The US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs on July 15 introduced the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act.
The act, if passed by the US Congress, would provide powerful support for Taiwan, including a requirement that the US secretary of state enter negotiations with the Taiwan Council for US Affairs to rename the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington to the “Taiwan Representative Office.”
The effort to rename Taiwan’s representative office in Washington has long been a priority for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MOFA) US diplomats. Taiwanese based in the US, as well as Taiwanese lobbying groups, have expended a great deal of money and effort over the years, diligently working toward this goal.
With the relationship between Taiwan and the US riding high, this presents a golden opportunity for advocates in Washington and Taipei to seize the initiative and rename Taiwan’s representative office.
Washington breaking off formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 marked Taiwan’s lowest point on the international stage. At the time, I had just taken the national civil service exam and entered MOFA’s ranks as a fresh recruit with the Department for US Affairs. The Taiwan Relations Act, passed by the US Senate in April that year, established the American Institute in Taiwan.
The Executive Yuan reciprocated by establishing the Coordination Council for North American Affairs to handle non-official relations with its estranged ally.
However, many Taiwanese were confused by its name and could not comprehend the role or function of this new organization.
In 1994, the administration of US president Bill Clinton carried out a review of policy regarding Taiwan. One of the requirements stemming from the review was that Taiwan’s representative office in Washington change its name to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, which is still in use to this day.
However, the Taipei headquarters continued to be called the Coordination Council for North American Affairs up until August 2019, when it was renamed the Taiwan Council for US Affairs. Following four decades of glacial progress, a few tentative steps were taken toward reflecting reality.
It is yet to be seen whether the EAGLE Act, the latest in a line of Taiwan-friendly legislation proposed by the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs, becomes law, but it is undoubtedly a reflection of continued universal cross-party congressional support for Taiwan.
This precious support, which began with the administration of former US president Donald Trump and has continued under US President Joe Biden, is founded upon several facets: the US’ Indo-Pacific geopolitical strategy, core trust, economic cooperation and high-tech supply chains. Deepening trust and solidifying the “rock solid” relationship between the two countries requires consistency, continuity and predictability. Taiwan should take advantage of the warming relationship to push for the renaming of its representative offices.
Among high-level officials in the Biden administration responsible for setting the US’ Taiwan policy — whether working for the White House, National Security Council, Department of State or other government departments — there is no shortage of sober and rational people who, if not “pro-Taiwan,” then at least have an intimate understanding of Taiwan and its geostrategic importance.
While such people take the US national interest as a starting point, they are familiar with the Indo-Pacific region and the complex triangular relationship between Taiwan, China, and the US. For this reason, they do not engage in wishful thinking nor make emotional judgments.
Renaming Taiwan’s representative office in Washington would not only reflect reality and the current state of affairs, recognizing the significant relaxation of contact restrictions, it would also reflect the greater decisionmaking space in Washington and the increased appetite for resisting pressure from Beijing. Additionally, cross-party support in Congress bolsters the argument for renaming the representative office.
In 1995, I took over as director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Atlanta. We sent out invitations, written in English, for the traditional Double Ten National Day banquet with “Taiwan” appended to “Republic of China (ROC).” This caused a sensation back home. I received a severe dressing down from my superiors and was promptly transferred to another post. This was the only time I received disciplinary action during my four decades in Taiwan’s diplomatic corps. To this day, I have a clear conscience and bear no grudge.
At the time, I was criticized for causing a diplomatic incident, “using verbal sophistry and twisted logic,” and for being “unrepentant.”
A general order was issued to all of Taiwan’s representative offices around the world, which stated that if important dignitaries or other local individuals are uncertain about the distinction between the ROC and the People’s Republic of China, and require the addition of “Taiwan” to clarify that “this China” is not the “other China,” the representative office need not have dealings with such ill-informed people or invite them to representative office functions in the future.
For the past quarter of a century, the argument has been made that “the time is not right” or that it would be “politically incorrect” to rename Taiwan’s representative office in Washington.
My intention regarding the Double Ten National Day banquets was merely to highlight Taiwan’s view. Today, all of Taiwan’s representative offices and civic organizations enthusiastically employ creative methods to promote Taiwan as a democratic partner, charitable nation and force for good around the world.
Taiwan is an independent and sovereign nation whose official name, according to the Constitution, is the Republic of China. As the nation navigates the international stage and strives to elevate its status among countries with whom Taiwan does not have a formal diplomatic relationship — of which the US is the most important barometer — the time is right, after more than 40 years, to respect the dignity of our distinct identity and rename our representative office in Washington the “Taiwan Representative Office.”
Stanley Kao was Taiwan’s representative to the US from 2016 to 2020.
Translated by Edward Jones
For China observers, especially those in Taiwan, the past decade has brought awareness of an increasing obsession by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with control. It seeks to control not simply national policy, but all aspects of its citizens’ lives. Not a week passes without some new aspect of Chinese life being brought under CCP control. This forces obvious questions: Why this obsession? And what is driving it? When any one-party state, which already controls government, yet seeks to expand and tighten that control, it bodes ill. With a country the size of China, it bodes ill for Taiwan, Asia and the
Taiwan is now entering a period of maximum danger from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) due to an accelerating Chinese military challenge now emboldened by a shocking dive in American strategic credibility occasioned by its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan. This means there is a much higher chance that in the next one to three years CCP leader Xi Jinping (習近平) may order the PLA to invade Taiwan because he believes the PLA can win and that the Americans can be dissuaded from coming to Taiwan’s aid in time. It is still possible for Taiwan and Washington
Another year, and another UN General Assembly is convening without Taiwan. Today marks the opening of the assembly’s 76th session at the UN headquarters in New York City, with the option to attend remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which once again promises to be its main focus under the theme “Building resilience through hope.” As they do every year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and overseas compatriot groups are organizing campaigns to call for Taiwan’s participation in the global body. However, unlike previous years, Taiwan seems to be riding a higher wave of support than usual. The pandemic has exposed countless shortcomings
In an op-ed on Friday, Chen Hung-hui (陳宏煇), a former university military instructor, applauded the government’s efforts to reduce the “supply, demand and harm of cannabis.” (“Cannabis use booms on campuses,” Sept. 10, page 8). Chen recounted a story of a boy who partied with the “wrong crowd,” smoked cannabis and died. This story cannot be true, because cannabis is not deadly. Consuming too much can feel mighty unpleasant, but it will not kill a person. This fact is not only backed up by science and statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control, but is well-known in countries where cannabis