TW - Repairing the Ruins of Modernity: The Case of the Taitung Miramar Resort

The construction puts on full display the hubris of its planners, who either seem to have grossly underestimated the importance of the ecology of Shanyuan bay, or simply ignored it, knowing that much of the environmental damage associated with the resort could be externalized anyway.

AMONG THE MANY ruins modernity has bestowed upon this planet, few could claim a more stunning–and yet a more awkward–location than what was once to become the Miramar Resort Hotel (美麗灣渡假村—its Chinese name Meiliwan reflecting the beauty of the hotel’s site). Located on the road from Taitung to the nearby village of Dulan, this giant abandoned six-hectare complex strikes its viewers as profoundly out of place, caught in between a range of breath-taking mountains and an ancient bay with precious coral reefs. Its five-storied walls spread out hundreds of meters, seemingly trying to occupy as much as possible of the picturesque beachfront of Fudafudak (杉原), once a popular beach hangout spot beloved by Taitung’s residents and revered by its Indigenous caretakers.

Fudafudak beach location

Holding out day and night in its restless position, the Miramar resort has become a unique monument to both capitalist hubris and people power. Nearly a decade has passed since it became the site of one of Taiwan’s most vibrant recent social movements, eventually leading to a Supreme Court decision barring it from opening. Today, Miramar has joined the ranks of countless so-called “Mosquito Buildings” (蚊子館) on Taiwan’s East Coast, abandoned buildings populated by insects rather than humans. Its future still remains undecided, as many activists continue to advocate for the demolition of the complex, while county officials envision repurposing it as an international conference center. This tension, we argue, poses a larger dilemma: How do we deal with the ruins of a post-colonial, post-capitalist world? And whose vision will prevail?

The story of the Miramar Resort could have been the story of yet another seemingly inevitable domino toppled over in the triumph of capitalist development. When construction crews began digging up Fudafudak beach in March 2005, there was an understanding that the development was just the first of many projects to come. With its pristine nature and its underexplored beaches, Taiwan’s East Coast seemed to be the perfect location for tourism magnates looking to expand their businesses. Word spread of a “new Kenting”, a coast plastered with walls of concrete, promising handsome profits to their prospective owners. The plans for the Miramar Resort, specifically, had been drawn up by the well-connected and influential Huang family and their Miramar Group (美麗華集團).

Based in Taipei, the Huangs had made a fortune in the tour bus tourism business in Taiwan, known in Chinese as yi tiao long (一條龍), with Huang-owned companies monopolizing nearly every aspect of the traveler’s experience. There was little pretense that the Miramar Resort would be in any way different: almost all money spent by the targeted high-income tourists would end up in the skyscrapers of Taipei rather than in the local economy. Nevertheless, the project enjoyed highest backing by the local county government, safely in the hands of the KMT and notorious for its support of dubious infrastructure projects, such as the Taitung Railway Station and a controversial mothballed waste incinerator. Allegations of collusion and corruption continue to haunt the city hall of Taitung, but have proven hard to substantiate in the absence of any official investigation into the role of the government. Given these political conditions, the Miramar Group did not even bother to obtain the legally required Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for its new resort project—it simply went ahead with the construction.

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