Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Arts and culture as the voice of diplomacy

By Chiu Kun-liang 邱坤良

US first lady Laura Bush announced last September that the US State Department was launching a Global Cultural Initiative (GCI) to integrate and expand cultural diplomacy. Bush believed that gaining an understanding of different cultures through their literature, music, film and other forms of visual arts was the best way to strengthen US friendship with other nations.

Arts and culture are a universal language that overcomes class barriers, crosses geographical boundaries and bridges political differences. They are also the best way to open up a full-fledged international dialogue.

Major global powers such as the US attach great importance to cultural diplomacy, and it be-hooves Taiwan to promote appreciation of foreign cultures as well. Given Taiwan's difficulties with traditional diplomacy, how can it afford not to strengthen and show off the "soft power" of its culture.

Taiwan's international political standing makes it extremely difficult for Taiwanese ambassadors and representatives to meet with other nations' high-ranking government officials through formal diplomatic channels.

In contrast, direct international cultural exchanges seem to encounter relatively fewer obstacles. Sending artists or performing arts troupes to other countries not only demonstrates the universality of culture, but also increases the visibility of Taiwan in the international community.

The cultural spirit that Taiwanese artists and performing arts troupes spread is a common experience that resonates with audiences worldwide. Cultural exchange is thus one way for Taiwan to reach out and participate in the global community.

Numerous Taiwanese visual artists, dancers, musicians and theater troupes have been honored for their achievements in major international arts events. Several performing arts troupes supported by the Council for Cultural Affairs have also gained international prestige. Viewing international arts events such as "Seeing Cloud Gate," (看見雲門), "Hearing the Sacred Drumming of U Theatre" (聽見優人神鼓) and "Meeting with Wu Hsing-kuo" (遇見吳興國) are the equivalent of "seeing Taiwan's face" and "hearing Taiwan's voice." These cultural images serve to make a deep impression of Taiwan on international audiences.

Cultivating outstanding artists and internationally renowned performing arts troupes takes time. Although a number of highly accomplished Taiwanese performing arts troupes have succeeded in captivating the hearts and souls of international audiences, much still needs to be done to ensure continuous development of world-class artists.

Whether or not more Taiwan-ese arts troupes can carry on this vision and achieve glory for the nation after a decade or two is a cause for concern. The Council for Cultural Affairs and the arts and literary scene in Taiwan must take action and make an all-out effort to promote Taiwan's cultural diplomacy. By bringing together talent and experts from different fields, the government can create a better environment to enhance artistic and literary creativity in Taiwan. This will not only raise Taiwan's cultural standard but also spread the voice of Taiwanese culture internationally.

Chiu Kun-liang is the minister for cultural affairs.

Translated by Lin Ya-ti

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