NEW YORK — The first Taiwan Academies — a brainchild of President Ma Ying-jeou aimed at spreading Chinese culture with unique Taiwanese characteristics throughout the world — were opened in the U.S. cities of New York, Houston and Los Angeles on Friday.
First lady Chow Mei-ching and Emile Sheng, minister of the Council for Cultural Affairs, attended the opening ceremony of the Taiwan Academy at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York.
Also present were more than 200 guests, including John Liu, comptroller of New York; Asia Society President Vishakha Desai and the United Nations ambassadors of the Republic of China’s allies.
President Ma addressed the opening ceremony through a video.
“Chinese culture, after an evolution of over 5,000 years, has been fully preserved and developed in Taiwan,” Ma said. “It is hoped that the Taiwan Academy will become a platform of cultural exchanges so that all friends who love Chinese culture can share its long-standing and rich culture with Taiwanese characteristics.”
Sheng said the Taiwanese Academy will focus on promoting understanding of Taiwan, as well as Sinology research, Taiwan’s multicultural experience, and Mandarin teaching services.
On the first day of the opening of the Taiwan Academy, folk singers from the Taiwu Elementary School from Pingtung and the puppet theater I Wan Jan performed.
A calligraphy show by artist Tung Yang-tsu and a Taiwan high-tech artistic show were also featured.
Sheng noted that to promote cultural diplomacy, his council will add eight cultural centers around the world in addition to the present ones in New York, Paris and Tokyo.
“When you open up the map, you will be able to see them everywhere,” Sheng promised, although he couldn’t disclose the locations yet.
He said that the Taiwan Academy will also be a major task of the council, noting that in the future, the academy will work with local think tanks, overseas Chinese schools and colleges and universities to promote “digital Taiwan Academy” through the Internet, so that “we get the maximum results out of minimum resources.”
In addition, Taiwan has signed letters of intent with 88 educational organizations in 30 countries to help promote Taiwan Academy-related information, Sheng said.
Analysts have said Taiwan’s efforts are partly in response to the hundreds of Confucius Institutes China has opened in many countries around the world in recent years. The institutes collaborate with overseas universities and schools to teach simplified Chinese, not the traditional characters used in Taiwan. They also promote mainland Chinese culture and understanding.