Mon, May 03, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chen Chi-nan starts as Cultural Affairs chairman

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE Former minister without portfolio Chen Chi-nan is ready to implement his fresh ideas as the new head of the Council for Cultural Affairs

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chen Chi-nan, the new director of the Council for Cultural Affairs.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

As soon as Minister without Portfolio Chen Chi-nan (陳其南) was appointed as Chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs, he pledged to implement the idea of "establishing the nation with culture" and to advance the Council to Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

"Cultural policies do not only deal with the issues of how to allot budgets and resources but to find out a guiding principle to establish platforms for diverse ethnic groups' development," Chen said when he started in his new position on Thursday.

"It is also urgent to reconcile the social confrontations caused by the election with stressing civic, community and ethnic consciousness," Chen said.

Perhaps no one was more proficient in the administrative affairs and practices of the council than Chen, who served as its vice chairman from 1994 to 1997.

Since 1994, Chen has been noted for his efforts to promote the policy of "Holistic Community Building," a policy dedicated to creating unique local community cultures around the nation by arousing the residents' communal and civic consciousness. It also seeks to create a new society and culture that contains the different cultures of diverse ethnic groups in Taiwan.

He has promoted the idea of "decentralization," stressing that to reshape the images of Taiwan's cultures, quality of life must be raised and environmental transformation must be based on the autonomy of local communities and grassroots groups.

"What is most lacking in Taiwan society is a common consensus about the basic-level structure of the land," Chen said.

"If we establish a common consciousness from the level of community, then whether to unify with China or be independent from China will not be a problem for Taiwan."

Chen's ideas were highly valued by then president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who later interpreted Chen's discourse into the so-called "life community," an idea that called on the people of Taiwan to build a strong sense of common destiny and identity, as everyone has roots here.

Chen also contributed many ideas in the Creativity and Culture Industry Development Project and New Homeland Movement carried out by outgoing Council chairwoman Tchen Yu-chiou (陳郁秀).

It is said that Chen's appointment also breaks the unwritten rule that a woman should head the council, as in the past 10 years. Since 1993, the heads were Sheng Hsueh-yung (申學庸); Cheng Su-ming (鄭淑敏), now chairwoman of the China Television Company; Helen Lin (林澄枝), vice chairwoman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT); and outgoing council chairwoman Tchen Yu-chiou.

With a master's degree in anthropology from the National Taiwan University and a doctorate of anthropology from Yale, Chen first devoted himself to academic research at Academia Sinica's Institute of Ethnology and has taught anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Virginia in the US and the college of humanities and social sciences at National Chiao-tung University (交通大學).

Chen later held offices in governmental departments and was praised by the public for his "outstanding" performances. He worked as a consultant to Premier Yu Shyi-kun on cultural affairs when Yu served as Ilan County Commissioner in 1997 and 1998.

He was appointed as a national policy advisor in 1999 by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and headed the National Culture and Arts Foundation in 2001. Yu appointed Chen as minister without portfolio in 2002, responsible for advice on cultural and educational policies.

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