Implement the Taiwan Fellowship Act

AmCham Taiwan has been a longtime enthusiastic supporter of a proposal that has now taken concrete shape as the Taiwan Fellowship Program, established by an act of Congress in December 2022.

Modeled on the Mike Mansfield Fellowship with Japan created by Congress in 1994, the Taiwan Fellowship initiative would annually select up to 10 U.S. career civil servants to receive a year of Mandarin language training and then a year of professional placement with a Taiwanese government agency or NGO.

More than a year has passed since President Biden signed the Taiwan Fellowship Act into law, providing the authorization and initial funding for the program. Perhaps inevitably, progress toward implementing the program slowed last year as Taiwan entered the political season preceding this January’s presidential and legislative elections. But the successful completion of those elections – further confirmation of Taiwan’s democratic maturity – should now open the way to early conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two sides to lay the practical groundwork to go forward and launch the program this year.

In January this year, AmCham Taiwan joined five Taiwanese American associations in urging swift implementation of the program to enable the first group of fellows to arrive in Taiwan this fall. In a letter to key U.S. members of Congress, representatives of the six organizations stressed the need for action “without further delay.”

The potential significance of the initiative for Taiwan can be seen from the experience of the Mansfield program, which over the decades has created scores of American experts in Japanese affairs. Their knowledge of Japan and personal contacts with Japanese counterparts has proved invaluable in facilitating government-to-government understanding and communication.

Similarly, the Taiwan Fellowship Program would further deepen the already robust U.S.-Taiwan relationship by creating a steadily expanding cohort of American officials who are familiar with Taiwan and appreciate its importance to the United States.

Considering the lack of formal diplomatic relations between the United States and Taiwan, the level of cooperation signified by the program is a testament to the degree of mutual trust and respect that exists.

In the past, the opportunity for American government employees to get to know Taiwan in depth was largely limited to foreign service officers receiving language training or serving at the American Institute in Taiwan. In contrast, the Taiwan Fellows, selected jointly by the two sides from among a pool of applicants, will come from a broad swath of U.S. government agencies.

In the case of the Mansfield program, the fellows over the years have been drawn from more than two dozen different U.S. government agencies. Recent examples have included the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and Treasury; FBI; Securities and Exchange Commission; Federal Aviation Administration; and Export-Import Bank.

Once the initial program is up and running, AmCham strongly encourages the Taiwan government to enhance the cooperation through a reciprocal program to enable its civil servants to benefit from a similar experience in the United States. Given the high level of English capability of so many Taiwanese officials, extended language training would likely prove unnecessary.

The Chamber looks forward to the early welcoming of the first fellowship participants to Taiwan, and hopes to see a counterpart program for Taiwanese fellows.