Vol. 2, Issue 37
The Global Taiwan Brief Volume 2, Issue 37
By: Russell Hsiao
The Potential Impact on Taiwan of a Second Korean War
By: Dennis Halpin
Cross-Strait Relations after the 19th Party Congress
By: Tiffany Ma
Cultivating the “Cultural Citizens” of Taiwan
By: Sebra Yen
Russell Hsiao is the executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute and the editor-in-chief of the Global Taiwan Brief.
Who Will Replace Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun?
Close observers of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Taiwan policy apparatus have been anticipating a change in the Chinese government’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) for the past year. The State Council’s TAO is currently headed by Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) who has held that position since 2013. In the PRC’s party-state system, the Chinese Communist Party’s Taiwan Work Office—which is directly subordinate to the CCP Central Committee—doubles as the State Council’s TAO. The TAO is responsible for implementing the policies set by the CCP Central Committee’s Taiwan Affairs Leading Small Group (中共中央台灣工作領導小組會議) chaired by General Secretary Xi Jinping. While the current director has yet to step down, analysts believe that he could still be replaced sometime after the Congress meets in mid-October and before the next leading small group meeting, which will likely be held within the first quarter of 2018.
Earlier reports indicated that one possible candidate could be Shanghai Municipal Committee United Front Work Department Director Sha Hailin (沙海林), also one of 2,287 official delegates to the 19th Party Congress. The former PRC Ambassador to Ireland was trained under the United Front Work Department system. Steeped in united front work, Sha is also a seasoned diplomat. He was also Shanghai’s representative to the annual Taipei-Shanghai Forum. Another candidate was former TAO Vice Minister Gong Qinggai (龔清概), before he was swept up by Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign in early 2016. The former vice minister was sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption.
According to Taiwan media outlets, two new candidates have emerged as potential candidates to replace Zhang. They are: current PRC Ambassador to the United Nations Liu Jieyi (劉結一) and former CCP Central Committee International Liaison Department Vice Minister Zheng Xiaosong (鄭曉松).
Liu (b. 1957)—who was once before considered the favorite to replace Zhang—is a career diplomat who served extensively within the PRC’s Mission to the United Nations and in other posts within the Foreign Ministry that largely involved North American affairs. In 2009, however, Liu was transferred to serve as vice minister of the CCP International Liaison Department, and in 2013 was appointed the PRC’s ambassador to the United Nations where he currently serves. Yet, Liu’s notable absence from the official list of delegates to the CCP’s 19th Party Congress all but nullifies his candidacy for a senior party position.
Zheng (b. 1959), on the other hand, has been officially listed as a delegate to the 19th Party Congress. Zheng served as deputy director of the CCP Central Committee International Liaison Department from July 2016, where he served until being appointed to his current position as director of the Central People’s Government Liaison Office of the Macao Special Administrative Region (中央人民政府駐澳門特別行政區聯絡辦公室) in September. Before taking on these roles, Zheng worked his way up different government ministries from a secretary in the Foreign Ministry’s general office to a director in the Finance Ministry and executive director for China at the Asian Development Bank (a position appointed by the State Council). Zheng also served in senior Party posts, first as deputy governor of Fujian provincial government and as secretary-general of the Fujian provincial Party committee.
Whether Zhang will be replaced and by whom remain open questions at this point. While the general consensus points to Zhang being replaced, it is still difficult to ascertain by whom. It is likely that the person will fit the pattern of personnel changes in the broader Taiwan policy apparatuses that have taken place over the past year that appear to emphasize expertise in international relations as opposed to the more traditional cross-Strait relations. Indeed, Zhou Zhihuai’s (周志懷) replacement by Yang Mingjie (楊明杰) as head of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, and elder Chinese statesmen Dai Bingguo’s (戴秉國) selection as chairman of the National Society of Taiwan Studies (全國台灣研究會) serve as indicators of this overall shift toward an approach that emphasizes the international factors influencing cross-Strait relations.
The main point: If Zhang is replaced, it will likely be sometime after the Party Congress and before the next CCP Taiwan Affairs Leading Small Group meeting to be held early 2018. A new appointment will likely fit the pattern of personnel changes in the broader Taiwan policy apparatuses that have taken place over the past year, which have emphasized international as opposed to cross-Strait relations expertise.
Correction: An earlier version of this brief incorrectly noted that the TAO director is on the official list of delegates to the 19th Party Congress provided by Xinhua News Agency. The Zhang Zhijun (same characters) on that list is in fact the party-secretary of Baishan city (白山市) in Jilin province.
TPOF Poll: Public Support for Smaller Political Parties Drops
On September 17, the independent Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation (台灣民意教育基金會) released an opinion poll that measured public support for the political parties in Taiwan. Among 1,074 respondents, the poll indicated that 30.2 percent supported the ruling-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), 18.9 percent the Nationalist Party (KMT), 6.4 percent the New Power Party (NPP), 2.9 percent the People’s First Party (PFP), 2.0 percent supported other parties, and 1.4 percent said that they did not know, whereas 38.2 percent indicated that they did not support any political party.
The poll tracked public support for the political parties over a one-year period in four intervals, starting from July 2016, November 2016, February, 2017 and September 2017. According to polling data, support for the DPP has remained at about the same level since July 2016—two months after the Tsai administration came into office—clocking in originally at 30.4 percent and ending at 30.2 percent. Support for the Nationalist Party increased slightly, rising from 16.0 percent to 18.9 percent.
Interestingly, public support for the two smaller parties has dropped significantly since July 2016. The PFP, which is part of the pan-Blue coalition and headed by James Soong (宋楚瑜), dropped from 7.0 percent to 2.9 percent. The NPP, which was formed by leaders of the Sunflower movement and seen as part of the pan-Green coalition, dropped from 14.9 percent to 6.4 percent. The precipitous decrease in public support of the two smaller parties notably did not appear to translate to stronger support for the two main political parties. Instead, it appears to be correlated to the significant 16.1 percent increase in respondents who indicated that they did not support any specific party, a number commensurate with the decrease in public support experienced by the two smaller political parties combined.
According to one expert, the polls indicate that the smaller political parties are at risk of marginalization. While decreasing support for the two political parties appears to support this observation, the significant increase in non-support for any of the parties in the same poll (from 22 percent to 38.2 percent) suggests that the Taiwan population does not foreclose an alternative to the two major political parties. Another poll conducted by the Foundation in the same series indicated that Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who is an independent, enjoys a high popularity rating. Specifically, Ko scored 66.75 on the “feeling thermometer,” which is gauged between zero and 100.
Modeled after the Pew Research Center, the Foundation was established in February 2016 as a non-profit, non-governmental, and non-partisan think tank. According to its website, the organization was started by famous author Chien Zhi-zhong (簡志忠) and former lawmaker Chien Hsi-chieh (簡錫堦). The chairman is You Ying-lung (游盈隆).
The main point: There has been a significant decrease in public support for the two smaller parties included in the poll. The drop in their support did not carry over to greater support for the two main political parties. Instead, the percentage of respondents who indicated that they did not support any specific party increased significantly: from 22.1 percent to 38.2 percent.
The Potential Impact on Taiwan of a Second Korean War
Dennis Halpin is a visiting scholar at the US-Korea Institute at SAIS (Johns Hopkins University). He previously served as an analyst in the INR Bureau at the State Department and on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives as an adviser on Asian issues, from 2000 to 2013.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the past year have reached a level not seen since 1994 when, as former Secretary of Defense William Perry has publicly noted, a newly installed Clinton Administration contemplated a surgical strike on a nuclearizing North Korea. The new Trump Administration, following a series of missile and nuclear tests by Pyongyang, has similarly found North Korea to be its greatest foreign policy challenge. President Trump’s threat to “totally destroy North Korea” in his first-ever speech to the UN General Assembly late last month, and other disparaging presidential comments about North Korea’s leader, drew the following public response from Pyongyang’s UN Ambassador: this is “a declaration of war.”
The North Korean invasion of South Korea in the early hours of Sunday on June 25, 1950, led to a rapid and complete reversal of American foreign policy priorities in Asia. President Harry S. Truman surprised Pyongyang, Beijing, and Moscow with an immediate and vigorous response. The President hurriedly returned to Washington from a vacation in his hometown of Independence, Missouri after being informed of the invasion in a telephone call from Secretary of State Dean Acheson. On June 27th, he announced the official US response to the American people.
The measures undertaken by the President profoundly impacted the future of all of Asia and Taiwan, as well as the situation on the Korean peninsula. Truman announced first that he had “ordered United States air and sea forces to give the Korean Government troops cover and support.” He noted further that “the attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war.”
In these circumstances the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area. Accordingly I have ordered the 7th Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa. As a corollary of this action I am calling upon the Chinese Government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland. The 7th Fleet will see that this is done. The determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations.
The June 27th remarks represented a complete reversal of post-War US China policy following Mao’s victory and the withdrawal of Nationalist (KMT) forces to Taiwan. Following Chairman Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 1949, Truman made it clear he was adopting a hands-off policy with regards to cross-Strait relations.
In public remarks from the White House on January 5, 1950, the President stated that:
The United States has no predatory designs on Formosa, or on any other Chinese territory. The United States has no desire to obtain special rights or privileges, or to establish military bases on Formosa at this time. Nor does it have any intention of utilizing its Armed Forces to interfere in the present situation. The United States Government will not pursue a course which will lead to involvement in the civil conflict in China. Similarly, the United States Government will not provide military aid or advice to Chinese forces on Formosa. In the view of the United States Government, the resources on Formosa are adequate to enable them to obtain the items which they might consider necessary for the defense of the island.
One week later Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave his famous speech at Washington’s National Press Club where he defined the United States “defense perimeter of the Pacific” encompassing countries like Japan and the Philippines, which the United States would be compelled to defend, but excluding Taiwan and South Korea. A former missionary to China, Walter Judd, and other Congressional critics of Truman Administration policy in the ongoing “Who lost China?” debate, were “very disappointed at the administration’s indifferent stance toward the Republic of China (ROC).”
But then the Korean War broke out and cross-Strait dynamics were completely altered. Mao, who had been preparing his forces in southern China for a cross-Strait invasion, had to refocus the PLA’s attention to the northeast border with Korea. Mao soon realized that his window of opportunity was fast closing and that the signal of a perceived green light from Truman to bring the Chinese Civil War to a successful conclusion was now flashing red. The presence of the US 7th Fleet, which Premier Zhou Enlai referred to as “armed aggression on Chinese territory,” proved an insurmountable obstacle. As a result, “on August 4, 1950, Mao decided to abort his plan to invade Taiwan.”
After a three-year bloody, stalemated war and a return to the status quo ante along the 38th parallel on the Korean peninsula, a new paradigm emerged for the Taiwan Strait. The administration of Truman’s successor Dwight Eisenhower signed a mutual defense treaty with the Republic of China on Taiwan on December 2, 1954. Mao’s dream of a Taiwan united with the People’s Republic of China quickly slipped away. As Mao later would fatalistically tell Henry Kissinger, “we can wait for one hundred years” for Taiwan. Thus, the economically vibrant and democratically governed Taiwan of today grew directly out of the ashes of the Korean War.
So, if the first Korean War had such a dramatic effect on the destiny of Taiwan, what would be the unintended consequences of a second Korean War, especially given the “August Korea crisis” of threats, missile launches and presidential tweets in response?
First, Taiwan, the world’s 18th largest economy, could not, at a minimum, escape the widespread adverse impact that the outbreak of armed hostilities on the Korean peninsula would have on all of the East Asian economies. For unlike 1950, when the first Korean War broke out, it is the Pacific Ocean not the Atlantic that is the major highway for international trade. It is Taiwan and her sister economies along the Pacific Rim that serve as the economic engine for the global economy. Cargo vessels would likely hesitate to sail from the port of Kaohsiung and other Asian ports if missiles, especially nuclear armed, were flying overhead across the Pacific.
An even greater danger to Taiwan and the economic prosperity of its 23 million people would be if its major trading partners, the PRC and the United States, were drawn again into a Korean conflict as happened in 1950. This August, the Beijing-sponsored Global Times ran an opinion piece titled, “Reckless game over the Korean Peninsula runs risk of real war,” which raised the specter of a potential Great Power conflict over Korea. “The US and North Korea have both ramped up their threatening rhetoric,” the paper warned.
The hawkish Global Times went on to note that “China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.” The newspaper gave every indication that, given certain circumstances, China would intervene on the Korean peninsula for a military showdown with the United States. History would then repeat itself.
The effect for Taiwanese investors in China, including such financial giants as Foxconn that maintain physical assets there, such as factories, could be devastating if aerial bombardment of industrial facilities in an escalating conflict took place. The Taiwan Stock Exchange, along with stock markets around Asia and even globally, would see its financial assets swiftly tank.
The greatest potential threat to Taiwan, however, could be a strategic rather than an economic one. If a conflict on the Korean peninsula drew Beijing into a military conflict with Washington, and if an increasingly reckless North Korean regime decided to throw nuclear weapons into the mix, the results for Taiwan could be devastating. Fallout from radiation could create a nuclear winter across much of East Asia.
An even greater potential risk to Taiwan could come from Chinese leader Xi Jinping if he saw his “China Dream” going largely up in smoke due to a Great Power conflict in Korea. Xi has already been far more assertive on the Taiwan question than other recent Communist Chinese leaders. According to a Reuters report, during a 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bali, Xi told Vincent Siew that, “a political solution to a standoff over sovereignty (for Taiwan) lasting more than six decades cannot be postponed forever.” If Xi Jinping came to the conclusion that his “new type of Great Power Relations” with the United States was no longer plausible because of a crisis in Korea, he could then decide to go for broke over Taiwan. A full-scale attempted cross-Strait invasion could become an unintended consequence of a second Korean conflict.
There is an old Korean adage that “when whales fight, shrimp get broken.” In any Great Power showdown over Korea, not only South Korea but Taiwan could end up being inadvertently caught in the crossfire.
The main point: The political destiny of Taiwan was greatly impacted by the 1950 conflict in Korea following the withdrawal of Chinese Nationalist forces to Taiwan the year before. President Truman sent the US 7th Fleet to the Taiwan Strait immediately after the outbreak of the Korean War, effectively blocking Mao’s plans for a cross-Strait invasion. With the specter of a possible second Korean conflict, history could repeat itself with severe economic and even potential security consequences for Taiwan and its people.
Cross-Strait Relations after the 19th Party Congress
Tiffany Ma is Senior Director of Political and Security Affairs at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of NBR.
The 19th Party Congress, opening on October 18th, 2017, will set the direction and tone of Beijing’s Taiwan policy at a critical time in cross-Strait relations. Since the inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen in May 2016, Beijing’s pressures on Taiwan have brought relations to an impasse. With mixed signals from Beijing on its future Taiwan policy in the lead up to the Party Congress, the meeting will hopefully provide clarity on whether the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership might recalibrate to a more flexible approach or continue its current pressure campaign against Taiwan in the years ahead.
The annual Beidaihe (北戴河) meeting, which reportedly took place during the first two weeks of August, signaled that preparations for the upcoming twice-a-decade Party Congress were well underway. Senior and retired officials have traditionally utilized this secretive conclave to decide on leadership changes and key policy issues, which are later formalized at a plenum the week ahead of the Congress itself. While each Party Congress is an elaborate and orchestrated public affair, with many predetermined outcomes, they are not simply symbolic rituals. The upcoming meeting bears significant implications for the future of cross-Strait relations for three important reasons.
First, Xi is on track to secure a second term as General Secretary of the CCP. The Party Congress “will be viewed in the eyes of both Chinese elites and foreign observers as something of a referendum on Xi’s success in establishing himself as China’s unquestioned political supremo” according to Center for Strategic and International Studies expert Christopher Johnson. Xi’s power and authority will be on full display at the upcoming Congress, which will fuel speculation that he might be aiming for an unprecedented third term.
Second, the replacement of approximately half of the CCP Politburo and its Standing Committee members provides opportunities for Xi’s supporters and associates to ascend to top echelons of Party power. The positioning of Xi’s allies serves as an important measure of his political clout and represents yet another step toward his consolidation of power by reducing the influence of other factions, which has also occurred under his anti-corruption campaign. A Politburo and Standing Committee filled with Xi’s political allies would best ensure his success in realizing his policy agenda.
Third, Xi will report on the Central Committee’s work during the last five-year term. Xi’s predecessors have used past meetings and reports to unveil strategic directions for the party—such as Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents” and Hu Jintao’s “Scientific Outlook on Development” concept that reflect national aspirations—as well as reaffirm core principles on cross-Strait relations, such as “one China, two systems” and “peaceful ‘reunification’.” As noted by Stanford scholar Alice Miller, how Xi’s report conforms with or diverges from past reports will shed light on his priorities in his second term.
If Xi entered Beidaihe with a “very good hand of cards,” as assessed by Claremont McKenna professor Minxin Pei, he will emerge from the 19th Party Congress with an even stronger one. Yet, it remains to be seen whether Xi will wield his control and influence over the CCP leadership to change the tone of cross-Strait relations. The stakes are high in Xi’s second term, as Beijing’s pressures against Taipei in recent months have created growing uncertainties. Driven by deep suspicion of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) pro-independence past and President Tsai’s unwillingness to affirm Beijing’s “One-China” principle at the core of the so-called “1992 Consensus”—which is Xi’s precondition for continuation of dialogue—China has frozen high level official exchanges and stepped up rhetoric and actions to further coerce and isolate Taiwan. China has increased economic pressure by limiting the number of tourists and students who may travel to Taiwan, pressured international organizations to limit Taiwan’s international space, whittled away at Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies, arrested and jailed a Taiwan human rights activist, and undermined Taiwan’s international legitimacy through concerted CCP United Front Work Department influence campaigns. Furthermore, the People’s Liberation Army has increased exercises and long range patrols, including off the east coast of Taiwan, that are seen as, at best intimidation, and at worst preparation for a military contingency in the Taiwan Strait.
The pressure campaign is perhaps unsurprising. Last year, Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) surmised that Xi could not afford to compromise on territorial sovereignty issues, and argued that high-level power struggles leading up to the Party Congress would result in greater pressures against Taiwan. President Tsai and DPP officials have reportedly accepted that Xi has limited room to offer breakthroughs on cross-Strait policy prior to the Fall meeting.
Some signals suggest that, after settling pressing leadership and policy issues, Xi could exercise greater flexibility towards Taiwan. As an indication of a friendlier approach, Wang Yifu (汪毅夫), the president of the government-affiliated All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots, mentioned that “new language” regarding the Taiwan Strait will be included in Xi’s work report in October and expressed hopes that this will improve cross-Strait relations. While no specifics were put forward as to the “new language,” a genuine step towards warmer ties would certainly be welcomed in Taiwan. It is increasingly difficult for President Tsai to uphold her pledge to maintain the cross-Strait “status quo” while Beijing’s pressure shrinks her room to maneuver. In an implicit reference to the political changes in Beijing, President Tsai had earlier suggested that the latter half of 2017 would be a “better time” for Taiwan to launch a new China policy. A small but meaningful shift in Beijing’s position would likely open up more possibilities for flexibility on Taipei’s part as well.
However, even if Xi enjoys greater latitude following October, his public views suggest that Beijing’s approach towards Taipei will remain conditional. Despite his benevolent characterization of China and Taiwan as ‘two sides of the same family’ (兩岸一家親), since the 18th Party Congress, Xi has insisted on the “1992 Consensus” as the basis for improving cross-Strait ties. He has even warned that “if the foundations are unstable, then earthquakes will shake the mountains” (基礎不牢、地動山搖), in reference to the importance of the “consensus” in girding stability. At the core of Xi’s insistence is Beijing’s long-held view that Taiwan and the PRC belong to “One China.” On the eve of Beidaihe, at the 90th anniversary People’s Liberation Army parade, Xi reiterated that China’s territorial integrity is sacrosanct—which observers saw as a warning to the DPP.
Moreover, Xi could view the Taiwan issue with greater urgency after the 19th Party Congress. In his second term, Xi faces a less favorable external environment. Uncertainties in the US-China relationship and the potential for strengthened US-Taiwan relations under the Trump administration could shape Beijing’s calculus regarding US support for Taiwan. Furthermore, the outcomes of Taiwan’s 2020 elections will determine whether the DPP will hold onto power beyond Xi’s second term, or if the more Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) will make a political comeback, which would possibly offer a narrow window toward the end of Xi’s second term for reviving the “1992 Consensus.” Adding to the political uncertainties on the horizon are undeniable trends in Taiwan. Recent polls in Taiwan that show national identity shifting away from the PRC and low support for the “one country, two systems” model, which is likely even less palatable given the overt displays of PRC authoritarianism in Hong Kong in recent years. These factors could lead Xi to conclude that patience is not conducive to Beijing’s long term goals.
Previously, Xi has stressed that the political disagreement between the two sides of the Strait cannot be passed on from generation to generation. Dennis Wilder, a former senior US official, cautioned that the period of greatest danger may, in fact, follow the Party Congress, as Xi may lose his patience on unresolved territorial issues. Although it would prove unwise for Beijing to publicly announce a deadline for unification, Taiwan is arguably intertwined with the PRC’s future in Xi’s vision. Xi’s frequent articulation of national rejuvenation in his first term clearly envisages the China Dream (中國夢), which sets socioeconomic targets for 2020, as a common dream of compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait—irrespective of the fact that Taiwan is, by most measures, already a “moderately prosperous society.” A more plausible linkage is the political importance of Taiwan as a benchmark for the PRC’s national rejuvenation. In an article lauding the importance of Xi Jinping’s thoughts on Taiwan, Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), director of PRC’s Taiwan Affairs Office, linked the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties to the achievement of the two centenary goals (兩個一百年) and to the China Dream. In a more blunt reference, China’s defense white paper stated that “the Taiwan issue bears on China’s reunification and long-term development, and reunification is an inevitable trend in the course of national rejuvenation.” With 2021 looming as the first of the two centenary goals, it remains to be seen what Xi and the CCP would consider satisfactory progress towards unification and rejuvenation by this goalpost.
The main point: The upcoming Party Congress will shed light on Xi’s approach to Taiwan and his legacy on cross-Strait relations. Considering his desire to be seen as a “core leader” in PRC history, it would be in line with Xi’s ambitions to seek to surpass his predecessors’ efforts to induce or coerce Taiwan towards eventual unification. For Taiwan, the post-October period could bring greater unpredictability after Xi implements his strategic direction for the country and his priorities on cross-Strait relations.
Cultivating the “Cultural Citizens” of Taiwan
Sebra Yen holds an MA in Asian Studies from the Elliott School of International Affairs. He was Ya-Hui Chiu Intern at the Global Taiwan Institute and Global Ties US. He currently serves as a public diplomacy consultant for the Taiwan-America Student Conference.
Citizen diplomacy can boost Taiwan’s human capital and enhance its restricted international space. Due to Taiwan’s lack of membership in key international organizations and limited number of official diplomatic allies, Americans and people around the world lack awareness about Taiwan. This lack of awareness about the island in the Western Pacific and its 23 million inhabitants may be attributed to China’s rise and the current US and international policy framework in place that proscribes official contacts with the democratically-elected leaders of Taiwan. As a result, Taiwan needs to utilize citizen diplomacy efforts to promote global understanding of what it has to offer the international community.
Citizen diplomacy, also known as track 2 diplomacy, pertains to unofficial interactions between non-state actors, for the purpose of fostering dialogue (as opposed to track 1 diplomacy, which occurs between official government representatives). In this increasingly interconnected world, governments are no longer the only actors in international affairs. Citizen diplomats—students, teachers, athletes, artists, business people, humanitarians, tourists, etc.—have the ability to make an impact on international relations, and to advance a nation’s foreign policy objectives. Soft power is having the ability to attract others in the international community in order to achieve certain goals, through areas such as having an inclusive and diverse culture. The people of a nation are indeed a major source of soft power. Taiwan’s people have always been described as warm and hospitable, and the country was ranked first in 2016 as the world’s friendliest country for expats. Therefore, responding to Taiwan’s marginalization on the international stage calls for a proactive approach: building a comprehensive policy and network that intentionally fosters the next wave of citizen diplomats for Taiwan.
In a visible sign of burgeoning citizen diplomacy, a large delegation of around 50 cultural diplomats organized by Taiwan’s non-governmental General Administration of Chinese Culture (中華文化總會) embarked on an overseas mission to Malaysia on September 20. The delegation, which calls itself the “Art Truck Shows Taiwan” (藝術卡車秀台灣), is composed of Taiwanese artists and performers. The stated purpose of the mission is to strengthen cultural exchanges with Malaysia. The delegation, the first of its kind organized by the GACC under the Tsai administration, highlights the current government’s all-of-society approach to supporting its New Southbound Policy (NSP).
Moreover, tourism and large scale international events like the recent 2017 Summer Universiade bring members of the global community to Taiwan where they can experience its culture and people firsthand. Scholarships are another way to attract international students to Taiwan. Taiwan’s Ministry of Education offers several scholarship opportunities for international students, including the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship for Chinese language study and the Taiwan Scholarship for degree seekers, among others. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs now has the Mosaic Fellowship exchange program. Similar to US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the program brings rising leaders from around the world to Taiwan for an intensive professional and cultural exchange, hoping to strengthen mutual understanding and to further educate local communities back home after returning from Taiwan. Yet, the cultivation of citizen diplomats in Taiwan must be pursued as well. After President Tsai Ing-wen was voted into power on January 2016, there has been more attention directed to developing Taiwan’s cultural policy through its Ministry of Culture (文化部). Much like the concept of citizen diplomacy in the United States, which is encouraged among American citizens by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and its nonprofit partner, Global Ties US, Taiwan is creating its own unique formula for its public diplomacy strategy through a bottom-up approach that engages Taiwanese citizens in the process.
Originally the Council for Cultural Affairs (文化建設委員會), this government agency evolved into the Ministry of Culture in 2012. The stated goal of the Ministry of Culture is to oversee and cultivate “Taiwan’s soft power in the areas of arts and humanities, community development, crafts industry, cultural exchanges across the Taiwan Strait, international cultural participation, heritage, literature and publishing, living aesthetics, TV, cinema, and pop music.” Aside from the Taiwan Academies that seek to educate the world about Taiwan’s languages and cultures, the ministry is dedicated to programs and initiatives that focus on developing and nurturing artists and international cultural exchanges with leading universities through its Spotlight Taiwan Project, which recently hosted dance students from the George Washington University.
Since the change in name, the budget for the Ministry of Culture has reportedly been the highest out of all government agencies for the past two years, and will again be the highest in 2018. Moreover, it has a very active Twitter account. The emphasis on developing and promoting Taiwan’s culture through a variety of sectors also extends to Taiwanese citizens, who are able represent Taiwan through their respective fields. President Tsai Ing-wen recently promised to boost Taiwan’s cultural policy and stated that Taiwanese citizens are “all cultural citizens (文化公民), each with the right to find the core values of Taiwan’s culture.”
To be inclusive of people across different sectors and creative industries, the Ministry of Culture recently held a National Cultural Congress (全國文化會議) on September 2-3, which was the first one since 2002. Since her appointment as Minister of Culture, Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) has adopted an inclusive approach known as the “democratization of culture,” a bottom-up process where citizens’ ideas are reflected and implemented by the government in the nation’s cultural policy. Leading up to the National Cultural Congress there were 19 regional forums across Taiwan where citizens were invited to discuss six major topics (cultural democracy, cultural creativity, cultural vitality, cultural viability, cultural tolerance, and cultural transcendence) and issues around cultural governance, including cultural assets, cultural technology, the culture of new immigrants, youth culture, etc. From these discussions, stakeholders from civil society, academia, government agencies, and the private sector were able to contribute ideas for the National Cultural Congress and, ultimately, to play a role in the development of cultural policy.
The main objective of the National Cultural Congress was to attain public consensus on the future of Taiwan’s cultural diplomacy. The first day of the conference brought together people from various sectors for deliberation, and by the end of day two, it was clear that Taiwan is seeking to highlight its political democratization and the diversity of its society. Following the conference, Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture documented takeaways in a white paper on Cultural Affairs, and planned to actively coordinate with key stakeholders in implementing a stronger cultural policy that empowers Taiwanese citizens. Henceforth, a National Cultural Heritage Congress will be held every year in order to develop stronger and better cultural citizens.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture is taking the lead in cultivating the nation’s cultural citizens. In the wake of Taiwan’s 2017 National Cultural Congress, it will continue to develop cultural policy that is inclusive of Taiwanese citizens and their input. This approach coordinates with actors in the cultural and creative industries and provides the direction and resources needed to expand Taiwan’s international space. President Tsai Ing-wen recently stated that she hoped more international students will come to Taiwan and plans to figure out ways to provide a platform for students to stay in Taiwan long-term, as it diversifies Taiwan’s society and culture. Without a doubt, Taiwan will continue to upgrade its cultural policy to showcase its democratic society—one that cherishes diversity. Taiwan’s culture is made by its citizens, and the congress was a step taken together toward owning their past, present, and future as citizens of a culturally rich, democratic nation.
The main point: While external factors may have influenced the lack of understanding of Taiwan around the world, Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture is taking the lead in coordinating a unique, bottom-up effort to cultivate cultural citizens who will promote Taiwan to the world.