Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), along with Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH), announced the introduction of the Taiwan Fellowship Act, indicating the strong bipartisan support the country retains across the United States.
The Taiwan Fellowship model follows the same vein as the “successful Mansfield Fellowship Program between the United States and Japan, the legislation establishes a fellowship exchange program for federal government employees” to conduct exchanges with the Asian country for a period of up to two years.
The purpose of the project is to strengthen members of the American government and promote U.S. values and interests in the Indo-Pacific region, with particular emphasis on strengthening the strategic partnership with Taipei.
“The Fellowship Act builds on the United States’ strategic partnership with Taiwan’s vibrant democracy in areas in which it has long had expertise, such as trade, human rights, rule of law, regional security and global health,” Markey said.
“As Beijing continues to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, I am proud to reintroduce this important bipartisan, bicameral effort,” Senator Rubio said for his part.
Indo-Pacific policy takes center stage in the U.S.
The interest of U.S. congressmen in engaging Taiwan in U.S. political affairs with the Indo-Pacific region evidences the importance of transparency and democratic values that have characterized Taipei.
The Indo-Pacific region has significant political, military and economic players. Taipei plays an important role in the economic and technological sphere, but given the influence of the Communist Party of China (CCP), it does not have independent recognition.
The United States strengthens American policies in the region with the presence of more than 380,000 members of the military forces, in the face of the threat of authoritarian regimes.
The experiences and connections between American citizens with Taiwanese citizens are useful in developing “tomorrow’s Taiwan experts in the federal government and in informing U.S. foreign policy toward the Indo-Pacific.”
Taiwanese leadership in the technology field allows it to have policy spaces such as the one Congress members are encouraging with this bill. The presence of members of the U.S. government in Taiwan will allow the message about defending freedom and democracy in the country to be key to U.S. hegemony.
Cultural exchange, a good move
Senator Marco Rubio has shown an understanding of how important educational institutions are in promoting values. Rubio has been a leader in dismantling the communist propaganda of Confucius Institutes in the United States.
Encouraging cultural exchange, besides being coherent, as it promotes the values shared by the two nations, gives the island the possibility to fill the spaces that China cannot take due to the sanctions imposed by the United States, such as supplying the technological supply chain.
The law provides the opportunity for employees of all disciplines to have a greater political and cultural understanding and then develop more assertive policies, such as those promoted by Rubio in defense of Hong Kong and Taiwan in the face of China’s dictatorial threat.
Support for Taiwan across Congress
The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Administration’s foreign policy agenda. Rep. Young Kim (R-CA) said that “Taiwan has served for decades as an invaluable security and global health partner for the United States.”
Kim made a point of highlighting the island’s contributions to the international community in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), where she added that the Asian country should have a stake in the World Health Organization.
Kim also asked the Biden-Harris administration to “include Taiwan in the upcoming Democracy Summit and to initiate talks on a free trade agreement”. For Taiwan, it is essential to have free trade agreements, as it has the infrastructure and the appropriate legal framework to boost the economy in the Indo-Pacific region.
It should be recalled that Taiwan has diplomatic limitations to sign trade agreements because of CCP coercion. However, some U.S. allies such as Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand have not yielded to Beijing’s threats and have signed free trade agreements with Taipei.
The secretary of state, for his part, responded to the Republican congresswoman’s requests by saying he is “absolutely committed to her suggestions and shares her view that Taiwan is a strong democracy and a very strong technological power.”
Blinken said Taiwan is “a country that can contribute to the world, not just to its own people,” becoming the first American secretary of state to attach the country label to Taiwan.
Since the United States does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state, Blinken’s “country” label sent a positive message to the Asia region by showing America’s attitude toward the problematic issue with the Chinese regime.