Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) earlier this month visited Washington. As a young Taiwanese studying in the US, I was fortunate to participate in some of the public events during her visit, and able to observe the interactions with friends of the presidential candidate in the US.
In her speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the first thing Tsai discussed was democracy and freedom in Taiwan today as the result of a long and hard struggle against authoritarian rule. She said this is a treasure. US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen later reminded us: History shows that “freedom is not free.”
Tsai gave a detailed presentation on the challenges facing Taiwan, such as stagnated economic growth, social injustice, and foreign policy. She gave a concise and in-depth picture. This approach shows that she cares for Taiwan and knows the issues. Some reporters from Taiwan and China attempted to trick Tsai into making statements about the so-called “1992 consensus” or her definition of the “status quo.” However, she referred them back to her speech.
Afterward, Heritage Foundation Asian Studies Center director Walter Lohman said that what matters is not the precise formulations used, but the overall approach that she outlined in her speech. He said that the main message Tsai delivered to Washington was, “You can trust me,” and he added that he trusted her.
What counts is that the nation’s future and the quality of society. These are the most important considerations for Tsai.
Thus, rather than nitpicking over the meaning of different terms, it is important to hear Tsai’s views and learn about her vision for Taiwan. The nation needs time to rejuvenate, to heal and improve.
I also attended the congressional reception and I was impressed by the warm and personal welcome she received from nearly two dozen US lawmakers, including US Representative Ed Royce and Ros-Lehtinen. They reaffirmed the value of Taiwan to the world and reassured Tsai that they would stand with Taiwanese to secure democracy and freedom.
They also praised Tsai’s courage and leadership, her confidence and her ablilty to attract Washington’s attention. The US Congress helped Taiwan make the transition to democracy; many of its members have fought for Taiwan’s interests and international relations for decades.
Formosan Association for Public Affairs president Mark Kao (高龍榮) expressed his appreciation to Congress for its help: “Then and now, you [the US Congress] have given the people of Taiwan hope that they never walk alone even in the darkest night.”
The Taiwanese-American community also welcomed Tsai with a banquet in her honor, attended by hundreds of Taiwanese-Americans from the east coast.
Tsai shared with them some stories from home; telling them about the new political landscape and that all Taiwanese can work together for a better future for the nation.
Seeing Tsai in Washington has given me new hope that we are moving toward a bright future: A future in which freedom and democracy are essential ingredients of society. A future where people work together for a better economy that benefits people at all levels of the economic ladder. A future in which Taiwan is respected internationally as a democratic nation. And a future where the people can trust the government.
Chia-yen Lin is a graduate student in public affairs at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and an intern at the Formosan Association for Public Affairs in Washington.
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