Unfortunately, in the US many do not know the difference between Taiwan and Thailand. Mention Taiwan and a common response might be that the shopping in Bangkok is great or the beaches at Pattaya are beyond compare.
While Taiwan has an important story to tell in terms of economic and political development, the nation does not tell it well.
In fact, Taiwan contributes to its own relatively low global profile and overshadowing by China. More significantly, public opinion polling done by highly respected Pew Research shows that in the event of aggressive military action by China toward Taiwan, popular support for coming to the nation’s assistance is quite low in the US.
In many ways, Taiwan is disappearing off of the map, but it need not be that way.
The nation can help turn the situation around by following the examples of other countries that maintain close relations with the US.
Israel, Germany, France and Japan maintain day-long English-language cable TV broadcast capabilities in the US.
Recently, China’s CCTV started China 24, which broadcasts round-the-clock in English, offering a wide spectrum of programming about Chinese affairs, Chinese culture, global events and more, while maintaining very high quality and being surprisingly limited in overt propaganda.
Future Taiwanese cable TV broadcasting in the US must not be simply limited to political coverage. It must seek more broadly to introduce viewers to all aspects of Taiwanese society, culture, food, travelogues, natural beauty — anything that makes the viewer conscious that there is a “Taiwan.”
Moreover, with few exceptions, US universities give little attention to Taiwan.
When university administrators or faculty members are asked whether their department, college, or university has a course about Taiwan, a common response is “We tuck a section on Taiwan in at the end of our courses bout China.”
To right this situation, Taiwan must follow the example of former Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka, who in the 1970s provided 10 US universities with US$1 million each to promote Japanese studies.
Such an investment by the nation in promoting Taiwan studies would be very timely, given that students are far more apt to develop careers abut China than Taiwan.
Older academics who have specialized on Taiwan are aging and retiring with no one to take their places. US residents knowledgeable about Taiwanese affairs would help influence US popular opinion.
When we compare Taiwan with China in terms of quality of life, educational opportunity, social welfare, freedoms of press and speech, technological innovation, services, and the like, Taiwan is the clear victor. Yet, the nation sits back and allows itself to be overshadowed by its larger neighbor as though it is helpless.
William Sharp Jr is a faculty member of Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu.