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Stephen M. Young, Director of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan Arrival Statement

OT0604E | Date: 2006-03-18

My wife Barbara Finamore, my son Patrick and I are delighted to be back in Taiwan after a five-year absence.  This is actually the fifth time I will have lived on the island.  I first came here as a twelve-year old in September, 1963.  We lived in Kaohsiung, where my father served as a military adviser to the Taiwan army.  I have many fond memories of the two years I spent in Kaohsiung then, and have always enjoyed returning to my roots in southern Taiwan on all subsequent tours here.

As a newly hired diplomat, I was posted to the American Institute in Taiwan in 1981, just a short time after AIT's creation.  During that tour, I saw a very different Taiwan, much changed by constant economic growth through the sixties and seventies.

When I returned to Taipei in 1989 for a year of advanced language training, this time with a young and growing family, I found Taiwan in the midst of political change, which soon led to the island's first truly democratic elections.

A decade later I came back to serve as Deputy Director of AIT.  Democracy was in full swing, as evidenced by Chen Shui-bian's election as president in 2000, ending over fifty years of Kuomingtang monopoly rule in Taiwan.  Meanwhile Taiwan's economy continued to astonish the world, bolstered by rapid expansion of cross-strait trade and investment.

If I have learned anything from these earlier stays on the beautiful island the Portuguese aptly called Formosa, it is that one has to reacquaint oneself with Taiwan each visit, since the place exists in a state of constant change, reinventing itself economically, politically, culturally and socially.  So I bring a good deal of humility to my new assignment as Director of AIT.  I am looking forward to meeting old friends, and making some new ones.  I want to learn firsthand from them where Taiwan sees itself going in the year 2006 and beyond.

That said, there are some fundamentals I am confident have not changed from my earlier visits.

  • First, I am sure to rediscover the dynamism and optimism of the Taiwan people, which has made this one of the most vibrant places in the Asia/Pacific region.
  • Second, I look forward to reacquainting myself with the strong democratic values that have been emerging now for nearly twenty years, and which President Bush so warmly described in his Tokyo speech last November.
  • Finally, I am confident that the enduring friendship and cooperation between our two peoples' remains a strong constant I can draw upon in my work as AIT Director.

That is not to say that there aren't real challenges out there, including in particular careful management of cross-strait relations with a rapidly growing and increasingly self-confident China.  This has posed new security challenges for Taiwan which the United States, under the Taiwan Relations Act, remains committed to closely cooperating on with you.  At the same time, it has also brought new opportunities for Taiwan business, which I look forward to exploring as I settle in to my new job.

One of the remarkable aspects of the democratization of Taiwan has been the growth of a free and multifaceted press.  I look forward to getting to know you better during this, my fifth visit to your beautiful island.

Barbara and I also look forward to getting around the island we have come to love over the years.  In particular, I am looking forward to visiting Kaohsiung, to see how that lovely city has changed since my last visit.  I expect to be surprised as well as impressed.

As Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, I will do my best to further promote friendly relations between America and Taiwan.  Thanks, everybody!