The Hsieh Nien Fan: Another Triple A-rated Affair

Only the Taipei Dome could hold all members and readers interested in attending the Hsieh Nien Fan, so here’s a recap of an eventful March 30 evening for those of you we missed.

The Thanks: To Taiwan and Taipei City, for providing safe, “uniquely normal” conditions that allowed almost 550 vaccinated and masked people to break bread in one room. To the Hyatt, for a wonderful setting, service, and food. To the 30 sponsor organizations and 250 attending members who provided “the means” and the 140 official and roughly 160 private sector invitees who provided “the ends.” To the remaining 800 AmCham members, who could be present only in spirit, but whose year-round volunteer collaboration with officialdom bettered Taiwan’s business climate. To one fine emcee and 14 unstoppable AmCham staffers. To counselors from the Commerce and State Departments, who sent video messages. To our headliners, Her Excellency President Tsai Ing-wen, AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk, and new Chairperson Vincent Shih, all three of whom offered vision and inspiration: xiexie.

The Things: Chair Shih combined with President Tsai and Director Oudkirk to – literally – puzzle out the logo that completes our 2021 re-branding as AmCham Taiwan. National Taiwan University of Arts grad student John Zheng designed our new look, which was – literally, again – on the lips of all guests, thanks to our “official face mask.” Our “A-as-in-eAgle” logo looked smart on the cover of Taiwan Matters for America/America Matters for Taiwan, a small, high-impact publication that Vincent presented to President and Director, part of the Chamber’s commitment to promoting Taiwan and the bilateral relationship.

Finally, this year’s “token gifts” to our speakers were of the non-fungible sort: NFT artwork reflecting AmCham’s support for Taiwan’s digitalization and Trans-Pacific start-up culture. Fittingly, portto, the crypto-wallet firm that provided our gifts, won an AIT pitch competition and a coveted seat in Taiwan’s delegation to June’s SelectUSA investment summit. Artwork chosen? A CryptoKitties kitty and Taiwan’s iconic bubble milk tea with dancing boba for President and Director, respectively.

The Themes: The five speeches revealed remarkable alignment. “Appreciation” was the common thread, with President Tsai joining in by recognizing members who gave frank advice via the White Paper and votes of confidence via investment. Optimism was a second watchword, with President and Chair both noting the bullish perspectives in January’s Business Climate Survey.

However, all speakers acknowledged the challenges confronting Taiwan, our bilateral relationship, and the global order. Concern over potential Beijing-Moscow alignment on the invasion of Ukraine (Director), talent (President), and cyber and supply chain security (all speakers), as well as energy supply/grid resilience, visa normalization, and receptivity to foreign portfolio investment were all forthrightly addressed. All were deemed challenges surmountable with U.S.-Taiwan and public-private collaboration.

High aspirations for new or reinvigorated bilateral economic platforms – TIFA, EPPD, and exciting entrant TTIC (details via AIT URLs) – were conveyed by each speaker. “Rock-solidity” came up. The director praised the policy alignment embodied in the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, while Chair Shih explicitly called on said administration to integrate Taiwan into the Strategy’s economic framework. From Congress, he requested a study of a bilateral trade agreement to get our long-standing priority moving. But Vincent also noted that many roads lead to a BTA, including the “chapter approach,” fashioned as the Taiwan Commercial Initiative in last year’s White Paper.

The Thrust: Even by gala (and Wyle-gala) standards, spirits on the 30th were high. Spring was in the air and – that day – rain wasn’t. With a holiday ahead, many were looking forward to hitting the roads, even as they dutifully refrained from “table toasts.” Where, apart from Taiwan, could we gather in such numbers, with such ease? What leaders, other than these, would shower this attention on “an annual business event?” What Chamber is best at bringing all this together? AmCham Taiwan: Appreciative. Aligned. Aspirational.