Film, Entertainment, Culture: Taking Taiwan’s Soft Power South


2017 / March

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Scott Williams

Taiwan and Malaysia enjoy close linguistic ties that have supported continuous bilateral cultural exchanges. The Malaysian ethnic Chinese community’s use of various varieties of spoken Chinese and of Chinese characters means that we view the world through similar frames.


Every December, a group of more than 300 young Chinese Malaysians visits Taiwan for a 21-day tour of the island. Although many of these students are visiting Taiwan for the first time, most have already learned a great deal about our island and culture through the mass media.

Members of the study group, who range in age from 15 to 18 years old, chatter enthusiastically among themselves about books by Giddens Ko, films such as You Are the Apple of My Eye and At Cafe 6, shows like ­Kangsi Coming, TV hosts such as Kevin Tsai, Dee Hsu, and Woo Gwa, and their love of the music of Jay Chou, A-mei, and Jolin Tsai.

Having grown up learning about Taiwan through television, the kids now have the opportunity to experience the real thing for themselves.

Cultural connections

In contrast to this younger generation of Chinese Malaysians, who acquired their first impressions of Taiwan through movies and television, those born in the 1960s and 1970s got theirs from the works of Taiwanese authors.

Malaysia’s long tradition of Chinese-language education has helped the country maintain a large population of people who read Chinese. By whetting the literary appetites of Chinese Malaysians, this educational tradition has also turned bookshops into essential mediums of cultural transmission.

Well known throughout Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, the Popular Book Company opened its first Malaysian bookstore in 1984. It has since grown into Malaysia’s largest bookstore chain, with 89 outlets across the country. Executive director Lim Lee Ngoh has been working in book publishing for more than 30 years, and shares her perspective as she leads us around one of her stores. “Taiwan accounts for the bulk of our Chinese-­language books, followed by mainland China, and then locally published books,” explains Lim.

She points to shelves lined with books by Taiwanese household names, ranging from ­Chang Man ­Chuan’s The Sea is Blue and San Mao’s collected works to titles by Neal Wu, Giddens Ko, Mark (Mark Lee), Deng Hui­wen, and Juzi (Cao ­Xiaoru). There’s even a poster on the wall promoting a Malaysian lecture by Peter Su, the social media phenom who wrote On the Road to Dreams. It feels just like a bookstore in Taiwan!

Popular’s efforts to promote reading include recommending 19 new books (ten from Taiwan) every month and airfreighting them to Malaysia, which ensures that Malaysian readers have access to the hottest new Chinese-language titles.

Popular also organizes the Malaysian publishing industry’s annual BookFest, which attracted 680,000 visitors to its 11th iteration in 2016.

Taiwanese publishers have participated as a group for many years. In fact, the Ministry of Culture brought more than 300 publishers to the Taiwan pavilion for the 2016 expo. The MOC also invited authors Wu ­Mingyi, Tsai Shi-ping, and ­Chuang Tzu-i, as well as illustrator Chen Ying­fan, to deliver lectures and participate in exchanges aimed at helping ignite Taiwanese‡Malaysian cultural fires.

Musical exchanges

Taiwan is a trendsetter in the Chinese-language entertainment field. You can hear Taiwanese pop music just about everywhere you find ethnic Chinese. Albums released in Taiwan by Chinese-language pop stars not only circulate throughout Greater China, but also within Malaysia’s own large ethnic Chinese community. Taiwan also serves as an important market for Malaysian Mandopop singers who hope to take their talents abroad, one in which they have to compete.

Which Mandopop stars come from Malaysia? Eric Moo is an early example, but Taiwanese record companies have been scouting Southeast Asia for new talent since the 1990s, and their finds have included the likes of Fish ­Leong, Penny Tai, Michael Wong, Victor Wong, Nicholas Teo, and Ah Niu (Tan ­Kheng ­Seong).

TV programs have provided still more opportunities for exchanges between singers from Taiwan and Malaysia.

Malaysian singer Athena Beh appeared on the ­Taiwanese TV show One Million Star three times and received such high marks for her performance, in a song duel, of “I Admit It,” originally by the 1990s Taiwanese duo Youke Li Lin, that her record company had her record a new version of it for one of her albums. The recording by a relative youngster rejuvenated an old standard and created memories that can be shared across the generations.

Malaysian songwriters have also penned many a Taiwanese Mandopop song, including hits such as Jovi ­Theng’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” as well as Ah Niu’s “Look over Here, Girl” and “Waves Like Flowers” (performed by Richie Ren). Ah Niu’s use of distinctively Malaysian elements, such as Mamak stalls and multiple languages, in his songs has also helped bring greater diversity to Mandopop.

Television exchanges

Taiwanese‑Malaysian exchanges extend well beyond music. Turn on a TV at 3 p.m. in Malaysia and you’ll find long-running programs set in rural Taiwan that have a large Malaysian fan base. They’re so popular that Malaysia’s Astro television service even created a station devoted exclusively to them in 2007.

The Taiwanese “idol show” Meteor Garden has also been a huge hit, tearing through Malaysia like a whirlwind and turning not just ethnic Chinese but also native Malays into fans of the Taiwanese boy band F4.

Interestingly, the driving force behind the spread of Taiwanese TV shows on Malaysian TV has been a Taiwanese woman named Yoko Chou. Married to a Malaysian man, Chou also happens to be the CEO of Enjoy TV Holdings.

Chou has continued to pursue her TV career in Malaysia, using her extensive connections and experience to bring Taiwanese and Malaysian resources to bear on producing TV programs. She has also worked with mainland China’s ­Jiangsu Broadcasting and Malaysian television networks to shoot a variety of programs. “My role is to be something of a platform, to bring Taiwanese talent to Malaysia and mainland China, and to spur cooperation by enabling that talent to be seen.”

Chou branched out into film in 2012, and in 2015 released My Mr. Right, a film that features Taiwanese actors Tou ­Chung-hua and Lin Mei-hsiu, as well as Malaysian and mainland Chinese cast members. As the Malaysian film industry’s first “trilateral” venture, it established a template that the rest of the industry can follow to make Chinese-language films.

Taiwan’s experience has been proving important to the development of the Malaysian film industry. Chou’s husband Dato’ Sam Yap, president of the Kuala Lumpur Chinese TV & Film Association (KLCTFA), admits: “Malaysia’s film industry has developed more slowly than its other entertainment industries.”

Ah Niu filmed Ice Kacang Puppy Love in 2010. During a subsequent interview with Taiwanese ­variety-show matriarch ­Chang ­Hsiao-yen, he mentioned that Malaysian films with more than 60% of their dialog in Chinese were considered foreign films and subject to a 20% entertainment tax. The reporting of this news prompted the Malaysian government to amend the law, which in turn began the development of Chinese-language film in Malaysia. Such policy restrictions used to discourage Chinese Malaysians from going into film production, and contributed to the sector’s relatively late development. The industry’s next hurdle is overcoming its resultant lack of film professionals.

In 2015, the KLCTFA and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia jointly organized the Malaysia and Taiwan Film Festival and the Golden Butterfly Awards, inviting Taiwanese and Malaysian directors, writers, producers, and actors to attend forums and take part in exchanges. Sam Yap, who chaired the organizing committee, says: “It was a good beginning. I hope to see more cooperation and exchange between Taiwan and Malaysia in the future.”

TV is an incredibly important form of entertainment in Malaysia, where the average urban household watches 3.7 hours per day and the average rural household watches 4.3 hours per day. With the Malaysian government planning to move all of the country’s state-owned TV stations to digital broadcasting by 2018, and with Enjoy TV Holdings having won the license to operate a block of the broadcasting spectrum and been authorized to devote it entirely to Mandarin programming, Chou and Yap believe that the time is right for Malaysia and Taiwan to deepen their cooperation and that such cooperation will benefit the professionals, capital, and talent on both sides.

Malaysians regularly listen to Taiwanese pop music, watch Taiwanese TV, and even occasionally read the books of Taiwan authors. Taiwan and Malaysia’s many years of close cultural exchanges have incorporated “Taiwanese elements” into Malaysian lives. Moving forward, cultural soft power will undoubtedly play an important role in our deepening ties to one another.

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

繁體中文 日文


文‧鄧慧純 圖‧林格立 翻譯‧Scott Williams










穿梭在書架間,架上有張曼娟的《海水正藍》、三毛全集、還有鹿橋《未央歌》;林利娥更點名藤井樹、九把刀、馬克、鄧惠文、蘇絢慧、橘子等新世代作家;牆上張貼著從經營社群網路、出版《夢想這條路踏上了,跪著也要走完》而爆紅的Peter Su的演講海報,都讓人誤以為身在台灣的書店中。
















2012年,周學立跨足電影界,2015年推出《我的MR. Right》(我的真命天子),此片集合了台灣庹宗華、林美秀等一線演員,加上大馬美女謝麗萍及陳慧敏,江蘇電視台氣質主播蘇暢,是大馬影壇首次集合三地人才合作的創舉,更為大馬未來華語電影開啟可行的合作模式。






「新南向政策」でパワーを発揮 ——映像、娯楽、文化でつながる

文・鄧慧純 写真・林格立 翻訳・松本 幸子









書店には張曼娟『海水正藍』や、三毛全集、鹿橋『未央歌』といった往年の名作もあれば、藤井樹、九把刀、馬克、鄧恵文、蘇絢慧、橘子といった新鋭作家の作品も並ぶ。壁に貼られているのは、『夢想這條路踏上了,跪著也要走完(夢見たこの道を踏み出したら、這ってでも歩き通す)』で一躍有名になったPeter Suの講演のポスターだ。台湾の書店にいるような錯覚を起こす。













好享放送(Enjoy TV)のCEOで、マレーシア人と結婚した台湾出身の周学立は、かつて香港ドラマ一辺倒だったマレーシアのテレビ界に台湾ブームを巻き起こした人物だ。彼女は、国光芸校(現「国立台湾戯曲学院」)卒業で、演劇制作スタッフとして25年の経験を持ち、ダトゥ葉霆劭と結婚後、マレーシアに暮らす。






とりわけマレーシアでは、テレビの1日平均視聴時間が都市部の家庭で3.7時間、郊外で4.3時間とされ、テレビは現在でもマレーシア人の重要な娯楽なのである。マレーシア国営テレビは2018年に全面的にデジタル化される予定で、周学立と葉霆劭はそれを好機ととらえている。彼らの経営するEnjoy TVが、チャンネル経営のライセンスを取得して全面華語放送が認められた暁には、台湾とマレーシアの協力をさらに進めることができ、人材、資金、市場のいずれの面でもウィンウィンの成果が得られると考えるからだ。


X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!