Is China shooting a cultural missile at Taiwanese art? Taipei Times examines

CHINA TAIWAN CULTURE CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS

More on China’s use of cultural power to influence social change

In January this year Art Radar Asia published a summary of an article printed in Canada’s Toronto Star regarding the Chinese government’s use of the “soft power” of the arts for international influence, specifically their growing recognition that media and culture can be a powerful tool to spread political, social and economic ideologies beyond its borders.”

Drunken Beauty, the star attraction in a recent popular Taiwanese exhibition of works by Chinese artist Liu Linghua. source

In a recent editorial in the Taipei Times, J. Michael Cole develops this notion further, discussing the possibility that Beijing is beginning to proactively and openly push Chinese culture into Taiwan, hoping to increase acceptance of its “one China” policy.

Under President Ma Ying-jeou, there has been a strong push by both China and Taiwan to better develop cross-strait relations and this has meant that the creative industries of both countries have been “cross-pollinating”. Coles warns that this could lead to “an assault on the Taiwanese consciousness through cultural means. By dint of repetition and subtle changes here and there (on television, in schoolbooks and academic forums), the Chinese plan could succeed in eroding Taiwanese cultural identity – at least to a certain extent.”

But just how much influence can this cultural “soft power” have on a nation with such a strong cultural identity. As Cole counteracts, “The willingness of Taiwanese to engage in more discussions with Chinese, to watch Chinese movies, attend Chinese art expositions (or gaze at pandas) is simply natural curiosity. By no means does this signify, however, that by doing so Taiwanese accept the so called Chinese nation…”

Rare artworks from China’s Palace Museum went on display in Taiwan’s National Palace Museum during a three month exhibition in late 2009. source

So, while the Chinese government has made it clear that their “cultural influence is no mere collateral – it is, in fact, the tip of a missile aimed straight at the heart,” Cole writes that “if Beijing subscribes to the belief that interest in seeing things Chinese means acceptance of its dominion over Taiwan, it is in for a very unpleasant surprise.” It does seem, however, that “for Beijing, nothing is sacred, or off limits, in its pursuit of unification.”

You can read the full editorial on the Taipei Times website: Beijing sees culture as a weapon J. Michael Cole, 5 March, 2010.

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