American Institute in Taiwan: Cultural and Information Section
Describes the programs of the Cultural and Information Section (CIS) of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), specifically the CIS Information Unit. The Unit is housed in the AIT, while other elements of CIS are in the American Cultural Center. The Information Unit povides media liaison, distributes printed materials to key individuals in Taiwan, and conducts cultural programs. Such programs include educational exchanges, including the Fulbright program and the International Visitor Program. Lectures, performances, and exhibitions are held in the American Cultural Center, and the Center’s library is open to the public.
The Cultural and Information Section (CIS) of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) conducts programs intended to improve Taiwan’s understanding of US policies, as well as American society and culture. The Information Unit of CIS is located in the main AIT compound on Hsin Yi Road; the rest of CIS is in the American Cultural Center, an historical building located on Nan Hai Road.
The Information Unit of CIS acts as a liaison between AIT and the print and broadcast media in Taiwan. All media requests for information, interviews, background sessions, data, speeches, and public appearances by AIT personnel are coordinated through the chief of the Information Unit, who responds on behalf of AIT. The Information Unit organizes press conferences for visiting American congressional delegations, AIT consultants, and others.
Taiwan journalists and broadcasters often visit the U.S. to cover news, and to produce articles and programs on American politics, trade and foreign policy issues, and society. The Information Unit helps media organizations make arrangements for these visits through the U.S. Information Agency’s Foreign Press Centers in Washington and New York City.
The Information Unit conducts telepress conferences, bringing together American experts on policy issues with their Taiwan counterparts and the media. This is accomplished via international telephone conference calls arranged through the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). The TVRO (Television Receive–Only) satellite reception dish atop the American Cultural Center also allows AIT to receive and participate in USIA’s WORLDNET television programs, which include interactive telepress conferences with one–way video and two–way audio connections to studios in Washington.
Distribution of Written Materials
AIT/CIS distributes printed materials in English and Chinese to Taiwan’s leaders, opinion–makers, and institutions in media, academic, political, business, and artistic circles. These materials include:
- Background statements on political and economic developments in the U.S., emphasizing authoritative texts on foreign policy issues are largely drawn from USIA’s daily “Wireless File” and the Legi–Slate database.
- Announcements about the activities of the American Institute in Taiwan especially trade promotion and cultural events.
Radio and Television
CIS maintains regular contacts with television and radio station news and feature departments. USIA TV’s “Satellite File” is regularly sent to the three major networks and several local cable operators. CIS also acts as an intermediary for the sale of USIA TV series to local cable operators, and as a liaison between the Voice of America’s radio programs and local distributors.
Exchange of Programs
Educational exchanges form an important part of the cultural relationship between the people of the U.S. and Taiwan. For the past several years, more than 37,000 students from Taiwan (the second–largest group of foreign students in the U.S.) have been enrolled each year in American universities. Each year, approximately 10,000 Taiwan students are issued visas to visit the U.S. More than 1 ,000 American students and scholars come to Taiwan yearly for language study and research.
The Fulbright educational exchange program — known locally as the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange (FSE) — is funded jointly by AIT and the Taiwan authorities, and has an annual operating budget of more than US$1 million. FSE administers an extensive educational exchange program and conducts island–wide educational advising for study in the U.S. Each year, FSE provides support allowing 15–20 American Fulbright scholars to teach or conduct thesis, doctoral, or post–doctoral research. FSE also supports 20–30 Chinese scholars each year, facilitating study or research in American institutions. FSE is the local representative of the East–West Center, soliciting applications and interviewing prospective grantees on its behalf.
CIS administers AIT’s International Visitor Program, in which 10–14 persons per year from Taiwan are selected by AIT and sent to the U.S. for 30–day visits organized by USIA. CIS also arranges ldquo;voluntary visitorrdquo; (self–paying) trips to the U.S. for AIT contacts. These visits include professional consultations and enhance understanding of U.S. society.
American Cultural Center
The American Cultural Center on Nan Hai Road has a library and auditoriumwhere lectures, performances, and exhibitions are held. U.S.–trained reference librarians work at the library, which is known as the American Resource Center, or ARC. ARC has an open–stack circulating collection of 5,000 volumes, 3,500 reference books, 200 periodicals, and 250 videotapes available either for loan or in–library use.
The ARC is open to the public. It offers the most current, in–depth information available in Taiwan on a wide variety of topics encompassing American society and culture, particularly those relating to U.S. government policies. The ARC specializes in retrieving and providing information on America, especially U.S. government documents. It maintains a 10–node network of personal computers attached to the online reference sources contained on 49 CD–ROMs; these can be accessed simultaneously from any of the terminals. The Library’s ProQuest database system contains hundreds of thousands of periodical articles, dating back to 1986, on CD–ROM diskettes. The library also provides online database searching in the U.S. via Internet. ARC staff respond to more than 7,000 inquiries made annually by telephone, fax, letter, and in person.
In order to meet the heavy demand in Taiwan for faster access to information, the ARC installed its own sites on the Internet, as well as fax–on–demand service. ARC services are heavily used by the Taiwan authorities and opinion leaders. The ARC library is open to any resident of Taiwan over 15 years old.
American Specialist Speakers
Each year the American Cultural Center sponsors or co–sponsors programs by several USIA–provided American speakers to discuss issues of interest to both AIT and the people of Taiwan. Some programs are held with leading think tanks such as the Chung Hua Institution for Economic Research, the Institute of International Relations, and the Asia and World Institute.
AIT occasionally sponsors public concerts for individual musicians and musical groups, in addition to arranging invitation–only events. Most American performing artists visit Taiwan commercially under the sponsorship of local impresarios, with AIT providing assistance for some individuals and groups. The American Cultural Center organizes exhibits on a variety of subjects, from new trends in ceramic art to trade show catalog promotions.
© 1996 Sally A. Taylor.
Taylor, Sally A. “American Institute in Taiwan: Cultural and Information Section,” Third World Libraries, Volume 6, Number 2 (Spring 1996).
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