AIT chief urges Taiwanese youth to strive for progress
Christopher Marut, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, on Wednesday urged young Taiwanese adults not to be discouraged by the difficulties facing Taiwan in the international community and he expressed confidence in their ability to make a difference.
In a rare face-to-face discussion with Taiwanese students, Marut said students and youth have become increasingly active in shaping the social, political, and economic landscape in Taiwan.
Noting that more than 60 percent of the world’s population is under age 30, he said “that demographic, increasingly empowered by new technologies, is one of the foremost potential drivers of economic and social progress, and we have seen that play out here in Taiwan.”
Following a speech titled “Three Years at the Helm of AIT: Reflections on the U.S.-Taiwan Relationship,” Marut took questions from the students who attended the session at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu City.
Asked about his views on Taiwan’s Sunflower protest movement last year, he said the U.S. respects Taiwan as a vibrant and free democracy and that the people have the right to speak out.
The U. S.’ stance is that it hopes the debate in Taiwan over a service trade agreement with the mainland, which sparked the protests, will be conducted in a peaceful and civil manner, Marut said.
The Sunflower Movement, which lasted March 18 to April 10 last year, was a student-led protest over the trade-in-services pact, amid concerns that it would hurt Taiwan’s interests and give mainlanders greater influence over the island.
In his discussions with the students Wednesday, Marut also addressed the concerns of a sobbing young woman who asked whether he thought PRC suppression of the ROC on the international stage would end any time in the next few decades.
“My personal view is that young Taiwan people are incredibly strong and incredibly motivated, and have very strong beliefs and very strong ideology,” he said. “Don’t be discouraged and look forward, because young people can accomplish a lot and will accomplish a lot,” Marut said.
Young people should not underestimate their influence or the contributions they can make, he said, expressing the opinion that Taiwan is seeing a generational change.
On the issue of Taiwan-U.S. ties, he reaffirmed that Taiwan is an important partner of the U.S.
“We enjoy a robust relationship” that encompasses trade, security, environment, science, technology, health and energy cooperation, education and cultural exchanges, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief, Marut said.