2023 in Review: The Founding Director’s Year-end Message from UCSD’s Center of Taiwan Studies
UCSD’s Center for Taiwan Studies officially launched on May 6, 2023, with a spectacular grand opening. Despite the public security and health safety concerns, many of our dear friends and colleagues joined us all the way from Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and even Taiwan. Up to two hundred people turned up for the event. Chancellor Pradeep Khosla welcomed us in the Presby Concert Hall. Director General Chi of TECO brought a gift on behalf of Minister Wu of the National Science and Technology Council, Taiwan, while two of our alumni percussionists performed their world premiered pieces together with the incredible indigenous singer Sangpuy. Intergenerational Formosa Chamber Music group concluded by demonstrating the dynamics of Taiwanese cultural heritage in transmission. Memorable pictures have since been posted on social media, and follow-up coverages appeared in the newspapers—Epoch, Taiwan Daily, among others. We are very grateful to everyone there, and to those behind the scenes to make the opening such a great success: our generous donors (Dr. Chiu-shan and Rufina Chen), Chancellor’s office, Dean’s office, and my RAs.
To many of us, May 6th opening only marked the climax of what the Center for Taiwan Studies at UCSD had been doing all along—book talks, public lectures, concert events, international conferences, and so forth. We are glad to report that the year 2023 has also presented quite a few of the happy “first” occasions. Thanks to Dr. Hwalin Lee’s gift, our Center has a full-time staff and an office at the Arts and Humanities Building. Another endowed chair in Taiwan Studies is being announced at UCSD. Additionally, we begin to attract new donors, such as Warren and Margaret. And for the first time, I was asked to offer Taiwan Films twice a year instead just once—in the spring quarter, and then in the fall. Both were with huge enrollments. Throughout the year, I have been busy hosting talks on Taiwan’s presential election and cross Strait relation. It seems that courses or lecture topics on Taiwan have become among the most popular campuswide, not to mention that Taiwan is constantly in the international news. To quote Vanessa Hope, director of Invisible Nation (2023), one must “visit, see, and love” Taiwan, in siding with its struggle for human rights, democracy, and inclusion in the global community.
On Dec. 2, 2023, The Economist zoomed in on two film awards across the Taiwan Strait to reveal “the battle for the future of Chinese cinema.” According to the columnist, the “Golden Horse” vs. the “Golden Rooster” awards reflect the bifurcation of Chinese cinema (and of cultural politics in the Sinophone communities). Chinese mainstream “Golden Rooster” award only got 179 films entered this year and finished with “patriotic” winners, while the “Golden Horse” in Taiwan had 552 submissions from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan, with a lot of them “thoughtful art-house films, suffused with social criticism.” Evidently, even Chinese film directors are fed up with their autocratic regime of censorship and nationalistic vanities.
Taiwan’s future as a Sinophone cinema hub is increasingly secure, but in 2023 two shock waves rigged Taiwan’s film industry. Director Hou Hsiao-hsien was reported to have suffered from Alzheimer disease and decided to quit. Earlier, Wei Te-sheng was tricked into a heavy debt. Hou is certainly among the most versatile directors who make Taiwan films world famous. I still remember the ways he said about showing up in the studio ahead of everybody else to make sure all would work fine and to stay toward the very end of the shooting sessions to sweep the floor. During his short visit to San Diego three years ago, director Wei told us that his wife and he would move around on a moped (not a BMW!), just to save every penny for a movie production. Fortunately, he pulled through and now has a new film in hand (and with several under preparation.)
2023 saw two wars raging (one in Ukraine, and another in Gaza), on top of global warming, inflation, earthquakes, and many other catastrophes. But gloom appears to have turned into boom, with stock markets reaching a record high. As always, Taiwan shows itself to be persevering and resilient. For years to come, our Center would carry on telling our stories and footsteps, to enable the world to see why and how Taiwan matters. However, we also like to offer comparative, international, and interdisciplinary perspectives on Taiwan studies, by examining the island state’s real strengths and weaknesses.
We start 2024 with a Jan. 18 public forum on Taiwan’s presidential election results and impact. Speakers include Prof. Susan Shirk (UCSD), Thomas Gold (UC Berkeley), and others. Then, we explore the future of Taiwan-Fulbright exchange programs on Jan. 26, to be followed by Prof. Wendy Cheng’s book talk on the Cold War Taiwan. Several international conferences and workshops are being planned for the summer. However, our focus this year will be to promote Taiwanese/Taiwanese American oral history documentaries. Please let us know if you should have any questions or suggestions about these projects.
At the end of this tumultuous year, we wish you and families all the very best.
Happy Holidays! And A Most Wonderful New Year Ahead!
Ping-hui Liao, PhD
Chuang Lyu Endowed Chair
Center for Taiwan Studies
University of California, San Diego
Posted on 12/23/2023
Updated on 12/29/2023