Culture minister calls for forum with Beijing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am


Taiwan's first minister of culture, Lung Ying-tai, has called for a forward-looking cultural forum with Beijing, saying discussions were required before the two sides can consider signing any cultural co-operation pact.

Announcing her policy agenda in Taipei yesterday, the former essayist and cultural critic said she was open to the idea of signing such an agreement. 'But before our two sides talk about the issue, we should hold a forum to study cultural issues with a view to the future, and only then can we decide whether there is a need to sign a cultural co-operation pact.'

It was essential the agreement be substantive, she said, and consideration must be made of whether it promoted happiness on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing began pushing for a deal on cultural co-operation after the two sides signed the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement in 2010. The agreement, which allowed for limited free trade, was reached in the wake of a policy of engaging the mainland that the island's Kuomintang president, Ma Ying-jeou, adopted when he took office in 2008.

Beijing hopes a cultural pact can facilitate progress towards political dialogue that could lead to unification. Taiwan and the mainland have been at odds over the independence of the island since civil war ended in 1949, although in 1992 they agreed there was only 'one China', and each side would have its own interpretation of what constitutes 'China'.

Beijing believes a cultural pact could help it woo the Taiwanese with a 'cultural offensive'.

Taipei is aware of Beijing's intention, but feels cultural exchanges could lead to the introduction of democracy on the mainland.

Lung said she preferred the structure of a forum rather than conferences because a forum was continuous in nature and more flexible. Participants could have a broad range of topics open to them such as the small-family population policy or conservation of natural resources.

Asked whether she would visit the mainland or attend the forum, Lung said she would not rule out anything. 'This is something that will appear naturally after we talk, and before that we must first have discussion.'

She said Taiwan hoped for cross-strait exchanges, but obstacles often arose. 'We hope to use a cultural mindset [rather than a political one] to resolve the problems,' she said. 'This is the reason to hold a forward-looking forum, so we can sit down and talk, and only after we talk can we know whether I should visit.'

Lung described her agenda for Taiwan as a 'cultural blueprint not merely for four years, but for 40 to 50 years and even a century'.

It includes four main areas, Lung said. First, her ministry would do all it could to cultivate grass-roots talent, resources and industries to secure the way of life for the 7,835 rural communities in Taiwan.

Second, the ministry would open 11 more overseas centres in addition to the existing three to promote Taiwan's culture to the world.

Third, in the face of limited financing, Lung said her ministry would focus on expanding cultural and creative industries in Taiwan, with the proceeds helping to pay for further cultural development.

Last, the minister would work with all other government departments in making a digital record of the cultural life of Taiwan.