The United States and Taiwan: An Enduring Partnership, Remarks by AIT Chairman James Moriarty at Stanford University

The United States and Taiwan: An Enduring Partnership, Remarks by AIT Chairman James Moriarty at Stanford University (Photo Credit: Stanford University)
Encina Hall, Stanford University
Thursday, May 3, 2018, 4:30 p.m.

AIT Official Text #: OT-1807

Thank you very much for that kind introduction.  When I first met Karl Eikenberry during our time working together at the American Embassy in Beijing, he had one-star and was the most astute analyst of the Chinese military whom I had encountered.  His distinguished career of public service continued – after Beijing, he added two more stars, became an ambassador, and now serves as professor here at Stanford.  It’s a real privilege to share the stage with him.

To start off, I’d like to briefly explain my role.  I am the Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, a non-profit organization established under the auspices of the United States government to advance U.S. relations with Taiwan.

At the outset, I would like to commend Stanford for establishing this project on Taiwan’s democracy.  Taiwan’s transformation from an island ruled by martial law to a beacon of democracy is one of the great stories of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  We should all cherish the powerful example that Taiwan offers to the Indo-Pacific region and the world.

Today, I plan to review the foundation for U.S. policy toward, and engagement with, Taiwan, and discuss the current state of this unique, “unofficial” relationship in the security, economic, and people-to-people realms.

One of the areas I will highlight is the U.S. government’s support for Taiwan’s efforts to participate in and contribute to the international community.  I’ll close with a brief look at cross-Strait relations.

The TRA and the U.S. One-China Policy

At the beginning of last year, with the Trump Administration in office for a short time, observers in the United States and on both sides of the Taiwan Strait were undoubtedly watching for any signs of change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan.  I counseled then that U.S. relations with Taiwan would continue to be driven by, first, our one-China policy based on the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and the three U.S.-PRC joint communiques; second, by our enduring interests; and, third, by a continuing desire for stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Over the past year, the Administration’s policy toward Taiwan has borne out that expectation.  Early on in the Administration, President Trump, in his meeting with President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, reaffirmed the U.S. one-China policy.

Our longstanding one-China policy – reaffirmed through Republican and Democratic administrations, including the current one – has been successful in maintaining cross-Strait stability for decades.  As articulated in the three Joint Communiques, the United States “acknowledges” the Chinese position that there is one China and Taiwan is a part of China.  The United States does not challenge that position.

Our position focuses on how a resolution of the differences between China and Taiwan should be achieved – peacefully – and not the character of what that resolution should be.  We have urged consistently that Taiwan’s ultimate status be resolved peacefully, to the satisfaction of the people on both sides of the Strait.

Taiwan’s Defense

The TRA clearly articulates certain U.S. commitments to Taiwan.  Through the TRA and under the auspices of AIT, the people of the United States maintain “commercial, cultural, and other relations” with the people on Taiwan.  The United States is also committed to providing “Taiwan with arms of a defensive character.”

It is the policy of the United States “to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.”

As a power with global responsibilities and interests, the United States has a natural interest in peace throughout the Indo-Pacific region.  Stability in the Taiwan Strait is essential to that goal.  It is this enduring interest in peace and security that undergirds the U.S. policy, as articulated in the TRA, not only to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character but also to maintain our “capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or social or economic system of the people on Taiwan.”

Consistent with the TRA, the Trump Administration announced in June 2017 plans to sell $1.42 billion in military equipment to Taiwan.  And consistent with the TRA, the United States will continue to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.  This policy contributes to stability across the Strait by providing Taipei with the confidence needed to pursue constructive interactions with Beijing.

At the same time, security relations with Taiwan are about much more than arms sales.  Taiwan’s key defense and military leaders understand the need to overhaul Taiwan’s security concept and embrace modern, asymmetric approaches and innovative ways to employ existing capabilities.  The United States supports this effort.

Through AIT and its counterpart organization, we are working with Taiwan to ensure the successful transformation of its defense concept, including with respect to specific initiatives like the overhaul of its reserve forces.

The U.S commitment to implementing the TRA is firm, but that commitment alone will not secure Taiwan against the backdrop of an increasingly complex cross-Strait environment.  Taiwan must do its part to invest in capabilities that deter aggression and help Taiwan mount an effective defense should deterrence fail.  While we commend Taiwan for the considerable strides it has made, it can and must do more to provide for its own security, through substantive actions such as ensuring an adequate level of defense spending.

Economic Ties:  Strong and Could Be Even Better

Taiwan’s continued economic security and vitality are equally important to the United States, which is why we endeavor to deepen our economic ties.  Those ties are extensive, as we have grown to become each other’s eleventh- and second-largest goods trading partners, respectively.  Taiwan is not only an important buyer of U.S. goods and services, but also an important investor in the United States.

The stock of bilateral foreign direct investment between the United States and Taiwan exceeds $21 billion.  Taiwan is a top-twenty importer of U.S. services and a top purchaser of U.S. agricultural exports and intellectual property.

The U.S.-Taiwan economic relationship is strong but could be even stronger.  AIT and its Taiwan counterpart facilitate work to address trade issues through the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement – or TIFA.  If Taiwan is to reinvigorate its economic growth, that will be done, in part, by pursuing through the TIFA mechanism the economic liberalization to which Taiwan has committed.  If we can successfully use mechanisms like TIFA to resolve trade irritants between our two economies, we will foster an even stronger and closer trade relationship.

The United States and Taiwan also need to focus on improving our trade and investment ties in other areas such as intellectual property rights, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, investment, and technical barriers to trade.

The United States appreciates Taiwan’s continued efforts and progress on these issues.  In addition, we would welcome fresh thinking about how we can make progress toward our mutual goals.

The United States and Taiwan have enjoyed decades of close economic cooperation on technology, including in electronics and semiconductors.  We are now working to bring the U.S.-Taiwan economic relationship into the digital age through increased digital economy and cybersecurity cooperation.

Educational, Cultural, and People-to-People Ties

The past year saw milestones and progress in other aspects of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship.  The Fulbright Program in 2017 celebrated 60 years of educational exchanges between the United States and Taiwan. Taiwan remained the seventh-largest source of international students in the United States in 2017, sending over 21,500 students to the United States, an increase of 1.8% from the year before.   Through an arrangement between AIT and its Taiwan counterpart, the two sides agreed to allow their passport holders to apply for each other’s trusted traveler program, making Taiwan our third Global Entry partner in East Asia – a significant development that will facilitate travel between the United States and Taiwan.

As Chairman, I am looking forward this summer to the dedication of AIT’s new, state-of-the-art office complex in Taipei.  This magnificent facility will be an important symbol of U.S. commitment to Taiwan; of the close ties that link the people of the United States and Taiwan; and of the comprehensive, durable partnership that we have built together based on shared interests and the shared values of democracy and human rights.

Support for Taiwan’s International Space

Recognizing that Taiwan has much to offer the international community, the United States will continue to support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement for membership, and its meaningful participation in international organizations where statehood is a requirement.  Taiwan should be able to contribute its expertise and experience to help tackle a number of regional and global issues.

Public health is one prominent example of a sector where it is in everyone’s interest for Taiwan to play a role in addressing global challenges.  That is why we will continue to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA).

The decision in 2017 to deny Taiwan an invitation to participate in the WHA as an observer was deeply troubling.  This and other attempts by China to exclude Taiwan from international organizations prevents the international community from benefiting from Taiwan’s expertise, harms cross-Strait relations, and runs counter to Beijing’s own professed goal of winning the support of the people of Taiwan.

Along with efforts in international organizations, the United States looks for other ways for Taiwan to earn the dignity and respect that its contributions to global challenges merit.  The Global Cooperation and Training Framework, launched by AIT and its Taiwan counterpart in 2015, combines U.S. and Taiwan resources and capabilities to help partners throughout the Indo-Pacific region address pressing global challenges.

More than 200 policymakers and experts from dozens of countries have participated in 10 programs on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, public health, energy, women’s empowerment, and the digital economy.

Taiwan deserves commendation for its timely action on a number of key security issues, standing in solidarity with the U.S. position and setting a valuable example for the international community.  For example, with respect to our top foreign policy priority, Taiwan cut off trade with North Korea and has taken other actions in support of the international pressure campaign in response to the DPRK’s continued threats to international peace and security.

As a valued member of the global coalition to defeat ISIS, Taiwan has contributed or pledged money and supplies to help with de-mining efforts and to assist those who were forced to flee their homes in Iraq and Syria.

Cross-Strait Relations

There has clearly been continuity in implementing the U.S. one-China policy and impressive growth in ties between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan.  Developments in cross-Strait relations over the past year, however, tell a much less positive story.  Observers in the United States both outside and inside government, including a broad spectrum of members of Congress, are deeply troubled that China has increased pressure against Taiwan.

Recent Congressional actions on Taiwan – like the unanimous passage of the Taiwan Travel Act – reflect those concerns.

As the Department of Defense has noted, Beijing continues to pursue long-term comprehensive military modernization.  Over the past year, increased PLA activity in the air and seas around Taiwan has increased tensions.  The United States remains concerned by China’s lack of transparency about its growing military capabilities and associated strategic intentions, and its continuing unwillingness to renounce the use of force against Taiwan.  We oppose unilateral actions by any party aimed at altering the status quo, including any resort to force or other forms of coercion.

The PRC also recently commenced operations on the northbound heading of the M503 air route through the Taiwan Strait without genuine consultation with Taiwan authorities.  And the Dominican Republic’s sudden switch of recognition to the PRC on Monday is a clear sign that the “diplomatic truce” that previously existed between Taipei and Beijing no longer applies.

Let me underscore that Beijing’s efforts to alter the status quo are unhelpful and do not contribute to regional stability.  The United States has a deep and abiding interest in cross-Strait stability and believes that dialogue between the two sides has enabled peace, stability, and development in recent years.  The United States urges China to work to restore productive dialogue and to avoid further escalatory or destabilizing moves. 

The abiding national interests of the United States require that we react to policies that threaten cross-Strait peace and stability.  We encourage both sides of the Strait to demonstrate patience, flexibility, and creativity in resolving their differences.

It is critical that both sides of the Strait utilize direct, authoritative channels of communication to manage issues effectively and avoid miscalculation.

While we appreciate President Tsai’s pragmatic approach to cross-Strait relations, let me underscore that U.S. cross-Strait policy is not directed solely at one side of the Strait or the other.  There should be no unilateral attempts to change the status quo, and that applies to both sides.

When we see something that threatens the status quo – whether it’s a proposed referendum on UN membership during a previous Taiwan administration, or China blocking Taiwan’s participation in international organizations devoted to global health and civil aviation safety – we speak out.  To reduce the risk of miscalculation and unintended escalation, the United States will continue to urge both sides to engage in constructive dialogue.


Let me sum up by saying that as we honor our one China policy, the United States remains firmly committed to supporting Taiwan. Indeed, that commitment has never been stronger.  The United States endeavors to improve our economic partnership with Taiwan, support its confidence and freedom from coercion, deepen the bonds of friendship between our people, and ensure that Taiwan has the ability to make positive contributions to the international community.  Taiwan is a vital and reliable partner in the Indo-Pacific region; Taiwan is a force for good in the world, and merits our continued strong support.

Thank you.