The Republic of China, the foremost established democratic republic in Asia, celebrated her 97th birthday on October 10th. A look back at our nearly 100-year history reveals many great sufferings and forced dislocations due to the chaos of war on the mainland (1912-49). With this painful experience in mind, we cherish even more the fruits of development and modernization that we have reaped in Taiwan.
You may have enjoyed the movies of Oscar-winning director Ang Lee; you may have cheered at the excellent performance of Yankee pitcher Chien-Ming Wang. Both of these celebrities are from Taiwan. You may use high-tech products like a laptop or an iPhone; these are mainly manufactured in Taiwan, the island of technology.
Perhaps you yourself have not been to Taiwan, but the world’s 17th largest economy is connected to you more closely than you can imagine.
The diligence and vitality of the Taiwanese people created the economic miracle that Taiwan experienced in the 1970s. The Taiwanese spirit of compassion and generosity contributed to the achievement of democracy. In the report Freedom in the World 2008 by U.S.-based Freedom House, Taiwan was rated as possessing the highest degree of freedom both in political rights and civil liberties. Moreover, in the annual report of France’s Reporters Without Borders, press freedom in Taiwan was ranked number one in Asia. This March, Taiwan once again successfully conducted a direct presidential election and completed its second peaceful turnover of power, making Taiwan the pride of ethnic Chinese, and a model for Chinese societies, all around the world.
The new administration of the R.O.C. (Taiwan) has been in office less than half a year. In the dramatically changing circumstances of the world economy, the government is faced with both opportunities and challenges. We are working to tackle major issues with a pragmatic vision in tune with this new era. Economically, the new administration seeks to achieve institutional reform via deregulation, while simultaneously taking measures to strengthen the country’s economic fundamentals through restructuring. After taking office, leaders of the new administration immediately focused on expanding domestic consumption, revitalizing industry, and modifying tax regulations, in the hopes of rebuilding Taiwan as an “Asia-Pacific asset management center.” At the same time, the government is devoted to adopting energy saving and carbon emission reduction measures, in order to help upgrade our industries.
Socially, the new administration is dedicated to building a sound social welfare system, caring for underprivileged groups, and realizing social justice. All these aim to build a rich middle class and encourage the growth of a moderate society.
Regarding cross-Strait relations, the new government has resumed dialogue with the mainland under the principles of “shelving disputes and pursuing win-win solutions,” in the hopes of easing the tensions across the Strait and creating a new, peaceful state of affairs.
Diplomatically, we have switched to a principle of “flexible diplomacy.” We have been working to safeguard the sovereignty of the R.O.C.; to consolidate our diplomatic ties; and to improve bilateral relations, particularly those devoted to rebuilding the mutual trust between Taiwan and the U.S. We have also been working towards the establishment of a “Taiwan-Japan special partnership,” as well as eagerly participating in international organizations and serving as a “responsible stakeholder” in global security affairs.
In his inaugural speech on May 20th, President Ma Ying-jeou said that he hopes to be a peacemaker between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, under the principles of “no unification talk with the mainland, no creation of an independent Taiwan republic, and no use of force to settle sovereignty issues.” His plan includes resuming negotiations, easing restrictions on cross-Strait investment, and opening up to mainland visitors via regular weekend direct charter flights, the last of which began on July 4. Taipei and Beijing have plans to discuss issues regarding increased cross-Strait charter flights, cargo flights, and new flight routes by the end of this year, with the goal of achieving peace and co-prosperity on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. As cross-Strait solutions progress, we shall follow the principles of “put Taiwan first and work for the interests of the people,” and continue to defend Taiwan’s dignity, rights, and wellbeing.
The Republic of China has survived many trying and challenging times in our history. We have relied on our brave, resolute, diligent, and practical “Taiwan Spirit” to overcome obstacles and struggle forward. This has helped Taiwan transform successfully from an agricultural society into the world’s pivotal information giant; from an authoritarian regime into a free democracy. It is a great achievement of which we are proud. In the future, we will continue to forge ahead with self-confidence and courage, while working towards a global system that strengthens the links between Taiwan and the international community. With Taiwan’s vibrant democracy, flourishing culture, and admirable economic development, we are confident that we will win international respect and recognition.