Christopher J. Marut, Director of the American Institute in Taiwan
April 22, 2015
Tsinghua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan
President Hocheng, Dr. Stanton, faculty and students, distinguished guests and friends, good afternoon, 大家好!
I am very, very honored to be here. This university has some very special ties with the United States.
First, I want to recognize that AIT has a very special personal tie to the university, in that my predecessor, Dr. Bill Stanton, serves here in several capacities, including Senior Vice President for Global Affairs; George K.C. Yeh Distinguished Chair Professor; and Director of the university’s Center for Asia Policy. Bill is a longtime friend of mine, and a great friend of Taiwan, and I appreciate that he invited me to speak here today.
In addition to your welcoming Bill Stanton here after his long and distinguished career in our Foreign Service, this university has sent 33 students and scholars to the United States under the Fulbright program, the United States government’s flagship exchange program. Tsinghua has a well-deserved reputation as a top-tier university, and you all know the school has produced multiple Nobel laureates and a Wolf prize winner, among other distinguished alumni.
And I am sure you are all aware, as you celebrate your Foundation Week, that National Tsing Hua University has enjoyed a very special relationship with the United States since its founding in 1911.
The story behind the founding of Tsinghua represents an important building block of the strong foundation of broad and deep ties and the abiding friendship between our peoples. In 1909 the administration of U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt reduced the indemnity payment owed under the Boxer Protocol by 10.8 million U.S. dollars. That money was used to create a scholarship program and also to found the school that would eventually become Tsinghua University.
Reflecting on Three Years as AIT Director
I’m also very pleased to be addressing such an august group of students. The U.S. government has redoubled our efforts to connect with youth worldwide in recent years, and we at AIT have been a part of that. More than 60 percent of the world’s population is under the age of 30. That demographic, increasingly empowered by new technologies, is one of the foremost potential drivers of economic and social progress, and we have seen that play out here in Taiwan.
Taiwan students and youth have become increasingly active in shaping the social, political, and economic landscape in Taiwan. You all are part of a generation who are making a lasting impact. I have to think this is a remarkable time to be a young person in Taiwan, full of potential and also full of responsibility, with the power to affect change in this vibrant democracy.
One of the reasons I am so excited to talk with you today is because I want to share my optimism for the future of Taiwan and for U.S.-Taiwan relations in particular based on my day-to-day interactions with people here and the work AIT does every day to promote closer U.S.-Taiwan ties.
To explain why I am so optimistic about the future, I would first like to reflect on the state of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, as I see it after having had the privilege of serving the American people for nearly three years here. If you will permit me to invest in retrospect for a few moments, my own ties with Taiwan span several decades. I served here as a young officer in the Consular and Economic Sections nearly thirty years ago. Both of my children were born here, and my wife Loretta and I have enjoyed some wonderful years here over the course of our assignments. As those of you who remember can attest, back in the 1980s, the air was, frankly, terrible; the water in the rivers very polluted; and the traffic was chaotic. I’ll focus a bit later on our environmental cooperation, but it’s perhaps a fitting analogy that almost thirty years later, Taiwan is today one of the most livable places in Asia, and perhaps in the world.
David Dean was the Director of AIT for most of my first tour at AIT, which spanned the years 1986–1989 and coincided with the lifting of martial law and the beginning of Taiwan’s transition to a democracy. In his book, Unofficial Diplomacy, released posthumously last year, Dean wrote that during that period some officials in Taiwan had not recovered from the break in diplomatic relations that took place in 1979, and did not trust the United States. It is quite true that we were still working through how to relate to one another under this still new and unconventional framework. Back then, we had different names for some of the sections at AIT. For example, consular work was handled by what was known as our “Travel Services Section.” This led to some rather humorous misunderstandings. For example, I recall someone once calling us to ask for advice on vacation planning. I think they felt that The Travel Services Section provided the kind of assistance in vacation planning that a travel agency did.
Today, Taiwan is a completely different place. Thirty-six years after the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act, we enjoy a robust relationship. It is a relationship that encompasses trade, security, environment, science, technology, health and energy cooperation, education and cultural exchanges, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. I think the most visible symbol of our relationship is the new AIT facility we are constructing in the Neihu district of Taipei. When completed, it will have state-of-the-art technology and a host of energy saving and green technologies.
Of course, more than symbols, successive U.S. administrations have sought to focus on the substance of this relationship as reflected in the work we do every day at AIT.
The Foundation of U.S.-Taiwan Relations
The Taiwan Relations Act was signed by President Carter on April 1, 1979. It spelled out how the United States would manage its unofficial relations with the people on Taiwan, and established the American Institute in Taiwan. The TRA and the three U.S.-China Joint Communiques have served as the bipartisan foundation for our “one China” policy, which has guided our relations with Taiwan and the PRC. U.S. policy has been consistent across six different U.S. administrations. Together, this has helped to foster Taiwan’s prosperity and democratic development while also bolstering cross-Strait and regional stability.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Danny Russel summed up our goals for the Taiwan relationship well in February of this year. He noted that there is strong support for our relations with Taiwan, “important people-to-people connections, economics and trade, commercial connections, important cultural connections – just as there is very strong support in the United States on both sides of the aisle, so to speak, in Congress for our continued efforts to help ensure that Taiwan can preserve its economic autonomy and manage its defense, [and] find appropriate international space in which to make regional and global contributions.”
In the same vein, President Obama in remarks alongside President Xi Jinping in Beijing last November said “we encourage further progress by both sides of the Taiwan Strait towards building ties, reducing tensions and promoting stability on the basis of dignity and respect, which is in the interest of both sides, as well as the region and the United States.”
Security and Defense
Security and defense cooperation is perhaps among the most visible examples of our cooperation and is part of our commitments under the TRA. Over the past three years, Taiwan has taken delivery of important hardware including Apache AH-64E helicopters, Patriot PAC-3 missiles, and P-3C aircraft. These systems are part of the over $12 billion in new defense articles and services that the U.S. Administration has notified to Congress since 2010.
But beyond defensive systems, we engage in frequent consultations, working-level exchanges and training programs. Our team at AIT engages every day with Taiwan’s military and the Ministry of National Defense. We support Taiwan’s efforts to develop innovative and asymmetric capabilities to deter the increased threat of coercion and intimidation. We also have consistently urged Taiwan to increase its defense budget commensurate with the security challenges it faces and as it transitions to a volunteer military force.
Our security partnership with Taiwan and our support of Taiwan’s development of defensive capabilities has, in our judgment, provided the security and confidence necessary for improvements in cross-Strait relations.
In a broader sense, our cooperation also encompasses human security, working where we can to assist those in need, and in capacity building. Taiwan time and again has demonstrated the ability, willingness, and leadership to help those in need. Authorities here quickly and effectively mobilized resources to assist victims in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan that struck the Philippines in November of 2013. You responded generously when we experienced our own natural disaster in the United States when Hurricane Sandy pounded our northeast region in October of 2012. This year, AIT was proud to work with the Ministries of Health and Welfare and Foreign Affairs in finding avenues for Taiwan to contribute to the global response against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Taiwan’s donation of money and protective equipment for healthcare workers on the front-lines was a poignant example of the generosity of Taiwan’s people. The Ebola training center Taiwan established to train healthcare workers from countries in Southeast Asia once again demonstrated Taiwan’s willingness to share your knowledge to address transnational threats to health and wellbeing.
Taiwan demonstrated its smart power with the launch of the Pacific Islands Leadership Program in 2012. In cooperation with the East-West Center in Honolulu, the program will, by the end of its first five years, train over 100 young leaders from the Pacific Islands. The experience these young leaders gain not only benefits their home islands, but also contributes to stability in the region.
The United States and Taiwan have also worked closely together to help eliminate the scourge of human trafficking, and Taiwan has become a model for anti-trafficking efforts in the region. For the last five years, Taiwan has received the highest or “Tier 1” ranking in the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report. These examples speak volumes about the core values of a society and how Taiwan plays to its strengths in demonstrating its role as a global citizen and increasing its global role.
Commercial and Economic Ties
And around the globe, Taiwan’s economy has developed a well-earned reputation as a high technology success story. Taiwan is widely recognized as a nimble and flexible player responsive to market needs. Taiwan firms are key links in regional and global manufacturing supply chains. One has to look no further than your neighbor, the Hsinchu Science Park, to understand why. Last year, aided by economic growth here and in the United States, Taiwan reclaimed its position as the United States’ 10th-largest trading partner, moving up two notches past Saudi Arabia and India. The United States also moved up to be Taiwan’s second-largest trading partner, importing $40.6 billion. In goods trade alone, our bilateral trade grew by six percent in 2014.
Our strong trade links reflect a similarly strong investment relationship. Last month, I co-led with the Chairman of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council Taiwan’s delegation to the SelectUSA Summit in Washington, DC. SelectUSA was established to work across the U.S. Government to facilitate business investment. In other words, SelectUSA provides services to companies as they seek to enter and expand their operations in the United States: this is beneficial for both the U.S. and Taiwan economies.
Since 2013, President Obama has hosted two SelectUSA Investment Summits to enable international investors to learn why, how, and where to invest, while connecting directly with representatives from all of the U.S. – all in one building. Taiwan sent one of the largest delegations to the first SelectUSA Summit in 2013, and Taiwan again rose to the occasion this year, sending an even larger delegation of 85 representatives from more than 50 different companies and institutions to the event. I might add that travel for business and pleasure has become immeasurably easier since Taiwan became a member of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program in November 2012.
But as we all know, nothing ever stays constant in economics, trade and investment. Competition only intensifies. And as Secretary of State John Kerry stated at the SelectUSA Summit last month, capital chases confidence and opportunity. However, the stock of U.S. Foreign Direct Investment in Taiwan has remained essentially flat since 2011, and overall FDI inflows remain far below their 2007 levels. And as China’s economy continues to grow and diversify, the challenges to diversify for economies whose manufacturing is geared to producing components for final assembly in the mainland are becoming more complex. Economies that previously were complementary increasingly find themselves to be competitors in some market segments.
At the same time, Taiwan has been largely left outside of important regional trade agreements. Taiwan is among the economies that have expressed interest in potentially joining the Trans Pacific Partnership and we continue to welcome this interest. Among the criteria to evaluate potential new TPP candidates is their ability to live up to the high standards of an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement. Taiwan needs to continue to aim high, and to be ambitious. Since we can speak frankly and as friends, I’d like to encourage Taiwan not to fear change, and to look hard at some issues that are probably going to require some courageous decisions. This includes working toward resolution of some longstanding trade complaints.
Environment, Science and Health for a Better Tomorrow
Now, trade, tariff reduction, market access, investment protection, financial stability, and the like are issues we focus on continually. However, even if one were to get perfect scores on these criteria, it still only gets us half the distance to our goal. Economics is also about development, prosperity, and the security that comes from knowing that we can live more comfortably than our parents and grandparents. It is about passing on this sense of possibility to our children. It is sharing responsibility to preserve and protect the world’s natural beauty, its oceans, and resources for those to whom we will entrust it tomorrow.
Cooperation on climate change, environmental education, and science and technology has been another highlight of our work here in Taiwan. I am sure that no one in this room, other than Bill Stanton, perhaps, knows that there are 180 agreements and MOUs between AIT and our counterpart in Taiwan, which is known as TECRO that cover cooperation in the areas of environment, science, technology and health. The visit of the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy – the first U.S. cabinet-level visit to Taiwan in 14 years – was recognition of how far Taiwan has come in the last two decades. More importantly, it was a call to action for Taiwan to play a greater leadership role and bring its experiences and expertise to a regional and global stage. During her visit, Administrator McCarthy witnessed Taiwan’s inauguration of the International Environmental Partnership, under which Taiwan and the United States have led dozens of environmental programs around the region.
In November 2013, Taiwan launched its participation in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program, or GLOBE. Through this program, students in Taiwan conduct scientific experiments and then upload their results to a global database, after which researchers and students all over the world can use the data for the benefit of the global population. Our partnership with the Taiwan National Space Office, based right here in Hsinchu, on the COSMIC-2 satellite program, will be the second phase of a cooperative program that has brought greater precision to weather prediction, and is a major contributor to global weather science.
People-to-people ties are the glue that binds us together. Their strength and vitality constantly enriches our understanding of one another. Although they may often result from formal agreements, they don’t depend on them. What I am talking about here are the incredibly diverse web of social, business, and family relationships, university ties and scholarly exchange.
At its very core, I believe the bedrock for the success we have enjoyed and for the remarkable transformation that Taiwan has undergone is our strong commitment to education. The frequent exchanges and habits of consultation, outreach and joint collaboration between U.S. and Taiwan academics, scientists, engineers, and businesspeople built up over decades have created an environment of openness, innovation, and trust.
Taiwan today is the sixth-largest source of foreign students who study in the United States. However, I would note that since Taiwan has a population of about 23 million people, on a per capita basis it remains one of the highest sources of foreign students. In the 2013-2014 academic year, there were 21,266 Taiwan students in the United States. I know there is a lot of competition today among institutions of higher education, but I encourage each of you and your colleagues to consider studying in the United States to experience the incredible variety of offerings we have, from large universities to small, from liberal arts colleges to research universities, and in small towns to our largest cities.
In the other direction, we had nearly 3,300 American students in Taiwan in academic year 2013-2014. I am quite certain that they take back countless positive experiences and memories to share with their families and friends about the richness of Taiwan’s culture and the warmth of its people.
I mentioned at the outset that this university is among the many in Taiwan that have sent top-tier Fulbright scholars to the United States. The Fulbright Academic Exchange program is the cornerstone of the U.S. exchange programs in Taiwan. Over the past half century, the Fulbright Program has not only facilitated the flow of knowledge between scholars, it has also promoted mutual understanding between peoples. Among my important duties as Director of AIT has been to serve as honorary Chairman of the Fulbright Taiwan program. We’re grateful that President Ma has addressed our Fulbright regional workshops for the past four years, which is indicative of Taiwan senior leadership’s strong support for this flagship program. Having these gatherings in Taiwan is a testament to the depth and strength of the program here, and the respect that those in the region have for Taiwan’s high level of scholarship.
My Hopes for the Coming Years
I hope the examples of U.S.-Taiwan cooperation that I just described have given you a sense of why I am so confident about Taiwan’s future and the future of U.S.-Taiwan relations. I am confident that people on both sides and at all levels will do their utmost in coming years to maintain the momentum of this extremely important relationship.
The reasons are crystal clear. The United States and Taiwan are both advanced economies. Our people share the traits of ambition, perseverance and inventiveness. We cherish individual freedoms, and share a commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights and transparency. We respect one another. I find it inspiring that Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People – Minzu Zhuyi, Minquan Zhuyi and Minsheng Zhuyi – bear significant similarities to Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy of government as articulated in the Gettysburg Address. These core values naturally and almost instinctively lead us to seek ways to work substantively together to address regional and global challenges. They bring out the best in us.
Just as important, Taiwan is – and all of you in this room are — a showcase of a stable and exuberant democracy. Students and youth, empowered by technology, have become active at extraordinary levels, voicing their opinions about things like media freedom and legislation that will affect them and their children. Taiwan’s experience and example have, I think, far more symbolic strength than many people living here realize. In particular, Taiwan’s example has had effect on visitors and students from throughout the region, many of whom do not enjoy the freedoms that everyone in Taiwan has.
In November 2014 in Brisbane, President Obama called Taiwan a “thriving democracy.” Last month in Bangkok, Assistant Secretary Russel also highlighted Taiwan’s vibrant democracy. Taiwan’s recent local elections demonstrated the strength of your democratic system. A strong, prosperous, and confident Taiwan is very much in the United States’ interest. I know politics is increasingly on everyone’s minds with the upcoming presidential and legislative elections next January. The United States has full faith in the wisdom of the people of Taiwan to select leaders who best advance their interests. We look forward to working with whomever you choose as your new leaders in the presidential office and the Legislative Yuan. I am confident we’ll see a smooth transition between administrations after what I am sure will be a fair, transparent and orderly election.
I hope I have given you a good perspective of how I see things in Taiwan and of our work at AIT. I’ve touched on some of the things my colleagues and our counterparts invest our time on, and the reasons they are important. As in any relationship, we have experienced a few challenges. But, like any healthy and longstanding relationship, we have had far more ups than downs, and when we disagree, we find ways to move ahead.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank those who have made this such a fulfilling assignment. Any effort to name everyone risks leaving someone out, so please simply allow me to acknowledge all of the people we at AIT like to call our “Taiwan friends.” I can’t say for sure, but I think that’s about 23 million or so people. I believe I can speak for all of my colleagues in saying that we care deeply about Taiwan, its people, and its remarkable culture. We enjoy living here.
As I conclude my remaining time as Director of AIT, I assure you I will continue to work hard to consolidate the gains we’ve made, and I will keep pressing on initiatives we have underway. For my wife and me, it has been a unique honor to spend so much time in this wonderful place. We want to thank all of our friends and acquaintances from the bottom of our hearts, for the friendship and kindnesses that have been extended to us over the years.
So, once more, please allow me to thank President Hocheng, Dr. Stanton, and all those who have made my visit possible today. And with that, I would welcome a few questions.
Thank you, again.