On Monday, November 6, seniors in Global Studies had the opportunity to meet virtually with Representative Bi-khim Hsiao, the de facto Taiwanese ambassador to the United States. The meeting was the culmination of a unit on China-Taiwan relations which focused on escalating tensions in the region, and the United States’ ongoing position of strategic ambiguity. Students prepared questions ahead of time that ranged in subject matter from the personal, such as Hsiao’s educational and career path to her current position, to the political.
Representative Hsiao began by speaking about her day-to-day diplomatic responsibilities. She regularly meets with members of Congress, the National Security Council, and the State Department with the goal of maintaining bipartisan interest in supporting Taiwan. She also works with NGOs, think tanks, foreign diplomats, and state legislatures. As she looks to the future, Taiwan’s number one priority is security – maintaining “stability and peace in the Taiwan strait” – within the current framework of the status quo. Another priority is ‘maintaining economic prosperity by promoting trade, investments, international cooperation and creating jobs.” She lamented the “unfortunate reality that international organizations continue to exclude Taiwan because of pressure” from the People’s Republic of China. She also expressed hope about “closing the loophole in international cooperation efforts.”
Hsaio answered a question from Jasper Butler-Kurth about whether her government found it concerning that the US is attempting to cut its reliance on Taiwanese semiconductors. Hsiao expressed confidence that the two countries would continue to work together, and that Taiwan would not only continue to lead the world in this area, but was taking concrete steps to expand their production of semiconductors. Hsiao highlighted Taiwanese innovation, and expressed hopes that their economy would be recognized on a global level as “indispensable and irreplaceable.” She finished with a question from Paloma Hsiao-Shelton (her niece) about recently being shortlisted for the position of Vice President on the Democratic Progressive Party ticket (alongside presidential candidate Lai Ching-Te). Hsiao expressed interest in continuing her work and remaining close to family in the United States, but also underscored the importance of the upcoming presidential elections in January 2024. She reminded students that Taiwan is a young democracy, and that the Taiwanese “cherish the right to vote.” She also mentioned growing up under martial law when young people couldn’t speak their minds, and noted that the first direct presidential election was in 1996. In closing, Hsiao stated that she hopes to remain in the U.S., but will continue to help Taiwan meet “multiple threats and challenges to our survival.”
Thanks to the Class of 2024 and their teacher Dr. Kara Fagan for this write-up!