Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou thinks that the Guanghua Computer Market (光華商場) is an eyesore.” I suppose he is also responsible for the police who chase away the food carts in the various night markets around town.

What kind of Taipei would the mayor like to see? I suppose it would look something like Singapore — a city which was so sterile that after the hand over of Hong Kong they were worried they couldn’t attract companies. The minister of culture was then quoted as saying We have to take the issue of fun seriously.”

Taiwan without night markets, without food stalls … a shiny modern paradise, or a nightmare vision of the endless american strip malls I left behind?

Urban planners have always discounted the importance of those small organic structures that make cities so vital. Here is what Jane Jacobs had to say:

Most city diversity is the creation of incredible numbers of different people and different private organizations, with vastly differing ideas and purposes, planning and contriving outside the framework of public action. The main responsibility of city planning and design should be to develop — insofar as public policy and action can do so — cities that are congenial places for this great range of unofficial plans, ideas, and opportunities to flourish.

I also worry that Mayor Ma would like Taiwan to be like Singapore in another way.

Although Taiwan has only had democracy for a decade now, the Taiwanese people seem ready to give it up. Rather than working to make those fragile democratic processes stronger, there is a movement afoot to bring them toppling down. Not a few Taiwanese seem ready to trade in the messy chaos of democracy for Singapore-like one-party rule.

Dear Taiwan:

Be careful what you wish for!

Good luck,


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