Australia Conference at NCCU

An International Conference on Australia and Cross-Straits Economic Relation, organised by the College of International Affairs, was held at National Chengchi University today. The conference included scholars from Australia and Taiwan discussing Australia’s relations with Taiwan and China as well as links with ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region.

Acting Representative of the Australian Commerce and Industry Office, Richard Matthews, gave a brief welcoming speech. He noted that both Taiwan and China were important trading partners for Australia. Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Andrew Hsia (夏立言), also welcomed participants. He said the Australia Studies Centre at NCCU was founded in 2002 and it has held eight international conferences. The centre has enhanced understanding of Australia and Australia is a good friend of Taiwan. Continue reading

Another semester begins at NCCU

After a very long summer vacation it was back to school again this week. I am now starting the second year of the Master’s in Taiwan Studies. If all goes to plan then I will finish the course within a year.

I am taking two classes this semester, State and Society in Taiwan and the Ethnic Development of China. The introductory lecture in Ethnic Development of China gave a quite fascinating overview of China’s 55 official ethnic minorities. The lecturer also pointed out some of the anomalies and mistakes in the classification. He also told the story of how the Kalmyks became the only Buddhists in Europe.

State and Society in Taiwan explores the relationship between state and civil society and also looks at frameworks for social science research. It should be very useful for me as it is related to my thesis topic which is about the rights of indigenous peoples in Taiwan.

How does NCCU rank?

Fili has written a post exploring the rankings of NCKU (國立成功大學). I want to take a similar look at the rankings for National Chengchi University (國立政治大學). NCCU doesn’t make it on some of the lists that Fili has referenced. National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學) is the only Taiwanese university on the 2007 Times Higher Education list of the Top 200 World Universities ranked at 102. There are four Taiwanese universities in the top 400 (NTU, NCKU, NCU, NTHU).

NCCU is also not in the 2007 Shanghai Jiao Tong University list of top 100 Asia Pacific Universities. This list includes six Taiwanese universities (NTU, NCKU, NTHU, NCTU, NCU, NYMU).

A few years ago there was a controversy when NCCU slipped to 48 on the Taiwan Ministry of Education rankings. The reason for this was that the rankings, based on the number of articles in three important databases, favored schools which focused on science and engineering. NCCU is focused on social sciences and business.

On the Webometrics Ranking NCCU ranks 7 in Taiwan, 38 in Asia and 552 in the world. On the Asiaweek 2000 Asia’s best universities NCCU ranks 44 in Asia and 8 in Taiwan.

mbaprograms.org ranks NCCU’s MBA program 21 in Asia. In Asiaweek’s 2000 rankings of the best full time Asian MBAs NCCU ranked 15. In Social Sciences NCCU is ranked 197 in the world on the Times rankings (source: poster at NCCU).

A number of Taiwanese universities such as NTU, NCKU and NTHU consistently appear in various rankings and can be considered Taiwan’s leading universities. NCCU is often mentioned alongside these universities, but it may fail to achieve similar rankings because of its weakness in the sciences.

Fili has also cited a research project by the Australian government on a Taiwan government plan for Taiwanese universities to break into the top 100 of the world. You can download a copy of the report. Twelve universities have been targetted by this program and NCCU is amongst them. Another interesting thing I found researching this post is that I found my alma mater, The University of Melbourne, consistently ranks very highly.

Taiwan has a huge problem

Last night I gave a presentation on "CO2 emissions and economic growth in Taiwan" in my Economic Development of Taiwan class at NCCU. The purpose of the presentation was to introduce our final paper. My presentation can be read in full in this pdf file: CO2 emissions and economic growth in Taiwan. In the paper I briefly discuss why Taiwan has had such a high growth rate in emissions and suggest some policies that might be adopted to help reduce some emissions.

There are two graphs similar to the one above in the paper. What they show is that Taiwan is on a quite frightening projectory. The growth in Taiwan's CO2 emissions has outstripped the world average more than four-fold. Furthermore, the increasing emissions are strongly linked to economic growth.

The graph was created using the Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) by the World Resources Institute. It can be accessed on the internet at http://cait.wri.org (registration required). Unfortunately Taiwan is excluded from the data compiled by the UNFCCC as Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations.

Second trip to Smangus

Xiuluan (Tunan) Primary School in Xinzhu County, Taiwan

On Saturday I went on my second trip to Smangus. The weather was perfect and it was a great day to travel in the mountains. This time I travelled with my NCCU classmate Sandy and her husband. Sandy has worked as a primary school in some of the villages in this area. We stopped at Xiuluan Primary School (秀巒國小) where she used to work on the way.   

Atayal language lesson at Xiulang Primary School in Xinzhu County, Taiwan

Here you can see an Atayal language lesson on the notice board at the school. "Lokah su ga?" is Atayal for "How are you?"

Road to Smangus in Taipei County

The road into the mountains goes up and up. This is one of the better made sections of the road!

Lunch at Smangus, Xinzhu County, Taiwan

We got to Smangus in time for lunch. During this visit I just wanted to learn more about the life of the people living in Smangus rather than more about the tree stump case. I was able to get some good background information.  Continue reading

Semester 2 at NCCU

Panorama of Muzha, Taipei City - taken from the roof of the General Building at NCCU

The new semester at NCCU started two weeks ago now. I am taking four subjects this semester. They are Economic Development of Taiwan, Social Development of Taiwan, Research Methods and Case Study. 

The content of the first two subjects is fairly self-explanatory. In Social Development we are planning a group project on the topic of racism and discrimination in Taiwan. I believe this issue is particularly important because of changing demographics in Taiwan; in particular the large number of immigrants from Southeast Asia and children born to mothers who are not native Taiwanese. In Economic Development I plan to write a paper about the links between economic development and increasing CO2 emissions in Taiwan. 

Case Study and Research Methods deal more with the how and why of research rather than focusing on a specific topic. Taking these two courses should enable me to develop my thesis topic and to have some good ideas about how to write it. 

NCCU has also launched a new International Doctor in Asia-Pacific Studies. This is a Ph.D. program taught in English. If you are interested in applying for this course or any of the others offered by NCCU the application period is on now. Check applications for admission 2008 for more details.  

End of semester at NCCU

General Building at NCCU in Taipei

My first semester of Taiwan Studies at NCCU (政大) has come to an end. The time seems to have passed so quickly!

I really enjoyed the Culture and Ethnic Structure class. The highlight was the trip to Smangus and the making of the video. We also went on two field trips to the Ethnology Museum at Academia Sinica and the Shihsanhang Museum in Bali. 

In Spatial Development I wrote two papers about the planned Su-Hua Freeway and development of the east coast. In my research I learnt that as well as the plan for the Su-Hua Freeway there is also a plan for an expressway connecting Puli with Hualian via a very long tunnel. 

I also wrote a paper about the future of the Songshan Airport in Taipei, which was the subject of a related blog post about the future of domestic aviation in Taiwan (and a recent follow-up post). In Taiwanese History I wrote about railways in the Japanese era. This class was also notable for some of the in-class debates. There is no shortage of topics for discussion in this subject. 

Overall the semester went well and I am happy with the course. I think all the lecturers are very knowledgeable about their subjects and I learnt many new things. If you have any specific questions about the course just leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

If you are interested in studying in a Taiwanese university the application period for the next academic year is March-April. The Study in Taiwan website is a good resource for information about courses and scholarships.

Amis Hip Hop documentary

screenshot from the documentary Amis Hip Hop

screenshot from Amis Hip Hop 

Amis Hip Hop (阿美嘻哈) is a documentary about the age-grade ceremony of the Amis in Dulan (都蘭), Taidong County. A version of the documentary can be downloaded from the official website. I wrote the following about it in a paper for the Culture and Ethnic Structure of Taiwan class. 

What most impressed me about this documentary was how the young people in Dulan skillfully combined tradition and modernity. These two things are often thought of as being antagonistic to the other. In Dulan village the young people used the latest popular music as part of their age group ceremony. However, I don't think this weakened or diluted their culture in any way. The most important thing about the ceremony was building community and strengthening identity which was clearly achieved.

Many people view indigenous cultures as unchanging or static, thinking that they are maintaining the way of life that they lived centuries or even millennia ago. However, in reality all things are in a constant state of change. Cultures adapt and respond to events that occur both within and around them. If they failed to respond to change then they would quickly die. It is the process of change that gives them vibrance and life.

I think in the Dulan village the young people have found ways of adapting the new while simultaneously strengthening the community. Through their “hip hop” they are not saying they will do things exactly as our elders did them. But at the same time they are showing respect to their elders by maintaining the age group tradition.

Amis Hip Hop also screened at the Ethnographic Film Festival in Taipei last year. At that festival I saw the documentary Pas-taai: The Saisiat Ceremony in 1936. It showed the Pas-taai ceremony (矮靈祭) as it was recorded in 1936 and another documentary showing the same ceremony in 1986 was screened after it. The form of the dance was almost unchanged. 

A recent Taipei Times article about the screening of the 70 year old documentary in Da'ai community (大隘村) in Xinzhu County quotes an elder as saying:

Noting the similarities between the celebration that took place 70 years ago and the one last year, Mamavale, also a Saisiat elder, says, "This documentary shows that, like food, the Saisiat are capable of preserving that which gives Aboriginal people nourishment. Where other tribes discard the fruits of their harvest, the Saisiat retain the riches from the ground. Other Aboriginal people change their rituals, only the Saisiat preserve them."

It is interesting to contrast the conservatism of the Saisiat with the progressive traditions of the Amis in Dulan. However, both groups are actively maintaining their identity and community in the modern world.