Therese Shaheen

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Therese Shaheen (夏馨) was Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) from 2002 to 2004.

Therese Shaheen was criticized by the People's Republic of China as being 'pro-Taiwan'. Though she cited personal reasons, her resignation in April 2004 was believed to have been brought on by the displeasure of the Bush Administration over a note sent by Shaheen to President Chen Shui-bian congratulating him on his re-election as President of the Republic of China before the administration had extended its official congratulations. This was contentious because the results of the election were still disputed and congratulating the pro-independence Chen implied siding with him, and because Shaheen apparently did not understand that in diplomatic circles written messages carry far more weight than spoken messages. ROC Foreign Minister Eugene Chien resigned to take responsibility for losing a "good friend of Taiwan."

U.S. State Department officials said problems with Ms. Shaheen emanated not from PRC complaints but from concerns that her statements on the sensitive U.S.-Taiwan relationship sometimes were at variance with official U.S. policy. She is understood to have drawn internal criticism last year for telling Taiwanese reporters that the long-standing U.S. policy of "not supporting" Taiwanese independence did not mean the United States opposes the concept. In addition, she faced criticism for stating to Chen Shui-bian in a trip to the United States in October 2003 that George W. Bush was a "guardian angel" responsible for the visit and for not keeping away the press and cameras from an award ceremony that Chen was attending. Both actions are widely believed to have given Taiwanese officials that American support for Taiwan was much stronger than it actually was, and to have caused Chen Shuibian to take actions which both the United States and the People's Republic of China regarded as veering dangerously toward Taiwan independence. This caused President Bush to issue a firm rebuke of Chen in December 2003.

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