Proudly Advocating for Taiwan: Amy Lin
Amy Lin firmly believes in the Taiwanese people’s right to self-determination and right to be free. So strong are her convictions that she works as Program Director of the Formosa Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is committed to strengthening ties between Taiwan and the United States and protecting both their vital interests. The Formosa Foundation takes the position that the United States should recognize and support Taiwan – in keeping with a shared democratic and human rights value system – rather than continue its One China Policy, which the organization believes increases the strategic threat of China against Taiwan. Amy advances this position through educational and advocacy efforts that include conferences, newsletters, media relations, and other forms of publicity. Most notably, she created the organization’s flagship Ambassador Program, which sends young leaders to Washington, DC, to meet with members of Congress and promote enhanced relations between the United States and Taiwan. To learn more about the Formosa Foundation and Amy Lin, check out this week’s Nonprofit Spotlight.
The Formosa Foundation
Amy S. Lin
Hacienda Heights, California
University of California, Irvine
B.A. in Economics, Psychology
General Bank Los Angeles, CA
Assistant Vice President, Administrative Officer, Chairman & CEO’s Office
1991-1995 and 2000-2003
Assistant Vice President & Regional Manager
Marketing Officer & Acting Marketing Director
GBC Bancorp, (NASD: GBCB) parent company of General Bank
Los Angeles, CA
Assistant Vice President, Director of Investor Relations and Assistant Secretary of the Board of Directors
1992-1995 and 2000-2003 (until the merger of GBC Bancorp and Cathay Bancorp – NASD “CATY”)
About the non-profit
The Formosa Foundation dedicates itself to the advancement of human rights, democracy, and the right to self-determination of Taiwan. It is our commitment to foster better understanding and exchange of ideas between the United States and Taiwan through sustained educational and advocacy efforts. Our Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit entity based in Los Angeles, California, promotes and supports the Taiwanese people’s right to self-determination in keeping with our belief that all people have a fundamental right to be free.
Since our founding in 2001, we have set out to encourage the development of new dialogues, ideas, informed attitudes and policy options which will better safeguard the vital interests that the United States and Taiwan share. The Formosa Foundation supports peace, freedom and vibrant regional and global economic and cultural relations that are the foundation for long-term stability in East Asia.
The Foundation views tension in the Taiwan Straits as harmful to US interests and considers the US policy of “strategic ambiguity” towards defending Taiwan as an important contributor to such tensions. The US’s continued embrace of the One China Policy, at the expense of Taiwan’s international recognition, only serves to further embolden China in its claim over Taiwan and further justify its military build-up.
Our mission of promoting the best interests of both the US and Taiwan could not be clearer given the aftermath of post-911. While the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq diverts US attention and resources, China’s influence in Asia and internationally grows dramatically. It is even more imperative for the US to support, recognize, and leverage old friends like Taiwan, which shares the same democratic and human rights value system and can help counterbalance the growing influence of China in the region.
Taiwan is a true friend, a shining example of democracy and human rights, and an economic partner that the US cannot afford to lose. That is why the U.S. “One China” policy, which actually increases the strategic threat of China against Taiwan, is not in the best interest of the US.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I am directly involved with all aspects of the Foundation’s activities, from creation to implementation, such as conferences, fundraising, newsletters, media relations and publicity, just to mention a few. Recently I returned from Washington DC after the conclusion of the 2007 Ambassador Program, where the 29 class members held meetings with 131 members of House and Senate, to urge their support for 1. Taiwan’s admission into the World Health Organization, 2. US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement, 3. Lifting of high-level visits between US and Taiwanese officials, and 4. full recognition of Taiwan.
Most notable milestones
I created and implemented the Ambassador Program which the Foundation hosts annually since 2003. The Program has become the flagship program of the Foundation for its success in advocating for Taiwan’s democracy and human rights to Congress and at the same time training and engaging young leaders into advocates for the cause.
What’s the niche?
Although we are not membership-based, the Foundation is funded and supported by Americans and Taiwanese Americans across the US who believe that supporting Taiwan’s human rights and democracy is consistent with the national interests of this country. The Foundation staff and board members have close ties with both American and Taiwanese policymakers, academia, think tanks and media to discuss policy alternatives that benefit both countries.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Despite the fact the the People’s Republic China has never ruled Taiwan, the government in Beijing claims Taiwan as a renegade province and threatens to invade the island should it declare independence. Mindful of increased trade opportunities with China and fearful of possible war in the Taiwan Strait, many countries, including the United States, continue to uphold a policy of “one China” under which they do not recognize Taiwan as an independent country, but at the same time do not concede to China’s claim that Taiwan is a part of China. The ambiguity in policy is not beneficial to the US who has a commitment to help Taiwan defend itself in the event of an attack from China.
Our Foundation aims to advocate for continued US commitment to Taiwan and give Taiwan full recognition.
What’s in store for the future?
The Foundation will continue to work towards creating a multi-faceted public relations campaign to bring the issue of Taiwan to the forefront of the American political agenda. Leading up to the 2008 election, the Foundation will organize a series of briefings with members of Congress and presidential candidates. The purpose of these meetings is to establish an understanding of where the candidates stand on the issue of Taiwan, as well as raise their awareness on the issue of Taiwan, and at the same time highlight the Taiwanese American voter bloc.
Guiding principle in life
I’ve always believed in doing good to beget good, and remind myself constantly that bad energy attracts more bad energy.
Yardstick of success
I can proudly say that I truly believe in what I do. My current job gives me more fulfillment than any of my previous positions at the bank. I would hope no one uses my income as a measurement of my success. I am totally convinced that I am not doing this for the money.
I was at a social function once and an acquaintance came up to tell me that she tells my story to her college-age children in hopes that they will become advocates for Taiwan.
Best practical advice
When one problem seems too big and complicated to solve, analyze and break it down into several little problems, then you’ll have an easier time solving each small problem one at a time.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
I often receive words of encouragement and appreciation from people associated with my work or with the cause in general. My husband is very understanding and supportive in terms of my working hours and travels.
In college I worked for a man who was a medical doctor by profession and a promoter of Taiwanese culture by passion. My first job after college was working for a man who devotes much of his spare time to advocating for a Taiwanese identity, unique and separate from the Chinese identity. Their conviction and personal sacrifice helped me recognize my responsibility as a Taiwanese American towards my motherland.
What motivated you to get started?
I was born and raised in Taiwan until 12 years old when my family moved to the United States. The Taiwan I used to know transformed peacefully into a full democracy by the late 1990’s. It is unthinkable for me to see a dictatorship like China overtake Taiwan and destroy the Taiwanese people’s identity and life.
Like best about what you do?
Knowing the fact that I am doing something I truly believe in, for a good cause.
Like least about what you do?
Achievements are not immediately visible. There is also the pressure of fund raising.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was in Taiwan when I was 10. Teachers there are highly respected by both students and parents. So, I wanted to be a teacher.
What was your first job?
I was a management trainee at a Taiwanese American bank. I was supposed to rotate to different departments of the bank within two years before becoming assigned to a permanent post. By the third month into the job, I was invited to be permanently stationed in the Chairman/President & CEO’s office as his assistant, because he liked my interest and ability to work with the Taiwanese American community. Soon I was putting in 20+ hours per week for various Taiwanese American organizations, while still holding down a full-time job at the bank.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Gardening, when it’s not too hot out and I’m not too bummed out from working. Or whenever the weeds grow up to my waist, whichever happens first.
I enjoy having friends and family over at my house, where my husband and I cook for everyone.
Person most interested in meeting?
President of the US – he has the power to change our current policy on Taiwan.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- In high school I forced myself to keep a daily journal in Chinese, so that I would not forget the language. When I worked at the marketing department at the bank, I was the editor of all literature and publication, in both English and Chinese languages.
- I was totally in love with the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” in college. Years later I married a man named Calvin. Our first child was a boy, born in the year of Tiger. Naturally I named him Hobbes.
- I often dream of events that turn out to be true later.
Three characteristics that describe you
- Straight-forward, always gets the job done right.
- I am always thinking outside of the box, which was a rare quality for the banking crowd.
- I have a great sense of humor; I am always making people laugh.
I can’t think of a book that I would like to go back and re-read. Sorry.
Supporting Taiwan’s democracy and right to self-determination.
Interview by Vanessa Chan
Introduction by Preeti Aroon
Edited by Valerie Enriquez