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Infrastructure

As we left Taipei we gazed out in amazement.  Here was a city the size of Sydney with highways and trains and electricity transmission that would surpass the collective infrastructure of every city in Australia.  And as we drove on into the country it didn’t stop.

Advanced fast trains cutting across the countryside and advanced six lane highways, many elevated, for miles on end. Vast new residential areas all very modern and some expensive looking low-rise lower density living.

There are also many planned industrial zones or ‘parks’ in which modern medium to large businesses, particularly in electronics,  are established.

The use of concrete is both extensive and in the mountains spectacular.  We’ve passed through a series of tunnels on a par with those in Switzerland – many several kilometres long – linked by roads held aloft by a forest of long concrete columns.

 

 

When travelling, I always look at the electricity transmission for an indication of technological sophistication.  Here there is a very extensive high voltage grid. Almost all towers are set on rather bizarre, but functional, square concrete bases that are themselves held up by a single concrete pillar that can be: adjusted for height; safely hold associated high voltage hardware; and even be placed mid-stream in a river. Many lines appear to be running at 500KV or more.

In urban areas local distribution is almost entirely underground but transformers are often on elevated stands painted green and often partially hidden by trees,

The American influence is obvious everywhere. But they seem to prefer to think it is Japanese.  Since 1971 the Americans (US) are out of favour, despite calling petrol ‘gas’ and using US electrical standards, unlike China.  But like China they do, of course, use metric distances weights and measures.

Against this sophistication, the standard of commercial wiring, very visible on the outside of many older buildings, is quite often atrocious. Maybe it is associated with minimal regulations to encourage enterprise or the relative safety of 110V.  But when voltages are halved currents are doubled, so I imagine electrical fires in these establishments are quite common.

As one would expect, there are a great number of small to medium businesses, many set within residential areas – very mixed development and short lines of supply. 

Once out in the countryside agriculture becomes the principal economic activity.  The predominant crop on the fertile plains of the west is rice interspersed with sugar cane and bananas as well as small orchards of other fruit – beautifully laid out like parkland and very attractive seen from above on our elevated highway.

From time to time superfast trains can be seen speeding past.

Once the Americans had deserted them in 1971 they would need to stand on their own two feet. Chiang Kai-Shek’s son Chiang Ching-kuo took some economic advice and, unlike his father, accepted modern economic theory supporting free enterprise, competition and free markets.  

At around the same time Japan needed a low cost place to manufacture. Quite a few people still spoke Japanese and Taiwan was well placed.

Taiwan’s inadequate infrastructure was identified as holding the economy back.

Thus Chiang the younger’s ‘Ten Major Construction Projects’ plan. But how to pay for it?  According to Clint, our guide, Chiang realised that Taiwan had an unusual asset – china’s gold reserves.  These could provide security for loans of hundreds of billions of dollars.  This allowed the following list to be implemented:

  1. National Highway No. 1
  2. Electrification of Western Line railway
  3. North-Link Line railway
  4. Chiang Kai-shek International Airport
  5. Port of Taichung
  6. Su-ao Port
  7. China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSBC) Shipyard, Kaohsiung
  8. China Steel factory
  9. Oil refinery and chemical industrial park
  10. Nuclear power plants (eventually three)

Steelmaking and shipbuilding began the economic miracle but soon electronics was identified as a developing industry and more industrial parks were founded together with some world leading research facilities.

 

 

 


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