October 31, 2018
AIT Official Text #: OT-1837
Remarks by AIT Director Brent Christensen
October 31, 2018
(As Prepared for Delivery)
As many of you know, this is my third time serving in Taiwan – and my fourth time living here. And I can assure you all that I am delighted to return this time as the Director of AIT. This cannot be just good fortune; surely it is fate that brought me and my family back to Taiwan again and again.
The U.S.-Taiwan relationship has a remarkable history, and we have come a long way together, as Taiwan developed into both a hi-tech economic powerhouse and also a highly successfully liberal democracy. As a result, we have come to share so many values, including respect for the rule of law and support for civil liberties.
This history of shared experience, economic development and values also means we have many common interests, as reflected in the Taiwan Relations Act. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of this remarkable legislation, we will also be looking forward, focusing on how we can strengthen and broaden the relationship over the next 40 years – build upon our strong foundation a bright future.
We are in a very dynamic period in world history, especially in Asia, with its rising powers and growing economies, but also its unresolved historical antagonisms. As the American Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.” That has never been more true than in Asia, where past historical grievances and unresolved conflicts remain so much in the present. But at the same time, we are seeing many new, positive political and technological changes in the region. And Taiwan is an important part of that more positive story line.
Yet, despite these changes, I am here to tell you that U.S. policy towards Taiwan has not changed. For almost 40 years, the Taiwan Relations Act and the three U.S.-China Joint Communiques have served as the foundation of our “one China” policy that has guided our relations with Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. Our policy is based on a few principles. Any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means represents a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and is of grave concern to the United States. We are opposed to unilateral attempts to change the status quo. We welcome efforts on both sides to engage in dialogue that reduces tensions and improves peace and stability in the cross-Strait relationship. We will continue to cooperate with Taiwan to promote our shared democratic values and nurture improvements in our economic relationship. And we will continue to honor our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act.
Against this backdrop, allow me to outline my priority areas of focus for my tenure as AIT Director, 《四個增進》: Promote U.S.-Taiwan security cooperation; Promote the U.S.-Taiwan economic and commercial relationship; Promote Taiwan’s role in the global community; and Promote people-to-people ties.
I’ll begin with security cooperation. Promoting security cooperation and improving Taiwan’s self-defense capability go hand in hand. As you have heard, the United States recently approved the second arms sale to Taiwan in two years of $330 million. Our obligation to support Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability against coercion is a foundational element of the Taiwan Relations Act. This policy of supporting Taiwan’s defense needs, consistent across seven U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, has helped foster Taiwan’s prosperity and democratic development while also bolstering cross-Strait and regional stability.
My second priority is promoting the U.S.-Taiwan economic and commercial relationship. No matter how you do the math, I am confident that you will reach the conclusion that the United States and Taiwan have a robust economic relationship that allows both sides to prosper. We see value in further improving our economic ties and seeing each other’s economies grow. This was underscored by Secretary of State Pompeo in his speech last July about our free and open Indo-Pacific Strategy, where he noted the important role that Taiwan can play in this strategy, including in the areas of the digital economy, energy, and infrastructure. As we look ahead, our shared traditions of innovation and entrepreneurship will ensure that the United States and Taiwan both benefit from our continued economic engagement.
My third priority is promoting Taiwan’s participation in the international community. As we face a multitude of global challenges – the impacts of global health pandemics; transnational terrorism and crime; and the insidious spread of disinformation, to name just a few – we cannot afford to exclude a society with so much to offer the world. The United States has long been a vocal supporter of Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations, and we continue our informal consultations and engagement to allow Taiwan to have a more substantive role in the international community. As a democratic role model, a reliable partner and a generous donor, Taiwan’s broader participation on the world stage will have benefits for the global community in even more ways.
Finally, my fourth priority is promoting U.S.-Taiwan people-to-people ties. The United States and Taiwan already have a strong affinity for each other. Nearly all of the states in the United States have sister-state relationship with Taiwan, and we hope more will open representative offices in Taiwan to promote business and tourism. Hundreds of thousands of people from Taiwan have immigrated to the United States. Among these immigrants are Nobel prize winners, high-tech pioneers and award-winning actors and directors.
Given these ties, it is no wonder that travel between the United States and Taiwan continues to grow at astonishing rates. Tomorrow marks the 1st Anniversary of Global Entry for Taiwan and e-Gate for the United States. It also marks the sixth anniversary of Taiwan joining the Visa Waiver Program. Since that time, travel between the United States and Taiwan has soared. Last year, we saw more than one million people travel between the United States and Taiwan.
In 2015, just shortly before I left my previous assignment in Taiwan, I had the opportunity to scale Mt. Jade, which at 3,952 meters, is the highest mountain in East Asia. It was a tough but memorable climb – and as I gazed out over the mountain scenery at the summit, I was reminded of how Taiwan towers above so many of its neighbors as a leader in areas such human rights, technology, environmental protection, medical care and law enforcement. And I am continually learning of new areas where Taiwan has a global leadership role. It was because of Taiwan’s capabilities and leadership qualities that in 2015 the United States and Taiwan signed the Global Cooperation and Training Framework, an international platform that allows Taiwan to showcase the world-class strengths and expertise that it can contribute to address global challenges.
The United States and Taiwan have an impressive record of cooperation and achievement. And as we enter 2019, our AIT@40 celebration year — celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act and AIT’s 40th birthday — we can point to the new $255 million AIT office in Neihu, a modern complex built explicitly to serve as home base for AIT and its activities, as an important symbol of our commitment to this partnership. Over the next three years, I look forward to further strengthening the many U.S.-Taiwan connections that have made this such a positive relationship for the United States, for Taiwan, and for the world.