Due to its international position and contested relationship with mainland China, Taiwan has relied heavily on soft power and strategic public diplomacy as part of its foreign affairs strategy. As part of these efforts they are building up robust cultural diplomacy initiatives. For instance, in 2012 they turned their Council for Cultural Affairs into a Ministry of Culture with 4 core policy objectives:
1) “To ensure that every village and township in this nation, regardless of its geographic remoteness, has an equal chance to achieve its full cultural potential.”
2) “To contribute to the nation’s soft power by promoting Taiwan’s unique blend of modern and traditional cultures on the international stage.”
3) “To enhance the overall output and value of the nation’s cultural and creative sectors.”
4) “To offer the nation’s citizens equal accessibility to cultural resources by harnessing the power of cloud computing.”
Taiwan has also been involved in nation-branding from creating logos:
To bidding to host or participate in international events:
In 2010 Taiwan participated in the World Expo for the first time since 1970 when it was held in Osaka, Japan. They made a considerable investment in their 2010 World Expo Pavilion which was designed by Taiwanese architect Lee Tsu-yuan (李祖原), the architect who also designed the famous Taipei 101 building.
2010 Shanghai World Expo submitted design:
“Mountain, Water, Heart and Lantern” Pavilion:
Another example of public/cultural diplomacy was the Taiwanese government’s support of AIESEC in Taiwan’s bid to host the 2014 AIESEC International Congress, which brings together AIESEC youth leaders from 113 countries. Their video, while not official PD since touches on common themes that Taiwan tries to highlight in their nation-branding, tourism outreaches, and public/cultural diplomacy. Namely what they say in this video: “diverse culture, amazing foods, and warmest people…Taiwan will touch your heart.” Though the quality of the video itself is not great, I think they did a great job of tying together all of the themes Taiwan likes to highlight. The video utilizes both English and Chinese lyrics with some aboriginal singing intermixed, scenes of beautiful places in Taiwan (emphasized by the refrain referencing “Formosa,” Taiwan’s old name which translates into “beautiful island) as well as popular tourist attractions like Taipei 101, night markets, the lantern festival, etc.
Lastly, Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau has teamed up with Google to launch a Wow! eye Taiwan Video Contest. While on the surface this looks more like an effort to encourage tourism, it also looks like the Taiwanese government has more in mind for this contest when one reads the stated contest purpose: “To encourage public participation in digital content production as we enter the era of Web 2.0, the Government Information Office (¡GIO,¡ ¡the organizer¡) will hold the Wow! eye Taiwan Video Contest, in the hope that people both at home and abroad will be able to gain a new and multifaceted understanding of Taiwan.”
Taiwan is still integrating its public/cultural diplomacy and nation branding efforts and have encountered some challenges. For example at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, Taiwan’s pavilion was placed in the China “domestic” pavilion area right by Hong Kong and Macau. Also, Taiwan wanted to participate in Milan’s upcoming 2015 World Expo, however, they were only offered a space in the “corporate” area, and told that World Expo invites were only for UN member countries.
However, winning the bid and hosting 2014 AIESEC International Congress is an example of their PD/CD efforts paying off. Taiwan seems to be quite successful at hosting niche international conferences and events like 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition which attracted more than 8.9 million visitors. Ultimately, the strength of Taiwan’s PD/CD efforts stem from the truth of many of their claims. Speaking from personal experience, Taiwan does have great food, incredibly warm and hospitable people, and breathtaking beauty. It certainly has its faults like anywhere else in the world, but if you do have the chance to visit, the experience will certainly “touch your heart.”
Logo Photo Credit: http://logos.wikia.com/wiki/Taiwan_(tourism)
World Expo Pavilion Photo Credit: http://www.meet-in-shanghai.net/expo_pavilions_taiwan.php