Daily News Portal

Taiwan knows it can’t defend itself against Beijing. But the island has a savvy plan to try

When Benson Wu moved to Sydney 10 years ago to study and work in advertising and film, he noticed there were few Taiwanese films showcased in Australia. 

“I realised the whole film festival industry in Australia — especially in Sydney — was sort of lacking the Asian representation, especially the films from Taiwan,” he said.

But for decades, Taiwan has been the place where a generation of international award-winning directors found their passion and launched their careers, including Ang Lee, Tsai Ming-liang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

Its Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, founded by the Taiwan government in 1962, is seen as equivalent to Hollywood’s Oscars in Chinese-language cinema.

Its awards are hotly pursued by filmmakers and actors from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

In 2017, driven by passion for Taiwanese films and Australia’s cultural diversity, Mr Wu decided to host an annual Taiwan film event in Sydney.

A young man in black.
 Benson Wu is now the director of the annual Taiwan Film Festival in Australia. (Supplied: Benson Wu )

Even during COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, he insisted on hosting online screenings of Taiwanese films to entertain those stranded at home.

Five years later, Mr Wu’s Taiwan Film Festival in Australia has become an iconic film event celebrating multiculturalism in Australia, attracting more than 3,000 attendees in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.

At a time when Beijing is forcefully isolating the island with missiles, money and threats, Mr Wu is among the many young Taiwanese people devoted to reconnecting his hometown with the world through art.

Beijing forces Taiwan to exit international stage

Beijing has long insisted that there is only one China.

Its “One China Principle” considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province that should eventually be reunited with the mainland. 

The US and Australia adhere to a “One China policy”, which acknowledges there is only one Chinese government.

But there is some ambiguity in the policies of both countries when it comes to Taiwan’s status.

Still, it has become a prerequisite that countries that want to establish diplomatic relations with China need to terminate their relationship with Taiwan before getting a nod from Beijing.

In 2019, Solomon Islands broke ties with Taiwan after switching allegiances to China, with Beijing promising the island a multi-million-dollar development fund.

President Tsai Yin-wen and Solomon Islands leaders.
Taiwan has criticised China for playing what it calls “dollar diplomacy” to cut its tie with Solomon Islands in 2019. (Taiwan Presidential Office)

Currently, only 15 states recognise Taiwan. None of those countries has official relations with China. 

Jennifer Hsu, research fellow at the Lowy Institute, said Beijing had been trying to isolate Taiwan from the international stage. 

“[Beijing believes] the more isolated Taiwan becomes, the less strong or the weaker Taiwan’s claim is to the status of a nation,” Dr Hsu said. 

Taiwan has also been rejected from joining international organisations such as the World Health Organization. 

Last month, Taiwan announced it would withdraw from hosting WorldPride 2025 after its organiser said the hosts could not call the event “WorldPride Taiwan”, despite previously reaching an agreement about the name.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose government was the first and only one to legalise same-sex marriage in Asia, has criticised InterPride’s decision as a “political consideration”.

Taiwan finds new hope in culture

TAICCA in Venice
Amid China’s military and diplomatic isolation, Taiwan is turning to its creative industry to reconnect with the world. (Supplied: TAICCA)

Despite facing Beijing’s military threats and economic sanctions, Taiwan is turning to its cultural exports as a way to reconnect with the world.

In June 2019, its government established the Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA), an organisation to help promote and distribute Taiwanese content globally. 

It was set up to be similar to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, the powerhouse behind South Korea’s K-pop wave and K-dramas like Squid Game.

Read More:Taiwan knows it can’t defend itself against Beijing. But the island has a savvy plan to try