participate in the exhibition, said Dawn Chen, Head of British Council's Education Promotion section.

As usual, Chen said, business management, marketing and finance are still among the most popular majors among Taiwanese students who plan to study in the U.K., but more students are taking up courses of translation, English-teaching, science-related subjects, arts and design in recent years.

The trend shows that Taiwanese students have come to recognize the U.K.'s diverse academic prowess and its strong performance in science, technology and creative industry, which was not the case in the past, she noted.

The Taiwan-U.K. conference will be highlighted by a keynote speech from Stephen Jackson, Director of Reviews of Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education, said Lai Hsin-yuan, Head of British Council's Education and Science section.

One of the most important objectives of the conference will be learning from the U.K.'s experience in monitoring and assuring the quality of higher education, one of the most-discussed educational issues in Taiwan after the explosion in the number of universities since the late 1990s, Lai said.