Recently I discovered an opportunity for millennials to have a three-week, all-expenses paid trip to Taiwan through what’s known as the Mosaic Taiwan Fellowship. This was an unexpected find, as I had never heard about this program until a few weeks ago, and as such I expect this is the first year it has operated. I felt it was relevant to bring up in a blog post following our discussion last week concerning the similar program run by the Israeli government (though Mosaic Taiwan is not as overtly politicized).
Although I am ambivalent about a few features of the program (particularly the marketing strategy), overall I think it’s a great step for Taiwan to expand its presence as an entity separate from China within the consciousness of the international community. Honestly I’m surprised it even took this long to get a program of this magnitude running, but regardless this is a positive public diplomacy initiative taken by Taiwan.
There are numerous issues I can address concerning the program, including suggestions and complaints, but I’ll just focus on a couple of them. First and foremost, for this program to succeed (which clearly is a subjective metric, but I define success as recipients thoroughly enjoying themselves within the program while also leaving with an enhanced understanding of Taiwan’s unique position within the fabric of East Asian and international political relations), there needs to be a clear, up-front awareness of who is funding and organizing the project. From what I can surmise, it is a government-funded program, but I do not know who is in charge of the itinerary. Knowing this information is extremely important, as too much intervention by a government whose ideas do not wholly reflect those of the population could severely undermine the credibility of Mosaic Taiwan. The program would benefit from taking a page of America’s IVLP (International Visitors Leadership Program – which Mosaic Taiwan appears to be based on, and of which I have experience with due to my current internship at Global Ties U.S., a non-profit in charge of implementing the program), which is 100% funded by the DOS but operated by non-state actors (Global Ties U.S. works with the DOS and non-profit organizations scattered throughout the U.S. to take care of the itinerary of participants in the program). The Taiwanese government should fund this program, but then step out of the way and allow non-state actors to run it for them.
Furthermore, I’m not too keen on some of the wording used in the program’s brochure (I believe it should be highlighting more of the Taiwanese aspect of Taiwan and not the Chinese component, most apparent in the proclamation of Taiwan as the “standard-bearer of Chinese culture”), as well as the tagline of “A Land of Happy Diversity.” It comes across as rather cumbersome and clumsy, and brings to mind the difficult issue of name-branding faced by Asian countries that was raised by Keith Dinnie in one of our recommended readings a few weeks ago. How does one reduce the history, culture, and identity of a country into a few words? I do not envy the people who are responsible for that task. With this being said though, I do appreciate how the program does highlight the diversity of Taiwan, and I find the usage of the word harmonious (within the title “a diverse yet harmonious Taiwan”) an amusing choice by the Taiwanese to describe their society.
Unfortunately the deadline for the program was last week, and so I apologize that I did not inform everyone as soon as I could. For those interested, though, this is certainly something to look into for next year.