Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen at a Public Forum on Taiwan’s Global Engagement at the American Innovation Center Tuesday, June 4, 2019

June 4, 2019

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Minister Tang, Deputy Minister Hsu, Chairman Hsiao, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!

It is my great pleasure to be here today to open what may be the first of its kind anywhere in the world – a public forum to discuss the results of an artificial intelligence-enabled digital dialogue between a foreign mission and a local community on how to tackle a pressing foreign policy challenge – namely, how to promote Taiwan’s global engagement.

Our thanks go out to Digital Minister Audrey Tang for her visionary leadership.  She not only created the digital tools necessary to hold such on-line dialogues, but  she also showed how those tools can be employed to harness the wisdom of the crowd to enable better policy-making.  Minister Tang has become a global leader in promoting innovative and open governance and in protecting democratic institutions against the polarizing effects of foreign disinformation campaigns, and we are grateful to have her as our partner.

As many of you know, this year marks the 40th anniversary of AIT and of the Taiwan Relations Act.  During our year-long AIT@40 campaign, I will be giving four major speeches, one on each of my priorities for my tenure as AIT Director, which I have called my “four promotes,” the 四個增進.  Each of these speeches will in turn launch a digital dialogue on that topic.  Just to remind all of you, the four promotes are:  promoting Taiwan’s global engagement, promoting U.S.-Taiwan economic and commercial ties, promoting U.S.-Taiwan security cooperation, and promoting U.S.-Taiwan people to people ties.  At the end of each dialogue, we will hold a public forum, like this one, to discuss the results of the dialogue.  AIT is interested in what you, the public, have to say on these matters.  We hope these dialogues will provide valuable insights that AIT can put into practice.

Today’s public forum also marks another anniversary – a tragic one.  Thirty years ago today in Tiananmen Square, the authoritarian leadership in Beijing decided that its system could not accommodate the feedback of its citizens.  The PRC made a series of fateful choices that day that led to the death and injury of thousands.  In contrast, Taiwan’s democratic society understands that the power of its institutions is derived from the people, not the other way around.  As we remember the Tiananmen tragedy of thirty years ago, I hope that free societies around the world are celebrating the strength they derive from participatory democracy, just as we are today.

AIT continues to be inspired by Taiwan’s development into a flourishing and vibrant democracy, and we are following with great interest the run up to Taiwan’s elections in January.  In the course of our regular work, we frequently meet with people representing different parties and political viewpoints to better understand Taiwan’s political environment and procedures.  But we take no position on the outcomes of Taiwan’s elections or the processes by which they are reached.  As always, we will look forward to working with whomever Taiwan’s voters select as their next leader.  An important part of the U.S. vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific is the ability for democracies to conduct elections free from external interference.  AIT will continue to work with the current and future leadership of Taiwan to advance that goal across the region.

And Taiwan truly is a key partner in advancing democratic principles and good governance both in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.  But unfortunately, Beijing seeks to thwart these efforts at every turn, to isolate Taiwan, and to stymie Taiwan’s efforts to make contributions to global challenges and serve as a democratic role model.

The results of the digital dialogue clearly show that the Taiwan public has many ideas for how to overcome these obstacles and contribute to global problem solving.  As one of Minister Tang’s favorite t-shirts says, “Taiwan can help.”

In reading through the results of the digital dialogue, it appears the ideas for how the United States and Taiwan can work together to expand Taiwan’s global engagement can be grouped into three broad categories:

First, the United States should work side by side with Taiwan to solve global problems, in particular providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and promoting global public health.  Taiwan has extensive experience with humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and combatting global pandemics.  When disaster strikes around the world, we should work more closely together as partners to address these challenges.  This is an excellent idea, and one that can show the world Taiwan’s willingness and capacity to help others in their hour of greatest need.

Second, the United States and Taiwan should publicly emphasize their shared democratic values.  When we look around the world today, democracy sometimes seems to be in retreat and authoritarianism to be on the rise.  If the democracies of the world do not come together and reaffirm our shared values, these trends may only continue.  What distinguishes Taiwan is its democratic example, which serves as a model for the larger Indo-Pacific.  The United States and AIT will strive to highlight wherever possible Taiwan’s democratic example, and we thank Taiwan  for the leadership it shows around the world in promoting democracy, human rights, and open governance.

Third, the United States should facilitate and encourage closer collaboration between Taiwan and other like-minded partners, such as Japan, Australia, and India.  As the United States pursues its Indo-Pacific policy, we are not just interested in developing closer bilateral ties between the United States and other countries in the region, but rather we hope to encourage the development of a dense web of relations between all of our Indo-Pacific partners.  Taiwan is an integral part of the Indo-Pacific community, and through platforms such as the Global Cooperation and Training Framework, we are helping to build links between Taiwan and the rest of the region to tackle global challenges such as bridging the digital divide, combatting disinformation, controlling the spread of infectious diseases, and empowering women.

We believe the strategies proposed by you, the Taiwan public, during this digital dialogue offer creative solutions for expanding Taiwan’s global engagement.  We at AIT look forward to working with the people and institutions of Taiwan to put these ideas into practice.

Thank you all once again for coming.