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Archive for November, 2013

Taiwans „nüchterne, unaufdringliche Hausfassaden“

Das ist meine Lieblingsformulierung aus einem neuen halbstündigen SWR-Radiofeature über Taiwan, das komplett im Netz steht.

Haus Wohnblock Taiwan

Es geht aber auch um den internationalen Status der Republik China, um freie Demonstrationen, die Arbeit im Auslandssender Radio Taiwan International (RTI) und darum, wie man als Deutsche Taiwan erlebt.

Die Autorin Mandy Fox hatte einige Monate als Praktikantin bei RTI gearbeitet, und nach ihrer Rückkehr hat sie diese hörenswerte Reportage erstellt.

Jetzt online anhören

Wie ich schon auf Facebook schrieb: Einige historische und politische Hintergründe bleiben auch in einer halben Stunde unscharf, aber das geht fast allen Taiwan-Berichten so, und dieses Feature ist auf jeden Fall hörenswert.

Warum ich den „anderes China“-Titel für die Verwendung in Medien nicht optimal finde, hatte ich bereits näher erläutert: Diese Taiwan-Phrasen sparen wir uns lieber

Um Radio Taiwan International ging es hier übrigens in einem meiner allerersten Blogeinträge, über fünfeinhalb Jahre ist das schon her…


Auf dem Acker lernt man was dazu

Vielleicht geht es Euch wie mir, und Ihr esst zwar Erdnüsse, habt aber nie darüber nachgedacht, wie sie eigentlich wachsen und geerntet werden. Ein Ausflug nach Südtaiwan hat mir gerade die Augen geöffnet.

Als wir mit dem Wagen durch die ländlich geprägte Region Yunlin fuhren und uns darüber unterhielten, was links und rechts der Straße alles wächst, sahen wir in den Feldern Menschen bei der Erntearbeit und bogen kurzentschlossen ab. Kniehohes Kraut wuchs auf dem Feld, das vielleicht vier Hektar maß und damit größer war als der durchschnittliche landwirtschaftliche Betrieb in Taiwan.

Frische Erdnusspflanzen

So also sehen Erdnusspflanzen aus, wenn sie erntereif sind. Botanisch sind es übrigens Hülsenfrüchte, die nicht mit Nüssen, sondern mit Bohnen verwandt sind. Die Früchte wachsen unter der Erde, eine Nuss pro Pflanze. Wir konnten uns das genauer ansehen, denn einige Reihen hatten die Bauern bereits abgeerntet. Fünf oder sechs Leute waren im Einsatz.

Erdnuss-Erntemaschine

Maschinelle Erdnuss-Ernte

Ihr Werkzeug will ich mal „Erdnuss-Mähdrescher“ nennen: Eine kleine, auf Ketten laufende Ackermaschine, deren Schneidwerk mit einer Spannweite von ca. einem Meter Reihe für Reihe durchs Feld fährt. Sie reißt die Pflanzen aus der Erde und transportiert sie über ein Förderband ins Innere der Maschine. (Also eher ein Kartoffelroder als ein Mähdrescher.) Dort trennt sie die Erdnüsse ab, die durch ein Sieb in einen Sammelbehälter fallen, und wirft die Pflanzenreste hinten wieder aus.

Erdnuss-Erntemaschine

Als wir ankamen, hatte der Fahrer gerade eine Reihe hinter sich gebracht und ein kleiner LKW wartete auf die Ernte. Der Sammelbehälter fuhr hydraulisch zwei Meter in die Höhe und kippte die Nüsse auf den LKW.

In den abgeernteten Reihen bückte sich ein Dutzend Frauen, mit Strohhüten und langen Ärmeln gegen die Sonne geschützt. Sie klaubten per Hand Erdnüsse auf, die von der Maschine wieder ausgespuckt worden waren. Es waren keine Feldarbeiterinnen, erklärten die Landwirte, sondern einfach Frauen aus der Gegend, die sich kostenlos bei der Nachernte bedienen konnten. Eine Tradition, die vor einiger Zeit wohl auch in Deutschland noch lebendig war.

Feldarbeit in Taiwan

Erdnüsse sind eine der wichtigsten Feldfrüchte in Taiwan, auch wenn die Anbaufläche mit der volkswirtschaftlichen Bedeutung der Landwirtschaft zurückgegangen ist. Vor 50 Jahren wuchsen sie auf mehr als 100.000 Hektar. Aktuell ist es noch ein Viertel. Zwischen 50- und 70.000 Tonnen produzieren Taiwans Landwirte pro Jahr. Von der Aussaat bis zur Ernte dauert es vier Monate.

Steigende Preise dank Öl-Skandal

Die Bauern erzielen pro Kilo einen Verkaufspreis von knapp unter zwei Euro – jedenfalls verkauften sie uns dafür erntefrische Erdnüsse zum Mitnehmen. Dieses Jahr sei der Preis gut, sagten sie. Der Grund: Ein Lebensmittelskandal. Gerade ist aufgeflogen, dass mehrere große Hersteller in Taiwan ihr angeblich pures Olivenöl gepanscht haben. Da wächst die Nachfrage nach Erdnussöl als heimischer Alternative.

Erdnüsse werden aber nicht nur zu Öl und Erdnussbutter verarbeitet oder geröstet. Sie landen in Taiwan auch gemahlen als Füllung im Gebäck, werden gekocht zu Dessert verarbeitet oder als Pulver über alle möglichen Gerichte gestreut. Sogar zum klassischen Frühstück, Reisbrei mit eingelegtem Gemüse, gehören sie dazu.

Und jetzt weiß ich: Ganz frisch vom Feld und roh schmecken sie auch nicht schlecht.

Erdnüsse

Andere landwirtschaftliche Produkte aus Taiwan hier im Blog:


How Taiwan president Ma addressed the foreign press

The other day, the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents‘ Club welcomed President Ma Ying-jeou to an international press conference. All members had the right to raise questions. After asking you, dear readers, I decided on one that I found especially important. Watch how Ma replied.

Cardboard President Ma

(No, this is not the real Ma on the photo. It’s a cardboard version at the Presidential Office. Although I would love to ask him if he likes my Doraemon shirt.)

Human rights in Taiwan: Suggestions that must not be forgotten

The question I decided to ask had been suggested in a comment by David Reid, an Australian blogger with a long interest in Taiwan.

It’s about the state of human rights in Taiwan and the government’s promise to voluntarily reach UN standards. Taiwan has ratified the United Nations‘ human rights conventions, even though it cannot be a UN member. To show they are serious, the government in early 2013 invited an international group of reknown human rights scholars to review Taiwan’s first Human Rights Report and draw up suggestions on how to improve.

Human rights: Nowak, Wu, Ma

I met with the experts in Taipei. They told me that they were basically simulating an official UN Human Rights Council assessment, and that they had direct access to all kinds of civil rights groups during the process, taking their suggestions and complaints into account. They said they never had a comparable opportunity anywhere else, since usually the official UN assessments take place in Geneva and not on the ground. They praised the open and transparent way in which the Taiwanese government had structured the process.

Still, they did come up with a long list of suggestions (82 points) where Taiwan should revise its laws and regulations to better adhere to internationally accepted human rights standards, as laid out in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

You can download the complete Concluding Observations and Recommendations at the Ministry of Justice’s website. There, you’ll also find more background information.

Some time has passed since then, so I decided the time was right to find out what the government plans to do now, or if the list is going to end up in some office drawer. Also, I wanted to take the opportunity and remind my reporter colleagues of the subject.

So when, unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to ask Ma the very first question at the press conference, this was it:

Mr. President, earlier this year your government has invited a group of international human rights experts to come to Taiwan and review the human rights situation in Taiwan. They came up with a list of more than 80 suggestions on how to bring Taiwan’s laws more into line with international human rights standards. Very detailed. My question is: Which of those suggestions will you implement in the near future?

This is how the president replied (video):

As I somehow expected, Ma evaded mentioning any specific measures or areas with a need for improvement. He is media-savvy political professional, after all, and (like German chancellor Merkel), these guys really know how to duck questions they don’t want to answer.

Still, what I am taking away from his answer is:

  • Ma is familiar with the subject and was immediately able to come up with some relevant numbers and data
  • There will be an implementation report at some point in the future that I am looking forward to

Ask English, reply Chinese: The complete Q&A

After my first question, the Q&A went on. Ma, however, realized that despite his English ability, which is usually regarded as excellent, the original plan was to answer all questions in Chinese. So mine was the only question that got an English answer.

After he had originally been very fond of giving English interviews to the international press, Ma adopted this strategy after he felt being misquoted in an Associated Press interview in 2010.

Watch more videos of Ma Ying-jeou speaking English

So this is how the rest of the event played out. Most reporters focussed on Ma’s China policy and subjects like peace talks, political negotiations, military threats, and the trade and services agreement with China. However, there were also questions about gay marriage and Taiwan’s energy and nuclear policy.

You can jump directly to each question using the links in the video description.

Read more about the human rights reports

These are some texts I wrote about the human rights experts‘ visit to Taiwan:

About me

I am a German reporter living and working in Taiwan. Read more English posts on this otherwise mostly German blog. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, and Google Plus.

English posts you might want to have a look at:


Anything you want to know from Taiwan’s president?

On Friday morning, President Ma Ying-jeou will give an English press conference for the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents‘ Club. Like all members, I will have the chance to ask him one question. What would you suggest?

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou

What do you want me to ask Ma Ying-jeou?

Please leave a comment with your suggestion.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Only serious suggestions. I will not publish anything else here.
  • No arguing. I am only interested in suggestions.
  • Not too uncritical. Even if you like the man or his politics, I believe that journalists should always have a critical attitude towards those in power. Also, it would be a wasted opportunity.

    Negative example:
    „President Ma, please explain how you will improve the relations with Beijing even more.“

  • Not insulting or confrontative. Even if you dislike the man or his politics, he is a duly elected head of state, and foreign media ought to respect his status.

    Negative example:
    „President Ma, don’t you agree you should step down, since you obviously lost the public’s support?“

  • Not too predictable. Ma is a seasoned professional when it comes to dealing with media, and you can be sure that he has a lot of stock answers prepared in the back of his head.

    Negative example:
    „President Ma, there are people who accuse you of selling out Taiwan. How would you reply to these accusations?“

  • Not too long. Everyone only has 30 seconds to ask his question.

Your comments will appear after I’ve approved of them. No need to post more than once.

What then?

I will take all suggestions into consideration and then try to ask Ma the question I find most interesting on Friday morning.

Please note: There is no guarantee that I can actually ask a question. The whole event is limited to an hour, and the moderator will select questions through a show of hands. There will probably not be enough time for everyone to ask.

In any case, I will try to post a video of the whole press conference as soon as possible.

„We are an independent country“ *

Over the years, I’ve seen Ma Ying-jeou address the foreign press in English on at least five occasions.

Ma last addressed the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents‘ Club in 2010. Back then, I filmed this video with a key quote:

It was even featured on an Al Jazeera program in the run-up to Taiwan’s 2012 presidential elections.

(* Note that Ma carefully says „we“ and not „Taiwan“, so he probably means the Republic of China. Nothing spectacularly new in this statement, really.)

More videos of Ma Ying-jeou speaking English

2012, international press conference ahead of the presidential elections (video):

2013, welcoming a group of international human rights experts (video):

What did the scholars say about Taiwan’s human rights situation?

About me

I am a German reporter living and working in Taiwan. Read more English posts on this otherwise mostly German blog. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, and Google Plus.

English posts you might want to have a look at:


Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above is not just about pretty aerial pictures

The genius of Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above, the aerial documentary currently breaking records at the Taiwanese box office, is that it deliberately misleads its audience. Even more than a celebration of nature’s beauties, it is a deeply disquieting wake-up call, urging Taiwanese to develop their enviromental consciousness.

Judging from the movie’s marketing campaign, one would hardly guess that Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above (看見台灣, Seeing Taiwan) will take you to some really dark places and ask discomforting questions. In the official trailer, it’s mostly gorgeous images and majestic music.

In fact, during the film’s first ten minutes or so, I felt like in a Wagnerian big screen opera, flying with the Valkyries to the highest mountain peaks and beyond. It’s pretty awe-inspiring.

Then, slowly, humans start appearing. At first, they are as insignificant and tiny as ants. Next, we see them taming nature and living off the land: Farmers, fishermen. Finally, the film moves into the cities, and it is here that it quickly becomes obvious that Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above will not shy away from pointing out the culprits who are busily destroying Taiwan’s natural equilibrium.

It’s us.

More photos on the official movie Facebook page

After watching, you will probably never again look the same way at Taiwan’s…

  • Betelnut, tea and cabbage plantations in the high mountains (lead to more landslides)
  • Cross-island highways and mountain dwellings, like Taiwan’s „Little Switzerland“ (precipitously situated and in constant danger)
  • Fish farms (suck up ground water, cause land subsidence)
  • Concrete tetrapods (more than 50% of Taiwan’s coastline is covered with concrete)
  • IT industry (uses 16% of all energy, produces toxic waste)
  • Cement, sand and gravel industry (needlessly disfiguring mountains for profit’s sake)
  • Wastewater (often flowing untreated into the rivers and out to sea)
  • Coal power (the Taichung power plant is the world’s single largest CO2 emitter)

…and many other things that are usually hailed as signs of „development“, and thus as good by definition.

Seeing is believing

Although most viewers will be surprised at what they learn, Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above does not really tell anything new. All the facts have been well known for a long time to enviromentalists, affected citizens, probably even to some reporters and government officials.

But never before has anyone argued the case so spectacularly. Telling and warning is not enough. Director Chi Po-lin has gathered the visual evidence that is neccessary to make people see the problems and their magnitude.

Because we aren’t worried about what we don’t know, and we don’t know what we don’t see.

For example, Chi’s aerial images of black streams of wastewater, spilling from a Taoyuan river into the pristine ocean and forming a bizarre kind of Yin-Yang-pattern, will imprint themselves on every viewer’s mind. No lecture, article or protest march could ever achieve this.

Welcome to the real world

For me, Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above touched on another aspect that I find really worrying.

It seems to me that many people in Taiwan (like in other parts of the world, but we are talking about Taiwan here) are spending their lives in an almost completely artificial and de-naturalized environment, going to great lengths to keep nature as far away as possible.

„Development“ in Taipei, nature vs. concrete:

I am thinking about windows that don’t let in sunlight, A/C systems that replace a breeze of fresh air, concrete in parks where there could be lawn.

It’s a world where plastic bags, disposable chopsticks and lunch boxes appear out of nowhere and vanish without a trace.

In some ways, Taiwan’s ubiquitous 7-11 stores are the perfect embodyment of this mentality. Always clean, always bright, full of convenient, plastic-wrapped stuff, cute, commercialized and standardized.

7/11 Laden

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate 7-11 as much as the next guy. I just would not want to spend my life living in one.

Nature, to many people, primarily seems to be something that sullies their concrete environment and has to be gotten rid of with plastic brooms.

Besen Taiwan

I think this is sad and deeply worrying.

Chi Po-lin (it’s his actual name and translates as „zeppelin“) probably sees something similar when he observes that, with more than 50% of Taiwan’s coastline disfigured by slabs of concrete, „we have built a wall to seperate us from the sea.“ Which is not so ideal for an island nation. „The ocean is the road through which we can reach out to the world.“

Amongst many other things, Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above also serves to remind the audience that, hard as we try to keep nature out, modern life still depends on nature’s life support systems. If we continue to treat her badly, „like too many children sucking on their mother’s breast,“ the Earth will not only fail to render her essential services. She will also strike back as she whinces in agony.

Just think about the increasing number and strenght of typhoons and rainfall, ever more devastating mudslides, rising sea levels, coastal land being submerged because of subsidence, diseases spreading in monocultures.

And then, says Chi, we tend to blame nature for the very problems that we have caused ourselves.

Now what?

While Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above does an excellent job raising awareness, I found it to be a bit lacking in pointing out alternatives, showing possible ways out of our dilemma.

Late in the film (like The Return of the King, it has too many endings and goes on long after you think everyting has been said), Chi introduces two organic farmers who found the way back to traditional methods of production.

While I like their approach, I do not think they can serve as a model for most Taiwanese who are, after all, mostly busy in offices, struggling and making ends meet for their family’s well-being.

At least, one of the farmers makes the perhaps most poignant statement of the film:

我們需要的不多,就是想要太多了。

 

„We actually don’t need all that much. The problem is that we want too much.“

Make a real difference

I don’t consider myself a great example, and I am not suggesting that I am leading my life in a better way then anyone else.

That said, what can one do, once the consciousness has been rattled awake?

These are some things that are routinely suggested:

  • Carry reusable chopsticks
  • Turn off the engine at red traffic lights
  • Reject paper cups and plastic bags
  • Use toilet paper from both sides (no, enough of that)

The thing with little well-meaning steps like these is that, even if you follow through, you will not actually make a difference. You will not be able to offset the damage that others are causing at the same time.

I think that the only way to actually make a difference is by reaching out to other people. Just like Chi Po-lin dedicated his life to making this movie instead of sitting at home and just feeling miserable.

They did it: Protests made the government cancel the Kuokuang naptha cracker plans in Changhua County.

  • Tell people that you plan to go to a demonstration, and ask them to join you
  • Tell that idiot walking in front of you to stuff his garbage anywhere, but stop littering
  • Ask others why they don’t carry reusable chopsticks
  • Tell others that next time, you plan to vote for a politician who actually cares about the really serious problems
  • Write letters and post comments about what you don’t like instead of just clicking „like“ where everybody thinks like you anyway

Do whatever you can, just don’t shut up and don’t give up.

Think of Chi Po-lin, who gave up his safe government job and pension in order to make this film. It’s not perfect, and not everyone will like it, but who cares. He is even giving special screenings for the Premier now. While you are reading this, he is making a hell of a difference.

Beyond Beauty Taiwan

About me

I am a German reporter living and working in Taiwan. Read more English posts on this otherwise mostly German blog. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

English posts you might want to have a look at:


Das Obst, nicht der Computer! Äpfel in Taiwan

Einige sehr spezielle, aber auch interessante Fragen haben mich per Mail erreicht – aus Chile! Ist hier jemand Apfel-Aficionado? Dann aufgepasst.

Äpfel am Baum

Anna S. schreibt:

Ich mache im Moment mein Austauschsemester in Chile, wo ich für ein Uni-Projekt Äpfel nach Taiwan expandieren soll.

Es ist relativ schwierig, etwas über die Obstsitutation im speziellen in Taiwan rauszufinden, und da ich auf Ihren Blog gestoßen bin, hoffe ich auf Ihre Hilfe.

Nur ein paar Fragen, in der Hoffnung, dass Sie mir helfen können:

  1. Wo kaufen die Taiwanesen ihr Obst? Auf den Nachtmärkten oder im Supermarkt? Wenn das eine, warum, bzw. warum (nicht) das andere?
  2. Was kostet ein Kilo Äpfel?
  3. Welche Sorten gibt es, auf welchen Ländern kommen sie?
  4. Gehören Äpfel zu den „Grundnahrungsmitteln“ wie in Deutschland, oder welchen „Status“ haben Äpfel in Taiwan?

 

Ich versuche mal, auf Grundlage meiner eigenen Beobachtungen zu antworten:

  1. Obst kaufen Taiwaner sowohl auf traditionellen Straßenmärkten (quasi „Tagmärkte“) also auch im Supermarkt. Die Auswahl auf den Straßenmärkten ist generell größer, die Preise in den Supermärkten höher.

    Lesetipp: Ausflug auf Taiwans Straßenmärkte

  2. „Normale“ Äpfel werden manchmal gestapelt auf Plastiktellern verkauft, kosten dann etwa 100 NT$ (2,50 EUR). Oder nach Gewicht: 1 jin (600 g) kostet vielleicht 40 NT$. Besonders teure Sorten (sehr große Früchte) kosten schon mal 100 NT$ pro Frucht. Und dann gibt es aus Japan importierte Edel-Sorten, die in den Supermärkten in Geschenkverpackungen angeboten werden: Ein großer Apfel für 200-300 NT$.

    Lesetipp: Welche Früchte in Taiwan besonders günstig sind

  3. In Taiwan selbst werden nicht so viele Äpfel angebaut, weil das Klima zu heiß ist. Taiwans Äpfel (sh. Foto oben) wachsen in den Höhenlagen, sind klein und süß und werden eher teuer verkauft. Günstige Sorten werden importiert aus Ländern wie den USA, Südafrika… oder Chile.
     
  4. Von den teuren Geschenk-Sorten abgesehen, gelten Äpfel in Taiwan eher nicht als besonders hochklassiges oder delikates Obst. Hier gedeihen einfach so viele Sorten, dass Äpfel im Vergleich ein bisschen, nun ja, langweilig sind.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150364075448295&set=a.10150833792653295.399598.234843808294

Einige offizielle Infos zu Taiwans Obst-Landwirtschaft finden sich in diesem Dokument:

So weit, was ich mir selbst zusammenreimen konnte. Aber das muss ja nicht stimmen.

Was haben Sie zu dem Thema zu sagen? Sind Äpfel in Taiwan besser als ihr Ruf bei mir? Sind meine Preise total verkehrt? Gibt es Granny Smith, Boskop, oder wie heißen die Sorten? Schreiben Sie es in die Kommentare!