OPINION: Culture as a New Diplomatic Strategy for Taiwan

OPINION: Culture as a New Diplomatic Strategy for Taiwan
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Taiwan’s culture potentially provides it with a unique diplomatic power, if it can harness it.

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The idea of “soft power” was first introduced in the 1990s by Joseph Samuel Nye, Jr., a professor of international relations at Harvard University. Unlike “hard power,” such as military or economic capabilities, Nye said soft power represents resources of attraction, including culture, political values and policies.

Culture shouldn’t be considered as a single independent entity; just as Britain’s creative industries built upon its industrial development and the Bauhaus movement was a reflection of Germany’s industrial engineering. Culture is, in its essence, the practice and implementation of values.

Taiwan’s value lies in its cultural diversity and the freedom to discuss and spread different ideas in society.

I believe that an atmosphere of openness and acceptance will constitute the foundation of Taiwan’s future success in Asia and even the world.

To boost Taiwan’s cultural industries, the government needs to regularly re-examine and amend relevant laws, provide sufficient financial support, and also focus on strategies for nurturing talent.

Here, I stress that human resources are fluid and mobile. Taiwan must walk away from the misconception that our human resources should all be kept in Taiwan, and instead encourage intellectual interaction and healthy competition with international elites to stimulate more cultural possibilities for Taiwan.

Taiwan needs to develop our own “Blue Ocean Strategy” for culture.

It is dangerous for Taiwan to be stuck in an overly conservative ideology or to put too much emphasis on nationalism.

In the face of rapid globalization, with unpredictable and drastic changes in international politics and the global economy, we need to focus on securing our position in Asia and the world, and not be trapped in our own bubble.

Culture and politics should not be in opposition to each other.

Taiwan should step away from checkbook diplomacy, throwing away money in a diplomatic war with China.

We should develop our own cultural-based soft power, harnessing our progressive values, digital development, unique cuisine, and other symbolic attractions of our culture to create a more flexible diplomatic policy.

Taiwan's progressive social advancement in areas like same-sex marriage and NGOs is an advantage. Taiwan can attract creative industries to set up shop here and provide an open and tolerant environment for artists, designers, poets and writers.

To compete and survive in today’s global political and economic landscape Taiwan lacks an objective means of power such as a massive military or a major economy.

Therefore, facing the challenges of rapid global change, Taiwan must develop our own unique soft power and reform our diplomatic policies around that.

We used to export computers and now we should export culture.

This is, of course, a challenge, but is also an opportunity worth taking.

Editor: Olivia Yang