Hosted by the Council for Cultural Affairs, this initiative invites 'foreign guests' to apply for the chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to Taiwan to celeberate the one hundredth anniversary of the Republic of China. In return, guests are required to blog, tweet and post on Facebook their impressions of life in Taiwan. The webpage states the following:
To celebrate the centennial founding of Republic of China (Taiwan), the Council for Culture Affairs Republic of China (Taiwan) will be holding the “Republic of China (Taiwan) International Youth Week - Centennial Homestay” event- by inviting 250 international guests to Taiwan to experience the authentic lifestyle of the warm-hearted Taiwanese people.
The event aims for the international guests to find out a lot more about Taiwan and its influence on the world and at the same time, to experience the good nature of the Taiwanese culture. This event encourages international guests to travel all around Taiwan, noting down their travel experiences and share them on social media (i.e. Facebook and Twitter) so people around the world can find out more about the culture and the friendliness of the Taiwanese people.
The international guests and the world will be able to witness Taiwan’s various achievements after 100 years of development, sharing the joy of the centennial founding of Taiwan. This will open the door for the rest of the world to have more interaction with the Taiwanese people.
This seems like an excellent pd initiative and represents Taiwan's strengths. It is a valuable example of citizen diplomacy and P2P relationship building which can often be the most effective method of international communication. It does, however, raise a couple of issues in my mind:
First, how is this being advertised beyond a small community of people around the world already interested in Taiwan? There is scope here for broader engagement, but there does not seem to be any way around the dilemma that few people know or care about Taiwan. I only know about this initiative because of my research interests and my involvement in a China-related email discussion group. How to sell this beyond a core constituency?
Second, like other examples of citizen or P2P diplomacy this is a brave initiative for it removes control of the message from the government/state/pd agencies and locates it with the 'people'. Are they on message? How can the Taiwan government/should the Taiwan government try to maintain a positive image if the message is designed and disseminated by non-Taiwanese visitors?
If done correctly, I think this is a method of pd that Taiwan should develop and expand. It overcomes issues of resources, and while the PRC takes a very broad-brush approach to pd (via broadcasting and wasting money on CCTV 9 and Xinhua TV) this initiative demonstrates (i) Taiwan's embrace of social media (presenting a youthful, dynamic and energised self-identity that will resonate with the youthful target audience); and (ii) that Taiwan understands the need to build relationships between people, not just between governments and people. I look forward to exploring these issues further when I am conducting my fieldwork in Taipei this summer.