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Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen at the AmCham’s Hsieh Nien Fan Dinner
August 26, 2020

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Logo
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Logo

Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen at the
AmCham’s Hsieh Nien Fan Dinner
Tuesday, August 25, 2020  

  (as prepared for delivery)

 President Tsai, AmCham Chairman Chin, distinguished guests and friends, good evening.

It is my pleasure to represent AIT once again at the annual AmCham Hsieh Nien Fan dinner, coming a few months later than usual this year.  I think the very fact that we can all be gathered here together is not only a testament to Taiwan’s extremely deft handling of the COVID-19 pandemic response, but also to the importance of this event.

The work you all do is inextricably linked to AIT’s work, and a central pillar in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship.  We often talk about the foundation of the U.S.-Taiwan friendship being our shared values.  When most people think about these shared values the first thing that comes to mind is our shared political values: equal protection under the law; respect for human rights; democratic and transparent governance; freedoms of press, expression, and religion; and appreciation of diversity.  And it’s true, we do share those values.

But we also share economic values: free markets; private sector-driven, sustainable growth; innovation and entrepreneurship; respect for intellectual property rights; and abidance by international rules and agreements that create a level playing field.

And beyond our political and economic values, the United States and Taiwan also share what we refer to as international values: contributing to global problem-solving; providing international assistance and humanitarian aid; being a “force for good in the world”; and exporting solutions, rather than problems.

This year, we have seen commendable progress in advancing our shared values in all three of these areas, often in the crucible of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’ll start with our political values.  Taiwan’s incomparably successful management of COVID-19, using what is now known globally as the “Taiwan Model,” would appear on its face to be a scientific or medical achievement.  But the very core of the Taiwan Model is democratic values – transparency, press and internet freedom, rule of law, and robust communication between the government and the governed – standing in stark contrast with the repressive methods employed by the authoritarian model across the Strait.  It has been our pleasure to work closely with Taiwan to share the Taiwan Model with both U.S. institutions and countries around the world.

And, of course, I would be remiss if I talked about Taiwan’s democratic values without mentioning Mr. Democracy himself: Lee Teng-hui, who just passed away.  President Lee’s success in guiding Taiwan away from martial law and towards full democracy can be felt in every corner of Taiwan: its top-tier universities; its innovation ecosystem, its spirited hacktivist community, and its vibrant art scene.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Taiwan Model itself owes its existence to the democratic reforms President Lee put into place.

This year our economic shared values were also on full display.  Of course, U.S.-Taiwan high-tech cooperation – most notably in the area of semiconductors – has long been a major driver of the world economy.  This was underscored by TSMC’s announcement of plans to build a $12 billion semiconductor plant in the United States.  The United States considers Taiwan a key partner in building trusted global supply chains for semiconductors and other innovative technology.

Beyond these areas of well-established cooperation, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted other aspects of our shared economic values and deepened our partnership.  Our free markets, the spirit of entrepreneurship, and intellectual freedom make the United States and Taiwan epicenters for cutting-edge research and technology, including in the medical space.  Just two weeks ago, the United States and Taiwan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance, among other things, private sector cooperation on vaccines, therapeutics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and medical supplies.  This pandemic has also solidified Taiwan’s status as a trusted supplier of medical equipment and technology, and we hope supply chains will continue to shift towards both U.S. and Taiwan companies.

Finally, a word on our international values.  Taiwan has long been eager to share its expertise and resources with the world, striving for a seat at the table or for the opportunity to contribute to global efforts.  The COVID-19 pandemic both exemplifies Taiwan’s spirit of international generosity, and is case-in-point for why Taiwan should play a greater role in international organizations.  Taiwan managed COVID-19 prevention within its own communities so skillfully, and ramped up PPE production so efficiently, that it was prepared to come to the aid of countries around the world at their greatest moment of need.  Rather than charge extortionary prices or attempt to leverage desperation into political gains, Taiwan donated facemasks and PPE to countries in every region, including the United States, where it was gratefully received by frontline medical workers.  The international media are filled with positive reports of this success and Taiwan’s other impressive achievements.  All I can say is:  it’s about time.

As I conclude, I also want to highlight one other area in which Taiwan has demonstrated its friendship to the United States and the world, sharing a desperately scarce commodity: baseball.  Because of Taiwan’s success in managing the spread of COVID-19, it was able to open a professional baseball season at a time when professional sports were brought to a halt elsewhere around the world.  And just as the United States brought baseball to Asia over a century ago, during the pandemic, Taiwan brought baseball to the United States.  So, thank you, CPBL, for providing live streams of your games with English commentary.  We needed it, as did millions of international baseball fans.  We were so inspired by this gesture that AIT held our annual 4th of July event at a CPBL game in Tainan this year.  We appreciated the support of Vice President Lai and the other VIPs who attended the event.  And a big thank you to the Taiwan Model for making this possible.

Many of you have heard me describe the U.S.-Taiwan partnership with the phrase “Real Friends, Real Progress.” Since last year’s Hsieh Nien Fan, AIT has moved into its beautiful new compound in Neihu, we have celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act and of AIT itself, and we have seen impressive progress in the bilateral relationship.  The visit two weeks ago of U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in over 40 years, is perhaps the best evidence of this.  But there is still more that we can do together, especially on the economic front.

You all play a vital role in strengthening the U.S.-Taiwan partnership.  The work you do exemplifies our shared values, and brings benefits to both of our communities, both of our economies, and to people around the world.  I have every confidence this year will continue to be one of converging interests and values.  I thank you all for your work and for your attention tonight.