On August 15th, 2023, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama signed a proclamation that designated October 10th as “Taiwan Day." This date coincides with the celebration of Taiwan National Day, or Double Ten Day, which commemorates the Wuchang Uprising that led to the formation of the Republic of China. The proclamation recognizes Taiwan’s accomplishments in economic prosperity and innovation and lauds the ties between Alabama and Taiwan.
The proclamation makes special note of Taiwan’s economic relationship with the United States as it’s 10th largest trading partner and the 370,000 jobs that the relationship has created. Alabama has benefited from this relationship as its total exports to Taiwan in 2020 were valued at approximately $252 million, with the top products being transportation equipment and chemicals. The latter is critical as it includes the industrial gases that fuel Taiwan’s semiconductor industry, the cornerstone of its economy.
Another promising sector for future Taiwanese investment in Alabama is fisheries. Taipei-based seafood company Nocera, Inc., a pioneer in land-based, sustainable recirculating aquaculture systems, finalized a deal in September of 2022 to purchase 229 acres of agricultural land in Montgomery, Alabama, for $865,000 to become the company’s first fishery in the United States. Nocera’s expansion across the Indo-Pacific comes as the company saw a 700% increase in revenue from 2020 to 2021. Montgomery was chosen for its existing skilled labor force, and Nocera’s investment comes at a time when the United States currently imports 85% of its seafood. Both the Biden administration and seafood industry stakeholders have called for and sought to implement more sustainable fishery practices, and in a statement from Nocera’s CEO, Jeff Cheng, “[Nocera’s] investment in Alabama is sustainable and green, and we will be providing increased sustainable aquaculture in the United States and offering the American Family the best choice in seafood."
Taiwan and Alabama have also worked together on education issues. In September 2021, Auburn University signed a joint agreement with Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University. Both institutions committed to forging closer academic ties through improving both universities' Mandarin and English learning programs. and recruiting more Auburn students for the Huayu scholarship, which funds recipients studying Mandarin while living in Taiwan. A year later, the AU-NCKU Taiwan Center of Chinese Language and Culture was established on Auburn’s campus, offering both Mandarin and Taiwanese culture courses and cultural events such as Taiwanese tea tasting and celebrations of the Lunar New Year.
The state followed suit on Auburn's pioneering efforts in March 2022, when it signed two education-focused initiatives pledging a commitment to furthering language education and opportunities for teacher-student exchanges between the two countries. This would make it the second US state to sign onto the US-Taiwan Education Initiative. To highlight the significance of this achievement for Taiwan, Bi-Khim Hsiao, the Taiwanese Representative to the US, was present at the state capitol for the signing of these initiatives.
Alabama and Taiwan have continued to support each other on many other issues. In May 2020, Taiwan donated 90,000 N95 and surgical masks to Alabama to support healthcare workers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers from Alabama, in both the House and Senate, have been staunch advocates for Taiwan, calling for providing more military aid and participating in congressional delegation visits to the island. Alabama also plays a role in Taiwan’s national security. As part of its “asymmetric” defense strategy, one system Taiwan buys from the United States is the Javelin anti-tank missile, which is produced at the Lockheed Martin factory in Troy, Alabama.
As Taiwan continues to fortify its defense, Alabama’s defense industry will continue to play a key role in ensuring its military has what it needs. Lawmakers in the Alabama legislature have also passed House Joint Resolution 58, which, along with supporting federal efforts such as a bilateral trade agreement, calls upon Alabama to establish a trade office in Taiwan and for state legislators to conduct more frequent exchanges with counterparts in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan.
Varij Shah is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. He is an undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in International Relations & Global Studies and Government with a specialization in International Security and a regional focus on East Asia.