Indiana Gov. Holcomb visits Taiwan, South Korea amid increasing foreign tensions

The delegation will meet with officials in Taiwan and South Korea during the four-day trip

By: - August 23, 2022 6:30 am

Gov. Eric Holcomb had lunch with Jaushieh Wu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China, and Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Chern-Chyi Chen. (Photo from Gov. Holcomb’s Twitter account)

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday to kick off a privately-funded economic development trip in Taiwan and South Korea.

The Republican governor’s visit comes at a time when relations between Taiwan, China and the U.S. are notably tense.

Holcomb arrived in Taiwan Sunday evening for a four-day visit that will focus on economic exchanges, particularly regarding semiconductors.

The trip will include visits with Taiwanese and South Korean government officials, business leaders and academic institutions to “strengthen Indiana’s economic, academic and cultural connections” with Taiwan and South Korea, according to his office.

“I couldn’t be more energized to spend this week building new relationships, reinforcing long time ones and strengthening key sector partnerships with Taiwan and South Korea,” Holcomb said in a statement. “This week marks my second trip to South Korea as Governor, and I am also proud to be the first U.S. governor to visit Taiwan since before the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m committed to building an economy of the future with these global partners who are helping propel Indiana forward by creating tomorrow’s businesses, today.”

What the trip entails

The group will spend Monday and Tuesday in Taiwan before traveling to Seoul for two days. They will return to Indianapolis on Saturday, according to the governor’s office. 

The cost of the trip is being paid through private donations to the Indiana Economic Development Foundation. Erin Sweitzer, a spokesperson for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, declined to disclose the exact cost of the delegation’s travel.

Holcomb is the first U.S. governor to visit Taiwan since 2019 and is the first Indiana governor to go to Taiwan since then Gov. Mitch Daniels traveled there in 2005.

The Indiana delegation includes:

  • Gov. Eric Holcomb
  • Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers
  • Dave Roberts, IEDC EVP of Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Brock Herr, IEDC SVP of Business Development (Korea only)
  • Jillian Turner, IEDC VP of Global Partnerships
  • Weilin Long, IEDC International Director, China Regional Office
  • Erin Murphy, Press Secretary to Holcomb
  • Stu Dillon, Special Assistant to Chambers
  • Tyler Warman, Special Assistant to Holcomb
  • Dr. Mung Chiang, President-Elect of Purdue University (Korea only)
  • Alyssa Wilcox, Chief of Staff to President-Elect Dr. Mung Chiang
  • Mark Lindstrom, Purdue University Interim Dean of the College of Engineering (Taiwan only)

The trip to Taiwan follows an announcement in June that Taiwanese semiconductor giant MediaTek will partner with Purdue University to create a new semiconductor design center in West Lafayette. The company — which develops chips for cell phones, TVs, and other devices — will work with Purdue on research surrounding chip designs.

President Joe Biden additionally signed the federal CHIPS Act in late July. The measure, championed by Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young, seeks to bolster domestic manufacturing of semiconductor chips.

Tensions on the rise

Two recent high-profile visits to Taiwan by U.S. politicians prompted increased Chinese military drills, including missile firings over the island, and visa bans by China on several Taiwanese political figures.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-ruled island earlier this month. Last week, a second U.S. bipartisan congressional delegation visited Taipei in an effort to “reaffirm the United States’ support for Taiwan” and “encourage stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait.”

China views the island as part of its territory and has vowed to eventually “unify” Taiwan with the mainland, even if that means using force. Chinese officials view exchanges between Taiwanese and foreign governments to be an infringement on its claim.

“Conversations regarding foreign policy that are happening at a federal level are best left there. The governor’s focus is on our shared opportunities with Taiwan,” Sweitzer said. 

Although past practice has been to announce trips like Holcomb’s several days in advance, the governor’s office waited until he was already there to detail his travel.

Sweitzer told the Indiana Capital Chronicle that “every trip is different,” and that the IEDC consulted with federal partners and hosts in Taiwan about the best timing of the release: “Announcing once the delegation landed was the simplest way for all involved.”

She did not comment specifically on what concerns might surround the Indiana governor’s trip, or possible repercussions that could follow his visit.

“The delegation’s priority in Taiwan is strengthening our economic, academic and cultural ties,” Sweitzer said, adding that Holcomb accepted an invitation from Taiwanese officials to travel to Taipei while at the Global Economic Summit in May.

“These relationships have been built over decades,” she continued.

Job hunting

Holcomb’s delegation is hoping to bring even more manufacturing of microelectronics technology to Indiana. The governor’s office said the group plans to do so by “strengthening Indiana’s economic and academic partnerships” and “reinforcing the state’s commitment to innovation, as well as committing to working together to build the economy of the future on an international scale.”

Holcomb noted that Indiana is among the top states in the U.S. for direct foreign investment, emphasizing that the state is home to 10 Taiwanese companies and 12 from South Korea.

“The unprecedented economic progress Indiana has secured this year doesn’t happen without like-minded partners here and around the world,” Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, a member of the Indiana delegation to Taiwan, said in a statement. “A shared commitment to innovation and collaboration is key to continuing our success, and I’m thrilled to spend the week strengthening that collaboration with our friends in Taiwan and South Korea.”

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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.

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