Ever seen gold like this? It’s yellow, soft and valuable!

Gold is an exceptionally valuable commodity these days. To show that I already my own ‘stash’ in the bank vault, I’m happy to share this picture of our ‘wealth’.

yellow gold

In the West, I was used to seeing gold used in jewelery purely as one or even the largest component. When I first came to Taiwan, I was astonished how yellow (or ‘gold’) the was, and when I first got my gold wedding ring, how soft the metal actually is when it’s in nearly pure form. Most of the gold sold in China and Taiwan is of this type. Taiwanese especially value gold both for its beauty and its practicality. It’s easy to turn into cash.

Historically, there have been times when gold was perhaps the only store of true wealth here after the 2nd world war, during the tumultuous period of the Chinese Civil War, and so local people have traditionally valued it as a way to hedge their currency, protect their family ‘wealth’, and to carry easily, should the need arise.

I have no idea how much this is worth, but it’s probably not much. Christine received some gold as part of her wedding present, some of which is included here. It’s also traditional for brides and (to a lesser extent) and grooms to wear or flaunt as much gold as they can. Usually, some of the gold is presented to them, some is kept as part of the family wealth, and some may be ‘loaned’ from relatives.

Any idea how much this would be worth? I have my own estimates, but I have no idea how much the gold actually weighs. Perhaps one day, I’ll get it valued properly.

Taiwan banks reluctant to charge ‘account keeping fee’ – The China Post

Most Taiwan banks have no plan to levy a “deposits account keeping fee” from customers who have only a small sum of outstanding deposits in their accounts, although some foreign banks have already taken such a move.Some foreign banks, including Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking), have started charging a monthly fee from clients with less than NT$10,000 of deposits in their accounts.

Taiwan banks reluctant to charge ‘account keeping fee’ – The China Post – this article is typical of the usual double-speak that English newspapers in Taiwan are guilty of. The story is quite simple: with limited sources of income available, banks are now resorting to charging fees on low deposits. Typically this behavior is being seen in foreign-owned banks, who have already had account minimums for quite some time (another fact that ‘escaped’ the author of this story). The real news in this story is hidden away at the end: “The move of collecting the fee needs to be discussed and approved by the bankers association, he said. The talk about the possibility that Taiwan banks may charge a “deposits account keeping fee” from customers has caused concern from legislators.”

In real speak, this means legislators and banking organizations are already considering where and how banks charge regular amounts for bank accounts with less than a minimum amount in them. With interest rates as low as they are, it’s unrealistic to expect banks to shoulder these costs in the long term. However, looking after people’s money like this will attract a lot of criticism: why? Because banks are expected to use this money to make more money, it seems unreasonable that they should then make money on ‘free money’ and charge for the privilege of looking after it.


A customer who’s charged such a fee will likely terminate their business with any bank that attempts to charge them such a fee. Worse, it may make it more difficult to market to these customers in the future when things get better, and everyone has more money. Customers will remember who tried to short-change them and who treated them with respect.

There’s one local bank I had to open an account with that I hated from the first day I dealt with them. They were unknowledgeable, unhelpful, unprofessional and discriminatory in their treatment of local foreigners. Oddly, enough, the credit card that I have with them through their credit arm has been the perfect opposite of that! Anyway, competition is heating up in the local banking market with local bank consolidating, and foreign players eager to get into the China market. Truly, Taiwan represents one of the few relatively untapped banking markets in Chinese Asia at the moment, still.

I’ve been consolidating and reorganizing both our personal accounts and business accounts for some time, as a result of the credit crisis. While I haven’t got that much money to move around really, I’ve tried to make sure that risk is more diversified between bank accounts. In other words, I wouldn’t want to be locked out of a supply of money due to bank run or temporary closure.

For personal finances, I’ve divided my money between one local and one international bank. For business finances, one month’s emergency cash was deposited in another branch of another local bank. The only weakness in the chain is that personal and business finances overlap in one local bank. I should really do something about that by moving some money to another local bank. Unfortunately, there aren’t many banks in our area at all: and none of the big Taipei city banks have branches here at all.

July 4th: Taiwan welcomes cross straits direct flights – but what about all the other problems?

While America celebrates the 4th of July, Taiwan is celebrating its own July 4th – the first direct (legal) cross-straits flights since 1949. Ma Ying-Jeou’s new government recently announced the easing of cross-straits relations, and has brought in something of a warming of cross-straits ties after years of stalling by the previous Chen and Lee administrations.

While it’s difficult to know what the upshot of this will be, it’s a welcome boost for tourist-related businesses in Taiwan, and is broadly a positive development in easing the political strains across the straits. In fact, just earlier this week, exchange controls on RMB (previously unavailable on Taiwan) were eased though not removed entirely.

But will this help to end Taiwan’s current international isolation? I’m afraid that won’t happen any time soon. European governments, including Britain’s, have slowly been upgrading their facilities and services on the island, but a full embassy they are not, and many embassy functions are simply not carried out.

There was a recent announcement that AIT (American Institute in Taiwan) was planning to move its base to Neihu, and plans were announced for garrison quarters in the new buildings. This however was quickly played down; but it’s clear that many western governments are now covertly laying the groundwork to establish diplomatic ties at some point. Such ties remain over the horizon for the time being.

Check out the BBC slideshow.

So this week’s events are just the next step in a long road towards sorting out the consequences of the Chinese Civil War. I won’t be making any bold predictions on peace talks, full-recognition, or any of a myriad of on-the-back-burner issues for quite some time.