body{background-attachment: fixed ! important; }

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Transformational Cycling: Taiwanese Cycling Abroad

Taiwan's Cycling Angels, a group of children from affiliated Lutheran orphanages in Taiwan who recently were the focus of a short documentary of their cycling adventure around Taiwan, will be setting their sights on China. The group plans to bike from Beijing to Xiamen, a trip stretching over 3200km. 
The eight friends of the Lutheran preschool last year took five days to complete their bike trip around the island, averaging over 100km per day over many mountain roads.
He said the next trip will allow them to encounter dozens of Lutheran orphanages and to encourage them to join the China trip, because this can be the national sport in Taiwan and promote the concept of green living in neighboring China. The trip has also received the sponsorship of several Chinese enterprises. 
To keep projects like these in perspective, I am instantly reminded of one of my favorite books; a collection of essays compiled to examine the three dominant civilizing projects focused on China between Qing, Missionary, Republican, and Communist programs. 

Cultural Encounters on China's Ethnic Frontiers, Ed. Stevan Harell, takes a close look at how the Confucian, Missionary and Communist civilizing projects were brought into play in an effort to draw the peripheral people closer to the "civilized center" for economic exploitation. The introduction is well worth the read. 

I can not help but see projects like this Lutheran group as a form of Taiwan's virtual colonization of China. We are often used to thinking in terms of Chinese hegemony, but Taiwan is not altogether powerless and free from exercising its own civilizing projects. 

Cultural Encounters details the well documented symbiotic relationship between God and mammon, as the missionary project is often used as the precursor to opening areas for economic exploitation.  

From the report, it is clear that this group has objectives beyond a simple bike ride and raises questions in regard to differing concepts of the "center" and the "periphery" as a missionary project charges headlong into the Chinese nationalist Communist project. 

It may be that Taiwan is not on the periphery of China, but rather, in the view of many, China is on the periphery of Taiwan as Taiwanese seek to transform their giant neighbor. 

In many civilizing projects the civilizer arrives by horse, by regiment, by decree or by gun boat. In China's case he may also arrive by bicycle. 


Wandering Taiwanese Cyclist Turns Up In Africa

With over two years of road behind him and countless mishaps and adventures, Taiwanese cyclist Wu Shih-chang has turned up in Durban, South Africa. 

Wu started his trip in Alaska with about $8000 USD in his account. He had planned to spend roughly $8 per day and complete the trip in two years. 

During the early leg of his journey Wu miscalculated his food supplies and suffered long stretches of road entirely deficient of calories. He also had some close encounters with bears.

Wu said he first thought that riding around the world on a bicycle was a romantic thing to do. After setting out, however, Wu said he came to realize there was nothing romantic about it, as he instead had to deal with loneliness and learn to survive.
Every day, he was busy thinking about how to make his food last until the next food stop 100km down the road and about where he would set up his tent that evening. --Taipei Times
After traversing both Americas, Wu arrived in Paris for the European leg of his trip. In Paris his bike was stolen and he was forced to said for a new one to arrive. 
He was due to fly from Argentina to South Africa but was unable to as the South Africa Embassy in Argentina denied him a visa.
He traveled to Europe instead and spent his 30th birthday at an airport in Madrid. His travel turned for the worse Feb 3 when his bicycle, donated by Taiwanese bike maker Giant, was stolen in Paris.
Wu was forced to contact his friends in Taiwan and ask them to send another bike for him so that he could continue his trip.--Focus Taiwan
Wu has expressed his desire to keep pedaling for two more years despite his lack of sponsorship. His next stop will be Swaziland and Mozambique.  

Strong Wu, 30, has been to more than 20 countries – all of them on his bike. He has no sponsors and is using his savings to finance his epic journey. 
“I had to save before I could travel. My family supports me emotionally, but financially they said I am on my own,” he said. 
Determination and passion have propelled him along – sometimes for 100km a day. He camps in the middle of nowhere and enjoys connecting with people of different cultures.“I love meeting people who speak other languages. Learning how other people live their lives is interesting to me,” he said.

When most 30yo. Taiwanese are cramming for graduate school, entering the workforce in a period of low, stagnant wages, or avoiding military service, or slinking off to avoid mom's attempts at matchmaking, Wu is living the prime of his life on two wheels everywhere else but home.  


I hope everyone in Taiwan will tune in and root for some talented Taiwanese Olympians. Personally, I am a big supporter of Taichung's own Hsiao Mei-yu, one of the world's top cyclists.

The Women's Road Race will be held on July 29, 12:00pm (London Time). 
The Women's Time Trial will be held on August 1, 12:30pm. (London Time). 


William Ko, of the Tainan based Shen Yang and official partner of Seven Cycles in Taiwan, is featured on Seven's blog for his efforts in bringing the brand to China.


Be sure to check out Michael Turton's latest pics and cycling report from Taiwan's Rift Valley.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting about the 'colonizer' on bike concept from Tawain as "invading" and economically exploiting China in the bigger socio-economic picture.

    I guess I just see this just as another exploitative, capitalist move rather than political. Just people wanting to make money by going somewhere else to get cheaper labour.