I’m nearly qualified (which is to say, not qualified) to weigh in on this, having just returned from Nanjing with a gf born in Taipei.
Alas, the xiaoye and xiaoche culture on the mainland apparently can’t compare with that of Taipei. 30 years of blanket disapproval of capitalism has really affected the traditions of street-side vendors. Our food markets just can’t compare, although even she had to begrudgingly approve of the choudoufu we had at fuzimiao (Confucius Temple). WINNER: Taipei.
Nanjing suffered from pretty restrictive growth policies for most of the past 5 decades, so it lags most other coastal mainland cities… forget Taipei… in terms of “development”. Skyscrapers in the CBD probably number < 20… nothing like the skyline of Taipei. But the past few years have been impressive, and Nanjing retains more classy/organized than most even as it throws up residential development in surrounding farmland at an obscene rate. WINNER: Taipei.
Nanjing has very few scooters/motorcycles, a new subway system, a heavily invested public bus system, and three bridges across the Yangtze. Congestion happens only on a few select intersections for a few hours every day. From what I’ve heard, a vast improvement over Taipei. WINNER: Nanjing.
No confusion or debate about national “identity”, here. Structures and artifacts from the Ming, the Qing, the Taiping, the ROC, and the PRC are all embraced as valuable heritage of the Chinese nation. (The ROC/KMT flag+symbol flies over more buildings in Nanjing than any other city on the mainland, I’m reasonably sure.)
Nanjing 2005 has no strip clubs, KTV/“salons” are relatively rare (compared to other mainland cities), no major theaters… but it does have a brand spanking new “bar street” (1912 jiubajie), where young patriots can honor the founding of the ROC by getting plastered in one of numerous smokey clubs/bars where few dance and everyone plays that damn dice drinking game (most better than me).
Taipei’s either a Chinese city or a Taiwanese city or an international city depending on who/when/how you ask the question. It retains probably the greatest collections of Chinese artifacts on the planet, but there’s probably a significant % of the population that’d love to see it either trashed or shipped away. Strippers perform at funerals; prostitution used to be legal. It’s a major destination for any international cultural performance setting foot in Asia, whether we’re talking Yo Ma-ma or S.H.E. WINNER: Toss-up.
My observations on this are limited by the company I keep. But … it’s all about the Sichuan ladies. Something about the water. Or the peppers they ingest constantly. And just to keep this on topic… I’d also like to point out that Chongqing was the wartime capital of the ROC during the '39-'45. WINNER: Toss-up.
Overall, I’d prefer to live in Nanjing, eat in Taipei, and vacation in Sichuan.