[As regards the US, we’re defining grand strategy as an integration of military and economic objectives in the war against communism. The military component of grand strategy was concerned with repelling the Soviet threat to territory. The economic component was concentrated on protecting America’s desire for open markets. At first, the two prongs could be separated. By the end of the Eisenhower administration, however, the two were intertwined. Soon, grand strategy evolved into liberal grand strategy as the US became more explicit in its drive to foster democracy and capitalism abroad.]
Described as a strategic arsenal by General Douglas MacArthur, Taipei reflects US Cold War determination to militarily contain the Soviet Union and the Chinese communists.
Economically, despite governance by an entrenched ‘quasi-Leninist’ regime, the city represents American capitalism and its resolve to protect the market strength and viability of Japan.
Later, as American grand strategy became more explicitly associated with the tenets of neoliberalism, Taipei entered a period of political change marked by constitutional reform, institution building, and a growing civil society, finally emerging by the 1994 mayoral election as a bellwether city for democracy in all of China. In the process, Taipei evolved from a backwater colonial city to a regional financial and investment center in northeast Asia.
During the early Cold War period, the US injected $2.5 billion in military resources into Taiwan. Most of the assistance consisted of planes, ships, ordnance, and other military hardware having no direct civilian value. However, some dual use activity did occur involving the construction of airfields, roads, telecommunications facilities, and training programs. Over time, spillover from this type of investment–in conjunction with the regime’s explicit militarization of the city’s society and institutions–permanently altered the urban fabric of Taipei.
Urbanization intensified as inflows of US capital assistance strengthened the city’s infrastructure, with the US Congress defining the purpose of Taiwan’s Defense Support broadly, permitting its use as an “instrument of development.”
Projects impacting the urban environment included the Taiwan Power Company’s quadrupling of electrical generation which made possible the expansion of industry in and around Taipei. The capital’s increased power capability was complemented, in turn, by the provision of essential financing for Taipei’s transport system, including the building of MacArthur Highway which linked the capital to the city of Keelung at the northern tip of the island.
A succession of similar projects eventually spurred the growth of an urban corridor in the western region of the country, so much so that Thomas Gold reported that “the island’s western strip from Keelung to Kaoshiung has now become an endless sprawl of distressing, often freakishly ugly high-rise apartment blocks and factories crammed almost on top of each other.”
The corridor, dominated by Taipei, has been shaped by population movements and manufacturing plants facilitated by American advisers and American dollars. Moreover, much of the expansion has been related to satisfying defense-associated requirements.
Photograph by Robby Tendean.