Sun, Mar 24, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Posing Taiwan question in the US

By Kevin Frazier

Although the US presidential election is more than 580 days away, early campaigning has required candidates to take hard-line stances on several policy litmus tests. For instance, candidates have been pressed to announce positions on how to count votes, alter the US Supreme Court and address climate change.

I am adding another question that every candidate should have to clearly answer: Will you support the “four musts” voiced by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)?

The Taiwanese community, both in the US and on the island, must bind together to make this question a part of next year’s campaign. This election represents a fantastic opportunity to educate American voters on the threats facing Taiwan, to ensure that candidates are prepared to stand behind the island’s democratic values, and to build an even stronger relationship between the US and Taiwan.

Before I visited Taiwan as president of the Mosaic Taiwan program sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I admittedly knew little about the island’s robust democratic values, wealth of technological expertise and commitment to remaining independent despite growing Chinese pressure. Too many American voters are in the same place I previously stood. They have not had the chance to climb Elephant Mountain (象山), shake hands with President Tsai and learn about Taiwanese democratic values.

Flying every voter to Taiwan to experience the same things is seemingly not possible, but in our connected world, supporters of Taiwan’s democracy have plenty of tools to increase Americans’ awareness of the island’s history, priorities and future.

Next year’s election marks the perfect window to update voters on why the American-Taiwan relationship is so important. Forty years ago, American voters understood the need to reinforce US ties with Taiwan. These voters helped lead their officials to sign the Taiwan Relations Act. Since then, all voters have been bombarded with messages on US-China relations, but few have delved into the details of the US-Taiwan relationship.

By placing the “four musts” on the minds of every voter and candidate, we can introduce Americans to Taiwan’s challenges and opportunities, while also testing the foreign policy acumen of candidates. Some candidates have little to no international experience. American voters and supporters of Taiwan’s democracy cannot accept a candidate who does not know how President Tsai plans to respond to China’s worrisome behavior. This simple question will quickly identify how closely a candidate has followed the cross-strait relationship.

As this question gets asked, US-Taiwan ties will grow stronger. More Americans will realize the tight connections between the two countries. More voters will recognize that support for Taiwan must be a part of any candidate’s foreign policy plans. More candidates will renew their commitment to upholding democratic values in Taiwan and around the world.

I, for one, am encouraging all my friends to add this question to their assessment of candidates. Please join me in using social media, word of mouth and even snail mail to get this question on the minds of American voters and candidates.

Kevin Frazier is a master’s of public policy candidate at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who visited Taiwan through the Mosaic Taiwan 2018 fellowship program.

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