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Peace, Democracy and Prosperity: The Utmost Conjunctions of ROC Mainland Policy and EU Development Experience

Lai Shin-yuan

Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, Executive Yuan

Dr. Tannock, Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning to you all!

I am delighted to have this opportunity to visit the European
Parliament. I deeply appreciate the invitation and kind arrangements for this visit
by Dr. Tannock as Chairman of the EP-Taiwan Friendship Group. It is a very special
honour for me to meet with all of you here.

In my speech to you today, I will draw lessons from the development
experience of the EU to explain the main significance and value of the development
of cross-strait relations. I have titled my speech: “Peace, Democracy and Prosperity:
The Utmost Conjunctions of ROC Mainland Policy and EU Development Experience.”

1. The historic experience and current situation of the
EU and cross-strait relations

Europe and Asia have been closely bound in history through sharing
the bitter afflictions of war. During World War Two, we both suffered terribly as
countless battles were fought across our two continents.

This most widespread war in the history of mankind is a common
memory of my parents’ generation. When I was small, I often heard my mother speak
about how she would lie down beside the ridge between rice fields to hide from air

The passage of the years can never erase such memories. They
remain as vivid as if they happened yesterday. But during the more than six decades
that have gone by since then, mankind has stood up amid the post-war ruins and sought
to establish mechanisms for mutual cooperation.

Today’s European Union and the current relationship across the
Taiwan Strait are both concrete models of man and women’s endeavour to avoid conflict
and turn confrontation into cooperation.

The EU is the most successful example of regional integration
in the history of international relations. It has grown from the original 6-nation
European Coal and Steel Community to today’s 27-member union. And it has expanded
its realm of unity from economic and trade cooperation to cooperation in the judicial,
legislative and political spheres under the Treaty of Lisbon.

This evolution of the EU in its course of integration over the
past fifty-some years has been a truly astounding achievement.

Just like Europe, Taiwan experienced the devastation of World
War Two followed by the confrontation of the Cold War. From August 23rd to October
5th 1958, mainland China fired 475 thousand artillery shells at Taiwan’s offshore
island of Kinmen. Thereafter, the shelling of Kinmen from Xiamen continued right
up to 1979.

Today, just three decades later, there are no more shells flying
over from Xiamen to Kinmen. Instead, there are more than a thousand travelers a
day journeying to and fro between the two places. Cross-strait relations have evolved
from war, confrontation, and non-contact to the gradual beginnings of benign interaction.
This experience bears similarity to the EU’s, but also has its unique distinctions.

Since taking office on May 20, 2008, President Ma has maintained
a pragmatic stance toward cross-strait relations. Acting under the principle of
“putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people,” and advocating “no unification,
no independence, and no use of force,” he has actively pursued the establishment
of a new model of interaction between Taiwan and mainland China. On this basis,
he has opened a new chapter of peaceful stability and co-prospering co-existence
in the history of our region. This is the primary achievement of the mainland policy
conducted by the ROC government under President Ma’s leadership.

2. Dialogue and negotiation are key to the building of
lasting peace across the Taiwan Strait

Since May 2008, the ROC government has done its utmost to become
a responsible stakeholder in the Asia-Pacific region. We have striven to be a peacemaker,
working actively to replace confrontation with negotiation, to avert conflict with
conciliation, and to become a key force of concord-building in the East Asian region.
The kernel of this key force is the opening of cross-strait dialogue and negotiation.

When Robert Schuman, the first President of the European Parliamentary
Assembly, delivered the Schuman Declaration proposing the formation of a European
Coal and Steel Community, he opened his speech with the famous pronouncement that:

“World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative
efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.”

This is exactly how the ROC government has acted in face of the
situation in the Taiwan Strait.

In the first few years of the 21st century, the two sides of
the Taiwan Strait came close to the brink of war. Since President Ma took office
the year before last, the two sides have recognized that the issues between them
cannot be resolved by confrontation and conflict. Instead, both sides have set their
minds to improving cross-strait relations.

Through joint effort on both sides, and with mutual exhibition
of goodwill, we have restored the institutionalized negotiations that had been cut
off for a decade. That is the pragmatic means by which we have transformed the threat
of war into a turning point in cross-strait relations.

Under the situation that neither side recognizes the other’s
governing authority, we have developed a rather creative means for government officials
from Taiwan and mainland China to sit down together and engage in direct dialogue
and negotiation. This is achieved through the mechanism of institutionalized talks
between Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the mainland’s Association
for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS).

During the past two and a quarter years, the ROC government has
held five rounds of high-level talks with mainland China, resulting in the signing
of 14 cross-strait agreements. At the latest round of talks, on June 29 this year,
we signed the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and the
Cross-Strait Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights Protection and Cooperation.

These achievements have created a cooperative relationship that
is mutually beneficial to both sides of the Taiwan Strait. They have alleviated
the longstanding tensions of the past standoff across the strait, and opened unprecedented
new horizons for cross-strait relations. They have also enhanced the prospects for
building up regional concord and prosperity in East Asia.

Over the past two years, the Mainland Affairs Council has commissioned
numerous public opinion surveys by academic institutions, to sound out public views
on the conduct and results of cross-strait negotiations. These polls have shown
a positive assessment by a large majority of Taiwan’s people, with nearly 80 percent
of Taiwanese expressing support for solving the problems of cross-strait contact
through institutionalized negotiations.

Acting under the framework of the ROC constitution, our government
adheres firmly to the cross-strait status quo of “no unification, no independence,
and no use of force.” We also insist on conducting cross-strait exchanges and interaction
in accordance with “the 1992 Consensus”, on a footing of “equality and dignity,”
and under the principle of “putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people.”

The institutionalized negotiations are only a starting point.
Cross-strait relations will surely continue to move forward.

Since Taiwan is a democratic society, the direction and cadence
of the development of cross-strait relations must depend on the support of public
opinion. The needs of the 23 million Taiwanese people are the compass for the development
of cross-strait relations.

At present, the mainstream wish of the Taiwanese people is for
“the maintenance of the status quo.” All of the public opinion surveys commissioned
by the Mainland Affairs Council in the past two years show that close to 90 percent
of the Taiwnese people support maintaining the status quo.

This “status quo” is that the Republic of China is a sovereign
and independent country. This is an established fact. It is also the consensus of
the majority in Taiwan’s society.

We will maintain the status quo by adhering to the “three noes”
principle of “no unification, no independence and no use of force.” Against this
background, Taiwan’s future will be only decided by the democratically and freely
exercised choice of its 23 million citizens.

Hence, our government is taking steady and orderly steps to promote
the advancement of cross-strait relations in accordance with established goals.

As I have repeatedly stated in other forums: The current priorities
of cross-strait negotiation are issues concerning economic and trade dealings and
the welfare of our people. The environment and conditions are not yet ripe for addressing
political and military issues. Before we can address such matters, we need first
to establish consensus on them within Taiwan, and the public still need to attain
understanding of the issues concerned.

3. Prosperity: ECFA attains our strategic goal of “deeply
cultivating Taiwan and positioning globally”

Mainland China’s launch of its reform and opening policy set
it off on a course of rapid economic growth, and its global economic ranking has
bounded up since the turn of the century. According to the latest trade figures
issued by Germany’s Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) in January, China has
already overtaken Germany to become the world’s largest exporter.

After Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry had projected
that China’s GDP could overtake Japan’s this year, the mainland China’s central
bank pronounced in July that it had already done so, making the mainland economy
the second-largest in the world. Also in July, a report by the UK’s National Institute
of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) projected that China’s GDP would overtake
US GDP in 2019, while the World Bank and Deutsche Bank have forecast this to happen
in 2020.

Although mainland China’s internal economic development still
has many problems, its rapidly rising economic might is definitely an important
factor influencing the trends of global economic development.

Since Taiwan sits so close to the mainland, we are the first
to feel the progression and effects of mainland China’s economic development. Moreover,
cross-strait economic and trade ties are already very close.

In view of these circumstances, we consider that our interests
are best served by tapping into the opportunities presented by mainland China’s
economic rise, and creating an environment that is favorable to the global deployment
of Taiwan’s enterprises. This can help us enhance our international competitiveness,
and achieve our national sustainable development goals.

ECFA is an important catalyst of Taiwan’s economic globalization
development strategy. When the two sides of the Taiwan Strait concluded the signing
of ECFA on June 29 this year, many countries around the world hastened to express
their welcoming and approval of this step. It is evident that this agreement carries
import not only for its two signatories, but has also drawn attention in economies
and markets around the world.

I believe that ECFA will generate both internal and external
benefits for Taiwan. On the internal side, it will create a new wave of industrial
propulsion for Taiwan’s economic development; and on the external side, it will
have a chain effect in spurring interaction between Taiwan and the international

From the perspective of regional economic integration, we know
it is likely that an extensive free trade area will be established in Asia before
2020. I believe that, after ECFA goes into effect, Taiwan’s economy will become
more internationally aligned. Our government will take advantage of ECFA to strive
to expand the space for development of Taiwan’s industries and enterprises, to draw
more foreign investment to Taiwan, and to actively negotiate FTAs with other countries.
This will enable Taiwan to pursue an all-round economic development strategy for
achieving timely inclusion in regional economic integration.

Already, on August 5, Taiwan jointly announced with Singapore
that we are entering discussions on signing an economic cooperation agreement. In
the future, Taiwan will work step by step toward opening up further economic and
trade interaction with our trade partners.

I am especially grateful to the EP-Taiwan Friendship Group for
issuing a statement, at the end of June, in support of Taiwan’s signing of ECFA
, and for giving its stamp of approval to the improvement of cross-strait relations
and strengthening cross-strait economic cooperation. I also warmly appreciate your
support for the EU and Taiwan to negotiate and sign trade enhancement measures (TEM),
and your call for Taiwan passport holders to be granted visa-free entry to Schengen
countries as early as possible. These are very wise proposals.

4. Democracy: The positive influence of Taiwan values
on the development of cross-strait relations and regional concord

The idea of democracy that originated in Europe was one of the
great enlightenments in the history of human civilization. Last year, the European
Parliament published a book entitled Building Parliament: 50 Years of European Parliament
History 1958~2008, in which I found the following passage:

“Europe was not initially created with democracy in mind.
Yet Europe today is realistic only if it espouses the canons of democracy. In other
words, political realism in our era means building a new utopia, that of a supranational
or post-national democracy, while for two centuries the DNA of democracy has been
its realisation within the nation-state.”

My dear friends, I paid around 30 euros to buy this book from
you. I thought that was a little bit expensive, and that this book should be sold
at a lower price to make it affordable to a wider readership. But the content of
this book, especially the vision expressed in that passage, is a priceless treasure.
Truly, without democracy, there would not be a European Union.

For many years, the EU has tried to use its China policy to extend
the influence of democracy to mainland China, on political, economic, social, military,
and human rights issues. I believe that these efforts have also been helpful to
promoting lasting peace in cross-strait relations. And they exactly match one of
the aims of the ROC’s mainland policy.

As I quoted from your book: “Europe was not initially created
with democracy in mind.” However, when the Republic of China was founded 99 years
ago, it embraced the aims of democracy and freedom from the outset. Our founding
fathers’ goal was to establish Asia’s first democratic republic. Today, this democratic
ideal has been put into practice concretely and taken root deeply in Taiwan.

Not long after taking office, at a meeting with US Congresswoman
Jean Schmidt on May 29 2008, President Ma remarked that the outcome of the 2008
presidential election was the first time in a Chinese society that the party in
power had changed twice. He said this was a rare achievement, and he was confident
Taiwan’s successful democratic experience would serve as an example for other nations.

In England, a long and rocky half millennium passed between King
John’s signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and King William III’s enactment of the
Bill of Rights in 1689. For the ROC, too, the course of democratization in Taiwan
over the past 60 years has not been all smooth sailing on calm seas.

Like every country in the world, we have suffered historic wounds
that even today are hard to heal. Political incidents in Taiwan’s past took away
the freedom, the health, and even the lives of many people, and fractured many families.
The grievances created by these tragic events have haunted our society.

After the lifting of martial law in Taiwan in 1987, the government
spent a very long time, and put great resolve and sincerity into, making apologies,
enacting compensation laws, and restoring reputations, to salve these wounds of
history and promote reconciliation in our society.

This process of striving to put into practice transitional justice
and the legal enshrinement of human rights was a keystone in the democratic development
of the ROC. It formed the foundation that enabled the second peaceful transfer of
political power in Taiwan. It holds positive significance and reference value not
just for Taiwan, but for all Chinese people, and for other countries too.

The essence of democracy does not, of course, consist only of
competing for political power, but extends to everyone’s participation in political
power, and even to the establishment of a fair and just society.

When mainland China’s premier Wen Jiabao was interviewed by the
Financial Times and spoke about the future reform of China’s political system, he
mentioned the need to “better ensure people's rights to democratic election, democratic
decision making, democratic management, and democratic supervision.”

On August 20 this year, when speaking about the 30-year development
of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, he further remarked that: “We not only need
to carry out reform of the economic system, but also need to carry out reform of
the political system. Without the safeguard of reform of the political system, the
fruits of our reform of the economic system will all be lost. … We need to guarantee
the people’s democratic rights. … We need to take an institutional approach to solving
the problem of over-concentration of power and the lack of restraints on its exercise,
by creating conditions that enable the people to criticize and supervise the government.”

My friends, although reform cannot be achieved at one stroke,
we hope mainland China will be resolute in the pursuit of reform. Taiwan’s experience
of democratization tells us that the path of reform is always circuitous, but as
long as one stays close to the will of the people, and always keeps the people’s
welfare in mind, the fruits of reform can be counted on.

It is a source of pride to us that Taiwan’s democratization was
carried out without any bloodshed or turmoil, and without any military coup. We
believe that our democratic experience holds universal value, and is worthy of reference
by people everywhere in the world.

I would like to quote what President Ma said in an interview
by Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper on June 5, 2008. When asked by the reporter
about what kind of role Taiwan should play in China’s democratization process, President
Ma replied: “The best role Taiwan can play is what it is doing now in expanding
its contacts with mainland China. The vote-counting process in our March 22 presidential
election could be watched by our mainland compatriots in their living-rooms. This
was unprecedented. Not long after the counting began, posts and replies about the
election began to appear on mainland websites. This was also unprecedented. So there
actually is no need to take any particular action. In the natural course of events,
the mainland people will be able to make their own evaluations. I think this is
also a very important asset of Taiwan’s. We do not need to give instruction to the
mainland, telling them to do this and do that. I think this is the best way.”

President Ma’s words clearly demonstrate how, in the course of
cross-strait contacts, democracy is Taiwan’s asset and our most precious soft power.
Hence, Taiwan does not fear to deal with mainland China.

Moreover, during the past two years, mainland Chinese have made
more than two million visits to Taiwan, for various purposes including tourism.
And from early next year, mainland Chinese will be able to come to Taiwan to study
in university and graduate school. The impressions that these visitors take back
from Taiwan will surely have some influence in shaping thinking in mainland China.

At the same time, we also consider that the restoration of institutionalized
cross-strait talks provides mainland China with a practice field for peaceful development,
and gives Taiwan the chance to make a contribution to lasting peace in the Taiwan

Mainland China has made a commitment to the world that China’s
rise will be peaceful. Taiwan can take its experience of engaging in institutionalized
talks with mainland China over the last two years, and say to the world: We place
expectation in this commitment.

Here, I would like to state two things to you. In the process
of developing relations with mainland China, Taiwan will fully reflect the core
values of democratic countries in the international community. We will also give
mainland China a deeper understanding of Taiwan’s system of democratic pluralism
and its mode of operation. This level of perception will be beneficial to the development
of cross-strait relations and the consolidation of regional concord.

5. Outlook for the future

Although the EU model may not be applicable to the cross-strait
situation, Taiwan has long paid close attention to the deepening and widening of
the EU integration process. And we have drawn a lot of inspiration from the EU’s
experience in the development of consensual decisions on foreign, security, and
other policies after the signing of the Lisbon Treaty.

Within Taiwan, the development of cross-strait relations is still
a subject of much contention. And within the EU, there are still many fundamental
differences and divisions regarding the progress of integration.

But Taiwan and the EU have many values and ideals in common,
while our core values trace an identical line of development. I am sure it would
be very fruitful if we could establish channels for policy dialogue and diverse
exchanges between Taiwan and the EU or the European Parliament, and join efforts
to promote the benefits of democracy and freedom.

At this stage, our continuing dialogue with mainland China serves
to promote peace and stability in the East Asian region. This matches the common
interests of both sides of the strait, the European Union, and the international
community at large, and has received unanimous approval.

The Taiwanese people are highly supportive of our government’s
policy of promoting cross-strait peace, and we feel optimistic about the future
development of cross-strait relations.

The knotty issues between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait
cannot be resolved within a short time. Nonetheless, our government will continue
to interact with the mainland in an active and steady manner. We also applaud the
goodwill and effort displayed by mainland China during the past two years and more.

Both sides of the Strait are trying to address and solve problems
with mutual tolerance and understanding, to pave the way toward the ultimate goal
of securing perpetual peace in the Taiwan Strait.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attention.
Now I will be very glad to hear your opinions and instruction.