Thursday, March 11, 2010

Taiwan builds confidence in its soft power

Through innovation and packaging, Taiwan’s snack food culture has extended Taiwan’s visibility and soft power according to the Singapore-based United Morning Daily. As a small island and diplomatically isolated, Taiwan has little power in a global fist fight, instead, it has significant influence by using its soft power. Taiwan’s soft power is evident in the island’s music, movies, snack foods, literature, arts, religion and designs.

Taiwan has long been influenced by other cultures and lifestyles according to Commonwealth monthly. Before World War II, Taipei was one-third Japanese. In a very short time, the Japanese disappeared to be replaced by Chinese mainlanders. After the Nationalist Chinese government moved to Taiwan, the US forces came to help defend the island against the Communist Chinese, building up American bases and communities in Taiwan. This introduced American music, literature, arts, and lifestyle to Taiwanese people.

Taiwan has adjusted to a history of immigrants and adjusted itself to the different nationalities drifting in and out. As a part of the adjustment, the island has been sensitive to changes and trends that have helped in the development of a unique Taiwanese operational style in global markets.

Pioneer of 24-7 model

Taiwan pioneered the 24-7 business model, which has spread to other parts of the world. There were 9,204 convenience stores in Taiwan as of the end of 2008, an average of one store per 2,500 persons. Making Taiwan No. 1 in the world in terms of convenience store density. Another type of 24-hour business is the karaoke video (KTV) store.

While Taiwan might have its Starbucks chain, it also has its special blend of local Taiwanese drinks. Pearl tea, a mixture of black tea, milk and chewy black tapioca balls made from yam flour, was first developed in Taichung in 1987. The drink, also known as Boba or Bubble tea, has now spread throughout Asia and beyond. In the San Francisco Bay Area, pearl tea cafes are as prevalent as Starbucks in some neighborhoods.

Instant noodles are snack food invented in Taiwan and now popular throughout the world. They have become the inexpensive snack food of choice for many college students.

Even a regional food like Shanghai dumplings have been popularized by Taiwan’s Din Tai Fung Dumpling House. Although Shanghai might be the birthplace of these delicious soup dumplings, Taiwan’s Ding Tai Fung has become famous for producing these labor-intensive dumplings in each of its restaurants around the world.

Asia’s new trend setter

As a fashion leader in every lifestyle trend, Taiwan has become an important cultural center in Asia. In particular, for every ten workers in Taipei, there is one who works in an area related to culture, and out of every five companies, you will find two working in a culture-based job. According to statistics from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan’s cultural innovation industry generated NT$600 billion (US$18.7 billion) in 2007, with a total of 210,000 employees.

Well-known writer Lung Ying-tai observed, Taiwan is the desert rose in the Chinese cultural world. Hong Kong visitors like the Eslite Bookstore, which is open 24 hours a day. Chinese and Japanese visitors flood the National Palace Museum to purchase souvenirs of the famous Jadeite Cabbage.

Half a century ago, Taiwan lacked a strong point of view, culturally. The people followed a generalized global fashion trend, one which pointed toward Paris, New York and Japan. But nowadays, Taiwanese confidence in its cultural contribution has shifted and the world is taking note.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.