Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen at
Presidential Office Order of the Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon
Thank you, Madam President, for this magnificent award, your kind words and your friendship. Most of all, thank you for your courageous leadership in fostering closer U.S.-Taiwan relations.
As I have said before, the U.S.-Taiwan relationship is a rare and special one. Yet I have been personally – and pleasantly – surprised by the dramatic growth in our ties as we weathered the global pandemic over the past year and a half. The achievements we have reached together during that time are a true testament of the determination and creativity that we share in our efforts to advance the relationship. And the recent outbreak in Taiwan has brought the United States and Taiwan even closer.
The events of recent weeks will be among my most cherished memories during my tenure as AIT Director. The images of the C-17 Globemaster bringing Senators Duckworth, Sullivan and Coons to announce the U.S. donation of 750,000 doses of Moderna vaccine to Taiwan, and of the unloading of crates adorned with the American flag this past Sunday containing 2.5 million doses– more than three times the amount originally promised.
It has been gratifying to me that we were able to reciprocate the generous assistance that Taiwan provided to the United States early in the pandemic in the form of millions of face masks and also other medical equipment. We have been very moved by the outpouring of gratitude from Taiwan society, the many personal notes and bouquets of flowers, and especially the heartwarming messages on the facades of the Grand Hotel and Taipei 101.
The arrival of these donated vaccines during this difficult time in Taiwan has been described as timely rain (ji shi yu) but it points to the United States and Taiwan as real friends (zhen pengyou) who help each other in times of need.
As I assumed my position as AIT Director, I outlined four priorities – or four promotes (sige zengjin): Promote stronger U.S.-Taiwan security cooperation; Promote stronger U.S.-Taiwan economic and commercial cooperation, Promote Taiwan’s role in the international community, and Promote stronger U.S.-Taiwan people-to-people ties. I am pleased that we have made real progress (zhen jinzhan) in all of these areas.
On security cooperation, the United States, in accordance with our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to support Taiwan’s self-defense, has notified nearly $17 billion in arms sales to Taiwan. The United States has now officially made public the Six Assurances that reaffirm that commitment. And we have greatly expanded cooperation on dealing with non-traditional security challenges as well, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and cybersecurity. Especially noteworthy in this regard, was the signing of a new U.S.-Taiwan Coast Guard Memorandum of Understanding.
On economic and commercial cooperation, we have seen a significant expansion of trade and investment flows, the most noteworthy investment being TSMC’s $12 billion commitment to build a cutting-edge semiconductor plant in Arizona. This investment underscores the critical role that Taiwan plays in global high-tech supply chains, especially in semiconductors. In addition, we launched an important new dialogue, the Economic Prosperity Partnership, and expanded efforts, as trusted partners, to build more secure and resilient supply chains. I am also pleased that the U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks will resume in the very near future.
On Taiwan’s participation in the international community, Taiwan’s impressive handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has given it new visibility and stature in the world. This was highlighted in the visit of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the most senior U.S. official to visit in over 40 years. Over the past year, we have seen a new willingness among likeminded partners to publicly express support for Taiwan to have a more active role in addressing global challenges. This was seen in the G7, the U.S.-EU and U.S.-Japan summits and other recent high-level meetings. This builds upon our own joint efforts to showcase Taiwan’s experience and expertise under our flagship Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF) program. With Japan joining the program as a full partner and special funding from the U.S. Congress, we anticipate the GCTF will continue to expand as a major multi-regional initiative. The U.S.-Taiwan Democratic Governance Consultations in the Indo-Pacific Region that was established in 2019, also allows us to highlight our shared democratic values and promote Taiwan as a democratic model for the region and beyond.
Regarding people-to-people ties, we have seen remarkable progress across a broad range of cultural, scientific, environmental and education areas. For example, we recently signed a new Science and Technology Memorandum of Understanding. Our education ties are particularly strong. Generations of Taiwan’s most prominent political, business and cultural leaders have studied in the United States, and we have worked hard to continue that tradition. Just last year we launched the US-Taiwan Education Initiative, which expands academic and teaching exchanges between the United States and Taiwan to advance two important goals: helping meet US demand for Mandarin language education and helping Taiwan reach its goal to be bilingual by 2030.
These dedicated, ongoing efforts to safeguard regional security, build our economies, expand Taiwan’s international participation and deepen our people-to-people ties would not have been possible without the excellent, close cooperation we have at all levels here in Taiwan. Thank you, again Madam President for your personal support and also that of your entire team – including Secretary General Lee, Secretary General Koo and Foreign Minister Wu.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my staff at AIT, some of whom are here today, for their contributions. And I want to thank my wife Brenda for her support, her sacrifices and her good humor.
Being the AIT Director at this point in time has been a pleasure and a privilege. I believe this award signifies both the current robust strength of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship and also the potential for it to continue to grow and develop. Even after my departure, I look forward to continuing to contribute to our joint efforts to further strengthen this vital relationship. I may be leaving Taiwan, but Taiwan will never leave me.