Hsiao Bi-khim’s coming to Washington marks a unique shift in U.S.-Taiwan relations at a critical time
Date: July 21, 2020
By: Jason Li
This week, Hsiao Bi-khim (萧美琴) was sworn as Taiwan’s new envoy to the United States. This change of guard at Taiwan’s representative office in Washington comes at a time of souring U.S.-China relations and deepening engagement between Taiwan and U.S. officials. As U.S.-China tensions across the high seas and cyberspace elsewhere grow, the U.S. has shown unprecedented support for Taiwan. Numerous Senators and House members sent messages congratulating Tsai Ing-wen’s re-inauguration in May, and high-ranking members including Speaker Pelosi sent farewell letters to Representative Stanley Kao (高碩泰), whom Hsiao has now succeeded.
Hsiao brings to Washington a unique background that lends particular weight to her capacity to deepen U.S.-Taiwan relations. Her bicultural and bilingual identity is unprecedented for a representative to the U.S. Born to a Taiwanese father and American mother, she lived in Taiwan through junior high school then came to the U.S. for senior high. She completed her bachelor’s from Oberlin and master’s from Columbia.
Hsiao has developed a reputation as a leading voice in Taiwanese diplomacy, especially within the ranks of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). She has been involved in U.S.-Taiwan relations since the 1990s and has quickly risen amongst the ranks. Her first job was as the head of the DPP’s mission to the U.S., which she held until she returned to Taiwan to serve as director of the DPP’s International Affairs Department. She served as President Chen Shui-bian’s interpreter and adviser and, in 2008, became special assistant to the new DPP chair, Tsai Ing-wen. From 2012 to 2020, she served in the Legislative Yuan, where she focused on foreign affairs and defense.
The new representative has developed a close relationship with the top leadership in Taiwan. She accompanied presidential candidate Tsai on her 2011 and 2015 Washington visits. Primed to become the new U.S. representative, she accompanied vice president-elect Lai Ching-te on his historic visit to Washington in January this year. As a DPP loyalist, Hsiao comes to Washington with a partisan background that her predecessor, a career diplomat, did not have. Her close personal ties with Tsai Ing-wen—she has been described as Tsai’s confidant and “female bestie [闺蜜]”—may facilitate the deepening of U.S.-Taiwan relations at the highest levels. [FULL STORY]