President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday praised the US for playing a key role in Taiwan’s democratic development and expressed confidence that the US-Taiwan relationship would remain strong despite the improvement of relations with China.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of an exhibition organized by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Ma recalled major moments from history — from the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Cairo Conference in 1943 and the post-World War II era in the 1950s — and thanked the US for its past help to stabilize the situation in Taiwan.
“The Republic of China [ROC] has maintained positive engagement with the US politically, economically and culturally, despite the fact we ended diplomatic relations 31 years ago, because both sides benefit from such a relationship,” Ma said at the National Central Library.
Ma also attributed the country’s solid economic foundation to economic assistance from the US in the 1950s.
“Today, with the improvement of cross-strait relations, it is more important for the government to let our friends in the US understand Taiwan’s vision, policies and mentality, so that the US realizes that the development of such a new situation will create a win-win situation for [Taiwan, China and the US],” he said.
Titled “Americans’ Footsteps in Taiwan,” the exhibition features photographs, documentary films and artifacts that chronicled the impact of US culture and politics on Taiwanese society from 1940 to 1980.
“With this exhibit, we try to tell the story of our relationship with Taiwan through the ‘footsteps’ of photographs, filmed recollections, memorabilia and other traces of the past,” American Institute in Taiwan Director William Stanton said in his speech.
He said the exhibition is not only a retrospective looking at the relations between US and Taiwan built upon cooperation “in all areas” and “on all levels,” but also includes a potion looking forward, which is to “reaffirm our long-term commitment to, and partnership with the people of Taiwan.”
“As I walked through the -exhibit ... I was struck once again by the depth and breadth of our relationships with Taiwan. I also again felt very proud that the US was able to help Taiwan ... to build such a strong and vibrant democracy and such a robust and advanced economy,” Stanton said.
However, Stanton said he would like to emphasize a point that “it was the hard work and determination of the people of Taiwan that created the Taiwan that we see today,” even though the US provided assistance.
The exhibition also displays a model of the AIT’s new office, which is under construction in Neihu (內湖).
Saying that the AIT has taken steps to make the new building ecologically friendly through the use of solar panels, waste water recycling and other innovative “green” technologies, Stanton added that “it is a building that represents our partnership with Taiwan in the 21st century.”
Patricia Linder, wife of Rear Admiral James Linder, the last commander of the US Taiwan Defense Command, came from the US to attend the unveiling ceremony.
Having witnessed many of the events displayed in the exhibition first-hand before returning to the US, Linder said: “In these 30 years, the greatest thing I have witnessed is the Republic of China taking up what was left to them, going with it and making their own countries, the way they wanted it to be: a free democracy, safe, secure. It has been done by the people of Taiwan, Republic of China.”