Taipei, May 28 (CNA) Taiwan's new Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai on Monday expressed Taiwan's interest in expanding cultural exchanges with regions such as Latin America and Africa, in a meeting with ambassadors and representatives from over 40 countries.
Among the 51 ambassadors and representatives at the meeting, William A. Stanton, director of the American Institute in Taiwan; Olivier Richard, director of the French Office in Taipei, and Simona Halperin, representative of the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, were present.
Lung, speaking in English, first emphasized Taiwan's democracy and its role in the ethnic Chinese community, before stressing her ministry's hope of strengthening ties with countries from different parts of the world.
She said she hopes the eight more cultural centers her ministry plans to set up will be stationed in regions ranging from Europe and Asia to South America and Central America.
In addition, Lung said her ministry is seeking to cooperate with more academic institutions from around the world and to have more cultural exchanges with communities from different language zones.
"We would love to expand our cooperation to Spanish-speaking countries, African countries and Arabic-speaking areas to broaden our networks," she said.
Lung added that she hopes to bring together local governments in Taiwan and in the ambassadors' respective countries to facilitate, for example, artists and writers exchanges between the two sides.
In response to a question from Ambassador Alhagie Ebrima N.H. Jarjou from Gambia on her take on cultural integration, the minister mentioned Taiwan as an example, saying she hopes Taiwanese people could pay more attention to the country's Southeast Asian population, whose cultures she said have not been given enough attention.
"We would definitely like to see more diversity in Taiwan," she said.
Meanwhile, answering Stanton's question on what she regards as the three most important goals of the new Ministry of Culture, Lung reiterated her hope that the ministry would not be marginalized in the central government.
"If culture is going to have any effect at all, it should not be a decorative piece in the (government) structure," Lung said.
She added that cultivating artistic and humanities education for children from rural areas and for the grass-root population, as well as transforming Taiwan's creative ideas into economic values are two other important tasks for her ministry over the next few years.
Meanwhile, Lung said, with the rise of China, she thinks Taiwan "has a unique role to play as the laboratory where democracy is first practiced on the soil of Chinese culture."
"As small as Taiwan is and as problematic as the democratic system in Taiwan could be, I think the Taiwanese do have a responsibility toward the Chinese speaking world at large" and toward the international community, she said.
Asking for permission to "misquote" American poet Robert Frost, Lung said if politics are the "fences" that separate people, "then probably culture can be the apples on the tree that hang over to the other side of the fence."
Richard told CNA he thinks France and Taiwan already enjoy a high level of cultural exchange and he looks forward to further cooperation with Taiwan's Ministry of Culture.
In the areas of film, he said the French and Taiwanese government could cooperate to organize meetings to bring artists together.
The two sides could also exchange views on legal mechanisms, such as France's tax levy on movie tickets, which is used to support its film industries, he said.
Meanwhile, the minister told reporters after the meeting that she hopes to host "Taiwan Lectures" in universities around the world.
The lectures would provide an opportunity for film directors, artists and writers from Taiwan to promote the country's values and thoughts to other countries, she said.
(By Christie Chen)