Chances are the computer you use everyday is imported from Taiwan despite the U.S. government's refusal to recognize it as a country.

Joseph Wu, an expert on the unique bond between the United States and Taiwan, and a representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, lectured in Jepson Hall Thursday about the importance of Taiwanese-American relations.

"Taiwan is a very important partner of the U.S. in terms of economy, security and democracy," Wu said.

He sported a pink-and-blue striped tie as he joked with the crowd in a packed lecture hall. But Wu was passionate and serious when he elaborated on the importance of the relationship between the United States and Taiwan.

Wu explained that the United States provides 98 percent of Taiwan's grain import and Taiwan is a major electronics exporter to the United States, producing 68 percent of the world's computer chips. He jokingly assured the crowd that Taiwan does not export dangerous toys, which China has been under scrutiny for.

Wu said his government sympathized with American security goals abroad and was the third greatest contributor of aid to Afghanistan, but because Taiwan was not officially recognized as a country, it could not send troops to Iraq.

Recently, the Taiwanese government has requested 66 F-16 jet fighters from the United States as defense from the Chinese threat, a request the United States has yet to approve.

But, the United States has endorsed the Taiwanese democratic system, with President Bush calling Taiwan, "a model that should be emulated."

After a long history of authoritarian rule, the success of the March 22 elections proved that democracy has taken firm root in Taiwan. Wu expressed his gratitude toward the United States for its role in fostering democracy and took pride in Taiwan's being one of the only Democratic nations in Asia.

According to Wu, Taiwan has no desire to reunite with communist China, despite its claims that Taiwan is a part of its country. Because of China's growing power, the United States cannot afford to make it an enemy by officially recognizing Taiwan.

While economic security and democratic ties between Taiwan and the United States are strong, Wu said diplomatic relations are strained. The United States disallows both direct discussion with high-level Taiwanese officials and the public display of the Taiwanese flag.

Junior Bailey Leuschen, who attended the lecture, said, "After being marginalized by the U.S. government, how is it that this ambassador is still offering Taiwan's unconditional help and support?"

Ching-Yi Kimberly Chen, a senior exchange student from Taiwan, said: "In Taiwan, there is a little anti-American emotion, but an overall favorable attitude. A lot of Taiwanese students want to study in America."

The University of Richmond offers a study abroad program at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan, where Wu was once a professor.

"I would hope that all UR students have a chance to visit Taiwan; they would like Taiwan and know that this is a very important country for them to be involved with," Wu said.

Contact reporters Margaret Finucane and Maria Ribas at margaret.finucane@richmond.edu and maria.ribas@richmond.edu