We are sensing something..in the streets of Taipei. There is an optimism and hope I detected in my discussions with company managers. The recent and frequent dialogue between Taiwan and China seems to be partly to credit for the excitement—foreign investment flows have been increasing over the last few quarters, and Taiwanese who have been living overseas are looking to return to Taiwan. During this recent trip, a business contact I met told me that Taipei businessmen in Shanghai prefer to have their families remain in Taipei, where the quality of life (including the air, water and education) is better than that of Shanghai, rather than relocate as ex-patriates. With the more open airline policies of President Ma Ying-Jeou’s administration, many of these businessmen now “commute” between the two cities as the travel time is only 45 minutes by air. There may always be setbacks to cross-strait relations, however, dialogue between the two sides seems to be moving in a positive direction.
I’ve long thought that Taipei lacked the sparkle of other major Asian cities, and could use some urban development and beautification tips from its Tiger cousins. Well, it just so happens that a revitalization program is now quietly underway in Taipei to enhance national competitiveness as a tourist destination. I think this suggests that faith and confidence has returned, and that an old Tiger is sharpening its claws.