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Why You Should Care About the Taiwan Fellowship Act: A Discussion with Richard Pearson and Shelley Rigger Ep 189

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

Why should you care about the Taiwan Fellowship Act?

In this episode of Talking Taiwan, my guests are Richard Pearson, the Executive Director of the Western Pacific Fellowship Project and Professor Shelley Rigger. We will be talking about the Taiwan Fellowship Act, a bill which has been decades in the making, and was inspired by the Mansfield Fellowship. This bill which has gotten bipartisan support in both the U.S. and Taiwan. It has been added to the COMPETES Act, and has also passed through both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in slightly different versions. Now the House and Senate are in conference committee to resolve differences in order to come up with a final version of the bill.

Learn more about what the Taiwan Fellowship Act is, how it serves to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan ties, why you should care about it, and how you can support passage of this bill in to law.


About Richard Pearson:



Richard Pearson is Executive Director of the Western Pacific Fellowship Project and Managing Director, Taiwan Fellowship. He has roughly two decades of experience in U.S.-Asia economic relations and the political-economy of the Asia-Pacific largely in the public service sector.


Mr. Pearson’s professional experience includes time as a business reporter based in Taipei and in public service focusing on the Indo-Pacific. From 2010-2014 Mr. Pearson was an Associate Director at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation during which time he originally conceived and explored the Taiwan Fellowship concept. Along with Ryan Shaffer and former AIT Director and Chairman Ambassador Raymond Burghardt, Mr. Pearson founded the Western Pacific Fellowship Project in late-2019 to operationalize the Taiwan Fellowship.


Mr. Pearson received his undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College and his graduate degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Immediately after college, he held a Fulbright scholarship to Taiwan. His essays on U.S.-Asia relations have been published in various outlets in the U.S. and East Asia including the Taipei Times and The Diplomat.


About Shelley Rigger:

Shelley Rigger is the Brown Professor of East Asian Politics at Davidson College. She has a PhD in Government from Harvard University and a BA in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University. She has been a Fulbright scholar at National Taiwan University (2019), a visiting researcher at National Chengchi University in Taiwan (2005) and a visiting professor at Fudan University (2006) and Shanghai Jiaotong University (2013 & 2015). She is a non-resident fellow of the China Policy Institute at Nottingham University and a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). She is also a director of The Taiwan Fund, a closed-end investment fund specializing in Taiwan-listed companies. Rigger is the author of two books on Taiwan’s domestic politics, Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy (Routledge 1999) and From Opposition to Power: Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (Lynne Rienner Publishers 2001). She has published two books for general readers, Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse (2011) and The Tiger Leading the Dragon: How Taiwan Propelled China’s Economic Rise (2021)She has published articles on Taiwan’s domestic politics, the national identity issue in Taiwan-China relations and related topics. In 2019-20 she was a Fulbright Senior Scholar based in Taipei, where she worked on a study of Taiwan’s contributions to the PRC’s economic take-off and a study of Taiwanese youth.


Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • The COMPETES Act and the Taiwan Fellowship Act, what they are and the background
  • The Western Pacific Fellowship Project
  • How the China Bill in the COMPETES Act aims to strengthen the U.S. response and monitoring of China’s economic activity, and political and security moves globally
  • How the COMPETES Act aims to strengthen the U.S. semiconductor industry
  • How the COMPETES Act contains a bill to change the name TECRO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office) change to Taiwan Representative Office is a part of the Competes
  • How the Taiwan Fellowship Act fits into the larger question of the U.S.’s response to China
  • What the Taiwan Fellowship Act is
  • The Mike Mansfield Fellowship
  • Why Americans should care about getting the Taiwan Fellowship Act passed
  • Why Taiwan matters on its own, apart from China
  • What is the procedure for an Act to get passed and what stage the Taiwan Fellowship Act is currently at
  • The many Taiwanese American civic groups that support the Taiwan Fellowship Act
  • For those who’d like to support the Taiwan Fellowship Act and see it get passed in to law, now is a crucial period; they should contact their members of congress to express their support for getting it passed
  • You can write an email to your member of congress through an automated form on FAPA’s (Formosan Association of Public Affairs) website
  • How the Mansfield Fellowship came from congress vs. the Taiwan Fellowship which has been a more grassroots effort
  • U.S. sentiment toward Japan in the mid-1990s
  • How Richard worked at the Mansfield Foundation and learned the value of the Mansfield Fellowship in strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship
  • How Richard spent time in Taiwan in 2000 and realized that there could be value in creating a fellowship program similar to the Mansfield Fellowship with Taiwan
  • How Richard has been working on the Taiwan Fellowship Act since 2010
  • How now seems to be the one chance to get the Taiwan Fellowship Act passed
  • If passed the Taiwan Fellowship could endure for decades like the Mansfield Fellowship
  • What will happen if the Taiwan Fellowship Act doesn’t get passed
  • Reaction and support for the Taiwan Fellowship Act in Taiwan
  • How the Taiwan Fellowship Act had gotten bipartisan support in both Taiwan (pan-Green and pan-Blue) and in the U.S. (Democrats and Republicans)
  • How the Western Pacific Fellowship Project is a volunteer-led organization and its funding needs
  • How there are a lot of the leading figures in US-Taiwan relations among the Western Pacific Fellowship Project’s directors and advisors
  • Shelley’s support of the Taiwan Fellowship Act
  • Why there has been such broad support for the Taiwan Fellowship Act


Related Links:

US lawmakers present Taiwan Fellowship Act (Taipei Times article):


Support the Taiwan Fellowship Act by emailing your Member of Congress at the bottom of this link:


Mike Mansfield Fellowship:


Mike Mansfield:


Why Taiwan Matters by Shelley Rigger:


Schoolhouse Rock! (television program):!


Schoolhouse Rock- How a Bill Becomes a Law (YouTube video):


U.S. Senator Ed Markey, Chairman of the East Asia Subcommittee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:


U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:


Congressman Ami Bera:


Congressman Steve Chabot, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Asia Subcommittee:


TECRO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States):


FAPA (Formosan Association for Public Affairs):


NATMA (North American Taiwanese Medical Association):


NATPA (North American Taiwanese Professors’ Association:


TAA (Taiwanese Association of America):


TAA (Taiwanese Association of America) Facebook page:


Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, 52nd Speaker of the House of Representatives:


Senator William V. Roth Jr. of Delaware:


What Americans Should Understand About Japan’s 1990s Economic Bust (an article from The Atlantic):


Pan-Green (political coalition in Taiwan):


Pan-Blue (political coalition in Taiwan):


Western Pacific Fellowship Project:


AIT (American Institute in Taiwan):

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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