By many measures, America is no longer seen as positively as it once was in China. We track some of these changes.
Video: Jason Yuan, Taiwan's Chief Representative in the U.S., on Taiwan-China and Taiwan-U.S. Relations
Ambassador Yuan spoke at USC on March 2, 2012
Upon his election in 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou dispatched Jason Yuan to represent Taiwan in Washington, D.C. Ma has just been reelected and in many respects Taiwan's relations with both the United States and China are stable and healthy. Nonetheless, challenges remain. China's leaders appear pleased with greatly expanded economic ties, but have not been willing to allow Taiwan to gain official or unofficial standing in most international bodies. At the same time, official delegations from China have resumed visits to Taiwan. These were stopped in the months leading up to the January election. Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong's visit last week signals that economic and cultural discussions have resumed.
Jason Yuan is one of Taiwan's most senior diplomats. Before becoming the chief representative at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, Yuan headed the North American Affairs Department at Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1991-1994), served as Taiwan's chief representative to Canada (1994-1996), as ambassador to Panama (1996-1998), and as director general of the Taipei Economi and Cultural Office (TECO) in Los Angeles (1998-2003).
Ambassador Yuan earned his undergraduate degree at the Chinese Naval Academy at Tsoying and later earned a master's degree at Southeastern University in the United States.
This presentation was given on March 2, 2012 at USC. Click on the play button below to see the presentation..
This video is also available on the USCI YouTube Channel.
Here is Jason Yuan's presentations, as prepared (though not quite as delivered).
Taiwan’s recent presidential election
Ladies and Gentlemen: Taiwan entered 2012 with a lively display of our country’s political freedoms. On January 14, millions of Taiwanese citizens cast their votes in our country’s 5th popular presidential election – bringing to an end an intense political campaign season.
When the political dust in Taiwan settled, President Ma Ying-Jeou was reelected with 52% of the votes, 6% more than the votes gained by the opposition candidate. After the election, President Obama congratulated President Ma, and told him that “In this year’s elections, Taiwan has again demonstrated the strength and vitality of its democratic system.” Ambassador Raymond Burghardt, Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, concluded in late January that this election demonstrated the maturity of Taiwan’s democracy. I am therefore proud to say that with our fifth Presidential election and two peaceful transitions of power already behind us, the resilience of Taiwan’s democracy is without question.
The Impact of Taiwan’s Democracy on Mainland China
Taiwan’s electoral process truly displayed a vibrant democracy in action. Today, with the help of technology, Chinese citizens on the Mainland are taking note.
While every election is unique, I believe that this one may end up playing a transformative role not only for Taiwan, but for Mainland China as well. Taiwan’s soft power has never been stronger, and this election—peaceful, orderly, mundane even—was watched from across the Taiwan Strait with great curiosity and anticipation. One contributor to a Mainland micro-blog put it beautifully, saying that “On the other side of the sea, Taiwan erected a mirror. And on this side of the sea, we saw ourselves in the future.”
Four years ago, President George W. Bush called Taiwan “a beacon of democracy to Asia and the world.” This beacon is quickly becoming an engine of change. I firmly believe that, through both our elections and the daily operations of our representative democracy, Taiwan will continue serve as a catalyst and facilitator for expanding freedom and democracy to Mainland China. There’s a famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi that I like a lot: “Be the change you want to see.” In Taiwan—through our open society, our progressive culture, and our boisterous democratic process—we put this principle into action. Leading by example, we hope to make a fully democratic Asian continent a reality.
Maintaining peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait
As the security guarantor for the world, the United States has a strong interest in maintaining peace and stability from the Persian Gulf to the Taiwan Strait. It is understandable, then, that our previous administration’s “scorched earth” diplomacy unnecessarily elevated tensions in the Taiwan Strait and damaged our bilateral relationship with our closest ally, the United States.
When President Ma assumed the presidency in May 2008, he put forward a vision that sought to reverse a stagnant and increasingly dangerous situation in the Taiwan Strait. President Ma’s grand strategy revolved around several inter-dependent tracks: addressing Taiwan’s bilateral relationship with Mainland China through gradual conciliation; deepening ties with strategic allies, especially Japan and the U.S.; and enhancing Taiwan’s status politically, economically and strategically.
As part of this strategy, President Ma resumed a consistent and constructive dialogue with the Mainland based on our Three No’s Policy – that is, No Unification, No Independence, and No Use of Force – and the earlier 1992 Consensus of “one China, respective interpretations.” Through our government’s calm and prudent stewardship, the Taiwan Strait has been transformed from a major flashpoint into a conduit for regional peace and prosperity.
Today, tensions between Taiwan and the Mainland are at their lowest point in decades. Nearly 3 million people from Taiwan and Mainland China travel across the Strait each year. More than 5,600 Mainland students studied in Taiwan’s universities in 2010. And 70,000 Taiwanese companies are investing more than $100 billion on the Mainland, with unofficial estimates putting it as high as $200 billion. There are now nearly 600 direct flights a week between Taiwan and Mainland China, compared against only dozens when President Ma took office.
The two sides have now reached 16 agreements – including the historic Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, or ECFA, which took effect last year. The ECFA will grow Taiwan’s economy by 4.4%, but its value in opening doors for future trade agreements with other Asian nations is immeasurable. Taiwan today is more plugged into the global economy than ever, pursuing ongoing Economic Partnership Agreement talks with Singapore, signing an investment agreement with Japan, and exploring new trade agreements with New Zealand, India, Indonesia and other countries.
President Ma’s reelection is a testament to the success of this strategy, which has significantly reduced cross-Strait tensions. In the foreseeable future, Taiwan’s cross-Strait policy will continue the ongoing, successful approach that promotes greater cooperation in economic areas, while putting aside the more challenging matters such as political negotiations. In the near term, Taiwan will focus on signing an investment protection agreement and strengthening the implementation of ECFA, as well as resolving other trade issues with Mainland China.
Strengthening Taiwan-U.S. relations
Over the last 100 years, the destinies of the United States and ROC became intertwined as the two countries worked together to defend freedom and democracy. While the approach of our previous administration made this collaboration difficult, mutual trust and high-level communication between Taiwan and the U.S. was restored by President Ma’s "low key, no surprises" approach to our bilateral relationship. In the last several years, we’ve seen enormous progress in regaining mutual trust. Now, high level dialogues between Taiwan and U.S. have increased markedly, with several prominent exchanges of senior delegations between our two countries. Today, we confront shared global challenges such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, human and drug trafficking, and natural disasters.
As President Ronald Reagan once said, “Peace is made by the fact of strength, and peace is lost when such strength disappears.” Indeed, Taiwan’s work toward the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences would not have been possible – and will not be sustainable – without America’s enduring commitment to Taiwan’s security.
In September of last year, the U.S. administration approved a retrofitting package to upgrade Taiwan's fleet of F-16A/B series fighter jets. This important announcement brought U.S. weapon sales to Taiwan to over $18 billion over the past three-plus years, the highest in decades. U.S. arms sales have not only further strengthened our peoples’ sense of security, but have also provided us with needed confidence to further improve our relations with Mainland China.
Last year, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell appeared at a hearing held by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee entitled "Why Taiwan Matters." During the hearing, he publicly restated that the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 and the “Six Assurances” offered by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 continue to serve as the basis for relations between Taiwan and the United States. We are grateful that the U.S. Administration has re-confirmed its commitment to honor the assurance not to conduct prior consultations with the PRC on U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.
But our cooperation extends far beyond the contours of global security.
On the economic front, Taiwan is currently America’s 10th largest goods trading partner and 15th largest goods export market. We are also the sixth-largest market for U.S. agricultural products. Last year alone, a delegation from Taiwan signed letters of intent to purchase U.S. agricultural product worth more than $5 billion.
While much of the world continues to struggle to regain the momentum lost from the global financial crisis, Taiwan is racing ahead. Our unemployment rate of 4.48% is considerably lower than that of the U.S and Japan, and has been gradually decreasing for the last 19 months. Our currency is stable, our economy predictable, and our business transactions protected by a transparent and durable legal architecture.
Keeping pace with our global economic role, Taiwan’s diplomatic activities have ensured that our voice is heard in international organizations where the Mainland often enjoys significant influence. Can you imagine a world where the U.S. was not a member of the United Nations? Where your diplomats could not speak up at global forums to advance action on climate change, or fair and equitable labor laws, or human rights? Where every time you try to contribute to global efforts to combat terrorism or make our skies safer for airlines, you are blocked from participating in these global discussions? That is the political reality Taiwan is facing. Every day, we need to fight to be seen and to be heard.
Thanks to our friends in the U.S. and around the world, that reality is changing. Taiwan has participated in the annual World Health Assembly as an observer since 2009, and we are building on this precedent to create similar arrangements in a range of other international bodies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Our government is very appreciative of your government’s continued efforts to advocate for Taiwan’s increased participation in the international community. We are especially grateful for the remarks by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that “no organization of the UN has a right to unilaterally determine the position of Taiwan.”
On the humanitarian front, Taiwan joined the U.S. in providing significant donations to the countries devastated by tsunamis in 2004, to Haiti in the aftermath of its 2010 earthquake, and to Japan in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. As Japan struggled to cope with its worst natural disaster in recent memory, Taiwan joined with the U.S. to evacuate over 100 Americans who were stranded. This is the meaning of friendship between nations.
People-to-people exchanges are another significant area of progress in Taiwan-U.S. relations, and in particular those involving students from our two countries. Nearly 25,000 students from Taiwan are currently studying in the U.S. – and some are lucky enough to be spending a year or more on this beautiful and stimulating campus.
But we need to take this already close political and economic relationship to the next level. This is where you all can help, as the future diplomats, academics, and business leaders of our two countries. Your energy and vision will ensure another generation of close ties between the U.S. and Taiwan – but not without effort by all of us today. And this begins with two critical achievements that are on the immediate horizon: the resumption of talks under a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and the addition of Taiwan to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.
In recent years, Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks between Taiwan and the United States have been suspended. Since differences on trade matters are not unusual among allies, we do hope the TIFA talks will be resumed as soon as possible in a way that significantly benefits both countries in expanded trade and investment.
More than 410,000 Taiwanese tourists visited the U.S. last year. While we are proud of the high numbers of our citizens coming to the U.S., we recognize that this number could skyrocket if the costly hurdle of obtaining a visa was removed. After a concerted effort to meet the legal requirements needed for joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the U.S. announced the nomination of Taiwan as a VWP candidate in December 2011. If things move forward smoothly, it is expected that Taiwan will become the 37th country participating the VWP by the end of this year, a move that would further promote bilateral tourism, trade, and investment.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Taiwan and the United States both share the core values of freedom, democracy, human rights and market economy. During a speech at the APEC meetings in Honolulu, Hawaii in November of last year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized the importance of the security and economic partnership between our two countries. Similarly, President Ma, in his post-election victory speech, clearly declared that his second term’s top foreign policy priority would be to strengthen relations with the United States.
Recent announcements by President Obama and Secretary Clinton that U.S. foreign policy would “pivot” toward Asia was welcomed in Taipei and other capitals across the Asia Pacific region. As the U.S. pursues this shift toward Asia, Taiwan will remain a proud and ready partner in promoting regional stability and cooperation.
At its core, this means that President Ma will continue to make every effort to alleviate cross-Strait tensions. The government has worked to replace conflict with reconciliation, and has emphasized negotiation as a means to resolve differences in order to create a virtuous cycle for Taiwan in its international relations. In the future, Taiwan will continue to play the role of a "peacemaker” in the region by embracing these principles.
Ladies and gentlemen, before I conclude, I wanted to share one final thought. Although I am not a New Yorker and therefore not a die-hard New York Knicks fan, please rest assured that Taiwan’s diplomatic corps is hard at work to make sure that Americans continue to enjoy “Lin-sanity.” [In fact, Amb. Yuan explained he is a Lakers fan.]
In all seriousness, the people of Taiwan feel great pride in Jeremy Lin’s recent achievements. He is the best possible cultural ambassador between our two countries. The story of his grandmother, Lin Chu A Muen【林朱阿麪】, who came to the United States to babysit him while his parents worked, is both a Taiwanese story of self-sacrifice and an American story of immigrants building a better life for their children in the land of opportunity. Although we regret that his poor grandmother is now followed around by the Taiwanese paparazzi, we hope that Jeremy Lin’s newfound celebrity will last long into the future.
Whether on the basketball court, in corporate boardrooms, in the Oval Office or in the halls of Congress, U.S.-Taiwan relations are strong. As we enter the dawn of President Ma’s second term, Taiwan looks forward to building on our two nations’ history of mutual trust and shared vision.
Other USCI resources on Taiwan:
- Taiwan Election 2012: Outcomes and Implications for US-Taiwan-China Ties
- Shelley Rigger, “Why Taiwan Matters”
- The Thaw: Taiwan and China’s Changing Relationship (Part 1 and Part 2)
- 2008 Taiwan Election Symposium
- Election ’08 and the Challenge of China: Part 4, Taiwan and China’s Military Buildup
- Documents: US-Taiwan and Contemporary Taiwan
- Talking Points - symposium summary (Jan. 23)
- Talking Points - Taiwan/China trade