Taiwan in a New Centennial: Cross Strait Relations and Viable Diplomacy

On Thursday afternoon, November 17, Boston University’s Center for the Study of Asia hosted an afternoon tea for Anne Hung, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Boston. The occasion for the event, attended by over 50 students, was the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China (Taiwan), which began on October 10.

Ms. Hung, who began her post in Boston in September 2009, has held various positions in Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs including Director-General of the Department of European Affairs and Section Chief of the Department of North American Affairs. In the US, she has held posts in Washington DC and in San Francisco. As Director-General of TECO-Boston, Ms. Hung serves to enhance Taiwan’s relationship with the region on many levels including trade, education, cultural exchange, and political affairs.

In her remarks at Boston University, Ms. Hung addressed the prospects and challenges of cross strait relations and Taiwan’s “flexible diplomacy” at the start of a new centennial. ¬†She began by stating her view that Taiwan’s soft power remains its strongest asset; Taiwan’s democracy and freedom are values esteemed around the world. She went on to clarify her government’s current policy of normalizing economic and cultural relations as the first step to achieving better cross strait relations. She outlined a number of recent accomplishments including the recently signed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, improvements in Taiwan-US relations, and Taiwan’s presence in international space, including participation in the World Health Assembly and in the World Trade Organization.

As Hung describes it, balancing domestic interests, cross-strait relations, and external relations, is a delicate act. As far as China is concerned, Ms. Hung said, Taiwan is diplomatically realistic, seeking neither unification or independence, but maintenance of the status quo and an an end to diplomatic warfare. Through peaceful interaction and exchange with the mainland, Taiwan is laying ground work for improved relations with other countries, especially the United States, with which it shares a long history of cooperation, despite the severing of diplomatic ties in 1979.

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