Taiwanese PD efforts

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Here is a link to a blog article a friend of mine wrote recently for CSIS:

http://cogitasia.com/mandopop-huayu-fake-food-taiwans-soft-power-opportunities-and-challenges/

Now naturally, Taiwan is pretty unique in that it has international recognition of its existence as a state as a key foreign policy objective. Nonetheless, I think it’s useful to explore how Taiwan uses PD to work towards that goal and exactly how far it can go.

Perhaps the baseline goal of PD is to at least have other publics around the world know who you are and how you are different from the nearly 200 other countries. A friend of mine visited a congressional testimony on the internal conflict in South Sudan, where a congressman had no clue what the country’s predominant religion/s were, what language is spoken there and what the fighting was about. For the busy foreign policy community, it seems that the agendas of many countries are ignored simply because people know little about them.

Back to Taiwan. The ROC government is smart in investing into tourism, media and cultural exchange as a way of promoting national identity. While there is next to no chance of major powers like the United States changing their official stance on China/Taiwan, improved rapport with global publics—especially in the Asia-Pacific region—is likely to increase support for its existence as an independent de-facto state. Especially so if Taiwan can clearly communicate how it is different from China, other than the fact that it is capitalist and democratic.

Creating Mandarin education centers around the world serves as a good competitor to mainland China’s Confucius Institutes, which give out fairly generous scholarships for people to learn the language and/or live in China. The fact that Taiwan is an open, democratic country gives it an advantage; some scholars may be put off by restrictions on what they can and can’t write while studying in China.

Summing up, I think that good PD can create favorable attitudes both among the public in other countries and within the policy community. This alone can at least put certain issues on the agenda.

See you all Wednesday, if the polar vortex doesn’t get us first.

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2 thoughts on “Taiwanese PD efforts”

  1. Thank you Chris for initiating a discussion concerning the basic nature of public diplomacy, particularly as it pertains to Taiwan. Nowhere is the need to distinguish oneself within the international arena more relevant than in Taiwan, a country that enjoys de facto relations with virtually every state in the world yet is not formally recognized by the United Nations.

    Taiwan provides a suitable case study for one of the major themes of this week’s readings; that is, the obligation for those who practice public diplomacy to evolve to match the times. This was encapsulated in the articles we read through the acceptance (mostly begrudgingly) and integration by public diplomacy practitioners of emerging technologies (particularly within social media) in extending the scope of public diplomacy (from the angles of who is practicing public diplomacy as well as to whom). With Taiwan, the evolution of its public diplomacy has been the result from significant events that have shaped its position within the international community.

    Following the Chinese Civil War, Taiwan positioned itself within the international realm as the “real” China, albeit one that shared democratic values (although this is certainly open to interpretation upon further analysis) with the United States. Aligning oneself with the US ensured that Taiwan would receive American aid to help improve its economy.

    But with the Sino-US detente of the 70’s, marked by Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing, the switching of US recognition from Taiwan to China, and the abdication by Taiwan of the UN Security Council permanent seat to Mainland China, Taiwan found itself internationally isolated as more countries began switching state recognition from the Taiwanese government to that in Beijing (a prerequisite enforced upon other states by China was that each state wishing to formally recognize China had to cease formally recognizing Taiwan, which is considered by China as a renegade province). Finding its friend list diminishing quickly, Taiwan began resorting to numerous tactics including heavy lobbying of the US Congress to ensure that America does not abandon Taiwan (the US has a formal agreement with Taiwan that allows the US to sell defensive weapons and ensures that America will come to the defense of Taiwan if China attacks) and the checkbook diplomacy (wooing states through the promise of massive monetary payments) mentioned by Chris’ friend in his blog. Furthermore, the 80s and 90s witnessed the emergence of a “Taiwanese” consciousness wherein many Taiwanese sought to promote a distinct Taiwanese identity separate from their Chinese neighbors (but this was not wholly embraced by everyone within Taiwan).

    Before I become hopelessly lost within this convoluted, labyrinthine mess of history, cultural/national identity, and public diplomacy, allow me to extract myself and circle back to one of the original points raised by the OP, who mentioned how the fundamental role of public diplomacy as practiced by states is to allow others to know who you are. This is a very integral point to understand, for as students of public diplomacy we must have a solid and concrete understanding of what we (as individuals or representatives of state or non-state actors) are and what we stand for. For how can one export an image if that image is blurred through dissension and discord? I included Taiwan within this discussion because Taiwan is a prime example of a state that lacks unity in how it identifies itself. Thus the existence of these Taiwan Academies form a very intriguing facet of a public diplomacy battle waged internally (how do these Academies represent the culture of Taiwan, and do most Taiwanese agree with this interpretation?) as well as externally (Taiwan Academies are clearly a response to the Confucius Institutes created by China, of which Anqi Hu has examined within her blog post), which provides opportunities for further research and analysis.

  2. Thank you for your post, Chris. I think that with the U.S. “Pivot to Asia” a post about Taiwanese diplomacy efforts is a welcomed change from the usual discussions on China and N. Korea lately.

    I agree that the government is smart in investing its resources in tourism, cultural exchange and media. These three areas have traditionally been catalysts for public diplomacy. Although Taiwan dealt with a food scandal a few years back (plastic in food), they are already taking the regulatory steps to improve how food is produced there. Gastrodiplomacy is a huge part of PD and if Taiwan can zero in on cuisine specific to Taiwan, like bubble tea; food can be the key to distinguishing Taiwan from China for many people.

    Another interesting thing brought up in your friends article was the fact that 80% of Chinese pop music is produced in Taiwan, while most Taiwanese pop music is produced for mainland China. I’m sure Taiwan makes a significant amount of revenue producing the Chinese pop music, but it doesn’t do much for their overall goal of distinguishing themselves as a nation. They should gradually make a shift and begin producing more of their music for a wider audience—other than just mainland China.

    Finally, the fact that Taiwan is a democratic and capitalist nation is its greatest asset in my opinion. Because of this, they are truly able to explore and openly try new things that could become essential and/or trademark public diplomacy tools. It also produces an array of opportunities for Taiwanese citizens in the workplace and beyond. As you alluded to above, scholars may find studying in Taiwan a better experience than in China because there are no restrictions on what you can write about, leaving room to openly express yourself and fully share your experience in that country with others outside its borders.

    Again, thank you for bringing up this topic. I’ll be watching to see what they think of next!

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