Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng, Sao Tome and Principe President Fradique Bandeira Melo de Menezes, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Danny Philip and Mrs. Philip, Honorable Elizabeth F.Y. Renner, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of The Gambia, delegations from around the world, members of the diplomatic corps in the ROC, Vice President Vincent C. Siew, Presidents of the Five Yuan of the ROC, distinguished guests, compatriots from overseas, fellow citizens, journalists, and friends watching television:
Good morning to you all!
The bond between the ROC and Taiwan
Today we celebrate the grand occasion of the 99th National Day of the Republic of China. As we commemorate the sacrifices and contributions made by the revolutionary idealists of yore to save a nation in peril, we are keenly aware that we must dedicate ourselves to the historical mission of building on past accomplishments to create a brighter future.
The course of the ROC’s development has been a winding path full of difficulties. Everyone in Taiwan is both a participant in and a contributor to that development. We have warded off Communist China’s attempts at invasion and ensured the security of Taiwan and the Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu islands; we have striven energetically to progress, making it safely through several global economic crises. On this piece of land we have toiled hard, instituting local self-governance and universal education, building a strong national defense, and creating the dual miracles of a prosperous economy and a democratic political system. These are achievements unsurpassed in the Chinese-speaking world, for which reason we are deeply proud of Taiwan.
Today, we continue to grow and develop on this land. We share a collective destiny and embrace a common dream. We cherish Taiwan and identify with the Republic of China. We wish the best for Taiwan and want the ROC to flourish. Next year will mark the Republic’s centennial. Let us celebrate the birth of our nation together and create for it a more resplendent second century.
Doing what it takes to push reform
My fellow citizens: Since the second rotation of power between political parties two years ago, the most important missions of this administration have been reform, innovation and the pursuit of justice. The isolationist policies and corruption of the previous administration caused a great deal of damage to Taiwan, so we must boldly pursue thoroughgoing reform without delay.
Over the past two-plus years, this administration has pushed forward with a number of groundbreaking reforms touching upon society, the economy, education, environmental protection, national defense, cross-strait relations, and foreign affairs. Our goal has been to improve Taiwan in every respect—to create a brand new, more competitive Taiwan.
Taking governmental re-engineering as an example, we have acted to reduce the executive branch from 37 to 29 Cabinet-level ministries and commissions. This is a project that previous administrations over the past two decades wanted to do but could not accomplish. We are accomplishing it.
We have increased the number of our special municipalities to five by merging and upgrading several counties and cities, and have scheduled elections for them with the aim of achieving balanced development in northern, central and southern Taiwan, thereby enhancing the competitiveness of cities and boosting regional economies. This is another momentous reform that we have succeeded in doing.
Some say that promoting reform will offend vested interests and cost election votes. I cannot go along with that way of thinking. Taiwan is now in a race against time. We cannot put off reform for the sake of winning elections. Were we to do so, we would let down our people as well as generations to come. We have a well-informed public. I believe that only reform can secure our future, and that by securing our future we can win people’s hearts.
My fellow citizens: The world is changing rapidly. Taiwan must recognize the importance of economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region and the economic rise of mainland China. We certainly cannot afford to play the ostrich by burying our heads in the sand.
Over the past two years and more, we have improved cross-strait relations and pushed for peace and prosperity while expanding our participation in international affairs. The commencement of direct cross-strait flights and visits by mainland Chinese tourists to Taiwan has coincided with resumption of our participation in the World Health Assembly, from which we had been absent for 38 years, and our accession to the Government Procurement Agreement of the World Trade Organization after earlier bids to do so had failed for six years. Further, in our relations with the United States we have re-established high-level trust, resumed important arms purchases, and re-started talks on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. As a special partner of Japan, we established a new representative office in Sapporo last December and are scheduled at the end of this month to inaugurate two-way flights between Songshan Airport in Taipei and Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Elsewhere, travelers with ROC passports now enjoy visa-free entry to the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Fiji. The European Parliament, moreover, has adopted resolutions in support of Taiwan on numerous occasions, and we have successfully advanced substantive relations with other friendly nations.
In addition, we have concluded 14 agreements with mainland China. Each one is premised on the principles of parity, dignity and reciprocity, and puts Taiwan first for the benefit of its people. Throughout this process, we have staunchly defended the sovereignty and dignity of Taiwan.
The Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) that Taiwan and mainland China inked this June came into force on September 12. It is the most important cross-strait agreement in the past two years, a milestone in economic cooperation between Taiwan and mainland China. We have not opened up to mainland laborers or allowed additional agricultural import items but, instead, have created more business and job opportunities for our agricultural sector as well as our traditional manufacturing and service industries. The early harvest provisions of the ECFA could generate fully 60,000 job opportunities and NT$190 billion in business for Taiwan. This course of action puts us in position to join in the process of Asia-Pacific regional economic integration. We have averted economic marginalization and accelerated the internationalization of our economy.
My fellow citizens: Our pragmatic policies in handling cross-strait relations and foreign relations have won the international community’s strong affirmation, and the efficacy of government reforms has begun to show. The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics of the Executive Yuan has forecast that our economy will grow by 8.24% this year, among the best performances in Asia. Of the world’s top 30 trading nations, we had the highest import growth rate and the second-highest export growth rate in the first two quarters of this year, demonstrating that we have begun a robust economic recovery following a recession that lasted for over a year.
Over the past year, the number of employed people has increased by 285,000, and in August the unemployment rate dropped to 5.17%, the first time in 19 years that it decreased in that month. The average salary has increased as well, manifesting the growing vigor of our labor market.
Thanks to our policies of liberalization and deregulation, Taiwan’s competitiveness has made great strides. In the 2010 World Competitiveness Yearbook released in May by the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development, Taiwan ranks as the eighth most competitive economy among the 58 countries surveyed, up 15 notches from the previous year. This is Taiwan’s best performance in the survey in 16 years, and we are confident of doing still better in the future.
Taiwan’s economic recovery is the fruit of the collective efforts of all its people. This government has considerable room for improvement, however, in its handling of various social and environmental problems as well as educational and judicial reform issues. We must humbly listen to the voice of the people, and strive constantly to do better. I will persist in pursuing reform and move boldly forward in order not to betray the public’s trust.
Meeting public expectations with concrete action
Issues concerning disparities of wealth, environmental protection, educational reform and judicial reform have recently become the focus of intense public scrutiny. Here, I would like to stress that the core principle of this administration is the imperative to build a just society, and I promise that with regard to any issue pertaining to social justice, environmental justice or judicial integrity, we will take active steps to meet the expectations of our people.
Narrowing the wealth gap
The wealth gap in Taiwan has been widening for the past decade, reflecting an imbalance in wealth accumulation. Taiwan’s economy is making a rapid recovery, to be sure, but if the fruits of economic development cannot be shared by all, what is the point of economic growth, however fast it may be?
The pursuit of economic growth, while important, is no more than a means to an end—the end being to build a just and prosperous society with egalitarian distribution of wealth. I therefore wish to stress that, from now on, strategies for Taiwan’s economic development will not focus exclusively on growth, but absolutely must place equal importance on growth and fairness. In other words, as we boost economic growth, we must devise means to alleviate the problems of unemployment and poverty.
This government will do all in its power to adjust industrial structure, increase employment opportunities, expand social welfare benefits, and look after the needs of vulnerable groups. At the same time, we must also continue to promote tax reform. Putting it simply, the government will definitely not sit idly by and leave impoverished families with nowhere to turn to for help. Wherever there is poverty, our government must give caring attention and extend a helping hand.
Balancing economic and environmental concerns
My fellow citizens: Last year’s Typhoon Morakot disaster caused the loss of more than 700 precious lives. This government has taken to heart the bitter lessons of that experience. For over a year now, we have dedicated ourselves to post-disaster reconstruction work and reorganization of disaster preparedness systems. At the same time we have pushed for central and local government agencies to carry out disaster preparedness and relief drills. We are working to raise the level of vigilance at all levels of government and society in the hope that tragedies of this nature will not recur.
Last month as Typhoon Fanapi approached, our central government, armed forces, police and fire departments, and local governments at all levels were fully mobilized to prepare for disaster. To minimize the damage, they first evacuated more than 16,000 people from risky areas. If the more than 100 people of Laiyi Village in Pingtung County had not been evacuated in time, for example, there may have been a replay of last year’s Xiaolin Village tragedy [in which hundreds of lives were lost in a landslide]. This again demonstrates the correctness of our strategy, in the face of extreme, ever-changing weather conditions, to emphasize disaster preparedness over disaster relief, and evacuation over other preparedness measures; to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst; and to prepare for disasters in advance, deploy troops with an eye to disaster preparedness, and ensure readiness for rescue operations.
A number of issues have given rise to controversy over the question of environmental protection versus economic development. Some of the more notable disputes concern the Academia Sinica biotechnology park, the Central Taiwan Science Park environmental impact assessment, and Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Company’s development plans. From the perspective of our nation’s sustainable development, equal importance should be placed on environmental protection and economic growth. But in the event it is judged that economic development will severely impact or damage the environment, environmental protection should take priority. The severity of possible impacts or damage should be determined by scientific, rational assessments. Though we must pursue economic growth, it is even more important to protect our environment and health.
More comprehensive concern for our land is therefore essential. Priority must be given to the restoration and preservation of environmentally sensitive areas, including important agricultural land, mountain forests, wetlands, grasslands and rivers, as well as of cultural heritage sites and scenic areas. At the same time, we must improve the industrial structure as well as the current environmental impact assessment system, incorporating them as essential aspects of national land planning. With the goal of sustainable development of the nation’s lands in mind, in the future this government must pay greater attention to people’s opinions concerning the development or expropriation of land, show greater concern for the land, and take a long-term perspective so as to ensure sustainable development.
Deepening educational reform
My fellow citizens: Children are our hope for the future. I pledge to expedite efforts to forge public consensus and create the necessary conditions to institute 12-year compulsory education. First, we will start compulsory education a year earlier so that all five-year-olds can attend kindergarten tuition-free. We already began with offshore islands and remote areas this year, and will expand the program next year to cover the whole nation.
Furthermore, we absolutely must not neglect impoverished and disadvantaged children. Through reallocation of educational resources, we must revamp learning environments that are not beneficial to them and help them acquire effective knowledge and skills from their schools so they can rise above poverty. We definitely must ensure that impoverished children have the same opportunities as others to realize their life’s dreams.
Spearheading participatory judicial reform
Bribe taking by judges, the quality of court verdicts and the efficiency of judicial processes have recently been the focus of sharp public criticism. We believe that the judiciary must of course be independent, but it must not be isolated from society or behave in a manner contrary to reasonable expectations of the public. The judiciary must be able to protect law-abiding citizens. This is the most fundamental standard of justice.
Future judicial reform must be participatory in nature. It should be undertaken from the perspective of ordinary people, with an understanding of what the public expects of the judicial system, and with empathy for the suffering they must undergo in the litigation process. A new Judicial Yuan president and vice president have been installed. Together with the minister of justice and the prosecutor-general, who took office half a year ago, they constitute a new judicial team. I am confident that this team will be responsive to public expectations and play an active role in participatory judicial reform.
Government agencies will also work together to re-examine relevant regulations and legal procedures, improve the quality of court verdicts, enhance efficiency, and institute a friendly court environment. They will also expedite the passage of a Judges Act and establish mechanisms for evaluating the performance of judges and prosecutors, with an eye to keeping the good, eliminating the corrupt, and re-establishing the public’s trust.
Our plan to establish an anti-corruption agency demonstrates our determination to eliminate and prevent all manner of corruption. This administration is committed to eradicating criminality. We absolutely will not compromise with the forces of corruption.
Human rights protections are another important aspect of judicial integrity. In May of last year, we ratified two United Nations human rights covenants—the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights—and are now actively working to amend any domestic laws and regulations that may run counter to the standards set out therein. To further promote the development and protection of human rights and basic freedoms, I hereby announce the establishment of a Human Rights Consultative Committee under the Office of the President. Vice President Siew will chair the committee, and is in charge of setting it up. The committee will be composed of both public officials and private citizens, who will discuss and develop human rights policies and issue regular human rights reports, so as to raise the level of human rights in Taiwan.
Promoting cross-strait relations,
expanding international participation
Fellow citizens: We have recently seen great improvement in relations between Taiwan and mainland China and a marked relaxation in cross-strait tensions. Mainland authorities have recently mentioned the possibility of removal of missiles aimed at Taiwan. We feel this has a positive significance for cross-strait relations and hope that it becomes a reality as soon as possible.
Of course, our hopes for Taiwan’s security cannot rest solely upon improvements in cross-strait relations. Thus, it is our necessary and unchanging policy to develop our independent military capabilities while continuing to import weapons of a defensive nature that we cannot manufacture ourselves. We will also continue to boost multilevel cross-strait economic, cultural and social ties, building confidence and resolving differences, so as to maintain lasting peace across the Taiwan Strait.
The Republic of China is a country with independent sovereignty. We conduct relations with mainland China under the framework of the ROC Constitution and on the basis of the “1992 Consensus.” Although at this stage the two sides of the Taiwan Strait cannot accord de jure recognition to each other, we nevertheless should be able to pragmatically adopt a policy of de facto “mutual non-denial.”
The people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are ethnic Chinese—“descendants of the legendary emperors Yan and Huang.” As the two sides pursue closer cross-strait ties, we hope to also expand cooperation with mainland China in the international sphere. We want to avoid antagonism and gradually develop a virtuous cycle of mutually beneficial, win-win interaction.
Taiwan is a full democracy. Any agreement that we sign with the mainland must receive public support, and is subject to parliamentary supervision. At the same time, we will maintain the cross-strait status quo of “no unification, no independence and no use of force” under the framework of the ROC Constitution, uphold the principle of putting Taiwan first for the benefit of its people, safeguard the Republic of China’s sovereignty, and maintain Taiwan’s dignity.
In the future, we will continue to strengthen cooperation with all of our diplomatic partners as well as other nations, including the United States, Japan, countries in Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia and European Union member states. We will actively seek to participate in international organizations and their activities and, in the spirit of humanitarianism, provide aid to developing partner countries. This administration is committed to enhancing the ROC’s international status and, with a pragmatic and flexible approach, will actively work to sign free trade or economic cooperation agreements with our trading partners—all with the aim of building up Taiwan while linking with the Asia-Pacific region and deploying globally.
Here, I would like to stress that the ROC plays four roles in the world: first, as a peacemaker; second, as a provider of humanitarian aid; third, as a promoter of cultural ties; and fourth, as a creator of new technologies and business opportunities. Though our territory is small, our aspirations are ambitious. We look forward to integrating with the world community. We are eager to take on the challenges of globalization, and hope to make contributions to the international community. We want to win respect for the ROC, and be the type of country that stirs people’s hearts.
My fellow citizens: The people who live on this piece of earth have never meekly bowed to fate. We have managed to grow amid adverse circumstances and, step by step, realize the ideal of a democratic republic as envisioned by our founding father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Looking to the future, we are full of confidence and optimism!
Democracy and freedom have come to define the spirit of Taiwan. A rich social diversity has made Taiwan’s culture and lifestyle a “benchmark” for Chinese communities around the world. Many of Taiwan’s young people have become international standouts in the areas of academics, sports, art, cuisine, design and invention. We see embodied in them Taiwan’s potential, Taiwan’s confidence and Taiwan’s hope.
Fellow citizens: The ROC centennial is just around the corner. The story of the first century of the Republic opened against a background of social upheaval, but our nation went on to record extraordinary achievements through peaceful development. The ROC’s second century will kick off with a “golden decade” prelude. Now, we begin to write a brand-new chapter.
This is the responsibility we undertake in remembrance of our ancestors and national martyrs, as well as our promise to our children and future generations!
In closing, please join me in shouting: Long live the Republic of China! Long live Taiwan’s democracy! Thank you.