Lecture: Jens Damm - Soft Power through Cultural Diplomacy by Non-State Actors Taiwan’s Strength, China’s Weakness?

Jens Damm - Soft Power through Cultural Diplomacy by Non-State Actors

Taiwan’s Strength, China’s Weakness?

While Taipei and Beijing are apparently no longer competing to represent ‘China’, Beijing’s claim on the island still restricts Taiwan’s cultural diplomacy. On the other hand, various Taiwanese non-state actors are actively collaborating with Chinese (and Chinese transnational) actors and, thus, also promoting the image of Taiwan as an open and democratic society. In this way, they are creating soft power for the island.

Taking into consideration various NGOs (such as a disaster relief organisation and women’s/gender and LGBTQ groups, as well as groups involved in academic exchange), this paper contrasts the effectiveness of their non-state (or minjian) cultural diplomacy with state led cultural diplomacy and shows how, particularly in cross-strait and broader transnational networks, Taiwanese groups are, in fact, much stronger than might be expected given their weak political position. By contrast, Chinese groups /mainland Chinese groups continue to suffer under various restrictions despite the increasing political and economic power (soft power, hard power) of China.

Nevertheless, if the Taiwanese groups wish to make full use of their influence and gain soft power, they have to submit to certain conditions, including (indirect) adherence to the 1992 consensus (or something similar in name). Neither a strict stance on independence nor on ‘one China unification’ would help them in this regard. In addition, this lecture examines more recent developments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in the context of China’s new cultural diplomacy with its emphasis on a top-down and state-driven approach which focuses on traditional Chinese culture.

JENS DAMM is an Associate Professor at the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies, Chang Jung University, Tainan, Taiwan. His research interests include the new media and the Internet, the Taiwanese and Chinese diasporas, and gender studies China’s cultural diplomacy. He is currently leading a research project at the Oriental Institute, Academy of Science, Czech Republic supported by by the Czech Science Foundation, GACR.

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