Fri, Jun 15, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Next AIT director has big shoes to fill

In a few weeks, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Kin Moy, who on Wednesday received the highest honor this nation gives to an individual for diplomatic-related contributions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is due to leave his post.

Many will remember Moy for the many milestones in Taiwan-US relations that were achieved during his three-year tenure, including Tuesday’s dedication of the AIT’s new compound in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖), the first purpose-built facility by a foreign representative office in Taiwan; or the March 16 promulgation of the US’ Taiwan Travel Act, a significant piece of follow-up legislation to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that encourages visits by high-level US and Taiwanese officials.

The new compound, which cost the US government US$255.6 million, will become the AIT’s second home since its establishment in 1979, the year Taipei and Washington severed formal diplomatic ties. The building has been praised as an important testament to the US’ determination to further bilateral ties and to honor its commitment to Taiwan.

However, what truly makes Moy stand out from his predecessors is not only his being the first US diplomat of Chinese descent to head the AIT’s Taipei office, but also his clever humor and his efforts to fit in and engage with Taiwanese.

Due to the intricate triangular relationship between Taiwan, the US and China, whoever holds the AIT directorship has the tendency to sound like a broken record when addressing the public or the media.

What often came out of previous directors’ mouths were verbatim recitations of Washington’s standard policy positions that revolve around either the US’ “one China” policy, the Taiwan Relations Act or the Three Joint Communiques.

Moy has been no exception, but his humor has often added color to his remarks, cracking up otherwise serious audiences. He is also not afraid of making himself the object of his witty mockery.

One memorable achievement under Moy’s belt is the institute’s success in reaching out and engaging the public via Facebook. Although the AIT’s Facebook page was established in December 2009, it has been most active since Moy took office.

To make himself more accessible, Moy has turned to the social network on several occasions to interact with Taiwanese.

Soon after arriving in June 2015, he solicited views from netizens on where he should spend his first Lunar New Year holiday as AIT director. The post generated a long discussion thread that even included a response from then-Tainan mayor William Lai (賴清德), who invited Moy to enjoy Tainan’s coffee and winter tangerines.

Moy has also shared some of his personal photographs with netizens to close the distance between the institute and the public, including a picture on Mother’s Day of him as baby with his grandmother.

Diplomacy has never just been about government-to-government exchanges. People-to-people contact is what is truly needed to allow the seeds of bilateral ties to take root and the tree of friendship to grow taller and stronger.

Moy has successfully brought a personal touch to his position, something that has made the US seem less like a mighty world power and more like a big brother next door. For that, he will be missed by the people here — and whoever is to succeed him has big shoes to fill.

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