Tue, Jul 26, 2016 - Page 8 News List

The price of being in the limelight in the Strait

By Chang Kuo-tsai 張國財

Behind the grandeur and glory of celebrities is actually a good mixture of untold struggles, frustrations and pain, especially for those whose careers span the Taiwan Strait. It is almost an art form in itself to be liked on both sides and be able to make a living.

The Chinese government has meted out severe punishments to Taiwanese pop diva A-mei (張惠妹), singer-songwriter Deserts Chang (張懸), K-pop star Chou Tzu-yu (周子瑜) and actor Leon Dai (戴立忍). Its message cannot be clearer: If Taiwanese performers want to make it in the Chinese market, the first requirement is political correctness, and not how good they can sing or dance.

In China, arts and entertainment belong to the realm of politics. To ensure their survival, what do Taiwanese pop stars do?

Model and actress Lin Chi-ling’s (林志玲) ability to use ambiguity and equivocation is an art form. Even when faced with the most sensitive questions, she smiles the most innocent smile and says in a childish voice, “I do not know” or “I have never thought about it,” and all the questions fade away. However, for this trick to be useful, one has to have Lin’s beauty, elegance, innocence and sweetness.

When most Taiwanese artists face China’s oppression, the methodology that A-mei, indie icon Crowd Lu (盧廣仲), singer Rainie Yang (楊丞琳), Chou and Dai have employed is put to use: Swallow the humiliation, keep a low profile, let time do the healing and stage a comeback when the opportunity arises. Those who have a burning ambition to succeed will waste no time to ask for forgiveness, make a confession and demonstrate their support for China. However, there are also those who have apologized because they were forced to do so.

When Chang performed in the UK on Nov. 2, 2013, she displayed the national flag of the Republic of China to the British audience. She is one of the very few Taiwanese performers who has chosen not to bow down to the renminbi. She would rather let her concerts in Beijing be canceled and lose the big Chinese market than put her liberty and dignity on sale. Of course, she has won respect and applause from the Taiwanese public.

Looking at what he does and listening to what he says, the passe singer Huang An (黃安) is the biggest loser on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. His only remaining value in China is to report pro-independence Taiwanese to the Chinese. As far as he is concerned, Taiwan is just a place where he can use the healthcare system to have an open-heart surgery to save his life. He fares badly abroad, while regarding himself as a passerby on his native soil. What a lonely life that must be.

China requires anyone who aspires to make it in the Chinese market to take sides; showing support for Taiwanese independence is strictly forbidden.

Can people say the same about Taiwan?

Actress Ruby Lin (林心如) on one hand displays her support for China on the South China Sea issue, while on the other hand she continues to receive a subsidy of NT$20 million (US$623,635) from the Ministry of Culture for a new TV series. Is this not confusing?

Chang Kuo-tsai is a retired National Hsinchu University of Education associate professor and a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.

Translated by Ethan Zhan

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