Sat, Sep 11, 2004 - Page 3 News List

The strange riches of cultural exchange

Ping Lu , the nation's representative to Hong Kong and a prominent writer, visited Beijing recently to attend a book fair in her capacity as consultant to the Taiwan Publication Association. Her visit was the first by a director of the Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Center, Taiwan's de facto consulate in Hong Kong. She spoke to 'Taipei Times' reporter Joy Su in Hong Kong this week about her visit and the role that cultural exchange plays in forging better cross-strait relations


Ping Lu, director of the Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Center -- Taiwan's de facto consulate in Hong Kong -- says culture and cultural exchanges are the best antidote to animosity.


Taipei Times: How did you manage to get your visa to Beijing so quickly, given the office that you hold?

Ping Lu (平路): I am also a writer ... and I think the book fair was a chance for Taiwan's publishing industry -- and its hard-earned achievements and development -- to be represented.

The book fair was something that I was interested in and is something I think that both government and non-government sectors should push for. As it happens, the publishing industry is also the one area within cross-strait relations that has seen substantial achievement. It might be the sector with the most concrete experience in terms of cross-strait exchanges.

I feel that my personal status as a writer and my familiarity with people in the publishing industry helped in planning the visit.

TT: Do you think that being allowed to visit is a gesture of goodwill on China's part?

Ping Lu: It is my hope that China can respect the mutual goodwill and sincerity that is exhibited in cultural exchange, and I do feel that China respects the achievements already made in the field [of publishing] by so many years of people coming and going [between Taiwan and China.]...

They [the Taiwan Publication Association] invited me, so I decided to apply to visit.

Of course, I had to get MAC's [Mainland Affairs Council] approval for the visit first, and they agreed. China also authorized my visit, and in the end everything was approved.

I think there must have been some friends involved who provided assistance. But as for their reasons for approving my application, I can't say anything from where I stand ... but there must have been some understanding and goodwill in the process.

TT: Did you meet any government officials?

Ping Lu: Yes, but the visit was made possible by accumulated efforts that resulted in a good platform for exchange.

If I were to name all the officials I met, it would seem as if it were my own achievement, when actually it had nothing to do with me. Even if I had something to do with it, it was down to the efforts of all involved.

It is better not to say anything, for to do otherwise would ruin the mutual trust that has been built up, and the advantage of cultural exchange is specifically that it can build true understanding and trust.

Between two people -- between a Taiwanese and a Chinese -- you need to have mutual understanding to resolve existing differences.

TT: What role does cultural exchange play in easing cross-strait tensions?

Ping Lu: I really believe that Taiwan's strength lies in its culture. It is something extracted from years of democratization.

The term "culture" encompasses Taiwan's hard-earned achievements. So I hope that we can let the world understand this, especially Hong Kong and China.

I also believe that, under any circumstances, culture is the best antidote to animosity. Cultural exchange is obviously not trying to achieve anything in particular -- there is no political ambition. But even without a specific goal, it is capable of resolving unnecessary animosity.

For instance, people from Hong Kong love to go to Eslite Bookstore in Taiwan ... They've also started going to resorts in southern and central Taiwan and participating in various festivals, such as the seasonal tuna festivities in the south. These are all things that cannot be found in Hong Kong.

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