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'Culture is not a weapon,' Taiwan minister says in U.S. (update)

2012/08/23 20:18:41

Taipei, Aug. 23 (CNA) Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai said in New York on Wednesday that there are still many barriers to cultural exchanges across the Taiwan Strait and that both sides should allow more such interaction because "culture is not a weapon."

The Taiwan Strait is no longer a "wall" that cuts off communication between Taiwan and China, but there are still many "thorny" issues affecting the interaction between the two sides, Lung said in English in a webcast speech at the Asia Society.

For example, cultural documents have been blocked from entering China because "Republic of China," Taiwan's official name, was on the shipping address, the minister said.

As Taiwan is not recognized as a nation by Beijing, Lung said, the world "national" in front of the names of many cultural institutes in Taiwan has also become an obstacle when promoting cross-strait exchanges.

Lung, who arrived in New York on Tuesday on a two-week visit to North America, was invited to give a speech titled "Border Crossing-Writing, Politics and the Taiwan Strait" at the Asia Society, a non-profit group that promotes exchanges between Asia and the U.S. in the fields of arts, business, culture, education and policy.

She related a story she once heard from an elderly Chinese man, about a French commander who said "music is not a weapon, so you go ahead please," as he allowed a young Chinese soldier carrying a French horn to pass through a checkpoint at which all soldiers were required to surrender their weapons.

"Well, culture is not a weapon, so you can go ahead," Lung said, adapting the phrase, as she urged people from Taiwan and China to allow culture to cross borders.

Asked by an audience member about Taiwan's potential influence on China, Lung said Taiwan serves as a very important point of reference for China, as it shows "you can be connected with modernity without losing your traditions."

She also said nothing is more important than peace, and the way to ensure peace is to look at the wounds of one's enemies.

"The moment you are able to see the hidden wounds of the people you hate, I don't think you can hate them anymore," she said.

Lung said the biggest change in China over the past decade has been a stronger civil society and growing intellectual debates. In contrast, the biggest change in Taiwan has been growing insecurity and anxiety over a rising China and how to position itself in response, she said.

Earlier in the day, during a meeting with the Chinese-language press in New York, Lung said her ministry is seeking advice from the cultural industry in Taiwan about the existing barriers to cultural exchanges between Taiwan and China.

She said she hopes Taiwan and China can begin talks by next spring to resolve these problems.

Lung is expected to give several speeches in the United States and Canada and visit museums, universities and research institutes before her trip ends Sept. 4.

Her visit to North America is being followed closely both home and abroad, as many are interested in how Taiwan's first culture minister, an essayist and former cultural commentator, views Taiwan-China-U.S. relations and the future of Taiwan's cultural development.

(By Christie Chen and Leaf Chiang)
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