Sat, May 12, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Taiwanese ‘soft power’ on the rise

With all the fuss about not being invited to this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) and children’s art featuring the Republic of China flag’s colors being painted over at a beef event in Australia, the latest in the insults this nation has had to face, it is easy to overlook Taiwan’s continuing “soft power” successes.

It is a disgrace that China was once again able to blackball Taiwan from a key forum for global healthcare and public health development. It is a disgrace that Beijing and its officials, despite their aspirations to global powerdom, remain so frantically phobic about another nation’s flag, name and title. Their inferiority complex is showing.

Taiwanese university students over the past few weeks have scored major wins in competitions in Iran, China and at an international design competition — a reminder of the high level of academic achievements at this nation’s universities, as well as the government’s support for student participation in academic exchanges, forums and other international events. Four graduate students from National Taipei University of Technology this week won the “Best of the Year” prize at the iF Design Talent Award, while a team from National Tsing Hua University won the “Highest Computing Performance Award” at the 2018 Asia Supercomputer Community Student Supercomputer Challenge, after making it to the final round of 20 out of more than 300 teams from around the world.

A team of students from National Cheng Kung University and National Taiwan University last month won the Best Overall Project prize at the first International Nanotechnology Olympiad in Tehran.

Each time Taiwanese — be they students or athletes — go abroad for competitions or educational exchanges, they represent this nation. Their participation provides a very visible reminder that Taiwan exists, and that it is not part of China, despite the occasional kerfuffles over national titles and flags.

Yes, the nation faces a belligerent China intent on blocking it from the world stage. It faces a crisis in education as the steadily declining birthrate over the past two decades has begun to take its toll on the proliferation of colleges and universities.

Yes, there is a very real concern over the continuing brain drain as universities, the corporate world and other entities outside Taiwan offer higher salaries and remuneration than their Taiwanese counterparts are able — or willing — to do.

However, every time a Taiwanese steps onto an international stage — Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, which has been wowing audiences in London this week with artistic director Lin Hwai-min’s (林懷民) Formosa (關於島嶼), younger dancers and choreographers impressing their peers at international choreographic competitions around Europe, fashion designers such as Johan Ku (古又文), Apu Jan (詹朴) and Jim Chen-hsiang Hu (胡乘祥) showing their creations on catwalks in London and elsewhere, the women’s hockey team, badminton and tennis players and golfers, to name but a few — the nation benefits from the exposure.

Each time students, designers, performers, athletes and others have a chance to let people know that they are Taiwanese, that Taiwan is not China, or for those more geographically challenged, that it is not Thailand, it is a win for this nation.

It would be very good if Taiwan were able to attend the WHA as an observer once again, if it were to fully participate in a host of other global organizations’ annual meetings and conferences, but when it cannot, other nations lose as well.

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