Officials at a recent Taiwan National Day celebration at the Georgia Aquarium stressed democracy, human rights and an entrepreneurial spirit as the qualities that connect Taiwan ideologically with the United States and Georgia.
With 15 Taiwanese-owned enterprises in Georgia, significant agricultural exports from Georgia to Taiwan and sister city relationships recently established between the two locales, the historic relationship between Taiwan and Georgia continues to pay dividends for both populations, according to R.C. Wu, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta.
“Taiwan may be a tiny island in population, but we have tremendous worth, both culturally and geographically,” Mr. Wu said to a crowd of several hundred in the aquarium’s opulent ballroom.
Mr. Wu’s speech emphasized the importance of Taiwan not only on the world’s general stage, but also as a bilateral partner with the U.S. and Georgia. He said that Taiwan imported $22.6 billion worth of American goods in 2006, equaling a per capita consumption of $1,000 annually of American products in Taiwan.
And his remarks that Taiwan and Georgia have recently signed a letter of intent for the state to export more poultry to Taiwan were punctuated by an address by Tommy Irvin, Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture.
“Some of my first points of interest were signing trade agreements with the Taiwanese,” said Mr. Irvin, who has sat in the commissioner’s seat since 1969 and said one of his goals has always been to sell more Georgia chicken.
This type of enduring Taiwan-America connection contrasts with other inter-country relationships, Mr. Wu added. This relationship is ruled by equality and mutually beneficial partnership, which is not fraught with huge trade deficits or immigration problems, he added.
He also noted that about a half-million Taiwanese live and work in America, and about 80 percent of the Taiwanese living in Georgia are business professionals contributing significantly to the economy.
One of those professionals, Sueling Wang, told the audience that he has been in America for 31 years and moved to Atlanta in 1989. The serial entrepreneur owns Color Imaging Inc., a manufacturer of toner for electronic printing devices, in Norcross and also has companies in Taiwan and on mainland China.
He said he is now more American than Taiwanese, but he’s still making his four American-born children learn how to speak Chinese.
Democracy has flourished since two political parties were allowed to vie for Taiwan’s leadership in 1986, giving Taiwan and America another common bond that should serve to further connect them, he said.
Mr. Wang’s heartfelt speech ended with a question that echoed those ringing in the ears of American politicians who could soon be forced to side with Taiwan or the mainland as Taiwan’s government stirs the pot in Asia by fighting for recognition in international organizations like the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
“As American Taiwanese, can we expect your support again?” he asked after citing Taiwan’s need for American economic and political partnership.
At least on paper and with regard to economic incentives, Taiwan, like mainland China, has the Georgia government’s backing. State Rep. Charlice Byrd, R-Woodstock, who calls herself the “Asian caucus of one” in the Georgia legislature, offered a congenial speech similar to the one she made at the People’s Republic’s National Day celebration Oct. 1.
In both arenas, she opened her speech with a hearty “Ni hao!” and presented event organizers with a resolution from the Georgia House of Representatives.
At the Taiwan event, she referred to the Republic of China (Taiwan’s constitutional name) as Asia’s first republic and congratulated it on its 96th birthday. Ms. Byrd said that Atlanta has the second-fastest Asian growth rate of any American city and praised the city’s international flair.
“It is an international city with open arms to those with diverse backgrounds and cultures,” she said.
Such diversity was a key aspect of one of the last and more rousing speeches of the evening, offered by Johnny Ford, mayor of Tuskegee, Ala., and founder of the World Conference of Mayors. A staunch ally of Taiwan who said that he and other African-Americans are “not ashamed to support” Taiwan, Mr. Ford presented a commendation from the conference of mayors recognizing Taiwan’s humanitarian support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
He ended his speech with a rallying cry: “Long live Taiwan!” which was met with healthy applause.
Mr. Ford was not the only Alabama or Southeast official joining in the congratulations. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford both offered proclamations that were not read aloud.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue did not attend the reception, but Josephine Tan, chair of the Asian-American Commission for a New Georgia, opened the floor by reading a proclamation from Mr. Perdue.
Cultural presentations followed the speeches, which were preceded by a taped message from Taiwan’s president, Chen Shui-Bian.
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Taipei Cultural and Economic Office in Atlanta – R.C. Wu, director general