In the most recent of my frequent paeans to Next Media Animation of Taiwan, I mentioned that the relatively small population of Taiwan was enjoying considerable creative and pop culture influence now -- especially compared with mainland China -- with resulting "soft power" benefits for Taiwan in general. (The latest NMA animation, by the way, is about the pending SF ban on circumcision.) A reader with a Chinese name has an explanation...The "reader's" explanation sounded plausible but the final two lines should set off your alarm bells as to what desires are shaping his interpretations.
More interesting question: just what the heck is Taiwanese soft power anyway? Is NMA an example of it?
NMA is owned by Jimmy Lai from Hong Kong and is a company from outside Taiwan. Its world-renowned animations are on popular topics in the west and the animations that become famous do not introduce local political or cultural stuff to the outside world. To the extent that it raises Taiwan's image in the world it represents a positive force, but I'm hesitant to label it Taiwanese soft power. It is more like a typical innovative Taiwan OEM operation that happens to produce animations rather than electronics. In that sense it is quality-manufacturing-as-soft power in the way that our world-famous bike and electronics and machinery industries are soft power.
Where does Taiwan's soft power reside? In the millions of Taiwanese who travel, study, live and work outside Taiwan. In the experience of people who come here and fall in love with the place. In the export of things like bubble tea. In second generation locals of Taiwanese descent all over the world. In our excellent manufacturing reputation. In our historical links to outside colonizers.
Fallows' reader points to the cross-pollination of the popular entertainment industry in Taiwan, Korea, Japan and China. Pop entertainment in those cultures is largely the same shallow artificial construct of cash, song formulas, and plastic surgery. Is the effect of pop culture NMA as powerful as, say, daily interaction with the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese who live overseas or the thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses who act as suppliers to the global supply chain? Where would you locate Taiwanese soft power?
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