Passport to Taiwan: More Than Just Food, Culture and Music

By Kaju Roberto

THE PASSPORT TO TAIWAN FESTIVAL returned to Union Square after a three-year hiatus. Photo courtesy of Kaju Roberto.

This year the Passport to Taiwan Festival returned to Union Square on Sunday, May 28, after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. This outdoor event, which celebrated the delicious food, vibrant spirit and music culture of Taiwan, was a jubilant affair.

This year the festival provided even more interesting content. “Talking Taiwan,” the longest running Taiwan-related podcast and Golden Crane Award winner, made its debut.

Felicia Lin, its award-winning podcast host, broadcasted a fun and interactive “Talking Taiwan” live stream all day long. She interviewed five notable Taiwan guests as well as Taiwan enthusiasts who stopped by to share their stories.

I had a chance to interview Felicia and talk to her about the significance of the event and a bit of Taiwan’s history. In full disclosure, I am the Executive Producer of “Talking Taiwan.”
K: Can you tell me about the history and significance of the Passport to Taiwan?

F: The idea for an outdoor festival celebrating Taiwan dates back to 1999 when the U.S. Congress designated the second week of May as “Taiwanese American Heritage Week.” But it wasn’t until 2002 that the first Passport to Taiwan was held. Events like this are especially important for our community’s representation due to Taiwan’s international isolation.

K: Tell me more about that.

F: How is it that Taiwan, with its effective early containment of COVID-19 has been blocked from joining the World Health Organization? And why is it that Taiwanese athletes have to compete under the name “Chinese Taipei” at the Olympics? It’s the same reason that Taiwan does not have a seat in the United Nations. The People’s Republic of China refuses to recognize Taiwan since it lays claim to Taiwan despite never having ruled it, not even for one day.
China also forces countries to choose between having diplomatic relations with Beijing or Taipei. This is what happened recently when Taiwan lost Honduras as a diplomatic ally to China, leaving Taiwan with only 13 diplomatic allies.

K: What is the situation between Taiwan and China?

F: China’s President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated that China will not renounce the use of force in seeking to reunify Taiwan with China. This is nothing new.  During Taiwan’s first direct presidential elections in 1996 China lobbed ballistic missiles across the Taiwan Strait. Now, nearly three decades later, China sends planes on a daily basis into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone. The record stands at over 90 aircraft in one day. Taiwan is now the most democratic nation and the first to legalize same sex marriage in Asia. Its path from authoritarianism to democracy was hard won after enduring 38 years of martial law (the second longest period in world history). Peacefully safeguarding Taiwan’s democracy and human rights is a very real concern as the world witnesses Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s President Xi Jinping publicly praising Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for his leadership.

K: What is the state of U.S.-Taiwan relations?

F: I’d say it’s very favorable. In August of 2022, then U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen visited the U.S. earlier this year and met with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. According to 2022 data, the United States was Taiwan’s second-largest trading partner for goods while Taiwan was the United States’ 10th-largest trading partner. Taiwan most notably produces 90% of the world’s semiconductors which are used in most electronics. TSMC, Taiwan’s largest producer of semiconductors, is building a plant in Arizona.

K: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

F: I do hope that people can get to know more about Taiwan through the vibrant stories and its people by listening to our podcast “Talking Taiwan.”

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Kaju Roberto is an accomplished musician, singer/ songwriter, journalist, and an award-winning producer. He is the artist Rad Jet on Spotify.