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President Chen's New Year Message

  • Date:2007-01-03

January 1, 2007 Vice President Lu, Respected Colleagues, Distinguished Guests, and Fellow Citizens: Happy New Year and greetings to you all! Today we welcome the beginning of a new year—the ninety-sixth year of the Republic of China (Taiwan). As we make a brand new start, let us take to heart, with humility and sincerity, the fond hopes of our fellow citizens, and steadfastly strive—with pragmatism—to ensure greater well-being for all our people. At the time of the new year countdown a few hours ago, accompanied by the blessing of splendorous fireworks shooting forth from the world's tallest building—Taipei 101, and with confidence, pride, and high expectations of ourselves as members of the global village, we 23 million Taiwanese joined with our more than 6 billion fellow human beings around the world in welcoming the arrival of 2007, and in praying that the whole of humanity will be able to enjoy greater peace, prosperity, and justice in the coming year. For more than half a century, due to political confrontations between the Eastern and Western Blocs during the Cold War era, and because of the longstanding insistence of previous leaders of Taiwan on defending the myth of "one China," Taiwan's national status and path of development have continually been confined within the narrow and illusory framework of "one China" and "unification with China." Be it the former Kuomintang government's resolve, soon after relocating to Taiwan, to counterattack and recover the mainland or, later, its vow to unify China under the Three Principles of the People, its creation of the Guidelines for National Unification, its talk about a so-called 1992 Consensus, or its espousal of an "ultimate unification" dictum—in essence, it all presumes that unification is the only possible option for our future. This mindset not only deprives Taiwan's people of their freedom of choice, but also contravenes the fundamental principle of "sovereignty lies in the people." In 2000, we witnessed the alternation of governing parties and peaceful transfer of political power. In 2003, we enacted the Referendum Act. In 2004, we conducted the first national referendum. In 2005, we enacted constitutional revisions whereby the National Assembly was abolished and its power to ratify constitutional amendments was transferred to the people through exercising the right of referendum. On February 28, 2006, I declared that the National Unification Council had ceased to function, and the Guidelines for National Unification had ceased to apply. Although each of these steps in our ongoing democratization was fraught with difficulty and encountered pressure and resistance from many quarters, we held firm to our faith in democracy. We insisted on returning to the people— fully—their right to determine our nation's destiny. At the same time, this process spurred us to constantly reflect on our national identity and how we should position ourselves. In June 2000, shortly after I assumed the presidency, an opinion poll on national identity indicated that 36.9 percent of respondents considered themselves Taiwanese and 13.1 percent Chinese, while another 43.8 percent thought of themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese. By contrast, a survey on national identity published in November 2006 by the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University revealed that the percentage of the respondents who consider themselves Taiwanese has risen to 60.1 percent, while the proportion of those who think of themselves as Chinese has dropped to 4.8 percent, and those who identify themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese stands at 33.4 percent. Thus, in the short span of six years, we have seen a very clear change in the people's thinking. A public opinion survey released by the Mainland Affairs Council showed that, as of September 2006, 75.8 percent of respondents supported the government's ongoing efforts to promote Taiwan's participation in the United Nations, and over 70 percent approved of applying for UN membership under the name Taiwan. This demonstrates that Taiwan-centric consciousness, based on the core value of putting Taiwan first, is coming into full bloom. The international community must forthrightly pay heed to the will of Taiwan's people, and must respect their right of free choice. More importantly, based on their ardent love for this land and their unwavering faith in the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and peace, and rooted in the spirit of their common struggle over the past half-century to survive and flourish, the people of Taiwan must endeavor to transcend boundaries of ethnicity, partisanship, and political interests, and persist in working to coalesce and galvanize their awareness of their identity as a national community. Once again, it must be emphasized and reiterated that: Our country, Taiwan, has a total land area of 36,000 square kilometers. The sovereignty of Taiwan belongs to its 23 million people, not to the People's Republic of China. Only the people of Taiwan have the right to decide Taiwan's future. Meanwhile, Taiwan is a part of the world, not a part of China. Taiwan's overall national goals must not become dislocated from the world's development and transformation. Our formulation of national policies must rise above the cramped framework of "one China" and cross-strait relations. We must keep an expansive vision and understand issues in their broader context, so that we may affirm the rightful status and unique persona of Taiwan in the global political and economic arenas, and vigorously pursue the creation of a sound foundation for our sustainable development. The 21st century is a century of globalization. As an oceanic nation whose development hinges on international trade, Taiwan cannot afford to distance itself from the world trends, and should clearly identify the opportunities and challenges of globalization. On this day five years ago, Taiwan officially joined the World Trade Organization as its 144th member, opening the world's markets to us and our market to the world. Although this greatly expanded our room for development, it also brought unprecedented competitive pressure. In step with the fast-paced development of the knowledge-based economy, Taiwan's industrial structure has been undergoing constant metamorphoses and upgrading. This, in turn, has contributed to a widening gap between rich and poor as well as between urban and rural areas. In the globalization race, Taiwan needs world-class enterprises to compete, but it must also give due attention to the dangers of concentration of wealth and the formation of monopolies by financial conglomerates. Following China's economic reforms, Taiwanese businesses have taken advantage of China's inexpensive land and labor to spur their growth. At the same time, however, this has accelerated the hollowing-out of industries, stagnation of salaries, and structural unemployment in Taiwan. Candidly speaking, Taiwan's society has been under a cloud of social tension and confrontation for the past six years. In part, this is attributable to the fact that the ruling and opposition parties have not grown accustomed to their reversal of roles, as well as to the inadequacy of our current Constitution, which have caused the machinery of government to spin its wheels and social resources wasted. More fundamentally, however, it reflects the cumulative dilemmas and conflicts that have accompanied Taiwan's efforts to deal with the challenges of globalization. How do we strike the right balance between opportunities and challenges, prosperity and fairness, investment and employment, and economic integration versus greater economic autonomy? I believe that no one has the final answer to this question. Nor can the right balance be achieved by drawing simplistic dichotomies between pan-blue versus pan-green camps, pro-unification versus pro-independence ideologies, or strategies of greater economic liberalization versus increased restrictions. The dilemmas we are facing, after all, are new to both the government and the people of Taiwan. All of us are continuously learning, groping, and refining our approaches. In my 2006 New Year message, I declared that "proactive management and effective liberalization" would be the new guiding principle and course of action for cross-strait economic and trade policymaking. Examining our economic performance over the ensuing year, we have indeed done rather well. For example, export volume and orders set new records, with their combined value in September 2006 exceeding the US$20 billion mark for the first time in a single month. The employment situation also steadily improved, with an average unemployment rate tabulated at less than 4 percent. Our foreign exchange reserves—a symbol of our collective wealth and the global business community's confidence in Taiwan—grew nearly threefold between 2000 and the end of November 2006, increasing from US$106.7 billion to US$265.1 billion. On the last trading day of last year, the Taiwan Stock Exchange reached its highest mark since August 5, 2000, while an increasing number of overseas capital investment institutions have expressed confidence that it is not unrealistic to expect the TAIEX to rise to 10,000 points within one or two years. Furthermore, a survey conducted at the end of December 2006 indicated that 49.7 percent of respondents believed that regulations concerning China-bound investment should be tightened. About 56.7 percent of respondents were of the view that unless there is a society-wide consensus to the contrary, the government should not further relax restrictions on cross-strait economic and trade relations. As such concrete data demonstrate, whether judged in terms of economic performance or public opinions, the government's insistence on its cross-strait trade policies meets the expectations of the majority of our people. I do not think that the government's current cross-strait economic policies are problematic. With respect to such policies, the government is of one mind, guided solely by the imperatives to put Taiwan first and strengthen Taiwan-centric consciousness. There is no such a thing as a "Su revisionist path" [alluding to speculation that Premier Su Tseng-chang is taking the initiative to relax restrictions on economic relations with China]. In a pluralistic democratic society such as ours, where a diversity of groups and businesses play different roles and have different interests, not everyone shares the same views regarding the direction of economic and trade development. The government's responsibility is to harmonize differences and disputes, and to formulate policies that are acceptable to the greatest possible majority of the people. While the results of such efforts may not satisfy everyone, I believe that if we can all be a bit less partisan, take the people's well-being a bit more to heart, indulge a bit less in argumentation, and show a bit more solidarity, we surely can lay a broader foundation for our national development. Given hard work and determination, Taiwan will certainly not be marginalized, and its overall performance over the coming year will be even better than last year. Looking toward the future, the government shall persist in adhering to its two main pillars of governance—insisting on Taiwan-centric consciousness and achieving social equity and justice. We will strive to achieve the four major goals of increasing investment in Taiwan, creating employment opportunities, narrowing the urban-rural divide, and reducing income disparities. The government is committed to promoting sustainable economic development. We have proactively worked to attract China-based Taiwanese businesspeople to reinvest in Taiwan so as to buttress the foundation for national development. We will also speed up tax reform to create an internationally competitive tax environment. Furthermore, we have taken measures to revitalize the stock market in order to increase momentum to local capital markets. In order to create a more favorable investment and business environment for Taiwan, we continue to promote the development of and investment in up-and-coming industrial bases such as the Hsinchu Science Park, Central Taiwan Science Park, and Southern Taiwan Science Park. Meanwhile, we will accelerate the development of the special commercial zones associated with the five major stations along the high-speed railway, guided by a philosophy of clustering businesses with distinctive local characteristics. This government is also investing in technological innovation and research and development. Recent data indicate that total expenditures on research and development in 2005 reached 2.52 percent of our GDP, bringing us closer to the government's target of 3 percent. We continue to promote industrial diversification by augmenting programs to foster the development of a third—or even fourth—trillion-dollar industry [referring to the New Taiwan dollar]. Moreover, we will push for the enactment of an improved renewable energy act at the earliest possible date as part of the efforts to boost the production value of "green" businesses to reach NT$150 billion [more than US$4.5 billion] in 2009. In addition, we will more aggressively develop broadband Internet access, with the goal of increasing the rate of broadband users to 40 percent of the population. Moreover, this government is determined to promote social equity and justice. We have been taking forceful action to implement programs to help underprivileged families out of poverty so as to keep those experiencing hard times from sinking into despair. We are also setting up a system of community-based and nonprofit extended care to improve the quality of care for the elderly. We will expedite the passage of legislation to establish a national pension system and pressing for its early implementation to further enhance our social security network. Furthermore, we have been working hard to set the National Health Insurance system on a sounder financial footing to enhance the nation's health. In addition, by establishing a program to provide assistance and counseling, we will help immigrant spouses from overseas—including those from China—improve their employability and achieve financial independence. In short, no matter what difficulties the members of our society may face, let us make sure that everyone can feel the compassion and loving care we have for one another. I urge all departments of government, in the shortest time possible, to realize the goals that I have just outlined. At the same time, I call for the ruling and opposition parties to do their utmost to draw up and support necessary legislation and budgets. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the February 28 Incident and the 20th anniversary of the lifting of martial law. In the period between these two events, the people of Taiwan were subjected to a full 40 years of a party-state regime and authoritarian rule. Even now, the suffering and wounds inflicted on the people of Taiwan as a result of the injustices perpetrated during that period have yet to be completely relieved and healed. Over the past six years or so, in addition to making continual compensation payments to victims and their families, the government has declassified, compiled, and published official files and historical documents related to the February 28 Incident, the White Terror era, and significant political cases from the martial law period. It is hoped that, thereby, we can uncover the truth of what happened and move a step closer to redressing injustices and restoring the reputations of those who died or suffered. Also, on February 28 last year, my administration instructed all government agencies, for the first time, to fly flags at half-mast as a sign of perpetual mourning for the victims of the February 28 Incident. Nevertheless, there are still many historical truths that we have not been able to fully uncover. Nor has action been taken to determine culpability for the harm and violence committed. More importantly, various legacies of the previous party-state, authoritarian rule have yet to be dealt with appropriately. These include vestiges of ideological and political dogmas based on a conceptual "Great China," idolization of former authoritarian rulers, and major problems of "transitional justice" such as illegally acquired party assets—a matter deemed unacceptable by the vast majority of Taiwan's people. It is our responsibility and duty to bring closure to the memories of anguish and suffering of these past 60 years. It behooves us, therefore, to turn this 60th-anniversary year of the February 28 Incident into a significant watershed in the history of Taiwan's democratization and development of human rights. In addition to holding a plaque-unveiling ceremony on that date for the February 28 National Memorial Museum, we hope to integrate resources across society to hold a wide variety of additional commemorative activities, and so that, by drawing on the power of the people, more effective action can be taken to rectify lingering vestiges of past mistakes and expedite the realization of justice, peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. The road from authoritarian rule to democracy is long and arduous. This is particularly true for Taiwan and other newly emerging third-wave democracies for which the gradual advance toward democracy started only within the past three decades. These democracies must bear the shock and turmoil simultaneously engendered by the twin forces of democratization and globalization. They face similar problems involving issues such as divisiveness over national and ethnic identity, vicious rivalry of multiparty politics, difficulties in promoting transitional justice, squabbling over the choice of a constitutional system, and citizens' weak sense of social responsibility. Such problems pose serious threats to budding democracies and often become important factors leading to reversal of democracy and revival of authoritarianism. As a new democracy, it is our responsibility and duty to spread the seeds of democracy to other countries and regions as we deepen democracy at home. We therefore advocate the unification of forces throughout the world that deeply care about the development of new democracies. Our aim is to initiate a "Global Forum on New Democracies" that will serve as a platform for dialogue and exchange. Prior to its formal establishment, we intend to convene an assembly in the near future to push for its creation. Former national leaders of new democracies in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America will be invited to come together and jointly seek solutions to common dilemmas and difficulties, as well as facilitate the birth of this global forum. My dear fellow citizens: As we greet the New Year, we also celebrate our entrance into a new era of innovation and speed. Since the transfer of power between political parties in 2000, the world's tallest building, Taipei 101, has surged heavenward to tower over Taipei and become a new landmark and source of pride for Taiwan. The Hsueh-shan Tunnel—which is the world's fifth-longest and Asia's longest highway tunnel and one of the world's most daunting feats of engineering—has finally reached completion and opened to traffic thanks to the labors of a construction team that worked round-the-clock, year-round without respite. Furthermore, the Taiwan High-Speed Rail, which, in terms of capital, is the world's largest ever build-operate-transfer (BOT) case and largest single transportation project in Taiwan's history, will soon begin its formal operations. These three world-class construction projects can be taken as a microcosm of the programs our government has carried forward over the last six years. Utterly unfair are the multifarious obstructions and boycotts encountered by related work—and unfair are the attacks on and vilification of project leaders—resulting from petty considerations of inter-party rivalry and wholesale politicization of everything. Here, I would like to express my most sincere gratitude and highest respect to all colleagues who have devoted themselves to national construction projects, especially those who have served as premier in the years since 2000 and their administrative teams. You have all worked very hard, suffering the resentment and slander of others without spite, regrets, or fear. Hardship will eventually pass, whereas the recognition and gratitude felt by the people will remain forevermore. In addition to the three projects that I just mentioned, other major infrastructure programs that have been completed include the Keelung River flood-control project, development of the Central Taiwan Science Park, improvement of water quality in the greater Kaohsiung area, and establishment of the Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park. Less tangible projects that have borne fruit include: strengthening the national financial system; overhauling credit departments of farmers' and fishermen's associations; implementation of the alternative minimum tax system; establishment of the new labor pension scheme; enhancement of the efficiency of state-run enterprises; transforming our armed forces into one that truly belongs to the nation and the people and is not controlled by any individual or political party; ensuring an independent judiciary; and withdrawal of political parties, government, and the military from ownership or control over electronic media. These achievements are like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Only by piecing these various administrative achievements together can we see the overall picture. If we unite as one, our reach is beyond the sky—as the ambitions and ideals of the Taiwanese people can surpass even the highest of limits. If we act with one heart, the wisdom, determination, and willpower of the Taiwanese people can create infinite possibilities. Let us work in solidarity and forge ahead with unswerving resolve. No matter how daunting external constraints are, or how imposing future challenges may be, we shall overcome. Opportunity and success will always be ours! In closing, let us wish our country great success and lasting prosperity. May good fortune prevail in the coming year. To all of my fellow citizens and colleagues, Happy New Year! May you enjoy peace and happiness. Thank you! 【Source: Office of the President】