Mainlanders arriving in Taipei in 1949 became concentrated in residential areas of the city vacated by recently repatriated Japanese.
During the 1950s and 1960s, this group made up 81.6 % of the population in Chengchung, 80 % in Kuting and Ta-an, and 60.1 % of the population of Chungshan. These districts were located in Old Taipei in what is known as the Original City.
Some of the areas — Chengchung, for example — contained old government housing compounds which the newcomers were able to occupy due to their government positions.
While there was residential separation, there was some overlap as well since both mainlanders and the ‘local’ Chinese population lived side by side in the districts of Old Taipei known as Sungshan and Ta-an. Later, when Taipei’s economic miracle unfolded, the local population prospered more quickly than the mainlanders and moved to more modern and affluent suburbs. Many in this group were entrepreneurs engaged in small and medium-sized businesses linked to the American multinational firm and the international economy.
By 1973, 73 % of those who had moved to the newer neighborhoods of Taipei were ‘native’ Taiwanese. These individuals were, of course, the entrepreneurs who benefited from the success of their SMEs. (Read more about SMEs here.) Their relocation resulted in increased ethnic segmentation, and Taipei was to some extent a divided city. Housing emphasized the cultural, political, and social differences (and distances) between the mainlanders and Taipei locals.
The few remaining aborigines preferred the recently incorporated districts of Neihu and Nankang which had been added in 1968 when the city expanded its boundaries, adding six more districts or chu. Four of these recently annexed townships were transferred from Taipei County: Chingmei, Mucha, Nankang, and Neihu. The Yangmingshab Administrative District made up of Shihlin and Peitou also was incorporated into Taipei.
According to Roger Mark Selya in his book Taipei:
Over time, separate social/residential areas developed in the city: agricultural (Shihlin); rural-low economic status (northern and southern periphery of the city); urban-low economic status (Mengchia, Shuangyuan, and Tatong); mixed, single adults (old business and government core with shophouses and peripheral areas); middle class, and upper class (Ta-tao-chen, Chungshan North Road).”
Part of Chungshan North Road’s attraction was its proximity to the US Commissary and Officers’ Club.
The American Presence
American diplomats, military, and AID personnel tended to live in the recently incorporated districts of Peitou and Shihlin since more modern housing was available there. Also, the Taipei American School was located in Shihlin. Other US government personnel tended to locate near their place of work or near other US installations which were pick-up stops for government bus routes.
An American scholar who was a student in Taipei in 1969 paints a picture of US privilege in the city:
Before classes started . . . I discovered the two other U.S. expatriate communities, the military and businessmen. Neither group seemed interested in us students. They seemed too busy preserving their own privileges and perpetuating their own jealousies. However, since the Chinese drivers of the military buses could not tell the difference between one American and another, I was able to use the military bus system which was much less crowded than the public system. I also learned how to steal onto the military base and get an occasional U.S. meal. But as for PX privileges, I had to settle for stuffing my rage every time I saw an overpriced box of Kellogg’s cereal or Hunt’s tomato sauce in stores near where military personnel lived — evidence of an active black market.
Neighborhoods and activities linked to US servicemen fell into disarray when the US military ended its advisory mission. Even small businesses were affected.
For example, the number of actual bookstores declined, especially those with foreign and English titles which had been concentrated along Chungshan North Road opposite the Botanical Gardens and the Historical Museum. In the 1960s, influenced by the American presence, the area had been the most desirable place to go shopping. However, with the US departure, deterioration set in and the preferred shopping area shifted to the newer, eastern parts of the city and to the central and specialized shopping districts which could be found in each of the six districts added to the city in 1968.