News / Asia

As China Ties Grow Closer, Taiwan Seeks Own Spotlight

A dancer adorned with flowers performs during Taiwan's National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei, October 10, 2012.
A dancer adorned with flowers performs during Taiwan's National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei, October 10, 2012.
Ralph Jennings
China is edging economically closer to Taiwan, but that does not mean the island’s people are embracing the mainland. Taiwanese pride themselves on a separate cultural identity from China, despite their common ethnic roots.

Individuality 

This month, a cultural fair in Hong Kong will promote Taiwan’s independent booksellers and filmmakers. But this is not a tourism event. Lee Ying-ping - director of the Kwang Hua Information and Culture Center under Taiwan’s government office in Hong Kong - says Taiwan needs the 40 cultural exhibits to make a lasting impression on territory already controlled by Beijing. She calls Taiwan’s culture a source of soft power.

Lee says Taiwan’s soft power, accumulated in the past few decades, has surpassed its politics and economy as an advantage worth using and a language for dialogue.  She says many Hong Kong people find this aspect of Taiwan to be among its most interesting.

The effort in Hong Kong, a former British colony, is part of the Taiwan government’s four-year soft power plan. Knowing that China is bigger militarily and economically, Taiwan is looking for more global influence by showing off features, such as independent film and books - things that China cannot claim.

Analysts call this push part of a wider move to prove to the world and to itself, that Taiwan differs from China. Hsu Yung-ming, assistant political science professor at Soochow University in Taipei, points to an identity crisis that has generated debate in the local media and bridged party lines.

He sees a social sense of crisis, that is a worry that Taiwan will be sucked into a bigger political or economic entity and lose its separate identity - even be marginalized. Hsu says that no single government agency is pushing to solve the problem. He calls it a collective sense of crisis that bridges competing local political camps.

Rapprochement

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou raises his fist after giving a speech during National Day celebrations in front of the presidential office in Taipei October 10, 2012.
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou raises his fist after giving a speech during National Day celebrations in front of the presidential office in Taipei October 10, 2012.
Both major Taiwanese political parties agree Taiwan needs to form closer economic, trade and investment ties with China’s $7 trillion economy. Leaders in Beijing have signed 18 deals with Taipei since 2008, with more on the way. China is also pushing for talks that would lead toward closer political ties.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s.  The two sides have been separately ruled since then. Taiwan’s two main parties support continuing to stand apart from China.

Opinion polls also indicate that more people are worrying about Taiwan’s relations with China. A National Chengchi University survey released this year found that 45 percent of Taiwanese think the pace of China-Taiwan exchanges is just right, compared to 33 percent who say it’s too fast.

“For military and diplomatic [ties], more people consider that cross-Strait relations have been very tense. The average is about 70 percent say it’s very tense on the diplomatic front," says Alexander Huang, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei.

International recognition

Yani Tseng of Taiwan hits her tee shot on the second hole during the second round of the British Women's Open Golf tournament at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, northern England, September 15, 2012.
Yani Tseng of Taiwan hits her tee shot on the second hole during the second round of the British Women's Open Golf tournament at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, northern England, September 15, 2012.
Taiwan has long supported an active international relations effort to combat China’s block on Taiwan’s bid to join the United Nations. This includes overseas humanitarian and development aid that goes far beyond helping Taiwan’s own allies.

Although these efforts are ongoing, many people in Taiwan are heartened more by events where their fellow citizens impress an international crowd. Athletes such as world's top-ranked female golfer, Yani Tseng, and National Basketball Association star Jeremy Lin, whose parents are Taiwanese, are revered.

For Huang Chia-fu, 21, a student at National Cheng Chi University in Taipei, it’s the informal recognition that counts.

He says it has gotten to a point where Taiwan finds it hard to promote itself in settings where China also participates. He says it may take other means to raise the island’s profile. He points to a local team’s top finish in a League of Legends PC game tournament in Los Angeles, earlier this month, as a show that Taiwan is a place that is not the same as China.

Beijing is still pushing for Taiwanese to embrace their Chinese roots, pointing to their common heritage as a reason to reunify politically.  Two years ago, China asked Taiwan to sign an agreement that would direct the two sides to develop a joint culture and mingle their creative industries.

But Taiwan’s cultural minister said in August that the deal is off for now, leaving the island’s civil society to form links, on its own, with China.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Zhang from: Chengdu,China
October 30, 2012 9:23 PM
台湾是中国不可分割的一部分,统一只是一个时间问题!Taiwan is a inpartible part of china!we are CHINESE!AMERICANS,TAKE CARE!
In Response

by: Julius from: Taipei, Taiwan
November 17, 2012 11:00 PM
Sometimes it's the sense of counrty belonging. Even Hong Kong belongs to China now. You rarely heard HK people say they come from China ╮(︶︿︶)╭. Most people in Taiwan think we are Taiwanese, not Chinese.
In Response

by: Richard from: Taiwan
November 10, 2012 3:19 AM
We are Taiwanese. We are proud of our country, Taiwan. Unlike China, Taiwan is the most democratic country in Asia. We enjoy our freedom. These two countries are totally different from each other.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs