Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) said yesterday that Taiwan Academy centers and China’s Confucius Institutes are bananas and apples that cannot be compared and that Taiwan has its own unique role to play in the international community.
Lung said Taiwan Academy centers, set up in New York, Los Angeles and Houston to promote the nation’s languages and culture, do not have to compete with the Confucius Institutes established by China around the world.
“Bananas won’t compete with apples to see which is redder, right?” asked Lung, adding that there was no need for bananas and apples to compare their shape or color.
“That’s how I view the differences between the Taiwan Academy and the Confucius Institute,” she said in an interview with the Central News Agency.
Lung said the Taiwan Academy does not have to compete with the Confucius Institute in size, as its value lies in the fact that Taiwan “is the only free and open society that grew out of the soil of traditional Chinese culture.”
“It is the one and only, and this is enough to make us proud,” Lung said.
However, she said that while Taiwanese should be proud of their culture, they should also be humble.
There are many countries with rich cultures and Taiwan’s role is to contribute its experience to the diversity of the international community, she said.
“That’s how I see the Taiwan Academy,” she added.
Asked if it is possible for Taiwan Academy centers to work with Confucius Institutes to promote Chinese culture globally, Lung said unless Taiwan no longer feels that China is a “threat,” such collaboration may not be possible.
Meanwhile, Lung said her ministry is looking at the possibility of establishing cultural centers in China to facilitate cultural exchanges between the two sides.
The Tourism Bureau has already set up offices in China, she said.
“If the cultural industry is important to Taiwan, then of course this is something that needs to be studied,” she said.
However, she said it will require a lot of coordination with the central government’s economic, mainland affairs, intellectual property and industrial agencies.
Taiwan has three cultural centers abroad — in New York, Tokyo and Paris. Lung said her ministry plans to set up eight more centers, but the locations are still being negotiated.
She added she hopes that in 30 years the interaction between Taiwan and China could be less motivated by politics and that both sides would enjoy a relationship based on mutual trust and goodwill.
Lung expressed the wish that Taiwan’s democratic values and “soft power,” such as its creativity, culture and the quality of its citizens, would influence China into becoming a freer and more open society.
On the other hand, she said Taiwan can learn from China’s “hard power,” such as some of its good economic decisions and its globalization efforts, which she said are often more ambitious than Taiwan’s.
“Can we seek to combine our soft and hard power to enter the international market? Of course this is a goal we can think about,” Lung said.
However, she said, before the two sides can talk about cooperation, there needs to be mutual trust and a willingness to “treat each other as equals.”