TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The success of the Taiwan Fellowship Program (TFP) now depends on the Taiwan side, Western Pacific Fellowship Project Executive Director Richard Pearson recently told Taiwan News.
“I would not say that the program is now a reality,” Pearson said, adding that only “the legislative and funding groundwork have been laid." Now that the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the TFP, was signed into law by President Joe Biden last month, it is “crucial that support from the Taiwan side is just as strong so that the agreements and infrastructure can be built, making the program a reality,” he said.
Currently, only the U.S. has the legislation in place for the TFP.
The TFP is based on the Japan-focused Mansfield Fellowship Program, which was established in 1994 for American civil servants to work inside Japanese government ministries and NGO offices primarily in Tokyo. Where the TFP differs, is its comprehensiveness and reciprocal nature between the U.S. and Taiwan.
Ten American civil servants selected for the TFP would first study Mandarin and take classes in U.S-Taiwan relations, regional history, U.S.-Asia relations, regional political economy, and security, etc., during their first year. In the second year, the fellows would be placed in Taiwanese government ministries and NGOs to work, primarily in Taipei.
All fellows are required to serve four years in the U.S. government upon completing the program.
During an info session at the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan in November, Pearson said he has been in contact with the Taiwanese side both in Washington, D.C. and Taipei for many years and has met with legislators and officials from the National Development Council and foreign ministry who all expressed support for the program. The next steps should be up to the Taiwanese, he said.
The ball is now in Taiwan’s court to make the TFP a reality and afford Taiwanese civil servants the same opportunities to study and work in Washington, D.C. The Western Pacific Fellowship Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing engagement across the Indo-Pacific region, according to its website.