An Interview with TAICCA on Taiwan’s Cultural and Creative Industries and the Future of Taiwan’s Soft Power

An Interview with TAICCA on Taiwan’s Cultural and Creative Industries and the Future of Taiwan’s Soft Power

An Interview with TAICCA on Taiwan’s Cultural and Creative Industries and the Future of Taiwan’s Soft Power

Over the past few decades, the idea of governments being able to take advantage of soft power—especially in regards to the ability of pop culture to showcase a country’s culture and values to foreign audiences to attract other nations—has gained popularity. Soft power theorist Joseph S. Nye consistently refers to the role Hollywood plays in spreading American political and cultural values abroad, and more recently South Korea has been able to gain international visibility with K-pop and productions such as Parasite and Squid Game. Taipei has also been taking note of these successes and in 2019, the Taiwan government established the Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA, 文化內容策進院), a cultural intermediary intended to act as a link between the government and private industries to help nurture domestic creatives and to find ways to popularize them on a global scale. While soft power may not speak as loudly as hard power does, cultural and creative exports provide Taiwan additional ways of connecting with the global community. In the following interview, GTI asked TAICCA representatives about their role in branding Taiwan and the challenges that exist when exporting Taiwanese culture abroad.

Adrienne Wu: According to your website, TAICCA is a “professional intermediary organization that promotes the development of Taiwan’s content industries.” What is an “intermediary”? 

Zoe Wang, Director of Global Business Department: Intermediary organizations are formed with the British arm’s length principle in mind. In other words, not only is the organization independent of the government, it also adheres to the principles of professionalism, independence and flexibility. It is impartial in allocating the government’s resources, and has greater flexibility in human resources, budgeting and operations due to its professional governance capacity. 

Wu: What are the sectors included in Taiwan’s “content industries”? Could you provide a brief overview of your organization’s scope of activities and the guiding principles behind it? 

Wang: Currently, TAICCA’s mandate includes ten major sectors: movies, TV shows, pop music, publications, animation, gaming, comics, fashion design, art, and immersive content. Through platforms like TAICCA School and TAICCA Accelerator that consider industry and international trends and offer talent training programs, TAICCA aims to provide access to shared resources while helping to secure funding and financing for cultural projects in Taiwan. Moreover, TAICCA encourages diverse cultural content, leveraging Taiwan’s advanced technologies to help our brands enter the international market while promoting Taiwan culture, and establishing Taiwan’s national brand in the international community. TAICCA also strives for promoting co-productions between Taiwanese and international partners.

Wu: TAICCA has been able to give Taiwanese productions international exposure through matching programs such as the Taiwan Creative Content Fest (TCCF, 創意內容大會) and Taiwan Pavilion. Could you introduce some of your flagship programs and explain the current focus of TAICCA? 

Wang: TAICCA develops marketing strategies for Taiwan’s cultural content and helps Taiwan’s brands enter the international market, while continuously looking into potential market opportunities and promoting Taiwan’s intellectual property. This year, we officially signed an MOU with Festival Séries Mania, becoming their first Asian partner. We also went to France this March and took part in the Festival in Lille, to enhance Taiwan’s international networks and promote Taiwanese films and TV shows in the European market. Moreover, we also signed an MOU with Festival des 3 Continents/Produire au Sud for bilateral talent development. 

We had Taiwanese producers participate in international training programs to receive guidance on developing their proposals, have the opportunity to secure venture capital, and attract international investment. In the Market section of our annual event, TCCF, we also have pitching sessions to help Taiwanese filmmakers connect with major international buyers. 

Wu: What are some of the opportunities and challenges for TAICCA when hosting these events and attracting international investment? 

Wang: Streaming services that have emerged in recent years give Taiwanese films and TV shows a better opportunity to enter the global market. The possibility for viewership on international platforms incentivizes local producers to create works that can resonate with international audiences, and the diverse topics and content of Taiwanese works gives producers a wide range of stories to develop. 

However, for a number of different reasons, investments in the entertainment industry made by traditional Taiwanese businesses tend to be more limited, so Taiwanese content creators are more challenged than their counterparts in other Asian countries who can receive funding from their local conglomerates. Therefore, TAICCA needs to work to both encourage deployment of domestic resources for the cultural sector, but also to help local teams find ways to attract international funds. 

Wu: Another one of TAICCA’s goals is to promote Taiwan’s national brand. What does TAICCA see as being Taiwan’s national brand? 

Wang: TAICCA celebrates that Taiwan’s national brand continues to evolve and blossom out of our creators’ great reserve of creativity. Free and open, Taiwanese society allows its creators to delve into a variety of social issues highly relevant to the audience and enables creators to develop diverse stories. 

Wu: Is this part of a larger cultural strategy by the government or is this independent of the government’s influence? 

Wang: Both. It is a government strategy because when it comes to positioning the image of Taiwan’s brand and the general direction of the cultural content industry, the policies of the Taiwanese government have consistently focused on Taiwan’s freedom and openness, as well as the diversity of Taiwan’s content, while supporting the development of Taiwan’s cultural content in various ways. It is also a distinct approach that TAICCA adopts because TAICCA focuses more on the branding and commercialization of cultural content and assists the industry as a whole. 

Wu: Does this relate to how TAICCA decides which industries to prioritize? 

Wang: In terms of its strategies for developing the cultural industry, TAICCA does not favor any specific sector over the others. Instead, it continually assesses the development of each sector (including the market for each sector) (emphasis in original) and offers its assistance through different approaches, such as bridging together talent from different disciplines, providing training, promoting in global markets, or supporting development plans.

Wu: As a supervisor to TAICCA, to what extent is the Ministry of Culture (MOC, 文化部) involved in TAICCA’s activities and decisions? 

Wang: The MOC is the head of Taiwan’s cultural affairs, and TAICCA is mostly funded by it. Both the MOC and TAICCA aim to promote Taiwan’s cultural content, but the two organizations adopt different approaches. While the MOC focuses on creating cultural policies, TAICCA connects with industry directly to help promote the wellbeing of the cultural industry as a whole. 

Wu: Has the successes of Japanese and South Korean pop culture abroad affected TAICCA’s approach to entering the US market? 

Wang: The success of Japanese and Korean pop culture has been a game changer for Asian works in the global market, including the US. The success of Drive My Car, Parasite, and the Korean series Squid Game shows the growing popularity of foreign-language films and TV shows in the US market (subtitles should no longer be considered an obstacle) and highlights the influence of global streaming platforms (not to mention the possibilities they offer). The fact that films and shows from other Asian markets have been able to cross over to global markets confirms that there is indeed an appetite for local/regional content in the US market, and that barriers to entry continue to come down. 

Therefore, TAICCA has continued to both identify resources and build relationships all around the world in order to help local creators better connect with potential partners, platforms, and audiences in the US. For example, TAICCA has entered into MOUs with global players like Netflix, CJ Entertainment, and HBO Asia in an effort to help strengthen the ties between local creators and international teams. 

Wu: To what extent is TAICCA based on the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA)? Could you elaborate on some similarities or differences? 

Both TAICCA and KOCCA are arts and culture intermediary organizations aiming to promote domestic cultural and creative industries. KOCCA and its success since its establishment should be important reference points for any organization with similar objectives (i.e., to promote local content and culture). However, there are still differences between TAICCA and KOCCA in terms of focus and organizational structure. For example, South Korea has set up specialized organizations for each sector, whereas TAICCA is responsible for all sectors in the arts and cultural industry in Taiwan. 

Wu: What are the commonalities and differences between Taiwan’s creative industries with that of its regional competitors? 

Wang: Films and TV shows from Taiwan have tended to explore themes and subject matters that are relatively similar to content from Japan and South Korea. Taiwan’s society is diverse and open, which allows for a wider range of creative themes, and creators have more room to play by nature. Social issues such as martial law and same-sex marriage are themes that are often seen in Taiwanese works. 

In terms of industrial scale, unlike China, Japan, and South Korea, where large enterprises invest heavily in the cultural industry, Taiwanese content creators receive less support from businesses in Taiwan outside of the entertainment industry. Moreover, Taiwan’s domestic market is small compared to neighboring countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea, and Taiwan’s cultural consumption power is not as strong as theirs. These, together, highlight the importance for Taiwanese creators to explore global opportunities and partnerships. 

Wu: What are the biggest challenges to the development and promotion of Taiwan’s creative industries? 

Wang: As Taiwan filmmakers and production teams have traditionally focused on local and Chinese-speaking markets, which may have different tastes from global audiences, they may face some barriers (e.g., cultural) when promoting their materials on the international market, and therefore there is a need to invest a significant amount of resources in developing content (and effectively translating the works) for foreign audiences. The long-term goal would be to build an internationally recognizable brand for Taiwanese content so that the international market gains greater familiarity with Taiwanese films and series–in effect, to create a virtuous cycle of success allowing for increased output of Taiwanese content that is accessible to global audiences. 

Wu: What can US companies and policymakers do to help? 

Wang: Come learn more about Taiwan! If teams from the US enter into joint ventures with or invest in Taiwanese creators, these collaborations can help create more opportunities for international distribution of Taiwanese content and increase the visibility of Taiwanese works in the US market. On a policymaking level, mechanisms to help encourage and incentivize joint ventures, investments (e.g., in the form of tax reductions, rebates, or credits), or even exchange (e.g., cultural, knowledge) could be monumentally helpful to help introduce Taiwan to the US market. So we at TAICCA welcome any inquiries and are open to establishing and creating dialogue with both US companies and policymakers, and in fact we have international advisors in-house to help facilitate such discussions.

Wu: Is there anything else that you feel is important to understand about TAICCA? What, if any, are your activities in the US and are there ways for people to become involved? 

Wang: TAICCA is here to help. Our goal is to support local content creators, and we continue to be open to exploring different avenues in the US to help create more and more opportunities for our creators and their content, whether it’s by extending our reach on the ground in the US by participating in events and sharing more about Taiwan, or it’s forging new connections with partners to help our creators stateside. Again, we encourage people who are interested to become involved to learn more about Taiwan and TAICCA. Global streaming platforms have already helped to bridge the gap by making Taiwanese works accessible to audiences in the US, where our films, shows and music currently are already available.

As for friends in the industry, Taiwan Pavilion, Books From Taiwan and Taiwan Comic City, all set up by TAICCA, are good online platforms allowing people from all over the world to connect with Taiwanese creators. At the same time, we’d also like to invite American producers to join us at TCCF, scheduled to take place in both in-person and online events this coming November. We welcome industry friends to find more information on our TAICCA website or email us at service@taicca.tw for inquiries.