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Ex-envoy to U.S. James Shen passes away due to illness

James C.H. Shen, the nation’s last ambassador to the U.S., who witnessed the most turbulent years in bilateral relations, has died at the age of 99 after a long illness.

Family members said Shen passed away last Friday morning. The family and friends have started preparations for commemorative services and the funeral.

Born in Shanghai in 1909, Shen received education at the prestigious Yenching University before earning a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in the United States in 1935.

After working for several years as a reporter and editor, he worked alternatively in media organizations in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as government agencies as a commentator and analyst.

Shen’s government positions in his earlier career included section chief of the International Department under the Ministry of Information and a department director at the Government Information Office (GIO).

He later became a secretary to the late President Chiang Kai-shek before being appointed as a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and director of the GIO.

Shen was named the ambassador to Australia between 1966-68 and then vice foreign affairs minister between 1968-71.

During his more than eight years as the nation’s ambassador to Washington, from 1971-78, Shen undertook the tough job of maintaining relations between the Republic of China and the U.S. after Washington decided to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taiwan.

The switch of official ties resulted mainly from the U.S. strategy of winning over China for a joint stand against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

Fighting against the trend for closer Washington-Beijing ties at the expense of Taiwan, Shen played a crucial role in helping persuade the U.S. government and Congress to draft and enact the Taiwan Relations Act, which facilitates the present concrete and substantive bilateral Taiwan-U.S. relations in the absence of formal ties.

Shen retired from public office after returning to Taipei from Washington in January 1979.

He finished his memoir of his eight years working as the nation’s envoy to Washington in 1981, including the details of negotiating with senior American officials like Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State, and his interchange with Congressional leaders.

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