The US was not opposed to Taiwan establishing “Taiwan Academies” in the US as part of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), and would be happy to work with Taipei to materialize the plan, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said yesterday.
“We actually do not oppose [Taiwan Academies]. There are some technical and legal rules that needed to be made. The AIT is willing to work with the Taiwan government in order to help them meet the rules,” AIT spokesperson Sheila Paskman said when reached by telephone.
Paskman made the remarks when asked to comment on a story yesterday in the Chinese-language United Daily News (UDN) that said President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) campaign pledge to set up the institutions abroad hit a snag in the US, with US authorities reportedly telling Taipei that teaching a language is not a cultural activity and that Taiwan’s representative offices in the US and its territories are not eligible to sponsor such courses.
According to Council for -Cultural Affairs Deputy Minister Lee Jen-fang (李仁芳), whose agency is in charge of the project, the purpose of the Taiwan Academies is to provide opportunities for people to learn about traditional Chinese characters and to promote Chinese classics and Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics.
In a letter sent from AIT’s Washington headquarters to TECRO, the US “pointed out things that needed to be discussed,” Paskman said.
However, even in the letter, “we never said we opposed it,” she said.
“So we are definitely in favor of it and we are happy to work with Taiwan to deal with the issues involved in it,” Paskman added, but she declined to go into specifics as “it was a private letter.”
In response to the United Daily report, government officials were optimistic that the US would approve of the plan after some issues regarding the nature of the institutions were clarified.
“There was a misunderstanding that the US thought we planned to run [Chinese-language] classes that charged fees, but that was never the plan,” Minister Without Portfolio Ovid Tseng (曾志朗) said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs Director-General Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達) said the US did not consider it a problem to establish the Taiwan Academies as part of TECRO, except for the concern that the academies would have profit-making language courses.
After negotiation, Taipei and Washington have come to an understanding that the Taiwan Academies will only offer training classes for teachers of Mandarin, and not language classes, Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission Deputy Minister Jen Hong (任弘) said.
Taiwan can still cooperate with private language-learning institutes to promote the teaching and use of traditional Chinese characters by having the institutes issue certificates in conjunction with the Taiwan Academies, Jen said.
Paskman confirmed that whether TECRO is able to open fee--charging Chinese-language courses at Taiwan Academies was one of the issues that the US had brought up in the letter, but added that “there is something we need to investigate more.”
Ma devised the Taiwan Academy project to counter the Confucius Institutes that China established and has developed heavily around the world in recent years to promote Chinese language and culture, and support Chinese teachers internationally.
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