Cultural Policy in Taiwan
Taiwan has its own very special government system. On the central government level (relevant to the federal government), there are both president and premier in the system. The National Assembly is the representation of all citizens to the president, and the Legislative Assembly is to the premier who is in charge of the Executive Yuan, the top administrative body of Taiwan. The current National Assembly is in charge of the change of constitution laws, while the Legislative Yuan makes all other laws.
The Council for Cultural Affairs reports directly to the Executive Yuan. It is one of the 17 Councils that are under the governance the Executive Yuan, and it was founded on November 11, 1981. The Council is consisted of one chairperson, two vice chairperson, one executive secretary and one administrative officer. The Council also has three departments, four supporting administrative units and three duty organizing units. The Council also has Board of Directors which consists of several ministers from the Executive Yuan, scholars, experts and prominent artists. The Board is the highest mechanism that makes the final decisions for the Council. Unfortunately not very much information of a system of appointment of Board members or the chairpersons are written anywhere on the Council’s both English and Chinese version of website, and the website of the Executive Yuan.
The mandate or guideline (in their own words) of the Council aims to provide a wide range of services, including the preservation of heritage and traditional culture, cultivating arts and culture activities, supporting arts in the community and artists, promoting music, dance, drama, and fine arts, and a lot more. The Council also subsidizes several arts institutions (Taiwanese crown corporations), with the most important ones such as National Symphony Organization, National Experimental Symphony, National Experimental Chorus, National Taiwan Academy of the Dramatic Arts National Opera Troupe, and Combined Arts Troupe.
All these above mentioned functions of the Council were conducted with a single Council body and decided by the chairperson and the Board. The Council is also asked to promote Taiwanese/Chinese culture internationally, and set up cultural divisions overseas. Although Taiwan is not a very big place geographically, it does have a large population (about 230 million people). Keeping all these functions in one body is not very keeping all the functions working effectively. As we discussed in class, some of the functions in the Council’s guideline can be separated to be mandates for setting up separate department in a government (of any level), such as heritage preservation, cultural administrative body and a separate granting agency, such as in Canada, on the federal level of arts and culture, there are Department of Canadian Heritage, Ministry of Canadian Heritage, and the a separate arts granting body, the Canada Council for the Arts. The Taiwanese Council for Cultural Affairs is aware of this, so the Council has been promised recently in the most recent national elections that it is going to evolve into the Ministry of Culture under the Executive Yuan, and a separate arts granting agency, National Culture and Arts Foundation, was established in January 1996.
The funding source of the Foundation came from both public budget and private donation. As from the public, upon its establishment, the Foundation was established with the goal of being an arts granting agency that operate with the minimum financial support for the government annually. The objective of the initiation fund is planned to be reached in a ten-year period, to be raised from the private donation and budgets promised from its supervising department, the Council for the Cultural Affairs. The government aimed to gradually withdraw its financial commitment to the Foundation and later the Foundation should mainly operate on the interest payment drawing from its initiation fund and raise more from the private continuously.
The Foundation was established with a fine designed structure. The Foundation has a Board of Directors whose member invited by the nominator from the Executive Yuan. The nominees should be from the government officers, artists and arts professionals, and scholars. The Board member is supposed to be a paid job. The Director of the Board is to be elected by the Board members. The members will be re-selected every three years, with the possible extension of another three-year period once. It is also legislated in the National Culture and Arts Foundation Act that the number of government representatives on the Board cannot be more than one fifth of the total members. The Board of the Foundation is responsible of the making and reviewing of budgets, and have the full authority of approving grants.
Also the setting of the Foundation, such as the quota of government representatives on the Board and the appointment of the Board, may be copied from the similar agencies of other developed countries, such as Canada, which has great examples of having quasi-independent, arm’s length agencies to distribute arts grants, the Foundation was established to accommodate Taiwan’s distinguish government structure and political environment. It is apparent that Taiwan does not have a healthy systematic government structure, from the phenomenon of the bizarre system that allows the existence of both a president and a premier in the same government system with a lot of ambiguity on the responsibility and accountability of the double leaders and double parliaments. Neither the people nor the government is familiar with the arm’s length system so it is maybe better and simpler to set up the Foundation as a private non-profit organization which nurtures and encourages the participation and accomplishments in arts and cultural activities.
The Foundation review applications for both project grants and operation grants, and also set-up annual awards for outstanding performance in arts field. To this date, although the Foundation is still young and there are things on structure or procedures needed to be adjusted or improved, overall the arts community in Taiwan is still very pleased to see its establishment and operation. After all the Foundation is operated systematically and transparent. It is not usually seen in Taiwan for a sort of government affiliated organization.
As for on the municipal level, Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, they manage their policies. These two cities were on the equivalent level as the former Provincial governments because of the large population live and work in their jurisdictions. They have their own department of managing the arts and cultural activities in their cities, especially Taipei City, where about one fourth of Taiwanese population is. The policy of Taipei City has tremendous impacts on the overall Taiwan. For other counties and municipalities the arts policies are more or less the extension of the from of the central government, or a means of attracting tourism.
1. The Council for Cultural Affairs, http://www.cca.gov.tw/intro/report, http://www.cca.gov.tw/intro/index_e.html (English doc.)
2. The Executive Yuan, http://www.ey.gov.tw/
3. National Culture and Arts Foundation, http://www.ncafroc.org.tw/IE/A/01/index.htm, http://www.ncafroc.org.tw/IE/G/INDEX.htm (English doc.)