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Talking Points, August 19 - September 2, 2009

We focus on efforts in Taiwan to recover from typhoon Morakot in this issue of the USC U.S.-China Institute newsletter. The newsletter's calendar section includes information about a USC School of Architecture exhibition in Beijing and much more.
August 21, 2009

USC U.S.-China Institute Weekly Newsletter

Talking Points
August 19 - September 2, 2009

"We heard two loud bangs. The sky was filled with dust like a volcanic eruption, and flood waters, mud and rocks streamed onto the roads."
     -- Hsiao Lin village woman surnamed Chi, quoted Aug. 11, 2009 by the Associated Press


 ShelterBox photo by Mike Greenslade.

Typhoon Morakot (Molake 莫拉克颱風) began pounding Taiwan two weeks ago. In just a few days, most of the southern half of the island received more than one meter of rain. Some places received just almost three meters (over nine feet) of rain. Flooding devastated towns and in many places hillsides gave way. In the most horrific example, Hsiao Lin village (Xiaolin 小林村) and 380 of its residents were buried in mud. In Taiwan, Morakot took more than 500 lives and left thousands homeless. Infrastructure, property, and crop losses exceed US$1.5 billion. Parts of the Chinese mainland were also hard hit, with 6,000 homes destroyed and more than eight million people affected. Landslides beneath the sea damaged seven major cables, temporarily disrupting phone and internet links for hundreds of millions of people in Taiwan, China, and Southeast Asia.


Morakot Aug. 3-9, the dark blue areas received the heaviest rain. The red line traces the typhoon as it moved across Taiwan onto the Chinese mainland. (NASA image)

People and institutions in and out of the Taiwan disaster zone have responded by sending in rescue teams, relief workers, and mobilizing resources. Taiwan soldiers have hunted for survivors, brought supplies to those stranded by mudslides, and have lifted out the injured. Citizens and companies have donated funds to aid those affected by Morakot. Valuable assistance has come from outside Taiwan. Shelter Box, a United Kingdom charity, was among the many non-governmental organizations providing assistance, sending in tents and other supplies. The Blue Man Group, on tour in Taiwan, added a charity date to its schedule. Some sixty countries have pledged or sent help. China-based Shenzhen Airlines donated cash to restore the Alishan area, one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist destinations. For the first time in Taiwan in decades, the United States used military aircraft to bring in relief supplies and dispatched powerful helicopters to help lift out isolated villagers and to drop in earthmoving equipment.

Rescuers working across destroyed bridge. Central News Agency photo, August 12, 2009.
Soldier probes for survivors. (Taiwan Military News Agency photo, August 10, 2009.
One of those rescued. Taiwan Military News Agency photo, August 11, 2009.


A helicopter from the USS Denver lifts equipment near Tainan. Taiwan Military News Agency photo, August 18, 2009.

Not all donations were immediately embraced. The Chinese government shipped in containers loaded with prefabricated houses. These were initially rejected by Jiadong Township officials

Containers with prefabricated housing. Central News Agency photo, Aug. 18, 2009

worried that the homes might have high levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde. After a couple of days, the township head said that if the homes were proven safe, they would accept them.


"As national leader, I must accept responsibility for all of the mistakes made by the government during disaster rescue work.”

     – President Ma Ying-jeou, at Aug. 18 press conference, before leading three other officials in bowing for 30 seconds to show regret for government failings and respect for the dead

In Taiwan, there has been severe criticism of the speed and effectiveness of the government’s response to the crisis. What especially outraged many was news that the Foreign Ministry initially directed Taiwan’s representatives abroad to decline offers of assistance. Andrew Hsia (夏立言), deputy foreign minister, resigned to accept responsibility for this order. Taiwan’s cabinet secretary-general and minister of defense have also offered to resign. United Daily News, in general a supporter of President Ma and the ruling Nationalist Party, published a poll showing that just 29% of adults were satisfied with his performance. In May, 52% gave Ma positive marks.

President Ma Ying-jeou (r) and Vice President Siew at press conference. (Central News Agency photo, August 18, 2009)

Taiwan’s administration has moved to allocate US$3 billion for reconstruction over the next three years. Individuals and families will receive direct assistance in the form of rent subsidies, down payment assistance, and reduced mortgage rates. To signal its focus on addressing these pressing needs, the cabinet also cancelled the October 10 national day celebrations.





Last year, USC enrolled 510 students from Taiwan. We have thousands of alumni in Taiwan. All are very much in our thoughts and we wish them the best as the struggle to rebuild moves forward.

Those attending the USC Global Conference in Taipei this October 29-31 will hear about these reconstruction efforts and about the current state of cross-strait ties from Taiwan’s Vice President Vincent Siew (Xiao Wanchang蕭萬長). Stan Shih, the founder of Taiwan-based Acer, the world’s third largest computer manufacturer, is another of the conference’s keynote speakers. Sign up by August 31 in order to secure the “early bird” conference discount.

Wednesday was “move-in day” here at USC and we’re looking forward to a busy year. You can see some of what we have planned in the calendar section of our website. As the Global Conference note above suggests, some of this happens far away from campus. On Sunday, August 23, for example, the USC School of Architecture opens “Divergent Convergence” in Beijing. The exhibition features design ideas from China’s top firms and schools. China is urbanizing at a breakneck pace and this exhibition explores how such growth can best be accommodated.

Please pass this issue of Talking Points on to friends and colleagues. Back issues are available in the Resources section of our website. Go to to get on our mailing list.

Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute
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08/20/2009: Autumn Gem
Pacific Asia Museum
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101
Phone: (626) 449-2742
Time: 8:00PM
This project explores the extraordinary life of the Chinese revolutionary heroine and women’s rights activist Qiu Jin (1875 – 1907).

09/02/2009: A Lifetime is a Promise to Keep: Artistic Expression and Resistance in the work of Huang Xiang
UC Berkeley IEAS Conference Room
2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor Berkeley, CA
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
Huang Xiang in conversation with Michelle Yeh, UC Davis Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and translator of Huang Xiang’s poetry.

North America

08/23/2009: Chinese Calligraphy
46 Gould Street East
Nashville, IN
For more information please email:
Indiana University presents a demonstration by James Yang.


08/16/2009 - 11/29/2009: Steeped in History: The Art of Tea
Fowler Museum

Cost: Free
The Fowler Museum at UCLA presents an exhibition on the history of tea in Asia, Europe, and America through art.

11/03/2008 - 11/03/2009: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture. 

11/14/2008 - 11/14/2009: Chinese Art: A Seattle Perspective
Seatle Asian Art Museum
1400 East Prospect Street , Volunteer Park , Seattle, WA 98112–3303
The Seattle Asian Art Museum presents an opportunity to see a collection with representative works from each dynastic period. 

11/15/2008 - 11/15/2009: Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
The Bowers Museum presents a collection of exquisite textiles and silver jewelry that highlights the beauty and wealth of the Miao peoples of southwest China. 

02/12/2009 - 02/12/2010: Art of Adornment: Tribal Beauty
Bowers Museum
2002 N. Main, Santa Ana, CA
Cost: $5
An exhibit featuring body adornments from indigenous peoples around the world


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