Sat, Jan 26, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Trio prove value of soft power

Three Taiwanese have been hailed this month by international publications for their growing influence on the world, a timely reminder of the potent value of soft power to this nation.

Newsweek last week named Portico Media founder Jay Lin (林志杰) as one of the 15 members of its “Creative Class of 2019,” while Foreign Policy magazine on Wednesday named Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳) and venture capitalist Lee Kai-fu (李開復) as two of its “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”

While Lin and Tang both spent time working in California’s Silicon Valley before returning to Taiwan and are prominent LGBT activists, they share another trait: They are outspoken proponents of digital technology as a catalyst for transformation, be it the entertainment media industry or government.

Lin, an intellectual property lawyer-turned media mogul and movie producer, was cited by Newsweek for his LGBT rights work: In addition to founding the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival in 2014, the Queermosa film awards in 2016 and the GagaOOLala streaming platform in 2017, he has been active in the effort to get a same-sex marriage law passed.

The magazine said that for its list, it selected people who have “developed creative solutions to problems that face our world … and leveraged heightened globalization, increased awareness and cutting-edge technology to make their dreams come true.”

That is certainly true for Lin in another aspect that was not mentioned by the magazine: helping break down societal barriers and prejudices in Taiwan as a gay man who, with his partner, are proud parents to twin sons born to a surrogate mother in the US.

Tang, an entrepreneur turned government official who was a readers’ poll choice for the Foreign Policy list, in October 2016 became not only the nation’s youngest-ever government minister at 36, but its first transgender one and the only one to proudly proclaim her anarchist beliefs.

Charged with propelling Taiwan’s high-tech sector, Tang is also pushing for the free exchange of resources across industries and within the government, part of her belief in the power of open-source communications to build channels in this nation and globally.

Tang likes to talk about “warm” power — promoting the UN’s sustainable development goals digitally — rather than soft power, but she has also said that technology-assisted open governance is Taiwan’s warm power, as well as a way to retool the nation’s sharing economy.

Lee, a computer scientist known for his work on speech recognition and artificial intelligence who worked for three of the biggest names in tech before turning to investment, is a big believer in soft power, especially for Taiwan.

Although he has long lived as an expatriate, Lee, in a June 2017 speech at a National Taiwan University graduation ceremony, said that Taiwan should focus on turning its soft power in the service, cultural and creative industries into a competitive advantage.

Soft power is an intangible asset for Taiwan that the past few governments have frequently talked about, but often failed to promote in terms of financing, infrastructure or breadth of vision.

Tang, Lin and Lee are proof that Taiwanese can make a difference internationally in the technological, cultural and creative spheres.

Their achievements as entrepreneurs and thinkers — and in Tang’s case, in officialdom — are deserving of accolades, but it is also their willingness to challenge the established order and explore innovative and creative solutions to problems that they see that should be celebrated and emulated.

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