Identity and the struggle for recognition in Taiwan

by David Pendery

One of the central ideas in Francis Fukuyama’s Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition (2019) is that identity as we understand it and emplace it within political contexts is comprised of three ideas. The first is thymos, a Greek word for “the part of the soul that craves recognition [and] dignity;” second is the difference between one’s inner self (one’s authentic identity and something of one’s “soul”) and the outer self (the self that functions in political and social contexts; here “identity politics” comes into full play); and third, an evolving conception of esteem by way of which recognition is granted to all in a society, and not just a favored sub-set. These ideas are of important in Taiwan today. 

That a given “Taiwanese identity” has emerged in extraordinary ways in recent years is no longer a surprise to anyone. What is perhaps strange is that it took as long as it did to truly evolve. After all, peoples of all nationalities and ethnicities have long prided themselves on being just that—unique peoples with unique cultures, communities, polities, and not least, identities. Taiwan’s long history of colonization no doubt had an important influence here, and the people of Taiwan were rarely ever allowed to think of themselves as a unique commonwealth and citizenry. Well in any case, those days are past, and a new day has dawned, with Taiwanese people now celebrating their Taiwanese-ness, and all that suggests. This conception is still in some doubt, however, and everything from an associated and closely-related “Chinese-ness” to the fact that Taiwan and Thailand are often mistaken, complicates matters. But let the matter stand: Today, Taiwanese are Taiwanese, nothing more or less. 

To return to Fukuyama, let’s look at his ideas and their importance in terms of modern Taiwanese identity. First, the idea of a people’s desire for recognition, principally as a nation and a commonwealth, and in turn individually, as citizens and civilians. This is an idea that has been evolving as far back as Martin Luther and the Protestant Transformation, and it came into truly serious acceptance with the works of Rousseau, Hegel and Kant. This is the veritable essence of free political thought and individuality. To be sure this is important to Taiwanese people, though their search for recognition has had a fairly torturous evolution, and is still incomplete, given Taiwan’s diminished status in world affairs and youthful democratic character. But this is not to say that Taiwanese people do not recognize their own values in term of their political systems and the lives they lead. In this respect, they have achieved the real deal, and all citizens are recognized as equals with equal rights. But again, Taiwanese people look to the world at large, and there they do not see the same full-scale recognition. Yes, they do see a lot of recognition from major world players, and as well from individual foreign citizens who live and visit here. But the uncertainty remains, and in a word, this is an incomplete element of Fukuyama’s triumvirate. But the future does not look dim for Taiwan. 

In terms of point two of Fukuyama’s theory, this looks to be a fairly straightforward conception that Taiwanese people have a good grip on. Of course, the complications continue, as that which is “inner” about the Taiwanese often has a rough row to hoe in terms that which is “outer”—all those people and nations “out there” that still do not always assent to and respect that which is internally Taiwanese. This battle continues. 

Finally, the embryonic conception of esteem, by way of which recognition is granted to all and not just favored groups of people, has certainly been accomplished in Taiwan in the large sense, with all citizens treated equally, with fair and free franchise, equal opportunity, and parity across all the people, not least the governors who are elected. There is one problem in this conception, however, which Fukuyama brings up. This is that the idea of equality in such a system is something of a two-edged sword. That is, an “equality of freedom” is granted to all, which is no doubt good, but its implementation does not always yield social and economic equality. Surely this is true in Taiwan, as it is in all liberal democracies with free, laissez-faire economic systems. This is troublesome, but is generally dealt with socially and governmentally. To return to the main point, the most important thing is that the essential recognition of equal citizenship, with all having a equal hand in selecting and modifying government, exists in the first place. And here again, Taiwan has attained this in spades. 

Taiwanese and their identity. In this, like only a few other nations, the Taiwanese people have found and established an “equality of dignity of all human beings based on their potential for inner freedom.” Who am I? Taiwanese people have asked and answered this question in the most important and beneficial ways. 

My Taiwan, My Nation

by David Pendery

The following essay developed out of a Global Issues class I teach at National Taipei University of Business. We were on the topic of nations and states, and we watched the 2001 documentary Promises, which examines the Israeli–Palestinian conflict from the perspectives of Palestinian and Israeli children living in communities in the West Bank and Israeli neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Upon conclusion of this beautiful film, I asked students to write a piece entitled “My Taiwan, My Nation,” in order to examine the conception of nationhood, through the eyes of Taiwanese students. The following is taken from their reflections on nationhood in Taiwan. To be sure the students voiced perceptive and profound opinions, which we, foreigners all around the world, must take note of. Yes, “My Taiwan, My Nation”—a conception these students know full well, and one that I myself know better than many people realize. 

Students may have begun with what seems to be a fairly obvious view on just what sort of nation Taiwan is. That is, “Taiwan is a country of democracy and freedom,” (Audrey Liu, age 25), it “ranks high in terms of political and civil liberties, health care and human development,” (Sunny Pan, age 40), has a media environment “among the freest in Asia” (Winnie Chen, age 43), and it is “a free and independent country” (Pitt Shi, age 37). “We are one of the most democratic countries in the world, we support human rights and protect freedom of press, speech and thought,” wrote Anthony Chen (age, 34). To sum up, “I am proud to be a citizen of Taiwan, we are one of the most democratic countries in the world” said Chen. Taiwan is “a hidden treasure in Asia” (Leona Wang, age 29), “Taiwanese people have fortitude and the spirit of never giving up; we are willing to fight for freedom and rights” (Julia Liu, age 25), and “I love my country, Taiwan” (Ann Lin, age 39).

All of this suggests more, and there were occasional doubts and questions in my student’s views. Crystal Mo (age 47) asked “Is Taiwan a sovereign, independent nation?” Her answer was yes, “Taiwan is a de facto independent democratic country”—falling into the old “de facto” trap, which is itself a contradictory view of nationhood. She went on to consider that “those who advocate that ‘Taiwan is a sovereign, independent nation’ may fall into a contradiction”—that is, that only 15 countries now recognize this so-called nation, and its “name” is not officially Taiwan, but the Republic of China. The ROC, but not necessarily Taiwan, “can still be regarded as a sovereign state.” Mo continues that, “in essence, Taiwan is a sovereign state that is not generally recognized by the international community,” summing up the concerns of those advocating Taiwan’s independent status. Meanwhile, “those who advocate that ‘Taiwan is not a sovereign, independent nation’ also fall into a contradiction”—that is, and again obviously, that Taiwan does indeed possess most if not all of the necessary attributes that define what a nation state is. “It seems that Taiwan’s problem still have to wait for time to resolve,” writes Wilbur Dai  (age 48), and he goes on worrisomely “could it be possible that Taiwan will be transformed to a communist and totalitarian country…so that political thinking on both side of the Strait can become unanimous?” Many people here are waiting for answers to these questions in the best ways. With this confusion, with both “opposing claims,” what is the truth of Taiwan’s sovereignty? asks Mo.  

Wilbur Dai adds that “When you are not a ‘state’ on any occasion that involves international politics, you simply have no place to stand, not matter how much you contribute to the world or how good your performance is.” To make matters worse, he continues, “in the constitution of the Republic of China there isn’t any intention or indication to cut off the connection with ‘China.’ From other states’ perspectives, as long as this circumstance doesn’t change, it is just two countries fighting for the same representative right.” 

In light of this “deliberate ambiguity” (Lynn Wang, age 21), and in reference to the opening statements of this essay, the perhaps obvious conclusion is that “Some countries do not think that Taiwan is a country, but we have our own laws, systems, and our own presidents. We have everything that a country should have, why are we not recognized?” (Chen, age 21). To conclude with a conception common in Taiwanese politics that incorrectly tries to sum this all up, Wang says that “The status quo is accepted in large part because it does not define the legal or future status of Taiwan, leaving each group to interpret the situation in a way that is politically acceptable.” Pitt Shi adds that “It is time to correct Taiwan’s humiliating treatment on the international stage,” and “We should do our best to [earn] the international recognition that Taiwan is a free and independent county.” The contradictions and ambiguities mount. 

China and its relations with Taiwan may be suggested in all of the above. Though a handful of students were somewhat antagonistic to the Middle Kingdom (“I do not think the government of the PRC can be trusted to be humane,” wrote Mitchell Li [age 23]), one student hoped for something better. “I don’t want to perform like an irrational person and just curse China,” wrote Nini Wang (age 21). “I think communication is the only way we can decrease misunderstanding. I hope we can have more opportunity to know each other and not bring the bias and judgement, just listen to what the other side is thinking. We can think from another perspective to learn each other’s merits, learn from other countries and progress ourselves.” No argument against this more accommodating view. 

Students appreciated Taiwan’s diversity, calling the nation “a melting pot developing its own unique characteristics from different cultures” (Arthur Liu, age 21). “Multiple ethnicities live here, different cultures are combined, and coming out this small island is a Taiwanese culture,” wrote Winnie Chebn. “Taiwan is a country with many ethnic groups, including indigenous peoples, Hakka people, Minnans [閩南語, the Min Chinese originating in Fujian Province], and immigrants and foreigners who come to Taiwan to work or marry Taiwanese,” wrote Jamie Wu (age 26). As a long-living foreigner in Taiwan, I would not disagree. 

Perhaps to sum up, “What is gratifying is that Taiwan is making progress in a good direction, from wilderness to civilization, from Colonial period to dictatorship, from dictatorship to freedom and democracy. Taiwan is my current home and my nation. No matter what its past or future name will be, or what story happens, we should all guard together at this moment to make this place become better and better” (Queenie Fu). “Taiwan must use a brand-new identity to make it possible to embark on a new path and enter the international community, wrote Pitt Shi. Let’s hope this all comes to be. “I still hope to retain the original Taiwanese spirit,” wrote Fanny Pan (age 21), and Fiona Chang (age 21) concluded that we have “a great opportunity to shine like a bright star and show the world regarding Taiwan.”

The Hypocrisy of Dr. Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General.

Some weeks ago the Director General of the WHO (World Health Organization) Dr. Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus accused Taiwan of racial attacks against him. He even went as far as to say the Taiwanese government was complicit in this racist campaign against him by not denouncing it and even encouraging it. Taiwan denied this. Following these baseless accusations, he failed to provide evidence of his claims. My guess is that his Chinese handlers showed him a few posts floating around there on the internet and told him they came from Taiwan. Also, he felt personally attacked because a petition to have him resign as the head of the WHO, for his many failures, had been launched by someone in Taiwan. The petition had garnered over a million signatures by the time it was closed by the creator, Osaka Yip. I signed that petition and I hope you did too. 


Only the problem for him, yet again, is that his words have come back to bite him. In the same week that he was chastising Taiwan with the now infamous phrase, “This attack came from Taiwan” (which had a great hashtag associated with it ,#ThisAttackCameFromTaiwan), China’s government instituted a controversial and entirely racist crackdown of African migrants living in China. Restaurants refused to serve black people, landlords evicted African tenants and left them homeless, Africans were being forcibly tested for the coronavirus, and stores refused them entry. The situation got well out of control with many African nations, such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and more raising the issue with Chinese authorities. Some nations, like Nigeria, even summoned Chinese ambassadors and demanded they respond to the allegations. In hindsight, it seems like it was mostly for show, as many didn’t go further than that. But we’ll see. 

Too much reading? Watch the video!

Yet Dr. Tedros has remained silent on the issue. Almost as if he isn’t allowed to speak of it, akin to the time Dr. Bruce Aylward pretended not to hear questions about Taiwan and hung up on an RTHK journalist when she repeated her questions…only to answer a follow-up call and insist that he had already spoken about China…which Taiwan is not a part of.


He was quick to condemn the Taiwanese and our authorities for the petition and what he perceived as a racist virtual attack towards Africans from Taiwan, which he claimed was sparked by their discontent with his directorship of the WHO. At the same time, he has kept silent when an actual racist attack is being perpetrated by the Chinese government. The hypocrisy is astounding!


Let me see if I can offer some explanation as to why this could be. We already know how the Chinese government operates in the UN and other international organizations on all matters regarding Taiwan. And how they constantly bully or as they would say “use the carrot and stick method” to push their “One China” propaganda on the world. To better understand this situation, we can take a closer look at Tedros himself.


He was the Minister of Health for Ethiopia, his home country, from 2005 to 2012, during which he had been accused of covering up cholera outbreaks in the country. However, he was also praised for helping in sharply reducing the mortality rate of AIDS and TB patients, and helping to open up thousands of new health centers and 30 new medical universities(DW report). He then became the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, serving from 2012 to 2016. The following year, he was appointed WHO Director General, and has held the position since. 


An important bit of context to note is that Ethiopia’s current government is headed by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, who came into power in 1991 after overthrowing the previous regime, the “People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”; the Front has held the seat of power ever since. They considered themselves to be Marxist-Leninist until 1990 when they rebranded and began to operate under a revolutionary democracy Tigray nationalism framework. This was after the fall of the Soviet Union, when “communism” became less popular. 


The reason for breaking out his resume and talking about his government is to show that he undoubtedly made friends with Chinese government officials during his time as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He must have spent a great deal of time with them, seeing as China is the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) partner they have in the country, accounting for about 60 percent of the newly-approved foreign projects in the East African country during 2019, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Report 2020. This is the 4th largest investment China has made in all of Africa. The FDI inflow amounted to $2.5 billion USD in 2019 and 3.3 billion in 2018. That’s a lot of money. 


It isn’t hard to see how China would be able to pull the strings on Tedros, as they often threaten to hurt the economies of countries that don’t regurgitate their propaganda. This might also help explain why he praises China and sticks to the CCP narrative as much as possible. He doesn’t really have a choice, does he? And who knows – maybe he has personal investments that could be in jeopardy if he rubs the CCP the wrong way, but there is no way to prove that definitively at this time. The CCP, however, will keep investing in Ethiopia, as it is the home to the African Union and it pays to have influence in the country that houses the political center of Africa. 


To conclude, Dr. Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus is a massive hypocrite and destroys his own credibility daily with his actions as the Director General of the World Health Organization, and doesn’t need help from Taiwan and its nationals to do so. He is quite capable of finding ways to prove his hypocrisy all on his own. This incident is just one of many and more to come. 


by Vincent Lovell


Portion of the cover photo was taken from artists @nagee

My cyberbullying experience and what it means for safety of kids online

Are your kids truly safe on social media?

By Quintin Dormehl

This is a question most parents have had to ask at least once or twice in their lives; and with everything going on recently, who can blame them? Dominating the headlines the past few weeks were the Facebook scandal where Cambridge Analytica mined data from Facebook users without their permission, as well as Melania Trump vowing to take on cyberbullying even thought she shares a roof with a person who constantly belittles and bullies people online. Even though Facebook and Twitter has been at the center of these controversies, it is important for parents to better understand how social media influences their children, especially with regard to cyberbullying.

I have been an avid user of social media from the days of MySpace until now. I have profiles on multiple platforms where I enjoy interacting with people from across the world, and share my life and special events with those who follow me. For the most part, I have enjoyed my experience, except for the occasional weird encounter, but this all changed 48 hours ago. I have recently started using Instagram, and as a whole it has been an interesting experience, but 48 hours ago a person using the pseudonym Ally started posting homophobic messages, that are clearly hate speech and of a bullying nature, on my profile.

“@therealprincecharming gays are cancers. And your body is full of F*** FAGGOT VIRUSES!!!!!!!!!” (1)

q cyberbullying article 3

“@therealprincecharming What? You want to let viruses like gay spread all over the world. I mean you can say gay is the right of every human being and in a few years you will say pedophile is the right of every human being. legalize something sin and wrongdoing? you are really sick” (2)

Cyberbullying instagram comments

Being an adult, I can fend for myself, and I do not put too much stock in what people like this think about me or my lifestyle, but I started wondering how these kinds of things influence younger social media users. My friends and I reported the user and the comments to Instagram, and I waited to see how long Instagram would take to help a user that was being bullied. To my surprise, 15 hours later, my friends and I got messages from Instagram stating:

“therealprincehcharming, thank you for taking the time to report cijeah24’s account. While we reviewed the account you reported for hate speech or symbols and found it does not violate our Community Guidelines, reports like yours are an important part of making Instagram a safe and welcoming place for everyone.” (2)

Cyberbullying reported


Saying that I was disappointed with Instagram’s response to cyberbullying would be the understatement of the year. Their lack of taking responsibility for their users could have real world consequences. Peng Hsin-y, aka ‘Cindy’ (a Taiwanese celebrity), committed suicide in April 2015 after being bullied online.  A study done by the Child Welfare League Foundation (CWLF) in 2015 found that “approximately 74.1% of students considered online bullying a problem [and only] 43% of bullying victims sought help from website managers, teachers or professional counselors; 42% reacted by retaliating.” (3)


Statistics like these paint a dark picture of the world our youth is entering. According to the Instagram help website, Instagram requires their users to be aged 13 or older (4) but according to the Instagram application, it is “rated for 12+” (5). Even though this is a minor detail, how can we trust a company like Instagram to keep our children safe, when they can’t even agree on a common age across their own platform? The reason why age restrictions are so important is because young people absorb things differently than adults do. Whereas adults might brush off some negative comments, young people sometimes internalize it, which could lead to depression, anti-social behavior or even thoughts about committing suicide. How are social media companies keeping our youth safe?

I tried to contact Instagram via their own medium which didn’t work, so then I tried contacting them through Facebook by posting on their fan pages as well as tagging them in a comment with screenshots of the hate speech that I received. I have yet to receive a response other than the one mentioned earlier.

If there was an infant car seat out there that only worked 70% or 80% of the time, would you still take the risk of letting your child be strapped into it? If your answer is no, then why would you allow your child to be on social media, such as Instagram, where his/her mental wellbeing could be in danger? “Seven per cent of young social network users said they had been bullied on the Facebook-owned photo app.” (6) Even if your child gathered the courage to report the person bullying him/her, then what is the guarantee that Instagram would resolve the matter in a timely manner? Speaking from experience, I would not bet on it.

If someone is being bullied, regardless age or sex, it is the company’s responsibility to step in and put a stop to it. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. So I will ask you again, “Are your kids truly safe on social media?”



Don’t let “On Happiness Road” be the last animated film made in Taiwan!

by: Jean-Jacques Chen

Animation, and Taiwan.

Two words that seemingly don’t mesh automatically in the same sentence in most people’s minds.

And most people would be wrong !

Taiwan has actually got quite a long story in the worldwide animation industry.
Ever seen those little indie animated movies called Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Lion King and Mulan, made by an up and coming indie studio called Disney ? Well, it turns out that if all the preproduction, scriptwriting, character designs and storyboarding of these movies were made in Disney’s HQ in California, most of their animated production were actually contracted to… Taiwan !

Long before China, Korea, and now other SE Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia got on board; Taiwan has been, for almost 2 decades, the world’s animation production powerhouse, from the 80’s to the early 2000’s, having orders coming from the USA, Europe and even Japan ! This period was commonly called by nostalgic Taiwanese veteran animators who are still connected to the trade nowadays, the golden era of Taiwanese animation.

So what prompted it to end ? How could such a profitable business suddenly fall apart, leaving all its former employees to either become animation teachers in arts universities (such as yours truly), or joining only a sparse number of small to medium sized studios, scrambling to make ends meet, working mostly for the video game industry because that’s where the money is today?

Toy story is what happened.


After Pixar launched its surprise worldwide smash hit Toy story in 1995, compounded by a Bug’s life and Toy Story 2 in 1998 and 1999, something happened in every big animation studio executive’s mind, especially with Disney’s : “THIS is the future of animation ! CG animation is the way to go ! Be damned with outdated hand-drawn animations, nobody wants to watch that anymore.”

Following this mindset, Disney closed one by one all its long-established hand drawn studios worldwide, throwing away decades of experienced craftsmanship and talents, and started focusing on working on CG movies only. That, in turn, meant cutting Taiwan’s animation industry from its biggest client (and then some, as in a snowball effect, the whole world’s animations projects, except Japan, had turned CG !)
Taiwan’s biggest animation companies were caught completely unaware and unprepared by this massive tectonic shift, and frantically scrambled together to try to breed some locally Made in Taiwan animated movie projects to keep the machine rolling. While all these attempts showed lots of  heart and goodwill, they all tanked completely in the box-office due to one major factor : Taiwan was full of veteran animators, but lacked experienced storytellers, scriptwriters and lead directors. Therefore, those movies were just simply not at the same level of compelling storytelling that Taiwanese audience were used to see from both the USA and its direct neighbour, Japan. Thus marked the agonizing decline of what was once a thriving business and a source of national pride. Most of its once seemingly invincible animation companies went bankrupt, and all its talents scattered to the winds.

As a former animation film director myself (I completed my 7 years-long animation directing master program in Brussels Belgium, and came afterwards in Taiwan for 10 years, where I’ve worked in the animation industry in Taiwan for my first 8 years before giving it up and becoming a photographer and animation teacher), I’ve always complained about the dearth of worthy animation film projects that were 100% made in Taiwan for these past 10 years.

Which finally leads us to today’s main topic : On Happiness road !


The movie is telling the story of Lin Hsu Chi, a Taiwanese woman born in the mid 70’s who’s now married and living in America. Due to her beloved Amis grandmother’s passing, she rushes back to her childhood neighborhood in Xinzhuang, a suburb of Taipei, at her old family’s house located on the titular Happiness road, for helping with the funerals. There, while rediscovering her surroundings and the life that she left behind years ago, she gradually reminisces (in a series of flashbacks back and forth between past and present) all the things that led her life to what it is now, from her innocent and whimsical childhood, through her quickly maturing teenage rebellious years and leading to her hard working young adulthood age, before getting married and leaving for her American dream, to the pursuit of happiness. But did she get it ? And what’s happiness exactly? Those are the important questions the main character is constantly asking herself all throughout the movie.

Interestingly enough, the movie’s story is not only Hsu Chi’s, but also the rest of the ensemble cast, making some detours into the lives of its endearing supporting characters, from her family to her whimsical aboriginal grandmother (one of the best characters of the film), to her childhood friends, their direct environment and backgrounds, as well as a crash course of Taiwan’s tumultuous history of these past 30 years, both culturally, politically, educationally, and socially, all of these seen through the eyes of Hsu Chi and her entourage, going beyond the status of an animation film, to sometimes look more like a documentary, all the while sprinkling a few visually poetic dream sequences all throughout the film, that only the power of animation could offer.
Although that seems a lot to digest for a single movie (and at moments, it does feel a bit overwhelming to the audience), the script is so well written that, at the end, all these seemingly sparse moments come together for an emotional finale that leaves butterflies in the audience’s stomach.
2 years ago, I started hearing echoes of the production of this great looking Made in Taiwan animated project, and it did catch my curiosity, after more than 10+ years of a creative desert on the island, I decided to follow its production story. There I learned the project actually initially started in 2013, where a short pilot was shown, and earned a prize for best film project at the Golden Horse festival that year ! As a result, its author and director, Hsin Yin Sung was awarded a 1 million NT$ fund for kickstarting the project. While 1 million NT$ sounds great, it is nowhere near enough to make an animation film, so the director had to fight all the way up to find people who would support her crazy dream of making a female-led, Made in Taiwan, animation story.

The films path would follow an avalanche of hurdles to have the film produced, where for the first few years, very few would take this project seriously, nor believe in its feasibility (read in Chinese : profitability) to want to help finance it.
But it also led to some unexpected positive encounters, such as famous Taiwanese actress Gwei Lun Mei, whom after reading the script, was brought to tears by it and decided on the spot that this movie’s story needed to be told, asking the director Sung (to her shock !) if she could be the main voice actress, thus weighing in a lot of her star power to help make this movie’s future financiers happier. Another unexpected help would come from famous Cape No. 7 and Seediq Bale’s director, Wei-Te Sheng, who also happens to be an old schoolmate of director Hsin. He also decided to support the movie as one of the characters voice (and most probably pulled some strings in the background to help the movie’s financing). To be honest, the whole production of this movie would deserve a movie on its own.

And finally, last week, the film got on screen ! Excited as I was to finally see the finished version of this movie project that I’ve been following for so long, and took even longer to make, I went to Spot Huashan for its afternoon screening. Little did I know that the director and the movie’s adorable young lead actress (XiaoChi’s kid’s voice actor) would be in the attendance for a Q&A session after the screening. Having met the director on a previous occasion at TNUA’s Kuandu animation film festival, for a lecture about her movie, we’ve already discussed a bit about her purpose with this film, and I was curious to expand a bit on our previous conversation. Ultimately, we didn’t have lot of time to talk, as she was on a promo tour and had to move on to another theater for the next screening, but she did have the time to tell me that the box office of the movie has so far, been really bad, and that there were talks about slashing the movie from the big screen, as soon as this thursday, only one week in.


That would be a profoundly unfair fate for a production that has been through so much, brought upon by the sweat and tears of all the hard-working younger generation of animators and visual talents who believed in it (if you’ve never worked in the animation industry, I can assure you from an insider’s point of view that in the show-business world, it is by very far one of the most gruesome and heaviest workloaded career one could choose to tell a story).
And not only for this specific movie, but for the entire animation industry of the country, marred with massive failures for the past 15 years. One could easily imagine why Taiwanese mass audience would be reluctant to go see that new Taiwanese animation film, as they could very well believe it’s one of those half-baked failures of old again.
And they would be absolutely wrong !
All early attendance have been raving about this movie, and the word of mouth is so far excellent, prompting some very enthusiastic reviews in news media such as Taipei Times and Apple Daily.

The movie is not perfect, of course. It has its flaws and as a veteran animation film director myself, I couldn’t help but notice that it suffers occasionally from a common mistake that lot of filmmakers do on their first animated feature film : the attempt to cram too many things in just one movie ! But, overall, it’s also what makes its charm, as it doesn’t necessarily abide by the international rules of visual storytelling, and tells its own story, in its own very taiwanese way (which for once, actually translates well on screen, thanks in big parts to the great quality of the script).   


If such a gem of a movie, which is so great at addressing personal questions about self worth, family bonds and values, and one’s own place into society and life, and addressing it to so many different audiences, both to kids to teenagers to young and older adults (which really is a first in Taiwanese animation history), if such a great made in Taiwan animation still can’t crack the bamboo ceiling of its own country’s audience’s…. then, no one ever will, and it will just show all potential future investors that they were right from the beginning, that the Taiwanese broad audience just don’t care about this particular niche of filmmaking (adult animation) therefore is simply not worthy of attention anymore.

This would simply kill the whole Taiwanese animation industry once and for all,  the next national project to happen may be in the next 15 years if we’re lucky… meanwhile, all the young talent that have been growing up on this project and could have the potential of becoming Taiwan’s future in the animation industry, will either starve, change career, or move abroad…

Yes, this movie is THAT important !

It is Taiwan’s animation industry’s last hope to break through, to be even allowed to exist in the future.

And it’s fading into darkness as you’re reading this article…

If you have the time, and intend on starting 2018 with a great bittersweet but warm hearted movie, please, go watch it ! Not only you will help support Taiwan’s animation future, but you’ll also thank me for recommending you to go watch one of Taiwan’s best films to date.



Filipino workers in Taiwan, unpaid this Christmas

It is tradition for every Filipino worker that had a chance for a stint overseas to send some money to their loved ones back home for Christmas. During the Christmas period in the Philippines prices of goods and services are way more expensive when compared with the rest of the year. For Filipinos buying Christmas presents, decorating and planning for Christmas usually starts very early. In the Philippines Christmas celebrations take longer therefore everyone wants to be well prepared. This is because of the Filipino cultural heritage that they’ve inherited from Spain, a predominantly Catholic country.

It is depressing to think about those Filipino workers in Kaohsiung, who didn’t receive their salary for several months after working diligently at a shipbuilding company. What about their Christmas? For many who are the only sole breadwinners of their families or sole supporters of their nearest and dearest back home, they just don’t have any means to send anything back home. This isn’t just simply about presents and other luxurious wares; very often families in the Philippines can’t even afford a semi decent meal on the most important day of the year. This creates a hellish atmosphere of uncertainty after having hopes up for an extra Christmas fund that never materializes. Such a situation is painful on both sides as one is simply unable to provide for their loved ones on the other end, usually they are really in dire need of cash in order make their festive season untroubled.

Who is responsible for such a dire state of many Filipino families?

CHING FU SHIPBUILDING COMPANY had been reported to be involved in several fraud and loan scandals over its contract to build navy ships. Earlier this month, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has terminated a TWD35.85billion (USD1.1 billion) contract with the company because of corruption. Now Ching Fu is facing another scandal for failing to pay its workers.


There were no Ching Fu Shipbuilding Company’s representatives attending the meeting held by the city’s Labor Affairs Bureau. The 115 workers who haven’t received their salaries for October and November remain unpaid.

The Labor Affairs Bureau had helped 4 Filipinos to switch jobs, they helped 7 of them to return to the Philippines, and 4 have new pending jobs. There were 45 Filipino overseas workers working for Ching Fu Company, that leaves 30 of them still in Taiwan without many resources on what was supposed to be the happiest day of the year. Their living conditions are to not reported nor supervised by the employment agencies. The Labor Affairs Bureau is appealing to the public to help the affected Filipino workers who were left in this grim situation so they too can have a happy Christmas.




W.A.R.M.: Destigmatizing Mental Health Issues, a women’s support group in Taipei


Depression has been regarded by the UN World Health Organization as one of the three major diseases of the new century. It lines up with cancer and AIDS to devour the people’s physical and mental health. According to the UN World Health Organization, there are currently between 200 and 400 million people in the world suffering from depression. It is estimated that there are at least about 50 million people with depression in Asia and their numbers are on the rise. By 2020, depression and heart disease will become the top two diseases that affect the huge human lives.
In response to this current widely-watched issue, Shen Wudian, director of psychiatry at Taipei’s Wanfang Hospital, pointed out that the proportion of people with depression in Taiwan is seriously underestimated. Anxiety disorders can easily cause depression, and 58% of anxiety patients can transmit into depression, and is now considered to be one of the most serious causes of stress or disability in all diseases. According to statistics, the prevalence rate of depression in Taiwan is about 7.3%. In other words, about 1.5 million people in Taiwan suffer from depression at present. This shows that the problem of depression is very serious.
However, treatment of depression and other mental illness is not included in health insurance in Taiwan. A single therapy session can cost about 2500-3000 NTD. This is where we, W.A.R.M. (Women Anonymous Reconnecting Mentally), comes in. W.A.R.M is a weekly Sunday meeting where women with similar states of mental health can come and share their stories, talk about what they are going through.
W.A.R.M. is the first support group in Taiwan to support women with these mental issues, which are so stigmatized by society. The weekly Sunday W.A.R.M. meetings are based in Taipei, we are not “classes”, “sessions” or “group therapy”, also in no way intended to be viewed as providing any form of “professional treatment” to fix people. The participants can choose to remain anonymous and there will be no formal sign up. The W.A.R.M. meetings style are roughly based on the AA meeting format – although without any steps, agenda or programs. W.A.R.M. meetings are just a safe platform for women who are struggling in life to share and connect with each other, without any pressure, judgement or expectations. We are providing a safe space for women to talk and listen to their individual predicaments. We are building a support network in order to encourage and empower women by having these weekly group meetings.
Within our growing support network, we see how women unite and empower each other. As women, we have the guts to be vulnerable, and by being vulnerable, exchanging life experiences, we bond over the similar hardships that we went through. We welcome all ladies with any background to join our support network. You are not alone.

W.A.R.M. Facebook group:
Co-Founder: Vanessa Wang (
Jenn Crimin (

Taiwanese Metal, is it dead or ready for a second coming?

It can be difficult to make it as a musician in Taiwan. A conservative society that traditionally places age and experience over ability and innovation is a stifling one not conducive to creative endeavors, especially when those aspirations stray from the norm.

Beneath the uniform skyscraper skyline and business suited facade of metropolitan life, the city’s hardest working members scrape away pursuing their dreams.

Most work full time, using the wan moments after a day’s hard work to craft, to endlessly practice and refine. It’s a brutal schedule, requiring intense dedication and commitment. Their work spans many fields, the lucky ones work in music — as promoters, importers, producers, or performers. Yu of Infernal Chaos is a professional drummer, who plays with some of the nation’s top pop acts.

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Others have their own professions. The drummer-founder and vocalist for symphonic gothic band ‘Crescent Lament’ are both doctors – a physician and psychologist respectively.


Symphonic Gothic Metal, Photo Courtesty of Cresent Lament

Many work in food industry, “It’s easier because it’s hourly,” says Take of Future After a Second, one of a new generation of metal bands rising from the depths of the city. “You clock out and that’s that — you don’t have to worry about getting called during off hours or be responsible for anything.” This isn’t the case for everyone though. Bruce, guitarist-vocalist and founder of grindcore outfit “Ashen”, is also owner of a quaint cafe in the capital’s trendy dongchu Eastern District. Previously merely a worker, he inherited the store when its previous owner wanted to invest in other ventures. Now he runs the place, which is as much known for its limited hammock seating as for its made-to-order western cuisine and lovingly crafted kitten-faced lattes.


Matcha latte cat, featuring grindcore. Image from Instagram

The physical exhaustion of running shop 6 days a week with a skeleton crew of 3 make it difficult to make music on the side, but Bruce’s fine attention to detail and hardworking spirit are apparent in both his professional and musical endeavors. Although finding and retaining talent can be difficult, and the band is further constrained by the fact the members are scattered throughout the island. Drummer Chewie runs an eatery, an omakase (menu-less) foraged and farm-to-table restaurant in faraway Taitung on the island’s Eastern coast, which likely makes Ashen the most chef-heavy grindcore outfit in the world.

a bowl of ramen noodle soup

Take works at a ramen shop, where he learned Japanese from the noodle masters there. That skill has allowed him to connect with Japanese bands like MIVK, leading to gigs abroad, one of the best ways for bands to grow their fanbase, given the island’s shrinking metal populace. Most of the more successful bands such as Flesh Juicer – who gained national recognition for their debut album GIGO – regularly tour Japan and other parts of eastern and southern Asia. But this wasn’t always the case.

“Five, maybe ten years ago, metal was in,” muses Kenneth, vocalist for Bloody Tyrant and Dark Charybdis, two well-respected outfits. “Everyone was in a metal band. If you were on the indie music scene, you were playing in a metal band.” The number of bands in Taipei alone numbered in the double digits, and shows regularly drew hundreds. Things are different now. A recent metal fest Autumn Attack, a combination of 4 heavy bands spanning metal, deathcore, and emo, drew a paltry crowd of 80, which was above average, according to the vocalist. “Used to be, in Taiwan, the biggest crowd I’ve ever played was probably…300. In Tokyo, 500.”

Dark Charybdis 暴噬者 – Selling Short (Official Music Video)

Yet, if attendance like those seen at Chthonic’s boxing day concert in 2015 which drew a crowd of over 10,000 indicate a wider fanbase than may be hidden in the midsts. But perhaps it is the band’s other activities that speak to broader audience than just metalheads. The band is well-known for their vocal critique of the nationalist government as well as the vocalist Freddy’s role in politics and human rights work. Lyrical content may be another factor, heavy bands are usually associated with a pessimistic worldview and dark lyrics, but FAAS is hoping to change that perception. “I write encouraging lyrics because I have a lot of friends that are often down,” says Take. “I hope that by listening to our music, if you’re in a bad mood we can be that thread of spider’s silk that lifts you back up.”


When asked why metal, a genre more popular than pop, isn’t as popular here, the theories are varied. “Some people age out,” says Kenneth, “They get married, have kids, stop going to music festivals. If you think about it, it’s always the same people going to the festivals. There isn’t really any new people entering the scene.” Some say people aren’t used to paying for music, there isn’t the same culture of live music enjoyment that there is in the west. Others cite a stagnating economy, although analysis has revealed it isn’t as bad as most suppose, and may even be improving.

Another factor may be the incredibly high cost of home ownership, which is regarded as a hallmark of success. A commonly cited statistic regurgitated by local media says a young family would have to neither eat nor drink for 15 years in order to afford to own a house in Taipei, the nation’s capitol and most populous city. Studies have shown that metal is most popular in wealthy countries, and while Taiwan isn’t doing too bad for itself, generally ranking in in one of the world’s top 20 economies, it’s not as affluent as say, the Scandinavian countries where metal is almost mainstream.

Trailer for the newest movie, Tshiong《衝組》

The movie is set in a village in the South of Taiwan


But there is hope yet on the horizon. Despite frontman Lim’s side-cursion into politics, the nation’s most famous band Chthonic is releasing a new album soon, as well as their movie, both of which feature Randy Blythe of American heavy metal band Lamb of God. Deathcore outfit Flesh Juicer were awarded the prestigious golden melody award for best album design last year, and younger bands continue to release new material.

Image from Chthonic Facebook page.


The film will be a comedy. Image from Chthonic Facebook.


The below photos courtesy of CHTHONIC 閃靈, they can also be found on: (Official CHTHONIC 閃靈 Facebook page ).


by: Constance D. Wang

A review of the WeMo electric scooter sharing app and how it works

WeMo electric scooters

This week I finally tried the WeMo electric scooter service for the first time.
WeMo is a stationless rental scooter, it is basically the “oBike” concept applied for electric scooters.
You need a scooter? You find one nearby on the map, take it, ride where you want and leave the scooter on any scooter parking spot when you’re done.
I love the concept, and I feel it could improve a lot of things if it is used on a large scale.
Anyway. First things first, creating an account. That one made me postpone more than once, because you need to provide many documents:
– ARC (or ID)
– Driving license (it is a green plate so a car driving license is ok, I used my taiwanese car license to register, please comment if you succeded to register with an international car license, that would be sweet if they are accepted)
– Picture of yourself
– Credit card information. There are 2 payment types, either direct transaction from your credit card, or you can load some money into some WeMo wallet, and then use that money little by little as you use WeMo scooters.
After 1 working day I got an email saying my account was ready and I could start using the service.
Using WeMo app to do everything
Using the app, you see where scooters are and you can book one, or just walk to it and start using it.
I have used WeMo scooters 4 times in total. Every time the scooter was extremely new and in great quality: the 4 different scooters that I got didn’t have more than 250km mileage in total.
I have read some bad reviews in the WeMo app reviews where people complained about the quality of some scooters. Before any ride, better check the scooter, the general condition, the brakes, etc. In my case all was really new and good.
You control everything through the app.
– Opening the trunk (there are 2 helmets inside)
– Starting the rental
– Stopping the scooter (once it’s “started” it’s ready to accelerate any time you turn the throttle. “Stopping the scooter” is equivalent to shutting down the engine on a gas scooter.
– Returning the scooter: stops the renting and ends the ride.
The scooter
Once you open the trunk using the app, you find 2 helmets inside (one is half dome helmet for the passenter, and another one is a little bigger, covering the ears and has a wind protector, more suitable for the rider).
There is also a few disposable fabric papers that you can put in the helmet if you care about hygiene.
The scooter is pretty much like a normal gas scooter. It has the same controls, brakes, lights.
It is quite lighter overall, very comfortable to ride alone, and requires a little bit of skills for riding slow speed with a passenger, but that’s also true for regular scooters.
Riding WeMo
Once started, it is just like a normal scooter, the controls are the same: throttle, breaks, lights, direction lights.
The max speed i got was a steady 54km/h on flat. Not very fast but I was not slower than the average riders on the road.
The autonomy if the battery is 100% when you take it is about 45km. You can see how much battery is left on each scooter on the smartphone app before you start the rental.
You can see how many remaining kilometers the scooter can ride at all times.
Also I noticed than when the scooter autonomy is going below 10km, the max speed is lower, about 38km/h and the acceleration is also weaker).
With 2 people on the scooter, the acceleration is still good and the top speed still above 50km/h even with 2 passengers.
Even though speeding is not recommended, I find that the top speed is slightly below what I would hope for. A few times, I wanted to overtake someone quickly, but I simply couldn’t. On my regular 125cc scooter, I can go faster for a few seconds in certain situations to safely take over, or avoid some danger. That’s something to consider, the riding habits are slightly different here.
As of November 2017:
– Initial price is 15NT for 6 minutes
– Next is 2.5NT per minute (99 seconds red light really suck, it would be neat if the price calculation did not count the stop time, specially as this is an electric scooter)
Out of the 4 rides I took, this is approximately the prices that I paid:
– 38NT for 4km distance in my first ride, because I took some time to explore the options
– 30NT for 4km (better luck at the red lights?)
– 60NT for 8km (Elephant Mountain to Nangang exhibition center).
– 23NT for 3 MRT stations late at night
In my opinion this is a good solution at night for a 5-15km distance when there are no more MRTs and you don’t want to pay 300+NT for a taxi.
After those rides I feel very happy that this solution exists. It completes the portfolio of transportation possibilities, and gives more freedom than MRT or bus.
It may not be something you want to use every day, but once in a while you need to go somewhere far from MRT stations, or you don’t want to take UBike for 30mn+ ride, well, if you have the app installed and the account already created, you can check if there’s a WeMo nearby.

Reflections on the Differences Between the UK and Taiwan by Elvis Wez

When you are growing up you sometimes wonder where you will you end up after becoming an adult. Sometimes you end up in a place that you had never even heard of before you actually visit it for the first time. This is what happens to many expats strewn across East Asia, and our new home, Taiwan. This is what happened to a local artist, originally from Brighton, UK, Elvis Wez. [Scroll to the very bottom to view Elvis Wez’s art]

Elvis Wez is a volcano of creativity and good vibes. He has to be in a good company to reach his full capacity though. From swerving his skateboard between cars in the full on Taipei traffic, through being the maddest party animal that never fails to dress to impress and sets new standards in local fashion, to being an active musician, singer and lastly a great painter, illustrator and a graphic designer that uses mostly traditional techniques.

He recently went back to his hometown, Brighton and this is what our correspondent has learnt from this rad cat:


TO: How long haven’t you been back to the UK?

Wow, geez! It must be have been 4 years. Yeah, 4 years I haven’t been back to Blighty for.


TO: What major changes did you notice first upon arrival in the UK?

Hmmm… Major changes? If you come back from East Asia where everything is constantly changing and then you go to ‘ancient-feeling’ Southern England, you don’t really notice that much of a change. Well, one thing has changed. The High Street. Shops have changed and some of the old ones we used to have for decades are no longer there. There are plenty of coffee shops everywhere, just like in London. Everyone is into coffee now. From a country that enjoyed their cuppa tea, English people have turned into coffeephiles.


TO: What was the first reverse culture shock you experienced?

Driving on the left side! I mean I know people in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore or Thailand do the same, but I enjoyed living in Taiwan too much to visit those countries.


TO: What was the first thing you missed about Taiwan and what did you end up missing the most?

I missed Taiwan’s weather the most. I wanted to be warm and cosy again. What did I end up missing the most? Must be the ubiquitous convenience stores everywhere. British Off-license stores don’t quite cut it, and if you want to go to a 24h supermarket you have to drive or take a taxi. In Taiwan, Taipei especially, you just walk literary a few meters and there’s an open 24h convenience store. Also Taiwan’s street food and how cheap things are here. I love the mollycoddling Taiwanese lifestyle!


TO: What one thing from the UK do you wish you would get in Taiwan?

Fish and chips which I love more than my mum, and greens like peas, green beans, Brussels sprouts and the like. And I am not saying in Taiwan I can’t find healthy food, I just miss this Euorpean/British kind that looks great next to your chips or potatoes.


TO: What did you enjoy about being back?

Definitely family! I enjoyed looking at them being happy to have me back, even though not for a long time, but still. After living in Taiwan for like 7 years in total now, we have obviously grown apart. I love my parents and their demeanour, there are a couple of cool folks. My brother is wicked, too. I obviously didn’t realize how much I would miss them until I left their house.


TO: How long were you back for?

I was back for three weeks, only enough to show my domestic partner how dear old Blighty looks like, catch up with my family and a few friends, and stuff my face with all the Yorkshire Pudding, Pie and Mash, Fish and Chips and Toad in the Hole that I could put my hands on.


TO: Did you only stay in England or did you travel somewhere else?

I went for a short visit to Low Countries to see how much rain Dutch people get this time of the year, I liked Heineken.


TO: What were your feelings when you were about to go back to Taiwan?

I wasn’t the happiest man on the planet, that’s for sure. Why so unhappy? Because my parents were sad. I was really sad seeing how sorrow they were when I was leaving. I was sad, too, but my parents were noticeably sadder.


TO: What were you most happy about after you came back to Taiwan?

Being in a ‘Taiwan Bubble’ if you like. Being warm, and the ability to see the blue sky. The way people treat me here and treat each other is also something I missed. Taiwanese people are very reasonable and well mannered; they rarely show you any rudeness while dealing with you on the customer level. Outside of Taiwan this isn’t always the case, you can expect all sort of epithets from members of staff at hotels, shops, at the airport or train station. Taiwanese have more integrity than this.


TO: How long are you planning to stay in Taiwan for?

Not indefinitely, but I’ve said that for the past 7 years. I will probably go to Australia or New Zealand next at some point. I’m not getting any younger and want to explore at least one more realm if you like. I lived in the UK, Finland, Taiwan, there’s definitely place for one more country on my list.

TO: Thank you very much for talking to us.

Not a problemo!

Find a few extra photos below of Elvis Wez and at the very bottom you will find some of his art.


Elvis Wez’s Art:

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