'Taiwanese Americans for Progress' Plans For Post-Trump Future

'Taiwanese Americans for Progress' Plans For Post-Trump Future
Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images

What you need to know

Rath Wang, a founding committee member of Taiwanese Americans for Progress, writes on the road ahead for the organization after the 2020 U.S. election.

Taiwanese Americans for Biden, the first Taiwanese affinity group recognized by a major U.S. presidential campaign, was one of the many organizations that played a part in marshaling support for President-elect Joe Biden. 

During the election campaign, the organization, which I am a founding committee member of, reached out to over 20,000 Taiwanese American voters via video chat to rally support for the Democratic ticket. 

The campaign work has inspired us in the aftermath of Biden’s victory to rebrand as Taiwanese Americans for Progress. We hope to mobilize Taiwanese Americans to both elect progressive candidates and strengthen Taiwan-U.S. relations. The political work we’ve accomplished has helped clarify our purpose, given us insight into the Taiwanese American community, and provided us with a blueprint for future action. 

The reasons for our support

Our work isn’t only about promoting Taiwan-U.S. ties, but about striving for a U.S. that can be a better partner to Taiwan. We see great potential for this Biden’s victory. He pledged to stand alongside Asia-Pacific allies of the U.S., like Taiwan, which share common democratic values and economic interests. He elaborated on the need to deepen ties with Taiwan, highlighting areas where Taiwan has led the world, effectively containing Covid-19. 

The closeness of Taiwan-U.S. ties has bearing on the Covid-19 response. Biden has committed to rejoining the World Health Organization. If the U.S. is absent from the negotiating table, it would be even harder to advocate for Taiwan’s inclusion where it matters most. 

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden holds up a face mask as he speaks about the U.S. economy following a briefing with economic advisers in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 16, 2020.

The seriousness with which Biden has taken combatting Covid-19 stands in stark contrast with Donald Trump’s failure to control the pandemic. Trump has continuously downplayed the virus that has caused over 11 million infections and around 250,000 deaths in the United States. Many believe that only a strong America can come to Taiwan’s defense against a PLA invasion, an America united from Trump’s racist dog whistles in healing ethnic tensions.

From the earliest stage of his transition, Biden has put together a task force of experts to contain the pandemic, ushering in an entirely different approach from Trump’s malfeasance.

Sentiment within the Taiwanese American community

Many Taiwanese Americans believe Biden is better for Taiwan and the U.S. in the long term, though it’s difficult to ascertain precisely how many. The major exit polls don’t disaggregate Taiwanese Americans from Asian Americans. While we have no detailed statistics, we have seen heated debates on Facebook and on forums like TaiwaneseAmerican.org, where a group of prominent Taiwanese Americans published an open letter denouncing Trump and supporting Biden.

Our sense from online discussions is that second generation Taiwanese Americans tend to be much more anti-Trump, while first generation immigrants seem to be more pro-Trump. We’ve made a point of allaying the concerns of this generation of voters that Biden would “sell-out” Taiwan, or that Trump was tougher on China. 

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images
A group of Taiwanese Americans welcome President Tsai Ing-wen while her visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, U.S., August 13, 2018.

In this light, we’ve debunked disinformation through media interviews and emphasized that Biden’s administration could be beneficial to Taiwan and well aware of the challenges the CCP poses. We also actively share pieces with verified sources on Taiwanese social media platforms to counter the smear campaign against Biden and his China policy.

We’ve pointed out that Biden was one of the few remaining senators who voted for the Taiwan Relations Act, the cornerstone of Taiwan-U.S. relations for the past 40 years that has guaranteed peace across the strait and the supply of Taiwan’s defense capabilities. 

Biden’s likely Secretary of Defense pick is Michèle Flournoy, a staunch critic of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who advocates for the U.S. military to boost capabilities in sinking the PLA navy within 72 hours and protecting key allies, including Taiwan. 

Wenchi Yu, a Taiwan-born fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center and former U.S. Department of State official, has vouched for the Biden administration’s expected tough stance on China. She said that Biden is not expected to make unorthodox comments like Trump, and that his administration would provide the necessary support Taiwan needs. This includes promoting Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, providing Taiwan with defense capabilities, and opposing Chinese pressure and coercion.

Next steps

The fortunes of the incoming Biden administration’s legislative agenda will be determined by the Georgia Senate runoff election in January. Our immediate goal as an advocacy group is to encourage eligible voters in Georgia to vote for progressive candidates in this race. A Democratic majority in the Senate would be vital in ensuring Biden’s agenda is passed. 

The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) electorate, which includes the Taiwanese American community, is the fastest growing voting block in the United States. Asian Americans could become the tipping point in close elections, especially in cities like Atlanta where there is a sizable population. Taiwanese Americans for Progress have been getting out the vote initiative and online fundraising teams to mobilize Taiwanese voters in Georgia.

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Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images
People wait in a line to vote at The Boys' Club of New York - Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing, Queens during early voting for the U.S. Presidential election on October 24, 2020 in New York City. 

Apart from organizing voters for key races, our members have been amplifying messages that promote Taiwan-U.S. relations. This includes congratulatory messages to President-elect Biden from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Taiwan Representative to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim

Common values

Bonnie Glaser, CSIS senior adviser, mentioned that a free-trade agreement would likely be signed under a Biden administration given his less protectionist stance compared to Trump’s. 

The Democratic party’s willingness to promote free trade was evident in Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership, which was meant in part to counter China’s economic influence. Also, the party shared values around inclusiveness, human rights, and liberal democratic ideals more closely aligned with Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Many Taiwanese Americans perceive this as a natural match where both parties can work together to advance common goals and shared interests and look forward to a new chapter in Taiwan-U.S. relations.

Rath Wang is a founding committee member of Taiwanese Americans for Progress.


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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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