Open for business
From an undulating port terminal for giant cruise ships to a convention centre large enough to exhibit a big yacht, the fluid and unconventional architecture of Asia's New Bay Area in Kaohsiung mirrors Taiwan's renewed take on the economy. It is an approach that is open and aggressive.
"We want to deregulate and bring in more wealth and business back to Taiwan," says minister Kuan Chung-ming of the Council for Economic Planning and Development.
Taiwan will initially create six free economic pilot zones nationwide to ease investments, movement of goods and services, capital flows, immigration and technology transfer. The zones will allow investors from the mainland to own more than 50 per cent in seven core technology industries. As part of Taiwan's foreign exchange deregulation programme, Taiwanese banks also began transacting in renminbi early this year.
Taiwan is also focusing on distinct key technologies, keen on making small and medium enterprises the economy's backbone as it also builds service exports.
Capitalising on Taiwan's central location, the government is investing HK$105 billion to turn Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport into a regional hub. An additional 3,200 hectares will accommodate a third terminal and runway, and industrial zones.
"We have the geographical advantage of being at the heart of East Asia and a gateway to China and the West," says minister Yeh Kuang-shih of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
The government is also adding four more berths in Kaohsiung. Slated for completion next year, Asia's New Bay Area at 2.7km in length is the world's third busiest container port serving more than 100 locations worldwide.
"Our goal is to make Taiwan a centre for Asia by attracting foreign companies to set up in Kaohsiung, offering total support from research to marketing," says Lee Yung-te, Kaohsiung City Government deputy mayor.
But Taiwan's draw is not limited to businessmen. It has good reason to expect more than 10 million tourists by 2016.
"You can feel a different atmosphere of friendliness and happiness when you visit Taiwan," says director Eric Lin of the international affairs division of the Tourism Bureau.
Taiwan, for example, has more halal-certified restaurants, and outlets for Prada, Louis Vuitton and other fashion brands.
One also gets to see 15 bird species found only in Taiwan and 400 butterfly varieties. In terms of business and leisure, Taiwan is indeed coming up on the world stage.