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"Observations after One Year" by Richard C. Bush, Chairman of the Board and Managing Director, American Institute in Taiwan, to the Greater Washington Chapter Taiwanese Association of America, Washington, November 14, 1998

BG9823E | Date: 1998-12-08

It is a great honor for me to speak this evening to your organization's annual Thanksgiving banquet. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Chen for his gracious introduction, to the people who worked so hard to prepare tonight's event, and to all of you for your warm hospitality. Marty and I are privileged to have such good friends.

It has now been more than a year since I became the chairman of AIT, and a lot has happened in that time. My work is very demanding, but I must confess to you that I am having a wonderful time and love my job. I feel deeply honored to hold this position and hope that in the past year I have made some small contribution to US-Taiwan relations and to the welfare of the people on Taiwan. I hope that I will be able to do so for some time to come.

I am reminded every day of what a fascinating and complicated place Taiwan is. There is always something new and interesting to learn about the island, its people, and its role in the world. I have tried to deepen my understanding whenever I can - or at least as much as my failing memory will allow. I hope that you all will continue to be my teachers.

In the process of keeping myself informed, I sometimes come across facts that aren't particularly useful but are still very startling. My favorite among these useless facts is that the island of Taiwan is literally moving toward the Chinese mainland! Geologists tell us that because of the movement of tectonic plates, the Taiwan Strait is getting more and more narrow. I imagine that this audience in particular might worry about this trend, but you can relax, for it will take a few million years for Taiwan to bump into the Fujian coast.

Having set aside that very long-term problem, I would like to focus on a much shorter time frame. The last fourteen months have been a whirlwind for me, and I'm always facing a shifting mix of activities. This evening gives me an opportunity to step back and share with you my most important impressions.

First of all, I am often reminded of the immense debt we all owe to the individuals who created AIT and developed its institutional framework. It has now been almost twenty years since the Taiwan Relations Act, which created AIT, was signed into law. At the time, there was no certainty that this unofficial structure would serve the interests of both the United States and Taiwan. With the benefit of hindsight, there is widespread agreement that the framework created in 1979 has succeeded far beyond anyone's expectations. The two sides preserved the substance of their relationship in absence of diplomatic relations, to the point that fundamentally our ties are stronger than they have ever been and the communications between our two sides are clear and effective. One of the reasons for this achievement - and only one - was the hard work of people like David Dean, David Laux, Nat Bellocchi in Washington and Charles Cross, Jim Lilley, Harry Thayer, Stan Brookes, and Lynn Pascoe in Taipei. I am very fortunate to build on the foundation that they laid. Taiwan's representatives over the years have made an equally important contribution.

Second, I am struck every day by the breadth and depth of interchange between the United States and Taiwan. To illustrate that point, I can point to the busy pace of our activities during the last few months. In early August, there was convened at the Treasury Department another round of the Sub-Cabinet Level Dialogue, where our economic officials had a high-level, substantive exchange on a number of key issues. In the early fall, the Administration notified Congress of four major arms sales to Taiwan. Not too long ago, our two sides concluded the one hundred and fourth science agreements between AIT and TECRO. You probably read reports in the newspapers that Gen. Tang Fei, the chief of Taiwan's general staff, recently paid a visit to the United States. Three weeks ago, in the same week, we had a conference of American and Taiwan experts on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, intensive and productive trade negotiations, and briefings on Ku Chen-fu's visit to the mainland. Bill Richardson, the Secretary of Energy, visited Taiwan earlier this week to give the keynote speech at a high-level business conference, and took the opportunity to meet President Lee. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Third, given our very active schedule, I am constantly impressed by the outstanding job done by the employees of AIT. Our offices in Taipei and Kaohsiung have a relatively small staff compared to the breadth of our mission. Our ability to do more with less is due in part to the leadership of my friend and colleague Darryl Johnson, the head of the Taipei office. As important is the dedication and professionalism of the entire staff. Their deep commitment to their important work benefits both the American people and the people on Taiwan. In this regard, I would like to take special note of our debt to our loyal local employees, many of whom who have served us for decades. They are very talented and hard working, and we could not meet our important objectives without them.

Fourth, since becoming AIT chairman, I have been exposed once more to the strength and vitality of Taiwan's democracy. Electoral candidates must compete vigorously for the public's support. Those elected to legislative bodies and executive positions run a risk if they do not represent the public's interest. The press is free, competitive, and aggressive - I know that from my own personal experience - and that that helps foster government accountability. I also know from my contacts with Taiwan's leaders that they take the views of the public very seriously. Of course, no democratic system is perfect, the U.S. system included. Every democratic system can be improved. Still, what has occurred in Taiwan over the last fifteen years has totally transformed the island's landscape and is one of the most impressive examples of political progress of our time. And it is Taiwan's democratic system that will ensure that the people on Taiwan will have a say in the issues that will shape their future, such as cross-Strait relations.

Taiwan's democracy reflects a deeper strength; that is, the resilience of the island's leaders and people. They have taken advantage of the opportunities open to them and rebounded from periodic setbacks with new vigor.

Taiwan's democracy is one reason, but not the only one by any means, why American support for Taiwan remains strong. This is true in the Congress, in the media, and in public opinion. It is also true of the Executive Branch.

And that brings me to the fifth thing that has impressed me over the past year -- the basic continuity of U.S. policy. This may be less obvious if one looks at U.S. policy from the outside. Viewed from the inside, however, one sees a set of enduring principles and objectives, applied with firmness and consistency. The fundamental objective of U.S. policy has been to create an environment in the Taiwan region in which positive change can occur. We have done this in a number of ways, including maintaining strong relations with Taiwan, forward deployment of our military forces, promoting global economic liberalization, but also by forging a positive US-PRC relationship. This approach has been quite successful and has benefited Taiwan. In the environment which the United States has helped shape, there has occurred the spectacular democratic progress on Taiwan. Taiwan's security has been preserved and enhanced. And with Dr. Ku Chen-fu's visit to Shanghai and Beijing, there has been renewed movement toward a durable peace and increased cooperation across the Taiwan Strait.

The Administration is pleased with the achievements of Dr. Ku's visit and the seriousness with which it was conducted. The atmosphere between the two sides is much improved and they reached a four-point consensus for future cooperation. For example, Mr. Wang Daohan will visit Taiwan next year. We welcome these developments and believe that dialogue, contacts, and exchanges between the two sides provide important means toward the peaceful resolution of differences between Taiwan and the PRC.

In the months ahead, the United States will watch the development of cross-Strait relations, in the hope that they will develop in a constructive and substantive manner and lead to a reduction of tensions and greater stability in the region. Forward movement on cross-Strait relations will contribute to Taiwan's security, just as its military capabilities do. At the same time, we understand that this is only the beginning of a long process in which fundamental differences will be addressed and that the results must meet with the Taiwan public's approval.

Now I realize that there are people who say that U.S. policy is not constant and that it did change as a result of the President's visit to the PRC in June. President Clinton - the same President Clinton who sent two carrier battle groups to the Taiwan area in March 1996 - did not intend to either change U.S. policy toward Taiwan or harm Taiwan's interests during the summit. Nor was that the result of his statements. That is true for four reasons.

The first is the fundamental focus of U.S. policy that I have already mentioned: seeking to create an environment to enhance peace and stability in the Taiwan region. Having helped bring about the positive results of this long-term approach, we are not going to suddenly abandon them.

Second, the three statements of President Clinton that have drawn attention (that the United States does not support two Chinas or one China/one Taiwan, does not support de jure independence for Taiwan, and does not support Taiwan's membership in organizations for which statehood is a requirement) are by no means new. The statements concerning two Chinas, one China/one Taiwan, and Taiwan independence were made for the first time in July 1971 when Henry Kissinger made his secret trip to the PRC. They were reaffirmed by subsequent administrations and are part of the basis of our relationship with the PRC. The statement concerning Taiwan's membership in international organizations reflects U.S. policy since 1979 and was made explicit in 1994 in the Taiwan Policy Review.

Third, these three points are not the sum total of our policy toward Taiwan. They are part of a package, and each element must be seen in the context of the others. What are these other elements?

* A one-China policy as we define it.
* The three U.S.-PRC communiques.
* The Taiwan Relations Act, including its provisions regarding our arms sales to Taiwan, which, by the way President Clinton publicly reaffirmed in his speech at Bei-da
.* An insistence on the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan Strait issue.
* Encouragement the resumption of a substantive and constructive dialogue without pressuring Taiwan to negotiate or serving as a mediator between Taipei and Beijing
.* Support for Taiwan's membership in organizations for which statehood is not a requirement, like the WTO, and support for its voice to be heard in institutions where membership is not possible.

These various elements fit together as an integrated whole. Each element was part of our policy before the June summit and are still in place after the summit. They are our policy, not what Beijing wants our policy to be.

The fourth reason that the summit did not harm Taiwan's interests is Taiwan's democracy and its impact on cross-Strait relations. For although the U.S. government insists that the future of Taiwan be resolved peacefully, and although we hope that the cross-Strait dialogue will be substantive and constructive, we believe that issues of substance, procedure, level, and timing are up to Beijing and Taipei to address on a mutually acceptable basis. Moreover, we understand that because Taiwan is a democracy, any results of cross-Strait dialogue will have to have public support.

These then are five of the things that have impressed me during the past year or so: the contribution of AIT's founders, the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, the outstanding job done by AIT's employees, the strength and vitality of Taiwan's democracy, and the continuity of US policy. But there is a sixth: the concern of the Taiwanese-American community for the future of your homeland and your contribution to American society.

I would like to again pay tribute to your organization and the work that you do. You both strengthen the community of Americans from Taiwan and bind together the American people and the people of Taiwan. Taiwan and the United States are linked by a dense web of human ties: networks of kinship and commerce, of science and education, and of culture and politics. Organizations like yours are important links in the chains that connect Taiwan people in America to the villages, towns, and cities of Taiwan. By your activities in the greater Washington area, you make them a better place to live. You exert extraordinary effort to provide the American public, the American media, and the U.S. Congress with a better understanding of Taiwan. In the process, you remind our government of our ties to the 21 million people on the island of Taiwan. You all should take satisfaction from the important role that you play.

So, as we approach the end of 1998, I feel very grateful for the opportunity to serve as chairman of AIT. I am lucky to have the support and best wishes of so many people. I am particularly grateful to you for your friendship and counsel. My door is always open to you. More importantly, I am optimistic about the future of Taiwan. The social and economic transformation of the last five decades has created a thriving, modern society. Taiwan's substantive integration in the international system is significant and its interaction with the Mainland is already extensive. Cross-Strait dialogue is resuming. The friendship with the United States is as strong as ever. Full democracy ensures that the island's people will have their voice shape their destiny. That is a foundation on which a sound future can be built.