The Liberty Times Editorial: China launches culture offensive

Sat, Jan 05, 2013 - Page 8

A concert presenting stars from the Chinese Music Chart Awards (中國歌曲排行榜) was held at the Taipei Arena over the weekend.

Usually, there would be nothing much to be said about a music concert, but the Chinese Music Chart is compiled by Beijing Music Radio, which is one of the stations belonging to the state-owned Radio Beijing Corp, and the concert in Taipei aroused suspicions right from the start.

The Chinese Music Chart is divided into two groups — one for “the interior” and the other for “Hong Kong and Taiwan.” Tickets for the show were neither sold nor given away openly.

During the planning stage, legislators belonging to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and its pan-blue allies were reported to be applying pressure for the concert to be approved, and for the chart award ceremony and concert to be combined as a single event, to make it really spectacular.

Opposition parties protested, saying that the event, while presented as an innocent cross-strait exchange, was really being used to belittle Taiwan’s status and push for unification through cultural means. These protests forced the concert’s organizers to make some adjustments in response, but these changes were not enough to allay everyone’s suspicions, and that is why the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) invited members of the public to join it at the venue to keep an eye on what was going on.

The Chinese Music Chart is a well-established chart for Chinese-language pop songs. Having been in existence for 20 years, it is a significant chart in the pop music market and is fairly influential, even if there have been some controversies about how the chart is compiled. If seen purely from the standpoint of pop music exchanges, there would be no reason why a concert associated with the chart should not be held in Taiwan.

However, if people want to organize activities in Taiwan, they should at least make sure to follow Taiwan’s laws and respect the feelings of the Taiwanese.However, the organizers paid no attention to such concerns. This is above all true of the concert’s title and content. While there was one category for “the interior,” the other category included both Hong Kong and Taiwan, lumped together as if their status were the same. This, along with various suspicious things in the concert’s planning process, is quite enough to show that the event’s real purpose was not to promote musical exchanges, but to get a foot in Taiwan’s door and launch a cultural offensive.

As TSU Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) said, the Chinese Music Chart seeks to “culturally synchronize” the two sides of the Taiwan Strait by ranking songs from Taiwan and China together in the same chart, and this is one aspect of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) strategy of merging Taiwan’s culture with that of China.

In other words, under the originally proposed arrangements for a combined award ceremony and concert, with songs from the two sides listed together, the Chinese awards would have created an image of both sides of the Taiwan Strait belonging to one family. What would follow on from that would be for Taiwan’s pop music business to gradually lose its distinctive identity. That is the real reason behind the high-profile move to hold a Chinese Music Chart concert in Taiwan.

Following loud protests by Taiwan’s opposition parties, the government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) imposed some restrictive measures on the event. This move prompted Fan Liqing (范麗青), spokeswoman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s State Council, to say the holding of the Chinese Music Chart event in Taiwan was an unofficial cultural exchange activity and that she hoped performance activities such as this would not be interfered with.

The event’s Taiwanese organizers echoed Fan’s sentiment, expressing their dismay and regret over what they called the politicization of this event by some people in Taiwan for their own motives.

This is a typical example of Chinese officialdom, along with certain people in Taiwan who long to be unified with China, feigning innocence and even accusing others to cover up for their own dishonesty, as they so often do.

As everyone knows, there is no such term in the Chinese Communist Party’s dictionary as “art for art’s sake.” As long ago as 1942, former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) used his speech at the Yanan Forum on Literature and Art to lay down the line that art should serve politics.

Considering this background, along with China’s ongoing efforts to annex Taiwan by any possible means, an activity such as the Chinese Music Chart concert, sponsored as it was by a state-owned company and going under the guise of an entertainment exchange, is definitely not just a matter of “art for art’s sake.” If it were really a purely artistic event, and if it had been organized according to the principles of openness, equality and dignity, it would not have aroused such a lot of suspicion or caused offense to Taiwanese. The response of the organizers and their backers to the barrage of criticism, by accusing their critics of politicizing the issue, is no more than malicious mudslinging.

There are a lot of people who have had dealings with China and claim that those dealings are just innocent contacts with no political pressures involved. It is high time for those people to wake up. Over the past two decades and more, Taiwanese politicians and businesspeople have been transferring Taiwan’s economic and manufacturing assets to China in a big way, while saying that economics and business can be kept separate from politics. Of course, some people have made a lot of money out of their investments in China. Some of them now want to use some of that money to buy up media outlets in Taiwan so they can publish and broadcast content that is to China’s liking.

However, many more Taiwanese factory owners in China are now getting elbowed out of the more developed regions to make room for more high-tech businesses. Another effect is that Taiwan has become increasingly vulnerable to being pushed toward unification by economic pressures. These realities do not stop some people from fooling themselves, and trying to fool others, with talk of China changing from the workshop of the world into the world’s biggest market, or of reorienting toward the domestic market, or even a “peace dividend.”

Those who deal with China, but claim that it is “just business” or “just art,” are living in a fantasyland. Ma and his administration are the worst offenders of all, as they extend this notion of “just” this and “just” that to include areas like national security, foreign relations, culture and education. They are doing just what China wants, and that is the main reason for the national crisis that now confronts us.

Given these circumstances, the TSU should be commended for the steps it took to keep an eye on the Chinese Music Chart concert. Apart from voicing the public’s concerns by protesting outside the Taipei Arena, it is also necessary to observe how the show is broadcast on radio and television, and boycott such programs if necessary. Monitoring and boycotts can be rational and peaceful. Their purpose is not just to expose the show’s effect of belittling Taiwan, along with any infringements of bans or other regulations, but also, within the realm of freedom of speech and expression, to take actions that demonstrate that Taiwan is different from China.

It is important for opposition parties and other concerned citizens to make sure that the Ma administration lives up to its word by monitoring this and other such performances to make sure that there are no breaches of regulations and agreements, and to impose penalties if any such infringements occur.

The Chinese Music Chart concert has been a test case for how to respond to China’s attempts to get its foot in Taiwan’s door and launch a cultural offensive. If China is allowed to get away with this kind of thing, we can expect to see more examples of it taking advantage of Taiwan. This is a test that Taiwanese cannot afford to fail.

Translated by Julian Clegg