Diplomatic Pouch / August 7, 2014
By Larry Luxner
Quick, what are the Swinging Skirts — an all-female rock group, or a wife-swapping club for cross-dressers?
Turns out it’s neither. Swinging Skirts is a private Taiwanese nonprofit group aimed at promoting women’s golf in the Republic of China and worldwide. The organization gets its name from the colorful skirts and kilts worn by members on the course, who are paying homage to the game’s Scottish roots.
On July 23, the group was honored with a lavish reception and Mongolian barbecue at Twin Oaks Estate, the Washington mansion owned by the government of Taiwan.
“I’m no golfer myself, but tonight what we need is not a golfer but a good host,” said Lyushun Shen, chief of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) — Taiwan’s equivalent of an embassy in Washington.
And a good host he was, with nearly 60 lawmakers, journalists and philanthropists showing up, including five members of the House of Representatives: Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL).
“We have 18.2 acres here for you to enjoy. The size of Twin Oaks is a little bigger than the White House compound,” Shen told his guests. “This house was built in 1888, and in 1947, we bought it for only $450,000. We used it as an ambassador’s residence until 1978, when President Jimmy Carter recognized the People’s Republic of China. This would never have gone to the communists, so we sold it to a nonprofit organization called Friends of Free China, headed by our dear friend, Barry Goldwater.”
While Taiwan and the United States no longer have diplomatic ties, the two countries do enjoy close commercial and business ties. Officially, the bilateral relationship is governed by the Taiwan Relations Act, enacted April 10, 1979. Among other things, the act authorizes relations with Taipei by elevating a nonprofit corporation — the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) — to de facto embassy status. It also requires the United States to intervene militarily if China attacks or invades Taiwan.
But golf, not politics, dominated the evening at Twin Oaks.
Among the VIPs in attendance was David Lee, chairman of the Coordination Council for North American Affairs — the government body in Taiwan that deals with the United States. Lee is also active in Swinging Skirts, which last April co-hosted the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in San Francisco — the first Ladies Professional Golf Association co-sanctioned tournament ever played on American soil. That event featured 120 LPGA players and the top 10 players on the Taiwan LPGA official money list.
“The Swinging Skirts is a nonprofit organization with 50 members. All are avid golfers, and many are scratch players,” Lee said, noting that 11 Taiwanese golfers are now training in the United States. “They want to invest in Taiwan’s golf future.”
Also present was Cheng-Sung Wang, chairman of Swinging Skirts.
“It’s an honor to co-host this event,” said a beaming Wong as he posed for pictures with two of Taiwan’s visiting golfers, Phoebe Yao and Yani Tseng. “It has opened up a lot of opportunities in the relationship between Taiwan and the United States, opportunities we haven’t had before. We truly hope that Swinging Skirts can a bridge between our two countries.”