I am a singer, a Chinese singing competition, was recently broadcast live for five straight hours by a television station in Taiwan, while three major Taiwanese newspapers devoted over half a page to covering the show. Interest in the contest picked up especially after Terry Lin, a Taiwanese pop singer, took part in the February 15 show. Since then, there have been over a hundred messages daily circulating in the Taiwanese media. In the following week, over 200 discussion articles appeared on Taiwan’s largest bulletin board system, PTT.
Innovation allows more Chinese to be in touch with Taiwanese
I am a singer is not just a singing program, but a once in a lifetime opportunity. The competition, a franchise of the original South Korean show, represents hope and offers a chance for mainland Chinese singers to get ahead in a highly competitive world. Achieving fame with just one shot is resonating with the Chinese audience. Although many people in China have risen from poverty to affluence in recent years, China is still a country where over 70 percent of the fortune is concentrated in the hands of 0.4 percent, according to the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council in 2012. The income gap is viewed by many with alarm, reported Taiwan’s Business Weekly.
Although many Taiwanese music fans are crazy about this singing program, it should not be viewed as a Chinese “invasion” of Taiwan, but rather as evidence that China is getting closer to an international standard. “Chinese innovation (in the program) is appealing more to the heart of the Taiwanese people,” noted the weekly.
Taiwanese take pride in “soft power”
Globalization has linked every part of the world together. “If we are not afraid of Hollywood’s invasion of Taiwanese movies with a by-product from Ang Lee, why would we be afraid that Taiwan will be completely covered by Chinese culture?” remarked Jai Beng-ray, a professor at Feng Chia University in Taichung (central Taiwan), to the Business Weekly. “Taiwanese should not look down upon themselves,” he said.
Joseph Nye’s “soft power” is best expressively realized by the free, democratic and pluralistic lifestyle enjoyed by people in Taiwan, which is ahead of China by at least 20 years. The street corners of every Taiwanese city are curiosities for Chinese tourists, such as the coffee shops lining Yongkang Street in Taipei, the 24-hour Eslite Bookstores or the cycling routes around Sun Moon Lake.
Business Weekly commented that the Taiwanese people’s pursuit of a quality lifestyle is exactly what the growing numbers of white-collar citizens in China strive for as they seek a respite from the severe competition in the workplace.
Taiwan music has been imprinted on the Chinese
The Commercial Times said in an editorial that Taiwan supplies 80 percent of the pop music for the global Chinese market, and does not need to have a program like I am a singer, to prove its standing in the Chinese music scene. From Teresa Teng during the last decade of the Cold War to Taiwan’s current crop of singers, the island’s pop music continues to exert its far-flung influences on mainlanders. Taiwan’s dominance includes such singers as A-Mei, Emil Wakin Chau, Chyi Chin, Jay Chou, Jolin Tsai, Jam Hsiao, Aska Yang, and Terry Lin, all celebrities and extremely popular in the China market.
Like leading Taiwanese businesses in China, such as Want Want and Master Kong in the food industry, Hon Hai/Foxconn and ASUS in the electronics manufacturing industry, Taiwan takes pride in their singing idols and creative cultural industry as well, said the paper.
Hong Tao, general director of I am a singer, said, “Taiwan’s music has influenced the mainland since the 1980s. Undeniably, Taiwan music has been imprinted on the Chinese people born in the 1980s and 1990s,” the Global Views magazine reported. Lung Ying-tai, Taiwan’s Culture Minister, said, “Many songs sung in I am a singer were created by Taiwanese. However, will Taiwan still be the abundant source of inspirations of the Chinese pop music 30 years from now?”
Yang Tu, a Taiwanese columnist, wrote in the Taipei-based China Times, that Taiwanese singers participating in the competition represent talent cultivated in Taiwan, but they have a harder time rising to fame in Taiwan. Due to the island’s smaller market, it can only accommodate a certain type of taste with a limited audience to develop more styles. In contrast, China’s market is huge. Even if merely one percent of its population were to pursue a certain type of music, it would be a market with 10 million consumers.
According to Yang, the musicians in Taiwan should not envy the success of I am a singer, nor be thrilled over its influence, but rather, face the challenges. They need to work harder to blend universal notions of music with Taiwan’s soft power and traditional values to create and enter the 1.3-billion Chinese market at a time when China’s creative cultural industry is ripening. Taiwan has an advantage in developing this area, since this niche is not based on economic factors, but rather, is strengthened by a nurturing environment with more freedom, humanity and creativity. Taiwanese people should not limit themselves, said Yang.