The Young Scholars Delegation Does Taiwan
One of my favorite things about graduate school has been that I often get the opportunity to travel on someone else’s dime. I was recently invited to participate in a “Young Scholars Delegation” to Taiwan, which amounted to an amazing (and free) week-long trip around the country. As part of a group of 12 academics (professors, post-doctoral fellows, and some Ph.D. candidates) from the US, I met with Taiwanese bureaucrats and party officials, went sightseeing, and ate some fantastic food. I also stayed in the nicest hotel I’ve even been in. Basically, the goal of this trip was to introduce young academics to Taiwan and help them to form connections that might further their research. And, as a result of this excursion, I have definitely begun to see ways that I might be able to work Taiwan into my research and ways that Taiwan is an interesting comparison case to Japan.
It was truly an action-packed week. The vast majority of the trip consisted of meetings with government officials. We met with people from the American Institute in Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Mainland Affairs Council, National Quemoy University, Kinmen County, the Kuomintang, the Democratic Progressive Party, National Chengchi University, the Bureau of Energy, and the Ministry of Education. The photo above was taken on our first full day, after our meeting at the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
When we weren’t meeting with officials, we were flying, train-ing, and busing all around trying to see the sights. I made it to the famous night markets, Kinmen National Park, Sun Moon Lake, the National Palace Museum, and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and ate amazing meals at places like Din Tai Fung and on the top floor of Tapei 101. We also went to a tea ceremony class and got massages. Pretty busy for having only five full days in the country, eh? The photo above show us at Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwan’s most famous scenic spots. Anyway, you’ll probably see lengthier posts on a few of those outings (probably Kinmen and the Chiang Kai-shek memorial) at some point, but I thought I would share a few of the photos from the trip now as a sort of teaser for things to come. Most of these were taken by my fellow delegation members.
One of the most interesting places we visited was Kinmen, an island claimed by both China and Taiwan but currently administered by Taiwan—which is amazing, considering that it is 2 kilometers away from mainland China and over 200 kilometers away from Taiwan proper. The island was the site of extensive shelling between PRC and ROC forces during the first and Second Taiwan Strait Crises. In the 1950s, the US threatened to use nuclear weapons against China if it attacked the island. One of the most striking symbols of the ongoing cross-strait situation has to be the row of tanks that Kinmen still has pointed at mainland China (photos of that coming soon!) In the photo above, we’re in one of the tunnels that they used to use to secretly load/unload boats coming into Kinmen.
On our final night in Taipei, we were treated to dinner on the top floor of Taipei 101, a massive building that was the tallest in the world from 2004 to 2011 (until the opening of Burj Khalifa in Dubai). Despite its height, it is one of the most stable buildings ever constructed—one of its most interesting structural features is a 660-ton steel pendulum that serves as a tuned mass damper which is suspended from the 92nd to the 88th floor; it sways to offset movements caused by strong winds. So yeah, the food was pretty good, but the view was better.
I’ve gotta say, I now think that Taiwan is pretty great, so I think the trip organizers accomplished their goal. :) Basically, if you ever have the chance to visit Taiwan, you should (and if someone offers to pay your way, don’t even hesitate).