About Kinmen County
How would one promote a healthy city on an island of merely 153.056 square kilometers, which used to be restricted under martial law with population less than 70,000? What seems simple, is actually quite challenging. Kinmen County is located in the northern hemisphere, offshore Southeast China in the West Pacific Ocean, east of Xiamen Island. From modern day history to today, it holds a very important geographical and historical position.
In 1680, in view of incidents in the history of local anti-Qing rebellions and pirate invasions, the Qing court established a navy unit stationed in Kinmen to guard Kinmen City. Between the years 1912 to 1929, there was an overseas migration trend in Kinmen, and many of the young population migrated to Southeast Asia for further development. According to statistics, in the short period of 17 years, Kinmen’s population decreased by 41.45%, of which the male population decreased 43.35%, and female population decreased 39.06%, a major scale shift and evident of the prevalent migration trend. Later in the early 1930s, Southeast Asia felt the impact of the worldwide economic depression, there was disorder in the market and making a living was difficult. In order to avoid shock of bankruptcy in the newly immigrated country, in addition, the exchange rate of silver against dollar continued to fall, making it favorable to remit funds back home. At that time, many overseas Chinese transferred funds back home and built western style architectures, many overseas Chinese enterprises shut down one after another, and each year there were more people moving back home that moving out. From 1937 to 1945, after the outbreak of World War II, negotiations and agreements were carried out under the coordination of the United States, nevertheless, the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) and Communist Party still confronted each other violently. Shortly in 1946, the civil war erupted, overseas Chinese are unwilling to return home, and there was a second mass migration trend to the south to evade the war. Since 1949, Kinmen was field to various large and minor battles; In June 1950, the Korean War erupted, and the United States declared “Peace in the Taiwan Straits”, supporting the KMT Party army to use Kinmen as base to fight the Communists. Kinmen then became base for the “Free Army” headed by the United States, facing confrontations with the “Communist Army” headed by the Soviet Union in the worldwide Cold War. Since then, Kinmen began an era under martial law for 43 years, in the station troop heydays there was a population of 120,000 people, with army population almost doubling that of local residents. Kinmen County formed a special “G.I. Joe Business”, with more than 4000 registered businesses among 10,000 households, the extremely high ratio of population running businesses formed a special phenomenon in history. Since 2007, the army population began to decrease, until 2013, the army population is less than 10,000.
Due to the military control, many war facilities were built in Kinmen County, and there are many memorial grounds that were field to various historical battles. In addition, the southern Fukien type settlements from the later Qing dynasty and beginning of Taiwan, created a unique humanities landscape. In order to properly conserve these historical war monuments, humanity and natural resources, the Kinmen National Park was established in 1995. This is the first such National Park in Taiwan mainly to maintain the historic war monuments and cultural resources, but also for the conservation of natural resources. In January 1st, 2001, passenger ships set sail again for the first time in 52 years between Kinmen and Xiamen. China and Taiwan began a three way small-scale commercial, transportation and postal activity, known as the “Mini-three links”. In June 2011, the island was opened to individual tourists from China, that year, for the first time, Kinmen County’s tourist volume broke 1 million in one year. In 2012, tourist volume reached 1.256 million. By September 2013, the “Mini-three links” passenger ship volume have exceeded 10 million person-trips.
Following, we will analyze the current urban issues and needs of the population from three major aspects, healthy living, ecological environment, and social security.
1. Healthy Living
(1) Health and Medical Care
Up until year end 2013, total population of Kinmen County was 120,713 people, with population over 65 years of age accounting for 11.23% of total population, showing the serious condition of aging population. In terms of care for the elderly, the county government established seven care centers to take care of the elderly in proximity, and promotes the idea of “Elderly Services Elderly”, guiding the physically able and healthy senior citizens, while they themselves are being taken care of, to further volunteer to take care of others, disadvantaged groups such as single parent families and low income families are also important targets of care. Unfortunately, at present, there are insufficient community leaders and manpower, therefore it would be an important topic for the future for care centers to spread around the main island and to Lieyu Township.
There is currently only one large scale hospital in Kinmen County, with few specialist outpatient services and low proportion of health care staff. Therefore, Kinmen County planned the “Kinmen District Medical Personnel Plan” recommending students admissions to medical departments of colleges on Taiwan Island, actively nurturing government expense physicians to return home after graduation to service their hometown, and introducing foreign investors to invest on medical centers, health villages, health examination centers, and biomedical research and development. Periodical visits are made to country sides for health education promotions on three high (high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and high blood sugar) metabolic syndrome and tobacco hazard prevention and control, and since 2013, citizens over 30 years of age, registered in Kinmen, can apply for a subsidy of NT$3500 per person, every 2 years for health check-ups.
(2) Learning Resources
In the late 1990s, foreign spouses in Taiwan increased gradually. Being in close proximity to China, the ratio of foreign spouses is highest in Kinmen County, with 1 household out of 16.33 households with at least one foreign spouse at year end 2013. Due to different customs, traditions, culture, language, and habits, there may derive the need for assistance on adapting, vocational education, employment counselling, and personal security. In view of this, Kinmen County set up the “Kinmen County Foreign Spouse Service Center” to provide service to foreign spouses, with the Social Department regularly providing trainings to help foreign spouses acquire working skills, while the Education Department collaborates with schools to provide foreign spouses and their children counselling and home visitations so students can have a better understanding of the different cultures.
5 out of 6 townships of Kinmen County have large scale libraries and multi-media education space for students and citizens to use. The “Kinmen Area Library Joint Resource Inquiry System” was also established to help the circulation and to facilitate ample reading of the books. Speeches on cultural issues and art performances are held annually, with 1295 cultural activities held in the recent 5 years with over 553 thousand participants. However these activities are confined to a few townships, therefore citizens are hoping the scales of these activities can be further expanded, and to balance the number of activities throughout the townships.
Furthermore, Kinmen County also provides continuing education for adults, course content provides basic living skills learning, such as cooking, native language, carpentry classes and etc., encouraging citizens on lifelong learning. National Quemoy University was also established, and in the school year 2013, there were 3108 students enrolled, a record high in recent years. In order to attract students from other areas, a subsidy of NT$10,000 is provided to students each year, and an addition of NT$4,000 worth of vouchers in transportation and books, which can be used to purchase air tickets, books or stationary supplies; in terms of accommodation, the university provides 1,137 spaces in the dormitory to lessen the economic burden of students studying away from home, increasing the incentives. However, in recent years, the price of land in Kinmen County has increased significantly, and the price of airfare rose, increasing the living cost of students, the incentives offered by the Kinmen County gradually lose attraction to some students.
2. Ecological Environment
(1) Environment Construction
Kinmen County had long been an important military field in history, any construction and industrial development were under strict control, enabling the natural ecological environment in the area to be well conserved and quite abundant, maintaining a good ecological environment. In recent years, Kinmen County has been aggressively promoting a low carbon island plan, providing incentives to set up solar powered hot water system to promote the use of solar energy, increasing the supply of recycled water and reducing the emission of carbon dioxide, with a budget of NT$20 million available for citizens to apply in 2014. Tourists visiting Kinmen County are also encouraged to take the low carbon green “Sight Seeing Bus”, with services 4 routes, covering major and minor attractions in Kinmen County, with regular scheduled timetables, however the stopping time at each stop is too short for the visitors to fully enjoy the sites.
To create a safe tourism environment for visitors, Kinmen County set up “Rest Energy Stations” and “Bicycle Stops” at police stations in 5 townships to provide convenient and emergency services and other assistance, including tourist information, attraction pamphlets, taxi calling, water refilling, bicycle tires inflation, and temporary rest services.
Due to the numerous battles and long term military control, Kinmen County conserves many military remains with local characteristics, however some military constructions have become environment dead spaces due to lack of arrangement. In recent years, collaborating space planning and creative designs, these abandoned bunkers have been transformed into theaters, veterans story museums, ecological education halls for whales and dolphins, rendering Kinmen County as a unique battlefield humanities and natural features themed exhibition center, with total cultural facilities totaling 31.
In terms of water resource, the type of rivers in Kinmen County are intermittent streams, with no abundant rainfall and narrow watershed area. During the war periods, the residents and soldiers dug many ponds and man-made lakes to reserve water, yet, Kinmen County still face the hardship of water shortage and must rely on the support of groundwater to meet the demand for water needs, yet without a flawless sewage sewer system, there is the problem of water pollution. In view of this, the residents of Kinmen County are very concerned on issues such as whether their water resource is used effectively and the water quality.
To improve the water resource and maintain the stability of water quality in Kinmen County, the plan is to divert water from Lake Longhu in Jinjiang of Fujian Province, China to Kinmen County’s Tianpu Reservoir, construction for 10 kilometers of underground pipelines and 16.7 kilometers of undersea pipelines have been implemented, and it is expected that water diversion can be completed in 2016. In preparation, Kinmen County has to resolve the unsatisfactory water quality problem of Tianpu Reservior, building a reservoir within the reservoir at Tianpu Reservior to isolate the water resource from two origins. Due to the terrain and climate of Kinmen County, eutrophication of many reservoirs are caused by long term flowing of family and agriculture use water into the reservoirs, in order to improve the water quality, Kinmen County increased the number of user connections to the sewage sewer system. Up to 2012, accumulated connected users was 49.26%, however the “Not in my backyard” effect causes obstruction to the construction progress, and future maintenance is also arduous due to scattered distribution of collective farm housing and farm houses.
(2) Industrial Development and Recreation Tourism
“Traditional Southern Fukien Type Architecture, Western Style Buildings and Military Monuments” are the three major cultural and scenic features of Kinmen County. At the beginning of the fourth century, for convenience and safety reasons, well-known families and branches of the family with same surname would gather together and form settlements. The density of traditional southern Fukien type architectures are very high in Kinmen County, and a cultural heritage and local feature that is highly worth preserving. By combining Kinmen County’s unique southern Fukien type settlements and battlefield features, an “Old Style Historical House Bed & Breakfast” tourism industry have been developed, traditional Southern Fukien style architectures are renovated with the original space concept and structure as the most significant requirement, giving it re-birth and energizing value, combining ecological features with culture and creativity. There are more than 160 western style buildings, of which 40 are historical architectures and 3 of which are historic monuments.
In wildlife tourism, birds are Kinmen County’s most attractive wildlife resource. Kinmen’s location on China’s coastal area puts it in the major route for migratory birds flying south and heading back north, every year a variety of migratory birds are attracted to the area for breeding, spending the winter or crossing and transit. Many species of birds and a rich resource of birds can be seen at saltwater or fresh water wetlands, inter-tidal zones and fields, forests and thickets. By the end of 2013, an accumulated 305 species of birds have been found in Kinmen County, and more than 40 species of resident birds.
“Sport Tourism” is a new concept in recent years, in order to combine sports events with tourism, events such as International Marathon, Kinmen-Xiamen Swimming Relay and other sports meets have been held, allowing athletes whose main purpose is attending the sports meet, to also engage in local sightseeing, in-depth travelling, thus broadening the tourism effect.
After Taiwan opened its doors in 2011 to “Mainland Chinese Individual Tourists”, in order to increase the tourist capacity and enhance local development, harbors, resorts, hotels, shopping centers and other large developing projects went under construction. Even though local residents agree that these developments contribute to the promotion of tourism, improve Kinmen’s investment environment, develop regional businesses, and increase employment opportunities and such advantages, however there are also concerns whether these developments will cause damage to the original ecological environment.
3. Social Security
(1) Social Welfare and Living Security
Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor INC. produces Kinmen sorghum liquor, revenues hit a high of NT$16,028 million in 2012, with NT$3,339 million tobacco and alcohol taxes paid, providing Kinmen County with plentiful tax revenue. In turn, residents enjoy a complete social welfare and education grants, such as: free child care for 3 year olds, free lunch for students up to senior high/vocational school, free fresh milk for students under junior high school, and full implementation of student grants and transportation subsidy, free bus rides, child delivery allowance for women, employment counselling for disadvantaged groups and others. Moreover, because of the serious condition of the ageing population, welfare for the elderly is especially emphasized, including elderly care, meal services for senior citizens living alone, daytime community care service, subsidy for those requiring long term care at institutions, transportation service for disabled senior citizens, 8 community care centers providing service, allowance for low and medium-low income families, subsidy for dentures, and etc. Actual subsidy numbers, for instance in year 2012, meal services were provided to 60 senior citizens living alone, while emergency assistance was provided to 629 person/trips senior citizens living alone. Also in the same year, 74 applications were applied by disabled senior citizens for 117 aid equipment pieces, and nearly 3000 trips day care service were provided to disabled senior citizens and physically and mentally challenged citizens of 50 years of age, transportation services was provided nearly 4500 person/trips, other than provided suitable caregivers, health care were also given on their physiological functions.
In line with the high elderly population, police stations are strengthening their efforts to provide guidance to senior citizens on fraud and traffic safety, while the fire department also provides training to employees of institutions providing welfare to the elderly on fire prevention and emergency responses in order to establish a safe care environment for the elderly.
(2) Employment Opportunities
Industrial development in Kinmen County includes traditional and tourism industries. Before 1992, due to geographical environment and military control, large scale industrial conditions were lacking. However, after the lifting of martial law and opening up of tourism industry, tourism services are widely available, and have developed local featured products such as Kinmen Kaoliang liquor, Kinmen peanut candy (gong candy), artillery shell chef knives, E-Tiao-Ken (One Single Stick) herb, and flour rice noodles, all of which has strong battlefield background and historical culture, and also employment insurance for local residents. In addition, to promote the battlefield monuments and historical architecture, local residents are trained to be guides, providing guided tours and narration to tourists, increasing employment opportunities and local identification.
In the recent 5 years, Kinmen County has been counselling potential local businesses, providing professional counselling on various certifications in order to upgrade the quality of their products, brand value, international marketing, and through professional training, to strengthen the internal auditing and operational management abilities. Moreover, cooperative programs with National Quemoy University, National Kinmen Agricultural and Industrial Vocational Senior High School and etc. are established to provide students with skills under the “Academia-Industry Cooperation”, in hope students may use these skills once they graduate. Currently, there are more than 10 commercial developing projects in Kinmen County, including shopping centers, tourist hotels and etc., providing more than 2000 jobs, increasing local employment opportunities.