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TAICHUNG CITY, TAIWAN Yes, he’s gaga about his city. That’s Mayor Jason Hu who heads Taichung City, Taiwan, the country’s third largest city with well over 2.5 million residents in this western city alone, plus millions more in its surroundings. And gaga, well that refers to the mayor’s infatuation with Lady Gaga, the pop sensation who the mayor managed to lure to Taiwan for a concert performance that sent the crowds wild. Before being elected mayor in 2001, Hu represented Taiwan’s government in Washington from 1996 through 1997 as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He has been re-elected twice as Taichung’s mayor. His city has recently received the non-profit policy research organization Intelligent Community Forum’s award as the 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year. The Intelligent Community Forum studies and promotes the best practices for adapting to the demands and opportunities presented by information and communications technology (ICT)
The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) recently named Taichung City as its Intelligent Community of the Year. Why do you think you received the award? What makes Taichung City special?
Taichung is an amazing city! Louis Zacharilla, one of the founders of the Intelligent Community Forum, personally visited Taichung at the end of April 2013 as part of the ICF judging process for its annual awards program. After returning to the USA, he extolled Taichung on ICF’s official website noting that among Taichung’s many accomplishments it has aggressively organized a strategy to implement green, environmental programs and we can do this because of superior broadband infrastructure. In addition, Taichung qualified as the location where the marvelous blockbuster film, The Life of Pi was created!
Taichung City is the youngest city to win the ICF award. The first time Taichung participated in the competition, it was selected as one of the Top7 Intelligent Communities. Then in 2013, its second time participating in the competition, Taichung won the Intelligent Community of the Year award. This year, there are several reasons why Taichung was again chosen as one of the Top7 Intelligent Communities including the seamless integration of Taichung County and Taichung City, multiple wireless internet environment that covers more than 90 percent of the population, creativity projects collaborated on by the public and private sectors, the establishment of free computer courses, the cultivation of knowledge work, the integration of Central Taiwan Science Park, and the establishment of the technological corridor in central Taiwan, etc. All these make Taichung a livable environment based on holistic cooperation.
According to the ICF, the main reasons that Taichung City won the Intelligent Community of the Year award include:
Over the past ten years, because of our political vision and sophisticated planning, as well as our team collaboration, we have enhanced the city’s economic momentum based on the innovative technologies and the investment in cultural business. We made Taichung City a great cultural and economic city and a model for developing an intelligent city in the 21st century.
Taichung County and Taichung City were successfully integrated and upgraded into a grand Taichung City, combing the original 70 % of the service industries and 50 % of the labor industries to create an economic advantage of “one plus one equals more than two”.
The advantageous transportations on the water (Taichung Port), on the land (HSR, TRA, Metro), and in the air (Taichung Ching-Chuan-Kang Airport) have become the important gates connecting central Taiwan to other countries.
Based on a backbone for economic growth of more than 1,500 precision machinery companies, Taichung applies ICT technologies to enhancing the performance of sea port, traffic networks, and agriculture, and actively explores new markets to keep up the global competitiveness of its small and medium enterprises.
In addition, other factors that helped Taichung win the award this time were:
Partnership between the public and private sectors to facilitate the exploitation of creative applications, including “engineering data bank services” which is tailored for the precision machinery industry to make the exchange and sharing of their intelligence and supply chain information more effective.
In regard to innovative techniques for agricultural development, the Agriculture Research Institute successfully created a digital monitoring system of vegetable and fruit production, which is applied to economizing managerial personnel and real-time monitoring in greenhouses. Moreover, Green Culture Biotechnology Ltd. innovated a lightweight plant container based on its own research and development. The container not only makes a highly automatic planting process possible, it also enhances the efficiency of orchid plantlet production and bridges the supply of the flask plantlet and market demand expanding business horizons internationally.
In creating digital opportunities, the Industrial Development Bureau of Ministry of Economic Affairs implemented the Intelligent Living Plan and began resource integration through the Industrial Technology Research Institute, which established the “cloud library” and sends mobile library vehicles to reach remote elementary schools. In support of the mobile library vehicles, The Cultural Affairs Bureau also delivers books reserved by citizens online to the school districts in need of resources at a fixed time and location weekly.
Taichung City’s honor of receiving Intelligent Community of the Year award from an international organization also shows approval of the policies I promoted of “a low carbon-emission, carefree, and happy intelligent city.” In the future, Taichung City will continue to integrate different technologies to innovate city services and accentuate the city’s characteristics. Also, through close partnerships among industry, government, academia, and research institutes will facilitate the construction of the sustainable environment required for an intelligent community, create employment opportunities, boost economic development, enrich the city’s cultures, and provide for a low-carbon emission, carefree, intelligent and happy life for our citizens.
Why did you enter politics? Do you have a term limit?
It was a coincidence that I entered the political field! Regarding my retirement, it will depend on the balance between my family and my office duties.
Looking back on my student life, I majored in diplomacy in college. Later on I went to the United Kingdom and got my master degree and my Ph.D. in international relations at the University of Southampton and the University of Oxford respectively. After graduating, though I had an opportunity to stay in Oxford University, I decided I would rather devote myself to Taiwan and Taiwanese people. Therefore, after working as a researcher for half a year, I left Oxford and returned to Taiwan and began to teach. Even then, switching from the academic to political track was coincidental to me. I wouldn’t say I was not prepared for it but to be honest, I never purposefully pursued and forced the outcome to happen – I simply was not against the idea.
I had experiences of being an interpreter at the President’s House, the Head of the Government Information Office, R.O.C. Representative in America of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until I ran for the election of local governor and was elected as the Mayor of Taichung City. Because of the integration of Taichung County and Taichung City, I was able to run for and was elected as the first mayor of the new special municipality of Taichung City. In fact, I am the first one to be a local governor for three consecutive terms in the R.O.C’s history. During my terms, I always take my role seriously and make my best effort to fulfill my duties.
My current term of being Taichung City’s mayor will end in 2014. According to Taiwan’s Local Government Act, I could renew my term as the city’s mayor one more time. I dare not claim that I have contributed more to academia after switching from the academic to the political field; however, I do consider that engaging in governmental work enables me to apply academic ideals and theories to practical cases, which I believe will benefit the practical work of politics. Personally, I do not reject any opportunities to be an academic again and work on publications. In this way I could contribute my political experiences and perspective. If everyone would try to do things this way, I think both our academia and politics could progress more.
You represented Taiwan’s government in the United States for a time. How would you say the relationships between the U.S., Taiwan and China currently stand?
I think, the trilateral relationship among the USA, China, and Taiwan is currently in its best shape in history. In the past, the Taiwan Strait used to be the spark for conflicts in East Asia. In 1996 when the Taiwan Strait Missile Crisis took place, I was the R.O.C. representative in the United States. In 1999 during another Taiwan Strait Crisis caused by the “Special State-to-State Relationship,” I was the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and participated in the crisis management.
Over the past year, there has been great change in East Asia. The national leaders of Taiwan, China, Japan, and Korea have changed during this period of time. In Taiwan, since President Ma assumed office, Taiwan has eagerly ameliorated its cross-strait relationship with China. This deed has transformed the Taiwan Strait, which used to be a spark for conflicts in East Asia, to a place featuring frequent and prosperous trading activities. Taiwanese government’s cross-strait policies relieve the whole world as the trilateral relationship among the United States, China, and Taiwan has attained its best condition in years.
This June, when the president of the People’s Republic of China Jin-Ping Xi visited America and discussed the cross-strait relationship with President Obama, President Obama said, “the US government strongly supports the efforts made by China and Taiwan to improve their relationship, and we hope a process as such can continue in the way both sides find acceptable.” I think it is very meaningful for both China and USA to make a public statement like this. Because of the improvement in the cross-strait relationship, it is also very helpful for the R.O.C to expand its international relations.
The cross-strait relationship and wider international relations seek not contention but mutual assistance, so the improvement of the cross-strait relationship is not only a common interest between Taiwan and China, but also a favor for the United States. In the future, Taiwan, the USA, and China shall continue their efforts to reduce tension and increase peace, stability and prosperity in this region.