Archive for June, 2008


Monday, June 9th, 2008

And what an amazing week in late May!  One of my former students — Professor Chao Tzu Yuan — invited me to come and give a lecture at her university in Tainan City in Taiwan.  Although I’ve been to the Mainland many, many times, I had never before been to Taiwan — a place I’ve always wanted to visit! — & so I very quickly accepted.  I mentioned to Tzu Yuan a few places I hoped to see, and she then took matters into her own hands — and turned a quick lecture visit into a week-long, island-wide, National Science Council-supported academic road show — & a wonderful educational tour for me!!

A smiling CKS

We started in Taipei, with a visit and presentation at the Environmental Protection Administration’s headquarters, followed by a lecture at prestigious National Taiwan University.  On to Taichung, in the central part of the island, for visits and talks at Feng Chia University and Chaoyang University of Technology.  And then down south, where I was the keynote speaker at an environmental conference at Leader University in Tainan; and we had a visit and presentation at Cheng Kung University the following day.  We finished up with a meeting in Taoyuan with an organization which is looking to support the development of a low carbon eco-community in the earthquake-damaged region in Sichuan Province on the Mainland.

Professor Chao Tzu Yuan & Roger

Tzu Yuan had been one of my students in the late 1990s, when I taught in the City and Regional Planning Department at Penn.  She finished her Masters degree there, and then went over to the University of Nottingham in the U.K., where she obtained her Ph.D. in Urban Planning.  She’s been teaching at a private university (i.e., Leader) in Tainan, but recently obtained an appointment in the National Cheng Kung University — so I was able to meet both her old & new department colleagues.  And it was really fun to see one of my former students in ‘professorial’ mode — very assured in translating my lectures (as if she had been dealing with that subject matter for years & years), and serving as a respected mentor to her own students.

But the lecture circuit hardly begins to describe the incredible week she arranged for me.  One of the highlights, of course, was the National Palace Museum in Taipei.  The KMT Nationalists brought over some 2900 crates full of treasures representing millennia of Chinese history, and after spending a couple of hours in the museum, I asked Tzu Yuan if we might return the next day for a follow-up visit — it was just such an amazing place!  The government in Beijing has never formally asked for them to be returned — to do so would be to admit that they are not currently in China — but the museum has done a truly marvelous job in showcasing a sample of the 650,000 items that they hold.

Taipei 101

My ignorance about Taiwan was unfortunately put on display when Tzu Yuan mentioned ‘Taipei 101’ in her email — & I thought she was going to give me an introductory lecture/course about the capital city (& given her urban planning background, I was a bit worried about flunking her final exam!).  But of course she was talking about the world’s tallest building, whose name reflects the fact that it is 101 stories tall.  In addition to taking in its panoramic view, we also got to visit both the Chiang Kai Shek and Sun Yat Sen memorials (the smiling CKS certainly seems at odds with the personality described in Jonathan Fenby’s recent bio); rode the Maokong cable car to visit the Zhinan Temple; and visited numerous other temples & museums & sights throughout the other cities as well.  All-in-all, a wonderful visit to a fascinating place — many, many thanks, Tzu Yuan!


Monday, June 9th, 2008

In mid May I was in Singapore, visiting SIIA, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.  SIIA is an independent think tank which is conducting a joint project with Hong Kong’s Civic Exchange concerning Asia’s upcoming position in the Kyoto Protocol COP/MOP meetings being held in Poznan, Poland later this year.  The two organizations brought together an international group of specialists to help them in this endeavor, and we held a spirited series of discussions on emissions trading and similar climate-related topics at SIIA.  With such a group in town, it seemed appropriate to hold a public session as well, and the Singapore Management University agreed to provide a venue for that event.  Many thanks to Simon Tay (of SIIA) and Christine Loh (of Civic Exchange) for organizing such an interesting meeting, and for the invitation to attend.

While in town, I also took an opportunity to visit…..   a prison camp.  Actually, it was the museum at the site of the former Changi prison camp of World War II — the setting for James Clavell’s well known novel King Rat.  I’ve always been a big Clavell fan (e.g., Noble House, Tai Pan, etc.), but found King Rat to be a bit different than the others — I guess because it was based on his real-world experience as a POW there.  I watched the (surprisingly good) 1965 movie of the same name when I got home, but they’ve built a completely new & modern prison complex at the site — and truthfully it seemed rather hard to relate anything in the movie or museum exhibits to what’s at Changi now.  There’s a pleasant ‘al fresco’ dining area immediately adjacent to the main display section of the museum, and so I sat at the open-air bar, drinking an ice-cold Tiger beer — looking out through the shady trees at the upscale housing across the street.  You couldn’t quite make out the Japanese school located a couple of hundred meters further up the road.   It’s a very different (and obviously very much better) world in Changi now — & so I sat there drinking my beer, thinking that perhaps the rapidity of such radical change really does offer a basis for cautious optimism.