Updates to this story
It's supposed to be about computers and gadgetheads and sleek cases of speedy connections -- and it is -- but at Taiwan's month-long information and communications technology (ICT) fair, criss-crossing the nation now, with over 300 exhibitors from home and abroad strutting their stuff, it's the scantily-clad 'showgirls' who attract the eyeballs.
With some two million people expected to attend the three city venues where the confab is taking place, that's a lot of eyeballs.
This year's theme is "Embracing a Smart Life" and you can say that again. The theme could be subtitled "Embraceable Me", to put a modern spin on George and Ira Gershwin's 1928 lyrics:
My sweet embraceable you
My irreplaceable you
Just to look at you
My heart grows tipsy in me
You and you alone''"
Liu told reporters in Taipei that the products at this year's ICT fair ot only highlight enhanced efficiency or specifications, but also focus quite gingerly on "user friendliness". He might just as well have been talking about the gorgeous showgirls who gently model their hand-held gadgets with aplomb and scintillating nuance. The guys with cameras can't seem to get enough of them, and blogs all across Taiwan sport the sexy photos.
The annual fair, now in its 31st year, is being held in Taipei in northern Taiwan, in central Taichung City and in southern Kaohsiung City until the rooms shutter in early January.
Who's there? The usual suspects: Acer, Asustek, Sony, HTC, Epson and more.
But a visitor to these fair shores might think that what they're really selling here is sex.
Check out the bevies of Taiwanese women in white boots and miniskirts, the name of a computer parts maker temporarily tattooed above their cleavage. Sorry, no bevvies allowed inside the fair, but who needs a drink when there's all this free eye candy? Gloria Steinem, tear your heart out! Women's liberation has come to this!
Look for more showgirls in bikini shorts, tiny tanktops and hard hats shilling for an online security company, or handing out small locks in boxes designed to resemble condom packs. They do this in Shanghai and Beijing, too, I'm told, so it's not only a Taiwanese trend. Sex, being borderless, knows no ideology.
"The most eye-catching part of these computer fairs are the showgirls, for sure" one punter told TechEye, his bold Japanese camera at the ready. "The pretty young women and the cool products complement each other and the combination is just what the doctor ordered."
In Shanghai, showgirls have been known to appear on stage wearing sexy bumblebee outfits -- yellow and black striped dresses with wings -- and roving packs of Chinese men call out to the models who smile, pout and lean against oversized models of the gadgets they are "modelling".
Yes, size matters.
The showgirls in Taiwan at the ICT fair this month are mostly university students out to make a few extra purses of money during the Christmas and New Year's Day season. and some even dress up as Santa Claus in keeping with the Western calendar. Posing for photos -- many
of which go on the Internet -- is part of the job, but it is not always pleasant, according to some of the backchatter.
"Normal photos are fine," a 20-something ICT showgirl told local media, "but sometimes I come across a few strange guys on occasion, and as you imagine, it's a bit uncomfortable. Some punters will ask for a particular pose, and some even go so far as to ask me to touch them. But thankfully, most Taiwanese men have good manners, and we really do not see many perverts here. But it does happen, I've heard."
A computer fair showgirl in Taiwan can make about US$50 a day, and more if she has a particularly eye-candyish costume. For example, a cosplay showgirl appearing as a "catwoman" -- in leopard print lingerie with a long tail and cat ears while sitting in a cage -- can rake in good cash.
But not every showgirl wants to go that far.
The use of sexual images in marketing has increased significantly in previously conservative and covered-up Asia over the past 15 years, according to a longtime expat observer in Japan, James Farrer, a professor at Sophia University .
So from French maids to fetching flight attendants and even Playboy bunnies, not to mention "embraceable" bright shiny Santa Clauses -- but don't touch! -- it's Christmastime in Taiwan. Peace on Earth, good pixels to all!