Stephen S. F. Chen, the highest ranking official of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan in the U.S., seemed unperturbed during a luncheon address at the World Trade Center downtown last week by his country’s relations with mainland China.
When asked for a timeframe in which he though the two countries’ differences would be reconciled, he first suggested 30 years.
He then said the disputes might not be resolved for perhaps 50 years and finally concluded by saying 100 years is only a drop of water in the bucket. All problems and all issues cannot be resolved every four years as some countries do, he added, drawing laughter from the attendees.
For Mr. Chen, his visit to Georgia last week had the feeling of a warm homecoming. After all, he had been the ROC’s consul general here from 1973-1979, and his three children are graduates of Georgia Tech.
And scattered among the luncheon attendees were friends who were in Atlanta when the U.S. broke off its diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established diplomatic ties with Communist China in late 1978.
Thomas Harrold, who in 1978 was deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Revenue and now heads the international practice of the law firm Miller & Martin, was one of several people Mr. Chen recognized fondly during the luncheon.
Asked by GlobalFax for his recollections of the period, Mr. Harrold recalled that the Revenue Department had been instructed by the U.S. Department of State to collect Mr. Chen’s diplomatic license plates.
He said that in response he wrote the State Department that maybe the U.S. government doesn’t recognize Taiwan but the State of Georgia does.
But at the request of then-Gov. George Busbee, who although also a friend of Mr. Chen feared according to Mr. Harrold an international incident, he had the plates substituted with a specially made set that looked as close to the originals as could be made.
Mr. Chen’s title currently is Representative, Taipei Economic and Culture Representative Office in the U.S. and he is based in Washington D.C. If the U.S. and Taiwan had formal diplomatic relations, his title would be Ambassador.
His luncheon address entitled; The Importance of Parallel Engagement in Contemporary China Policy is available by calling Randy Wang at (404) 872-0123.