Staunch Partners and Allies

40 Years of Taiwan–US Relations

2019 / March

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of the Information Resource Center, AIT /tr. by Phil Newell

“Mostly, I remember that Taiwanese were very friendly,” says Stephen Young, former director of the Tai­pei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan, who lived in an American military com­mun­ity in Kao­hsiung for two years when he was 12 years old. He recalls: “As an eighth-grade student, I used to walk down the dirt road and wait for the school bus. Little local kids would see us there and say ‘Bi-gok-lang OK’—‘American OK.’ I think there was a sense that America was Taiwan’s friend and partner, and even children had that sense….”


The United States of America established formal diplomatic relations with mainland China as of January 1, 1979. Given the unstable situation that this created, in March of the same year the US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which took effect on April 10 and became the foundation for the continuation of commercial, cultural, and other relations between the Republic of China on Taiwan and the US.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the Taiwan Relations Act, and the Amer­ican Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which was established in accordance with the TRA, has organized a special exhibition entitled “AIT@40—US‡Taiwan Relations Since 1979,” which will tour throughout Taiwan. Every photo on display in the exhibition evokes the deep friendship between Taiwan and the US over the passage of time. From these vivid images, one can see how the promises made have survived trials by fire as the two parties have passed through various crises.

Help in times of trouble

There is one photo in the exhibition that shows two helicopters taking off, one of which has a small object hanging from it. When you look more closely, you see that the helicopter is lifting a backhoe excavator.

The image was taken on August 17, 2009. Typhoon Morakot had brought torrential rains to Taiwan, and in Xiao­lin Village in Kao­hsiung County’s Jia­xian Township a debris flow on Mt. ­Xiandu had buried more than 400 people. The roads were cut, hampering rescue efforts. On August 14 Taiwan appealed for help to the US, which assigned the amphibious transport dock USS Denver, based at Sa­sebo Harbor in Japan, to head to Taiwan. Three days later the two helicopters it carried, which could airlift backhoes and bulldozers, flew directly into the disaster area to render assistance.

The US dispatched aircraft carriers to assist Taiwan in 1996, during the Taiwan Strait missile crisis at the time of Taiwan’s first-ever direct presidential election. US presid­ent Bill Clinton decided to send two US carrier battle groups into waters near Taiwan, fulfilling the under­taking in the Taiwan Relations Act that the US would resist any form of coercion that could affect Taiwan’s secur­ity. Lin Cheng-­yi, a research fellow in the Institute of European and American Studies at the Academia ­Sinica, argues that US protection of Taiwan demonstrates that the Taiwan Relations Act has a deterrent effect.

The US systematically provided a great deal of support and funding to Taiwan in the years following the ROC government’s withdrawal to Taiwan in 1949.

But US assistance to Taiwan by no means ceased with the break in formal diplomatic ties in 1979. With the Taiwan Relations Act as the foundation for bilateral inter­actions, exchanges between Taiwan and the US have become ever more frequent and warmhearted.

Take for example overseas study by Taiwanese in the US. Statistics show that from 1980 to 2010, student numbers grew year by year, and did not decline as a result of the break in diplomatic ties. Furthermore, since Taiwan joined the US Visa Waiver Program in 2012, according to AIT figures the number of Taiwanese traveling to the US has increased by over 60%. In 2017 alone nearly 475,000 Taiwanese visited the US, spending more than US$2.2 billion (roughly NT$68 billion) on travel and tourism.

Cultural and educational exchanges

Starting in 2008, the AIT’s Information Resource Center sponsored the CommonWealth Education Foundation’s “Read for the Future” bookmobile in providing English-language picture books and prize­winning children’s books to kids. Since 2013, the “Mobile American Corner,” equipped with a 60” TV, iPads, and touchscreen PCs, has visited primary schools in remote locations across Taiwan in hopes of narrowing the urban‡­rural digital divide.

AIT officials have personally visited schools throughout Taiwan to introduce American culture and undertake small-scale scientific experiments, and the AIT has also organized camps for winter or summer vacation. Moreover, they have been able to share interactive illustrated e-books with children by video link or by installing stories on tablet computers. The Information Resource Center reports that as of mid-2018, the Mobile American Corner had visited at least 178 schools, and more than 35,000 students had read works of famous American authors as well as illustrated books in Chinese and English at the mobile library, learning about American culture through reading.

Creative capabilities, world stage

The AIT sees itself as a bridge between the US and Taiwan, and Brent Christensen, director of its Tai­pei office, states that one of his top priorities since taking up his post in 2018 has been to increase Taiwan’s role in the global community. Two examples of the AIT’s efforts to build mutual friendship are the Taiwan competitions that it organized for the “Fishackathon” and the “NASA Hackathon.”

In response to the holding of the Fishackathon coding competition by the US Department of State starting in 2014, the AIT invited coders to propose digital solutions for problems in marine environmental protection and fisheries development, to ensure the sustainability of marine resources. In 2016 the Taiwanese start-up company Akubic won the world championship and US$10,000 at the 3rd Fishackathon for its “Great Lakes Savior” project.

Encouraged by the success of the Fishackathon, AIT next organized the Taiwan event of the world’s largest hackathon competition: the NASA Hackathon (a.k.a. the NASA International Space Apps Challenge).

Taiwan’s innovative capabilities proved to be surprisingly strong. The 2017 Taiwan champion team, “Space Bar,” entered the world finals, and won out over a field that included 187 locations, 25,140 participants, and 2,017 technology applications. The team won ­NASA’s global “Best Mission Concept” award for an app that can interpret debris flow data.

In order to share the soft power of technology and innovation, the US Department of State has arranged for the American Innovation Center (located in Tai­pei’s Song­shan Cultural and Creative Park) to regularly hold 3D printing workshops, robot combat camps, and courses on the latest technologies, such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and blockchains, all free of charge. Mutual exchanges of knowledge, culture and technology between Taiwan and the US are in the original spirit of the Taiwan Relations Act, creating firm bonds of friendship that tie the two sides tightly together across changing times.

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文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧美國資料中心提供













「傅爾布萊特獎學金」除了原有的交換計畫之外,2003年開始,推動美國名校畢業的學生來台,擔任國中、小學的英語協同教學助理(Fulbright ETA)的計畫。這些經由美國國務院經費獎助,從一開始8個人,至今每年有上百名經由美國國務院選拔來到台灣的美國青年,本著文化交流的目的,藉由他們教學的活力與創意,成為台灣年輕學子學習英語最好的助力。

學術交流基金會表示:「這些來到台灣的ETA都非常熱愛台灣,覺得台灣有人情味、適合居住,很多人回去美國,努力為台灣發聲,並邀請家人親友來台灣。」由於留在台灣的美好回憶,回到美國後口耳相傳,台灣也成為申請Fulbright ETA的搶手國家。


AIT官員親自走進台灣各地校園,介紹美國文化,進行小型的科學實驗,或在寒暑假舉辦夏令營,並且透過視訊,或是將故事裝在平板電腦裡,以互動式電子繪本的方式和小朋友分享。美國資料中心統計,至2018年中旬,數位行動書車至少拜訪了178 學校,超過三萬五千名學童到書車閱讀美國知名作家的書、中英文繪本,在書香中認識美國文化。


美國在台協會自許作為美國與台灣之間的橋梁,處長酈英傑曾提出,增進台灣在全球社會的角色,是他2018年上任後優先要做的事項之一。AIT2016年主辦魚客松(Fishackathon)與「NASA 黑客松」台灣場的比賽,便是鼓舞人心的例證。

美國在台協會響應美國國務院自2014年開始舉辦魚客松程式設計大賽,邀請程式開發人員研發應用程式,提出因應海洋生態保育和漁業發展的解決方案,以維護海洋永續資源,因此在2016年舉辦台灣場的魚客松比賽。冠軍隊伍「誠映科技」(Akubic)之後參加全球比賽,沒有想到首度參賽,即技壓群雄,以「 五大湖救星」 (Great Lakes Savior)方案拿到第3屆「魚客松(Fishackathon)」大賽的世界冠軍與1萬美元獎金。


沒想到台灣在創新領域的能量實在無法小覷。2017年台灣的冠軍隊伍「Space Bar」,進軍總決賽,在全球187個城市參加,共25,140名參賽者、2,017項科技應用的激烈競爭中,脫穎而出,以解讀土石流資料的應用程式,獲得NASA黑客松全球「最佳概念獎」的冠軍。2018年則由台灣隊Light WonderTabby Rangers一起參加世界決賽,目前已入圍全球前5名。


パートナー、盟友としての固い絆 ——


文・曾蘭淑 写真・美國資料中心 翻訳・山口 雪菜



















この成功を受け、AITはさらに世界最大のハッカソンであるNASA International Space Apps Challengeの台湾大会を実現した。

ここで台湾は大きな力を発揮する。2017年に台湾で優勝したチームSpace Barは、世界187の都市から25130人が参加する世界大会に進出し、土石流データを解析するアプリケーションを開発し、「ベスト‧ミッション‧コンセプト賞」を受賞したのである。


X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!