Part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s vision for the New Southbound Policy was for Taiwan to host an annual conference of thought leaders from the target countries to provide guidance regarding regional concerns and how the New Southbound Policy could best address them. Organizing the event – to be held each year on October 11 and 12, right after Taiwan’s “Double Ten” National Day – became one of the flagship projects under the program.
To reflect Taiwan’s aspirations for excellence, the event was named the Yushan Forum after Taiwan’s highest mountain peak. The first conference, in 2017, was attended by some 800 public and private sector participants from more than 20 countries and featured sessions on Economy and Trade, Human Resources, Technological Innovation, NGO Engagement, Think Tank Collaboration, and Youth Dialogue.
Starting from 2018, responsibility for organizing the conference rests with the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation (TAEF), established last year with government funding. The highlights of the 2018 forum were speeches by two Nobel Peace Prize laureates — former President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk and Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi.
Besides the Yushan Forum, TAEF is tasked with five other missions:
- Collaborating with think tanks around the region and serving as the pilot organization for a Taiwan-based think tank to specialize on topics of regional interest.
- Developing an Asian Young Leaders program to help the next generation of leaders grapple with vital regional and global issues.
- Working with NGOs in neighboring countries to enhance “civil society connectivity.”
- Promoting “regional resilience” by sharing Taiwan’s experience in emergency preparedness with other countries vulnerable to natural disasters.
- Engaging in cultural exchange programs with the New Southbound countries.
“Through these five action programs, we’re seeking to become more involved with the region that we’re a part of,” says Alan Hao Yang, the TAEF executive director and also director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at National Chengchi University. “We’re trying to create a comprehensive program, not just focusing on trade, investment, and education.”