In the late 1990s, the Chinese Basketball Alliance — the only Taiwanese professional basketball league to date — engaged in heated debates toward the end of each season about how to give out the Most Valuable Player award and the selection of the league’s best five players. The reason was simple: If the league did not set any restrictions on the awards, the MVP would have been a foreign player who posted Shaquille O’Neal-esque numbers and the best five players might also have been foreign players.
All the awards going to foreign players was not going to cut it in a Taiwanese league, the league management figured, which was why imported players were ruled ineligible for the awards.
In 1999, the league folded — not exactly because it refused to hand those trophies to foreigners, but rather because of mismanagement.
Thirteen years later, some Taiwanese viewers and politicians were astonished last week to see that 17 of the 19 major categories of the Golden Horse Awards, Taiwan’s annual film extravaganza, went to either foreigners or foreign production companies.
Some were so angry — or embarrassed — that they suggested scrapping the awards ceremony altogether or at least conditionally suspending it because, while it was established in 1962 with the goal of developing and assisting the nation’s film industry, this year only two Taiwanese were called on stage to accept trophies. Few Taiwanese would be happy witnessing this on television.
In addition, it was strange to hear a Chinese co-host as well as hearing many of the winners using the term neidi (內地, referring to China) on stage.
Moreover, the comments made by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) and Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) warning about the awards’ positioning and direction made sense because, while the award takes pride in being known as the Chinese-language Oscars, it could further extend its reach to more international films to assert the Golden Horse Awards’ influence and significance.
However, reviewing the reactions brought to mind Taiwan’s lack of confidence.
A lack of self-confidence was why the basketball league prohibited foreigners from bagging the trophies over a decade ago, as well as why some could not tolerate that the only Taiwanese to deliver speeches on the podium last week were Kwai Lun-mei (桂綸鎂) and Chang Jung-chi (張榮吉).
It was probably why local media have an infatuation with reporting on everything Taiwanese do well internationally — from Wang Chien-ming’s (王建民) brilliant seasons with the New York Yankees and Yani Tseng’s (曾雅妮) LPGA titles, to Taiwan’s video games world championship win over the South Koreans and Chen Shu-chu (陳樹菊) being recognized by Time magazine as a hero for her philanthropy — and labeling them as “Taiwan’s glory.”
In addition, the government has never hesitated to inform the public on how well Taiwan is doing in world rankings in areas such as the investment environment.
Lack of confidence and an inward-looking nature, which intriguingly leads to a relentless search for recognition from abroad, was understandable because Taiwan has been isolated from the international community for too long, some said.
However, at the end of the day, it is not a healthy attitude.
Perhaps it is time for the Taiwanese government and public to get down to business like they did in the 1970s, when the entire nation toiled hard during a period full of economic and diplomatic challenges, without caring how it was seen by others, creating what eventually came to be known as the “Taiwan Miracle.” This sheer willpower and diligence would be the true glory and spirit of Taiwan which ultimately cultivates exuberant confidence.