A Confucius saying, "It is a pleasure to greet friends coming from afar," helped put Utah newspaper editors-publishers Samuel J. and Adrien F. Taylor at ease during their recent nine-day trip to Taiwan.
The Moab couple, owners and operators of The Times-Independent, were part of an eight-member delegation from the National Newspaper Association at official ceremonies surrounding the inauguration of President Lee Teng-hui."It was a very striking, colorful event attended by 50,000 people, all cheering wildly. There must have been 50,000 flags waving," Sam Taylor said of the inaugural, held in a sprawling, domed athletic stadium outside Taipei.
Adrien Taylor said Lee, who took office May 20 as Taiwan's first popularly elected president, impressed her as a "great leader revered by his people." That was "clear everywhere we went. He is a very popular man. He has tremendous energy for a man in his 70s. I think he will continue to do an outstanding job."
The inauguration was snubbed by the Clinton administration and a number of other Western nations who apparently feared their presence in Taiwan would offend mainland China's communist leaders.
Sam Taylor said it was a "little eerie" to observe firsthand a celebration of independence that was shunned by most of the world governments.
The United States, he said, prudently decided not to send high-level government representatives to Taiwan in view of very difficult trade negotiations going on between the United States and China.
The Taylors were told during their trip that 20 percent of Taiwanese do not favor reunification of Taiwan with mainland China. Many people, they say, see a reconciliation between leaders but believe it will not take place for many years.
Most Taiwanese have "strong cultural ties to the mainland and hope some day that China can be united, but they are not willing to give up their form of government to be part of mainland China," Sam Taylor said.
He said he was impressed with the country's spirit of free enterprise and what it has done for the people of Taiwan.
"They have the highest standard of living of any Asian country - so high now that many of the manufactured goods for which they were famous a number of years ago can't be manufactured there because labor costs are too high. It is creating some of the same problems we have in the U.S. They are having to import labor and export jobs to other countries where labor costs are cheaper," he said.
Adrien Taylor said she was impressed with the friendliness of the people and was intrigued with the large variety of food and other items sold in shops and stores.
"We felt very welcome and didn't feel nervous about being alone in their crowds," she said. Her husband said he would not attempt to drive in Taipei because of the heavy traffic, which includes thousands of motor scooters. But he said he was happily surprised to observe very little honking of horns, few, if any, angry motorists and no accidents.
"They drive patiently," he said.
What sticks out from the trip?
Its "sensory overload, the smell, the color, the traffic, the crush of people, the architecture, the taste of food," Adrien Taylor said, adding that she and her husband enjoyed their visit immensely but are glad to be back home.
Traveling to another part of the world certainly gives one a "greater appreciation for America," she said.