Ramapo hosts Taiwan & Asia Program Conference

Ramapo became the first host in the Greater New York metropolitan area for the annual Taiwan & Asia Program Conference on Nov. 4-5. The conference was sponsored by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office based in Washington, D.C.

This year’s theme was “Washington-Taipei-Beijing Relations at a Crossroads: the 2024 Elections and Geostrategic Implications from the Individual, Domestic, and International Levels of Analysis.” The panels revolved around the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S. and Taiwan and their influences on relationships between the U.S., Taiwan and China.

Professor of political science Dean Chen served as the conference coordinator and gave the introduction on Saturday morning in the Trustees Pavilion. He thanked everyone who made the event possible, including Provost Michael Middleton, whom he then handed the microphone for the welcoming remarks.

Middleton called the conference “a vital proceeding on U.S.-Taiwan relations” in a time when “the interplay of the U.S., China and Taiwan has never been more critical.”

Ambassador James Lee, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in New York, agreed in his own remarks. Lee claimed upcoming election results will have “profound implications for regional and global affairs,” especially due to the amount of international commerce that passes through the Taiwan Strait. 

Sacks cited both U.S. influences encouraging independence and an increased awareness of cultural differences between Taiwan and China as the reasons for China lessening their efforts.

The first policy roundtable, “The State of U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations on the Eve of 2024 Elections,” directly addressed the tension surrounding the future of these countries’ dynamic. The Q&A was moderated by Andrew Nathan, a political science professor from Columbia University. Panelists included President and CEO of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy Susan Elliott, Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China Jacques deLisle from the University of Pennsylvania, and Fellow for Asian Studies on the Council on Foreign Relations David Sacks.

The panelists began by analyzing Beijing’s stance on the continuation of the status quo and recent U.S. policies that signal support of Taiwan.

deLisle acknowledged how both Chinese and Taiwanese officials have expressed distaste over the U.S. using Taiwan as an instrument in the U.S.-China relations. “One hopeful note is… China doesn’t want to walk away from anything that says peaceful unification is off the table,” he said.

Sacks discussed the misinformation and disinformation efforts by Beijing. During his visit to Taiwan last October, many Taiwan citizens approached him with their beliefs that the U.S. baited Russia to invade Ukraine to weaken it. Many believe that the U.S. wants China to invade Taiwan for the same strategic reason.

“There’s almost no appetite for unification in Taiwan right now because of Hong Kong and Ukraine,” Sacks said.

The focus shifted to the U.S. presidential candidates’ stances on Taiwan. The panelists agreed that the same rhetoric has been recycled for the past few years.

“The Taiwan issue is something that’s always talked about,” Elliott said.

Audience members were invited to pose their own questions. One attendee asked about the shift in China’s strategy for unification with Taiwan.

Sacks cited both U.S. influences encouraging independence and an increased awareness of cultural differences between Taiwan and China as the reasons for China lessening their efforts. “There was this hope that tourism and people-to-people exchange… would lead to more of an identity that ‘We are one people and separation is not the natural state of things,’ but it went in the opposite direction,” he said.

deLisle added that China’s strategy shifted from attempting to convince Taiwan’s public that unification would raise their quality of life to “coercion and resignation.”

Panelists agreed that a peaceful coexistence of positive U.S.-Taiwan and U.S.-China relationships was not out of the question.

“Just a meeting between [President Xi JinPing and President Joe Biden] is a signal to the world… that the two leaders are willing to sit down and try to discuss issues that are not only of bilateral concern, but of concern around the world,” Elliott said.

The conference consisted of six more discussions that delved into the intricacies of the conference’s themes, featuring American and international experts and scholars. Attending was a valuable experience for anyone with an interest in foreign relations, including junior political science major Hannah Scroggins.

“For me, the conference is significant in its non-partisan academic approach. Like so many topics, we often see a societal propensity to politicize issues that arise, especially those at an international level,” she stated in an email to The Ramapo News. “The conference was intended to present a fair, balanced understanding of U.S.-China relations and Taiwan, and it did just that.”




Featured photo courtesy of Carolyn Herring