2019 Corporate Community Service Award Recipient: The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei

The Community Services Center’s 2019 Corporate Community Service Award Recipient

The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei

By Sue Babcock

AmCham leaders Marinus van Gessel (left) and Robert Parker (center) meeting with Premier Y.S. Sun in early 1979 over the numerous post- “derecognition” issues needing to be resolved. Photo courtesy American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.

Each year, the Community Services Center’s Steering Committee and Foundation Board present an award to an organization that has demonstrated exceptional leadership, service and commitment to the community and to the Community Services Center. This year’s award recipient is the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham Taipei).

Security and economic stability are cornerstones of a nation which consistently provides its citizens with daily assurances of peaceful well-being. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which opened up a new chapter in U.S. – Taiwan relations. This pivotal document made permanent the relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan, supporting Taiwan’s transformation into one of the most vibrant democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. However, this success story had its beginnings in crisis.

After U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s dramatic decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1978, concerns about Taiwan’s relationship with the U.S. sharply rose to high levels of critical uncertainty. With the absence of diplomatic relations, the closing of the U.S. embassy in Taiwan and the upcoming termination of the U.S. – Taiwan Mutual Defense Treaty, would Taiwan have the assurance from the U.S. government of its commitment to Taiwan, especially with regards to safeguarding its national security?

The origins of the TRA were in the legislation submitted by members of President Carter’s administration to the U.S. Congress. This bill expressed U.S. intentions to maintain “commercial, cultural and other relations with the people of Taiwan on an unofficial basis.” It was the vague language of this bill that brought immediate action from AmCham leaders.

AmCham Chairman Robert Parker and former Chairman Marinus “Dutch” Van Gessel presented their concerns and dissatisfaction before the U.S Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Working feverishly, AmCham leaders gained strong bipartisan support for U.S. backing of Taiwan. Many of the recommendations given in their testimony were adopted in the drafting of the TRA. AmCham’s swift action marked a turning point in the Taiwan crisis and opened a new chapter in U.S. – Taiwan relations.

AmCham has continued to actively play a vital transitional role within the business sector, social and cultural organizations and the Taiwan government. Today, because of their efforts forty years ago, our young people are able to join local chapters of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts or the Boy Scouts.

The once U.S. military radio station became the International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT), a private organization with broadcasts in English. ICRT continues to play an integral role within the local and international communities, especially in the areas of English language education and community events.

AmCham leaders continued to work closely with Taiwan government officials to reorganize the Taipei American School (TAS) from a government contract school into a private international school serving pre-kindergarten through grade 12, while the U.S. Navy China Seas Club became the American Club Taipei.

Without a doubt, AmCham Taipei’s skillful leadership and pro-active involvement with TRA, during the time of derecognition, played a crucial role in reaffirming the future form of U.S. – Taiwan relationships.

Good community business leadership also is the ability to inspire others, to create positive and innovative environments for the communities they serve.

The Community Services Center is pleased to present the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, the 2019 Corporate Community Service Award for exceptional leadership, service and commitment to Taiwan.

Suzan Babcock is a long-time resident of Taiwan. During her stay here, she has managed four successful careers in education, cross-cultural relations and counseling, although being a mother has been her favorite.