In his recent letter (Letters, Oct. 29, page 8), Alex Cross expressed his sentiments concerning US Secretary of State Colin Powell's lamentable comments on Tai-wan. I completely agree with Alex on the subject. However, I believe that his statement that the American people "by and large support Taiwan" is somewhat in error. I think, more accurately the statement should be, "The American people, by and large, know virtually nothing at all about Taiwan."
Our consciousness of Taiwan is tied mostly to the "Made in Taiwan" label on computer equipment and other electronics. Occasionally, as happened last week, we get a comic relief news story showing the esteemed members of the legislature throwing food at one another. Fortunately, half the people watching probably thought they were from Thailand.
All is not as grim as the picture I paint. Ignorance of the Taiwan issue is understandable: It's a big world with lots of problems and situations that don't immediately impact the day-to-day lives of the average American. What I can tell you from my own experience is that if you take the time to explain Taiwan's situation, people respond favorably to its plight.
I see that the Tourism Bureau is making a push to double European tourists by 2008. While I suspect that targeting European or Asian countries is a good way of increasing the actual tourist dollars spent in Taiwan, it would seem prudent to invest more time and effort appealing to US tourists. As Taiwan's biggest supporter, increasing the US public's awareness of Taiwan's attractive and friendly face can only benefit Taiwan.
Most people who buy travel guides never go to that destination, but we buy the books and read them anyway. We have The Travel Channel, a network that airs programs showcasing destinations that most of us will never go to, but we watch them anyway and dream. Most importantly, our awareness is raised.
I watch lots of travel programs. Have I ever seen one on Taiwan? No. Are there more than three or four books on the subject at the bookstore? No. Have I ever seen a TV commercial promoting Taiwan tourism? No.
Putting politically-oriented flyers out near the UN does little for the average person except raise awareness that Taiwan is contentious. It might generate a little sympathy, but only moti-vated activists are going to take someone else's problems to heart through such a campaign.
I've been to Taiwan several times. It's a beautiful, dynamic country with very friendly people. Find a way to show that face of Taiwan to the US.