Monday, December 22, 2008

The Changing Heartland (Taiwan Review)

Some Americans who live on the coasts of the United States refer to the country's interior as "flyover country," because they only see states like Arkansas and Iowa from the air. It is a belittling, and sometimes disparaging, term. If there is an equivalent region in Taiwan, a section of the island that the hip and the influential seldom view except through the windows of a high-speed train, it is likely to be the patchwork of farmland and small towns between the southern boundary of Taichung City and the Tainan section of the Southern Taiwan Science Park.

Chiayi is part of this flyover region. However, while it might not seem to be the most exciting part of Taiwan in the eyes of urbanites, those living in this heartland area see things differently. Proof in point: According to CommonWealth, a Chinese-language business monthly, Chiayi City ranked as one of the 10 happiest places in Taiwan in the magazine's annual "Happiness Survey" of 23 cities and counties for 2007 and 2008.

Chiayi City and Chiayi County are separate local government units, with the latter possessing twice as many people and more than 30 times as much land as the former, which it surrounds. In recent years, the greater Chiayi area has benefited from various infrastructure works, but one project in particular has won widespread national attention. Appropriately, given that county notables include creative icons Lin Hwai-min, the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre founder, as well as rock star Wu Bai, the new facility is a cultural undertaking: the NT$6 billion (US$188 million) National Palace Museum (NPM) Southern Branch...

The article is now on the Government Information Office's website.

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