The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the National Development and Reform Commission promulgated on February 28, 2018 the Specific Measures Concerning the Promotion of Cross-Strait Economic and Cultural Exchanges and Cooperation (hereinafter, the “31 Measures to Benefit Taiwan”), which deregulate exchanges in several industries and fields between Taiwan and mainland China. This essay seeks to target the film and television industry and discuss the “benefits” to film and television practitioners in Taiwan after the 31 Measures to Benefit Taiwan were adopted.
(1) General introduction of the film and television industry
Since the both sides of the Strait are part of the Chinese cultural sphere with similar backgrounds and the same language, the film and television industry naturally enjoys a solid basis for joint production and marketing.
In past decades, drama series produced by Chiung Yao and idol dramas produced in Taiwan overwhelmed the China market. However, with increasingly heavy investment in the film and TV industry in China in recent years, Taiwan has been pale in light of movies produced in mainland China with hundreds of millions of renminbi or talent shows featuring plenty of superstars.
For the film and TV industry, however, even low budget productions may still win the love of the audience since they are more interested in stories, cast and smooth post productions regardless of the production budgets involved. Therefore, how to pool together excellent film and TV industry practitioners such as screenwriters, directors and post production specialists is a vital factor for the success of a film or television work and is also critical to the development of the film and TV industry on both sides of the Strait.
(2) Relevant requirements in mainland China for film and TV practitioners from Taiwan
In early times, there was no specific restriction in mainland China on the participation of Taiwanese in film and TV program production. However, since the State Administration of Radio and Television (hereinafter, the “SART”) promulgated the Circular on Enhancing the Administration of the Participation of Practitioners from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan in Radio and Television Program Production in 1999, the following content control has been added with respect to the production of radio and television programs:
In particular, with respect to the review procedure, the Guidelines for Reviewing the Participation of Offshore Personnel in the Production of Radio and Television Programs, such matter is basically handled and decided by the SART’s Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Affairs Office within a period of 20 days. There is no charge for the review procedure, and the SART will issue a return letter “concerning the approval of the participation of offshore personnel in the production of radio and television programs” after the review is concluded.
In addition, with respect to film production, the SART promulgated the Current Provisions on Strengthening the Administration of Cross-Strait Film Cooperation (hereinafter, the “Provisions”) in 2013. The Provisions first define the “Taiwan films” as “Chinese-language films produced by a production unit set up or established pursuant to relevant regulations in Taiwan with over 50% copyright ownership of the films and with Taiwan residents accounting for over 50% of the entire film crew.”
The regulatory aspect primarily includes the following requirements:
For a film produced under cooperation between mainland China and Taiwan, the story and main characters should be related to the both sides of the Strait. Mainland China actors or actresses shall not account for less than one third of the main actors and actresses playing the major roles in the film. Films produced under cooperation between mainland China and Taiwan and published in mainland China are eligible for relevant treatments for films inherently produced in mainland China.
(3) Opening of the film and television industry and outstanding issues under the 31 Measures to Benefit Taiwan
In view of the theme of this essay, which is “31 Measures to Benefit Taiwan,” measures relating to the film and TV industry are concentrated in Articles 18 through 20 and are separately discussed below:
In comparison with the previous discussion concerning the mainland China requirements for film and television practitioners from Taiwan, the portions which can be regarded as substantively newly deregulated primarily pertain to the percentage restriction on personnel for cross-Strait film and television cooperation and the stated shortening of review periods. With respect to other details, although practical deregulations have more or less taken place, the direction of the deregulation this time is specifically included in the 31 Measures to Benefit Taiwan. This can be regarded as another proclamation by the mainland China authority that there will be closer cross-Strait film and television cooperation.
However, when mainland China is opening her arms to film and television practitioners from Taiwan and welcoming the “landing” of works in mainland China, there is still one caution for film and television practitioners. To wit, the Film Administration Regulations and the Radio and Television Administration Regulations both have similar provisions concerning “the prohibition against any harm to national feelings.” If stories or relevant personnel are involved in relevant disputes, the works which are being performed may be “taken off the shelf.” In fact, such concern is indubitably reflected in the willingness of film and drama producers to recruit Taiwanese to participate in the production. This is probably an unavoidable dilemma for Taiwanese film and TV practitioners seeking to work in mainland China.
(5) Outlook of the impact of the 31 Measures to Benefit Taiwan on film and television practitioners from Taiwan
In conclusion, although the promulgation of the 31 Measures to Benefit Taiwan does not signify deregulation by leaps and bounds for film and television practitioners from Taiwan, not to mention that a preliminary observation shows that concrete measures are still being planned, still the current proclamation by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the National Development and Reform Commission suggests favorable information.
Not only the central government but also local government agencies in mainland China have put forward accommodating measures. For example, Point 29 of the Specific Measures Concerning Further Deepening of Economic, Social and Cultural Exchanges and Cooperation Between Xiamen and Taiwan promulgated in Xiamen specifically stipulates: “Proactive efforts shall be made to facilitate the participation of Taiwanese compatriots in the production of radio and television programs and films and television dramas in Xiamen and the handling of relevant formalities. Radio and televisions stations, audiovisual websites and cable television networks in Xiamen are encouraged to introduce more films and dramas produced in the Taiwan area and to proactively facilitate application to superior authorities.” In addition, Points 35 through 37 of the Measures for Implementing the Promotion of Economic and Cultural Exchanges and Cooperation between Shanghai and Taiwan recently promulgated in Shanghai also specifically stipulate: “Support Taiwanese compatriots to participate in the production of radio and television programs and films and television dramas pursuant to relevant state requirements,” “support the introduction of films and television dramas produced in Taiwan by film publishers, radio stations, audiovisual websites and cable networks in Shanghai pursuant to relevant state requirements,” and “support joint production of films and television dramas under cooperation between Shanghai and Taiwan and conduct proper review pursuant to relevant state requirements.” In addition, the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film and TV is requested to handle relevant business. Although such measures are not particularly specific, still doors are open to welcome film and television practitioners from Taiwan with open arms at least from a positive and encouraging angle.
Conversely, shortages of capital and markets have been factors that contribute to sluggish development of the film and television industry in Taiwan. The promulgation of the 31 Measures to Benefit Taiwan in mainland China is indubitably a huge pull to the film and television industry in Taiwan in terms of attraction to talents or the launch of works to markets. It is foreseeable that as mainland China opens greater market space to Taiwan, cross-Strait cooperation between the film and television industry will be more prosperous and intense in the future.
 Take the Ruby Lin case for example. See Ruby Lin’s Statement: Not Supporting Taiwan’s Independence, http://www.chinatimes.com/newspapers/20180108000627-260112