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Spotlight Taiwan

Spotlight Taiwan

Jonathan Sullivan13 Mar 2014Leave a comment

Written by Ming-Yeh Rawnsley

Since the establishment of the Ministry of Culture in Taiwan in 2013, there have been a series of vibrant cultural and academic activities promoting Taiwan overseas under the initiative, “Spotlight Taiwan”. I am fortunate enough to be able to attend several of these events, including:

While it is fun and satisfying to participate in these events – after all, as public diplomacy and soft power expert Professor Gary Rawnsley has always said, “the last three feet”, i.e. direct personal contact, is the most effective and meaningful element of public diplomacy – I have always believed that more should be done to document and analyse the Spotlight Taiwan initiative as a whole when it is occurring. Otherwise as the funding of Spotlight Taiwan inevitably dries up in a few years time, it may simply leave unanswerable questions, for example, what is it all about? Is it a worthwhile effort after all?

I intend to approach this self-designated task from two angles in order to search for more thoughtful answers: First, I would like to document these events either individually or collectively whenever and wherever I can. Therefore I name this article “Spotlight Taiwan Series (1)” for I plan to have more relevant reports and podcasts produced in the future. Second, I would like to take a comparative perspective and situate the Spotlight Taiwan initiative under a broader research context. I take reference from the research project on “Cultural Values in Wales and Beyond” and think it appropriate to ponder on the following: (1) how are values produced and reproduced in cultural events such as Spotlight Taiwan? (2) Who are the stakeholders and what roles do they play in generating values? (3) How are values experienced? (4) What effect, and to what extent, may such an experience create? And (5) are we able to measure the short term, medium term or long term impact of values and cultural experiences facilitated by activities such as Spotlight Taiwan?

In this blog, the focus of the documentation is on “Taiwan in Motion” Workshop in Edinburgh (29 November 2013). Dr Jens Damm of the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies, Chang Jung Christian University, Taiwan, has written a workshop report. It has been published in Mechthild Leutner, Izabella Goikhman Eds. State, Society and Governance in Republican China Series: Berliner China-Hefte – Chinese History and Society, No. 43, pp. 134-35. A version of the report has also been published in EATS News issue 3 (January 2014): pp.20–21, which can be accessed online:

In addition, I interviewed Dr Chia-Ling Yang, organiser of the “Spotlight Taiwan: Contemporary Taiwanese Art, Culture and Cinema in Scotland” and “Taiwan in Motion” Workshop on 29 November 2013. The questions I posed to Dr Yang include:

  • Who are the targeted audiences?
  • What are the aims of the festival?
  • How is the budget appropriated?
  • What are the challenges and rewards of organising the festival?
  • What is the future prospect of the festival?

 An 18-minute podcast of the interview can be accessed here.

Like many other “Spotlight Taiwan” projects, the Edinburgh event is a year-long programme, including a lecture series and art forum. One of its major activities is the Taiwan Filmfest from 27 November to 3 December 2013, showcasing seven new films and documentaries from Taiwan. Three filmmakers, Shen Ko-shang (沈可尚), Tsai Yin-chuan (蔡銀娟) and Chang Jung-chi (張榮吉) were invited to the festival to meet with audiences in Scotland. The three filmmakers also attended and delivered a talk each at the “Taiwan in Motion” Workshop. They were followed by my reflection on “Culture, Democratization and Taiwan Cinema”.

I pointed out that democratization is arguably the most significant achievement of contemporary Taiwan. While researchers often focus mainly on the social and political dimensions of democratization of the 1980s, I believe that there is a cultural dimension to the process, which is equally important and can be observed keenly from the development of Taiwan cinema. To paraphrase Raymond Williams, I think that cultural democratization is a “long revolution”. The process enables “the emerging rationality of self-conscious elites – political, media, military, marketing, and financial specialists” to approach the future and seek solutions “a phase at a time, a decade at a time, a generation at a time”. Hence each generation creates its own structure of feelings. To this end, I argue that democratization empowered Taiwan’s cultural elites of the 1980s to reconfigure the relationship between the film industry, film arts and film education in Taiwan cinema. The same questions continue to be addressed by a younger generation of film workers in the 1990s and in the twenty-first century with revised approaches.

The film workshop was concluded by a roundtable hosted by Professor Julian Ward of the University of Edinburgh. The discussion centred on the differences in commercial and art-house film productions in Taiwan. The three Chinese-language film markets – mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan – were contrasted and a comparison was drawn between the specific practices, including production and exhibition, emerging from these areas.


Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (new edition with a foreword by Anthony Barnett), London: Parthian, 2011 (reprint).

Ming-yeh Rawnsley is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham. Image credit: Author.

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Yes, this was an interesting study by Chang and Lu of bilingualism and perceptions of the ...

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I just want to echo Gary's comments and to alert to readers who may be interested in Routl...

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