Taiwan President Tsai speaks in New York at Columbia University [Source: President Tsai Twitter]

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Visits New York and Denver


In July, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen conducted a 12-day diplomatic mission to visit Caribbean island allies that included two stop-overs in the United States. These visits to New York City and Denver, Colorado are the latest indication of the continued strength of the US-Taiwan relationship. Before these stops came the Tsai-Trump call (the first phone call between Taiwan and US leaders since 1979), a meeting between National Security Advisor John Bolton and his Taiwanese counterpart David Lee, the unveiling of the new American Institute in Taiwan, and the recent announcement of a $2.2 billion arms sale to Taiwan. All of these signs point to strong and enduring relations.

New York and Denver are uniquely appropriate places for the President of Taiwan to stop on her trip. Tsai first stopped in New York City, where she met with a bipartisan congressional delegation, had a videoconference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and gave a speech at Columbia University. Tsai previously attended school in Ithaca, New York, and the state is the second most popular destination for Taiwanese students studying abroad. New York is also the second most popular destination for Taiwanese tourists and they contributed over $220 million to the local economy in 2016 alone.

After her time in the Caribbean, Tsai stopped in Denver on her way back to Taiwan. While there, she visited the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which was responsible for developing FormoSat-7, the second satellite constellation jointly built by Taiwan and the United States and met Colorado Governor Jared Polis, and Cory Gardner, Chair of the Senate subcommittee on East Asia. Gardner has already met with Tsai five times in the past and has been an outspoken supporter of US-Taiwan relations.

Taiwan imports 68% of its food and has been a steady market for Colorado beef. Overall in 2016, Taiwan imported $223 million worth of goods from the state, a trade that support over 1200 Colorado jobs. Sun Yat-Sen, considered a founding father on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, was actually traveling through Colorado when the 1911 Revolution against the Qing Dynasty in China began.

Tsai’s visit to New York and Denver, as well as the numerous personal, economic, and educational exchanges show that the relationship has sturdy foundations.

Mark Witzke is a participant in the East-West Center in Washington’s Young Professionals Program. He is also a graduate student studying international politics at UC San Diego's School of Global Policy and the editor in chief of the school's China Focus blog.