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Channel News Asia Interview with President Chen

  • Date:2007-05-09

May 9, 2007


Q1. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to us. The first question I would like to ask is this: With regard to the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) candidate for next year's presidential elections, the party primary has already decided the matter. Are you happy to see Frank Hsieh win? The reason I ask this is because many people outside the party say that you were quietly backing Premier Su Tseng-chang.

On another point, Mr. Hsieh has talked about a "one-China constitution" [the view that the one-China principle is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC)], thus fuelling controversy and debate within the DPP. Does his winning the primary imply that the DPP accepts Hsieh's view of the ROC Constitution as a "one-China Constitution"? Do you accept this view?

A: Frank Hsieh used to serve as the premier. We are very pleased that he won the primary. I believe that he will be extremely successful in terms of continuing the DPP's rule and upholding a Taiwan-centric government. What I mean by this is that Mr. Hsieh, as the DPP's representative, will definitely succeed in the 2008 presidential election. In today's copy of the China Times was printed a recent public opinion poll indicating that Hsieh is just 9 percent behind Ma Ying-jeou.

The poll is the closest ever [for a presidential election]. In comparison, when I ran for president in 2000 and 2004, polls taken roughly one year before the elections showed us lagging far behind, with not even half the support of that enjoyed by our opponents. Presented with such a close poll today, I can definitely be confident of Mr. Hsieh's victory in next year's election. However, we cannot be too complacent, because the Kuomintang (KMT) is still a powerful party, and Ma Ying-jeou is still a very strong opponent. Therefore, we must be especially cautious and alert. We must be united and cooperate with one another. Moreover, we must stick firmly to the correct path--that of Taiwan-centric consciousness. If we do this, we can be confident of winning next year's presidential election.

As for Hsieh's "one-China Constitution," this provoked a fervor of disagreement and debate among the other presidential contenders and party members during the course of the DPP primary. Mr. Hsieh expounded upon his viewpoint many times. Therefore, I believe that for him to have garnered the votes of so many party members, his view must have been widely accepted. He has always insisted on following the correct path--the path of Taiwan-centric consciousness, and also opposes "ultimate unification." He lies poles apart from Ma Ying-jeou, who advocates such points as "one China subject to each side's [China and Taiwan] interpretation" and the "1992 consensus." In this respect, we have absolute confidence in Frank Hsieh--without a doubt.

Q2. One recent controversy is that concerning the Olympic Torch relay route for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was arranged for the torch to be transferred from Taipei to Hong Kong, and then from Hong Kong to China. Your government saw this as an attempt to belittle Taiwan and therefore rejected the arrangement. Do you think it pays to handle such a sacred sporting event with such a politically motivated move? Also, do you think that the international community will be able to fully understand Taiwan's decision?

A: Suppose the 2008 Olympic Torch were to be passed to Singapore. How would your government and people feel if you learned that Singapore was the first stop--or any of the stops--on China's "domestic route"? Could you accept that? We would like the torch to come to Taiwan, but we cannot accept it--just as the government and people of Singapore would not be able to accept it as part of an attempt to belittle Singapore.

We need to be absolutely clear that there is a strong Taiwan-centric consciousness here. In fact, we would welcome the torch. Forty-three years ago, Taiwan received the torch for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, setting a precedent. Why then, couldn't a route be designed in a similar fashion this time? Back then, the torch entered Taiwan via the Philippines before being passed on to Japan. This time, why doesn't the torch come to Taiwan directly from South or North Korea before being passed on to Vietnam, and then on to Hong Kong and Macau? Why was it decided to have the torch bypass Taiwan, go to Vietnam, and then double back to Taiwan before going on to Hong Kong and Macau?

What is most unacceptable to us is that China and the relevant bodies claimed that Taiwan would be the first stop on the domestic leg of the relay, the second stop being Hong Kong, and the third Macau. In this way, China has belittled Taiwan, making it out to be a part of the People's Republic of China (PRC)--a second Hong Kong or Macau. Hong Kong and Macau are "special administrative regions" (SAR) of the PRC, and are local governments under the PRC. They are not sovereign countries. Taiwan, however, is a sovereign and independent country. Normally, we would welcome the torch. But if it is on the precondition that Taiwan's status is downgraded, if that is the sort of concession we are asked to make, then China is mixing sports with politics.

China's claim has downgraded the status of Chinese Taipei [Taiwan's official name in the International Olympic Committee] to China Taipei, and this is totally unacceptable. The government of Taiwan and its relevant bodies have made our position clear. Through the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, we intend to continue negotiations with China and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). We hope it can come, and as long as the status of Taiwan is not diminished we will welcome it.

Q3. We know that, generally speaking, two and a half of the "three links" across the strait have been established, and the only thorny issue is direct flights. Is there a possibility we will see the implementation of direct flights during your remaining tenure as president? Given that you have about one year left in office, will there be any major changes in your policy toward China?

A: We must emphasize that pushing for the normalization of cross-strait relations, including trade and economic relations, is not only our goal but also our unchanging policy. However, we do not want to lose our economic autonomy to become an economic vassal of China and part of its borderland. So, emphasizing economic autonomy is a very clear part of our policy. As you pointed out, two and a half, in fact more than two and a half of the three links [i.e. direct transportation links, commercial links, and postal links] have been established.

My views have always been very closely aligned with government policy. We maintain a firm stance and proceed pragmatically. The policy of "effective liberalization and proactive management" continues to be our guiding principle. We do not want to lose our economic autonomy, as this would endanger Taiwan's sustained development. As we know, during the past seven years of my administration, cross-strait trade and commercial cooperation have flourished as never before, and investment by Taiwan's businesspeople in China has reached unprecedented highs.

The three links cannot exist without the "mini-three-links" [The word "mini" describes the geographic scope of the three links, originally limited to movements between China and Taiwan's Kinmen and Matsu islands, and not including Taiwan proper.] It is clear that without cross-strait cargo flights, there can be no direct passenger flights. We started with the experimental launch of the mini-three-links and then expanded them from Kinmen and Matsu to Penghu, demonstrating our belief in this process. Similarly, we used to have only indirect charter flights at Chinese New Year. Later, we allowed direct flights without stopovers in Hong Kong or Macau. Now, we have introduced direct charter flights for four special situations. We continue to make advances in this area. In 2004, we set the policy goal of continuing to push for direct cargo charter flights across the strait.

We begin with direct cargo charter flights before moving on to direct passenger charter flights, and eventually to so-called direct cross-strait flights. This order must be followed and the different steps cannot be realized all in one go. It can't happen overnight. We will continue to work hard at this in the remaining year of my term in office.

But if there's no way for two-way, direct cargo charter flights to materialize, then it will be impossible for direct cross-strait flights to come about. Similarly, if China doesn't allow its people to come to Taiwan for tourism, then clearly, we can anticipate difficulties in arranging for direct flights in the short term.

All of this will require some conciliatory actions by both sides, and is not a matter only for Taiwan to deal with. We also hope that the Chinese side can take necessary steps and not just pay lip service without taking concrete action, saying one thing and doing another. We hope that day will come, but it looks like, with only a year left in my term of office, it's entirely up to the Beijing authorities to decide whether they want it or not. The problem lies not with Taiwan but with China.

Q4. Just now, you brought up the matter of Chinese tourists coming to Taiwan. Not long ago, in fact, everyone was very much looking forward to it. Businesses in the tourism sector in particular hope to see Chinese tourists come to Taiwan. When I attended the send-off reception for former Mainland Affairs Council Minister Joseph Wu, everyone sounded upbeat, and it seemed everyone was solidly behind it. But over the weeks since then, the momentum seems to have petered out. Why is that?

A: We, too, had high expectations at first, and negotiations between the two sides were very positive, very fruitful. So it was correct for Minister Wu to say such things before he went to take up his post in Washington, D.C. But recently, the real reason for the loss of momentum has become apparent: China has once again politicized and ideologized the issue. As long as enabling Chinese tourists to come to Taiwan is in the two sides' mutual interest, everyone will applaud and support it.

Now, however, Beijing has gone back to saying that it is "Taiwan, China" that the Chinese tourists will visit. Why are they trying to pin this epithet on us? That's where the problem lies.

When it got close to signing an agreement, Beijing wanted to make all sorts of additions. They wanted to add many conditions and preconditions, and politicize and ideologize things. If we are to keep the matter of tourism and visits of Chinese tourists to Taiwan simple, then we shouldn't talk about anything touching on territory or sovereignty. There are great differences and controversies on such issues, so we should set them aside and simplify them. In that way, we can resolve problems very quickly.

Take the mini-three-links, for instance. Why were we able to try out this arrangement? And why have we been able to expand it? It's because we know that if we avoid political issues that are sensitive, thorny, or not immediately resolvable, the whole process can be managed more smoothly. It's a pity that China is complicating the situation.

Q5. It is said that you have become a lame duck since Frank Hsieh was elected as the DPP's candidate for president. Do you feel that Beijing also sees it that way and therefore would rather play a waiting game--that is, wait until a new leader appears next year before restarting talks or communication? Do you feel that, with only a year left in office, progress in resolving cross-strait issues will therefore remain at a standstill?

A: Of course, China doesn't want to see the DPP remain in power. They still hope that the KMT can return to power. But they waited from [my election as president in] 2000 until 2004 for this to happen, and now they have to wait until 2008. I have to say, it might not happen, and maybe they'll have to wait until 2012 and even then not get what they want.

For no matter who is leader, as long as there is a DPP government, our China policy will always be very clear. We won't do an about-face just because this or that person has become the president, the nation's leader. That's impossible. We'll steadfastly insist on Taiwan-centric consciousness. Were it not so, during the DPP primary campaign, in the debates and at rallies, Hsieh would have had to thoroughly explain any change in order to set everyone's mind at ease. So in fact, Mr. Hsieh's views and beliefs on cross-strait policy and China policy do not differ very greatly from my own.

Rather than wait until after 2008 or even 2012, therefore, why doesn't Beijing face up to the present reality? If China really puts its hopes on the people of Taiwan, it should never consider partisan factors or distinguish between individuals. So it shouldn't wait any longer. It's no good for either side.

Q6. At the beginning of your second term, you stated that one must come to terms with hard facts, that some things are impossible to accomplish, and one shouldn't delude oneself into believing otherwise. However, at the beginning of this year you voiced a "four imperatives and one non-issue" dictum, which is a complete reversal from your oft-mentioned "four noes plus one" pledge. They are totally different. So, and I apologize for being so direct, which of your words should we believe?

A: I have always remained consistent. The Chen Shui-bian of 2000, of 2004, and of 2007 are all the same Chen Shui-bian. I have not changed. Regardless of whether it's my policies toward China, toward the building and promoting of our relationship with the United States, or other issues, there has been no change. The commitments I have made to US presidents, including President Bush, and to the entire world have not changed and cannot change. At the very least, I will not change them within my term of office.

Concerning "four imperatives and one non-issue", I must elaborate that I said it is imperative for Taiwan to be independent because we all very well understand that what the vast majority of Taiwan's 23 million people are very clear on, support staunchly, and desire to defend, is that Taiwan is a sovereign, independent nation, and that its sovereignty lies in the hands of the 23 million people of Taiwan, not the People's Republic of China. That is to say, it is imperative that Taiwan's sovereignty remain separate from that of the PRC. This is undeniable.

In the same vein, it is imperative that Taiwan have name rectification. We have not altered the national title, but the name "Republic of China" cannot be changed nor can it be used internationally. Therefore, we must use a name that is familiar to everyone, the name of our mother, "Taiwan." "Taiwan" is also the most beautiful and most powerful name, and we hope to use it when stepping out to participate in global organizations and international activities. We hope to use the name "Taiwan" to apply for accession to the World Health Organization and the United Nations. This does not violate my "four noes" pledge, as we have not changed the national title, but merely wish to use the name "Taiwan" in the international arena.

Taiwan needs a new constitution because the existing one is out of date, unsuitable, and inapplicable. Despite numerous revisions, our people are still unsatisfied. In order for the nation to achieve long-term stability and sound governance, and to improve our international competitiveness, we must proceed with the constitutional re-engineering process.

There are now many versions of a new constitution, and we hope we can pool our wisdom, hold discussions, and come up with a version acceptable to everyone. How shall we achieve this goal? We must still follow existing constitutional procedures--a high threshold of a three-quarters majority of a quorum of at least three-fourths of the total number of legislators must vote in favor of it. Then at least half of eligible voters must vote in favor of it in a referendum for such an act of constitutional engineering to be completed. This is an extremely difficult process. It is a mission impossible. But we believe that, by and by, a consensus will be reached among the people. We will be able to claim success when all political parties are made to bow to the power of the people. The "four imperatives and one non-issue" dictum does not, therefore, contravene these principles. Chen Shui-bian is still Chen Shui-bian. He is the same in 2007 as he was in 2000 and 2004.

Q7. You just spoke of a new constitution. One version, called the "Second Republic Constitution," was proposed by current Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong before he took up the post. The Office of the President, to date, has not commented on this version. Yet some people say you wish to include the so-called "special state-to-state relations description" with China into the Constitution and hold a referendum concerning unification versus independence alongside elections this year and next year.

A: We do not have such a policy direction. At present, there are at least 15 or 16 different versions of a new constitution. Among them is the "Second Republic Constitution for the Republic of China," or the "Taiwan Constitution" for short. It is open to discussion. Some have said that the aforementioned version would freeze the Constitution of the Republic of China. In fact, it's both "freezing" and connecting [meaning that part of the current Constitution will cease to apply, leaving a link between old and new].

Other versions of the new constitution are even more extreme, such as the draft of the "Republic of Taiwan Constitution," and the draft of the "Taiwan Constitution of 1991." These versions touch on issues of territory, sovereignty, and changing the national moniker. We can consider and discuss these different versions via a bottom-to-top approach, or an outer-to-inner approach, before determining which version or content better serves our needs and is most timely, relevant, and viable. We can adopt a more open attitude on the issue.

Most importantly, this is not an issue that can be decided by any person or political party, because a new constitution must be first approved by a three-quarters majority of a quorum of at least three-fourths of the total number of legislators, which is a high threshold, before it can be sent to the people to decide on and give their consent via a referendum.

As for the issue of including the so-called state-to-state description into the Constitution, which you just brought up, it has not been discussed, and therefore no conclusions have been made. The same goes for a referendum on unification versus independence.

At present, the kind of referendum that we know the DPP is promoting deals with handling the KMT's improperly acquired and unjustifiable assets. We hope to handle this issue via referendum. However, because the Legislative Yuan has yet to pass a law concerning how to handle these improperly acquired party assets, there is no legal basis upon which to resolve the issue. A referendum would enable the people to demonstrate their power and put more pressure on the Legislative Yuan and the KMT. This would be the purpose of such a referendum.

Another issue that the DPP hopes to resolve via referendum, for which it is gathering signatures and hopes to propose a referendum, concerns joining the United Nations under the name "Taiwan." These referendums do not involve the issue of unification versus independence and, therefore, clearly do not contravene the "four noes" pledge.

Q8. You have just mentioned the relationship between Taipei and Washington. In fact, although there are no formal diplomatic ties between the two countries, the bilateral relationship with the United States could be the most important of all of Taiwan's substantive foreign relationships. During the most recent "Two Plus Two" meeting of the US and Japan--that is, the meeting of the two countries' foreign and defense ministers--the two countries excluded the Taiwan Strait from among their common strategic objectives (meaning that a joint military action could be taken to defend the region) at the last minute. How do you see this development? It looks and sounds like Taiwan was eliminated from the statement on purpose. It looks and sounds like it was intended to pour cold water on or suppress the growing strength of Taiwan's independence. How do you perceive this pointed action?

A: The US and Japanese governments have openly explained and stressed that their policies toward Taiwan have not changed, nor has there been any change in their policies toward the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. The United States is still bound by the Taiwan Relations Act, and is still obligated by that law to help Taiwan defend itself. The United States and Japan have a security treaty that, like a Japanese law concerning its surrounding region, cites Taiwan as a focus of concern.

So any event that occurs in the region, including the Taiwan Strait, is of consequence to Japan as well as to the United States. This is beyond doubt. Which is to say, security, peace, and stability in the Asia Pacific, especially in the Taiwan Strait, are certainly the common concern, and in the common interest, of the United States, Japan, and Taiwan. It has always been that way.

At the February 19, 2005 US-Japan Security Consultative Meeting (USJSCC) (the so-called Two Plus Two meeting), issues regarding the Taiwan Strait were included as one of the common strategic objectives of these two nations. It was the first time this was done. In their joint statement, the two nations stated that differences across the Taiwan Strait should be resolved peacefully through dialogue and not through the use of force. The background to this was that China was preparing to pass its "anti-separation law" (the so-called "anti-secession law") in the middle of March. The enactment of such a piece of legislation was an attempt by China to build a legal basis for the use of force against Taiwan.

And so, it was in light of the upcoming March meeting of the National People's Congress of China, at which the "anti-separation law" was to be passed, that the USJSCC in advance included the security of the Taiwan Strait as one of its common strategic objectives.

In 2006, security in the Taiwan Strait was not listed among the common strategic objectives. So 2007 was not the first time it was not listed. Things were handled as they were in 2005 only because of China's plan to pass its "anti-separation law." But it is clear that whether or not it is included does not affect the opinion of the US and Japan that cross-strait disputes must be settled peacefully through dialogue and not through use of force or other non-peaceful methods. This has not changed. So speculation by the uninformed is unnecessary--the US government and official spokespersons are also of the opinion that there's no need for too much speculation on this point.

Q9. How will Taiwan deal with the fact that ASEAN's Plus One, Plus Two, and Plus Three forums, to put it bluntly, do not include Taiwan? Does this mean that Beijing's strategy of shutting out Taiwan's economy and trade [from the international arena] has been successful? How is Taiwan going to overcome this predicament?

A: Taiwan enjoys very close relations with Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is Taiwan's fourth-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade between Taiwan and ASEAN exceeded US$50 billion last year, while Taiwan's investment in ASEAN countries totaled nearly US$50 billion as well. Indeed, our relationship is a good one, and we hope our ties will continue growing stronger in the future.

However, Taiwan has been ignored and even marginalized to some extent in the economic integration of the region. This is nothing new. For years, Taiwan has been excluded [from many organizations] because of China. China has been attracting economic resources from Taiwan and welcoming investments by Taiwanese businesspeople, while attempting to sever Taiwan's relations with ASEAN and marginalize Taiwan. This is wrong. Taiwan wishes to sign free trade agreements with all countries. We have signed FTAs with a number of our allies in Central America, namely, Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and most recently, Honduras and El Salvador. And we intend to push for an FTA with the US.

We are currently drawing up plans concerning bilateral consultations. A conference regarding this was held in Taipei in 2006 and another will be held in Washington, D.C. in June or July of this year. Although an FTA has not yet been completed, the first steps have been taken. Plans are in place to push for investment, cooperation, and agreements. All of these can help prevent Taiwan from becoming marginalized economically. Moreover, Taiwan is the WTO's 144th member country, whereas China is the 143rd. Within the framework of that institution, we have worked hard and made contributions and continue to do so. This has been noted by the US. Taiwan is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. However, it is difficult for Taiwan to sign FTAs with other countries, including ASEAN nations, but the US is favorable to signing a "Free Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP)" under the APEC framework.

This year's APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting will be held in Australia. I have received a letter of invitation from Prime Minister John Howard, in which he especially mentioned President George W. Bush and US advocacy of the FTAAP. It is hoped that related discussions may continue, and that Taiwan can counteract being marginalized.

Q10. Taiwan has fallen in the latest 2007 Institute for Management Development (IMD) world competitiveness ranking. Shockingly, Taiwan has fallen behind China. China ranks 15th, whereas Taiwan is 18th. Many in Taiwan think that political figures in Taiwan are only interested in political dog-fighting, playing off the question of unification versus independence, and dividing society. By doing so, they neglect the economy, a critical pillar of Taiwan's strength. How would you react to such criticism?

A: We must examine the reasons for our retrogression in the IMD rating. However, in the area of economic performance, as well as government efficiency, Taiwan has improved. It is true that China has become more competitive because of its economic rise. But in rankings prepared by other research institutions--for example, the latest report by the World Economic Forum--Taiwan was listed as the 13th-most competitive country, while China was 54th. Different institutions have given different rankings. However, we should not become complacent when we receive favorable rankings, nor should we ignore those unfavorable to us. On the contrary, we must reflect on having received such ratings.

We all know that, during 2006, protests by the "Red-shirt Army" [a movement of protestors who dressed in red and campaigned for resignation of the president], a credit card debt crisis, and the Rebar [Financial Conglomerate] scandal all severely affected financial order in Taiwan. These were some of the non-conventional economic factors that influenced our world competitiveness rankings. However, 2006 was also the first year in seven or eight that government revenues balanced expenditures. And so, despite the impact of non-conventional economic factors such as the "Red-shirt Army" protests, we were able to achieve the first balance between revenues and expenditures in seven or eight years.

Taiwan is still the third-largest holder of foreign exchange reserves in the world. Our 2006 economic growth rate was 4.6 percent, higher than we had expected. However, we do not see this as our ultimate goal. We also hope to do much more to bridge the gap between urban and rural areas, narrow the divide between rich and poor, and implement social fairness and justice. We are aware that Singapore is ranked among the highest in the world in terms of world competitiveness. However, I understand that the average income of the richest 5 percent of the population in Singapore is 20 times that of the poorest, whereas in Taiwan and Korea it is only about 6 times higher. So it all depends on which angle you look at things from.

When we talk about competitiveness, we only seem to be talking about economic competitiveness. Yet competitiveness also includes the implementation of universal values, such as democracy and freedom. For instance, the upcoming issue of Newsweek ranks Taiwan as first in Asia for freedom of speech. In a global survey published on May 1, 2007 by Freedom House, Taiwan replaced Japan as first in Asia in terms of press freedom. These are all extremely impressive achievements. In another example, in a report by Reporters Without Borders, Taiwan was rated higher than the US and Japan for freedom of the press. For the freedoms of speech and belief, Taiwan attained the highest possible score. In contrast, China came in lower than 180 for press freedom in a survey of some 190 countries, thus marking it as one of the least free countries in the world. Therefore, when comparing competitiveness, it all depends on how you want to look at it and what you want to look at.

Of course, there are still some areas in which we need to work harder. However, non-economic factors also cause us much trouble. For example, we are four or five months into the year and the central government's budget has still not been passed. This is a matter we must look into. Of course, there are other factors, and the government does bear some responsibility for the opposition's boycott of the budget. We must minimize these non-economic factors so that Taiwan's competitiveness can be further raised.

Q11. You may not know it, but I was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The series of democratic and political reforms that began in Taiwan in 1987 bore many fruits. We cannot deny the freedoms of speech and the press that you referred to. However, over the past decade, we have also witnessed a degree of social unrest. There have been mass demonstrations as well as confrontations and divisiveness between ethnic groups. What has happened to Taiwan's democracy? After 20 years of reform, we are now facing conflicts, contradictions, and confrontations between the blue and green camps. Even the central government budget can't be approved. Where does the problem lie?

A: These are problems that all emerging democracies encounter. However, there are issues that are unique to Taiwan: a lack of consensus on national identity, the emergence of a Taiwan-centric consciousness, and a leaning [in terms of trade] towards China. These are very serious issues and they affect the whole of our society. Such issues do not exist in many other countries, like South Korea or the Philippines, not to mention the US.

However, in Taiwan these issues are very real. It was only 20 years ago that Taiwan began to emerge as a democracy, this year being the 20th anniversary of the lifting of martial law. Our first direct presidential election was held 11 years ago, and a change of governing parties took place just 7 years ago. It has been a mere three years since we were able to hold a nationwide referendum. Taiwan is a very young democracy.

The change of governing parties in 2000 was the first-ever such change in the history of Taiwan. In 2004, the opposition camp hoped to regain political power but failed. It staged many protests and employed various political maneuvers in the hope of regaining political power. Whether it was the disturbances following the 2004 presidential election or the disruptions by the "Red-shirt Army" last year, at least we can be pleased that there was order in the chaos. This would certainly not have been the case in many Southeast Asian countries.

People have heard me say this before: We're not afraid of chaos in the media, and we're not afraid of chaos in parliament; as long as there is no chaos among the armed forces, there will be no chaos in Taiwan's society. Therefore, regardless of whether half a million people were demonstrating on the streets or a million people were besieging the Office of the President, in the end we made it through peacefully. This is thanks to the results of the collective efforts made by the people and me, over the past seven years, to nationalize the armed forces [which now serve the nation rather than a particular party or individual], something we are particularly pleased about.

By the same token, although the media and society may seem a little chaotic, there is order amid the chaos. This is a remarkable feature of Taiwan. The latest issue of Newsweek talks about how young and chaotic Taiwan is. However, it also notes that amid the chaos we have total freedom of speech and the press, helping us to maintain stability in our society. There are channels through which people can vent their emotions. We do not suppress people, adopt high-handed measures, or employ violence against them. They can conduct their demonstrations and make their speeches.

Every day, the media invites well-known commentators to analyze the current situation or make a sensational exposé. And the public has become used to this [because we are a society of] diverse opinions. Some people ask why we don't shut down certain TV stations or programs. I do not shut them down because they are regulated by law, and we cannot violate the law. Newsweek has noticed this, proof of which you can see in its latest issue. When there have been high-profile demonstrations, the government has always chosen to respect, guarantee, and safeguard the complete freedom of speech, the press, and assembly. Of course, order must be maintained. It must be maintained under the constitutional order, which cannot be transgressed. With regard to this point, we have found that the people of Taiwan are very lovable!

Q12. Excuse me if I now ask you something you may not wish to talk about. In recent months, your son-in-law and wife have both been involved in events that may have caused you difficulties. On the social front, these have led to political turmoil, with problems such as that of the "Red-shirt Army." This has jeopardized the reputation you have built up over the past few years of your presidency. What is your take on these events? Further, as president, what example would you like to set, and what attitude will you take toward any legal implications that could arise when you leave office a year from now?

A: First of all, in the past few years, Taiwan has marched toward freedom, become internationalized, and transformed into a truly democratic nation. What is democracy? Only when there is freedom under the rule of law can a true democracy exist. I talked a lot about that a moment ago.

There's no question at all that Taiwan is a free country. Taiwan has already become a nation that stresses the rule of law. This means we must respect the rule of law and the judiciary. We must have faith in the judicial system. Therefore, when any person is under suspicion, we must respect the investigations and judgments of the prosecuting, investigative, and judicial agencies. There is no exception--not even a suspect who is closely related to the president. In the past, the kind of situation you are talking about would have been unimaginable.

You mentioned just now that I may not want to talk about this. However, I must share with everyone that this is not a disgrace. It might be embarrassing for me, but it is both coincidental and an asset, not a liability, to Taiwan's democratic development and rule of law. This case should, therefore, be handled in accordance with judicial procedure. In other words, what will be will be. After my term as president is over, I will hold to this same belief when facing whatever comes my way. Taiwan is a democratic country based on the rule of law. We trust in and respect the judiciary, so I'm not worried. I will return to being simply a regular citizen after my term expires. I won't do anything like trying to tell Frank Hsieh, if he is elected president, what to do and what not to do. I won't do that.

Q13. You seem to have great faith in Mr. Hsieh. As time is short, we would like to ask just one last question: What will you do after your term as president ends? You are still very young and have a long way ahead of you. What would you like to do most? If you ever have the chance, would you be willing to pay a visit to China?

A: I have repeated several times that after my retirement, I will always keep in mind that May 20 [presidential inauguration day] is Taiwan Volunteers' Day. I have advocated the idea of "Volunteer Taiwan," and I hope to practice what I have preached. I hope that after May 20 of next year, I can be a happy volunteer every day, not just on May 20. I'll be able to spend more time with my family, which will make me very happy as well.

In terms of politics, as I just mentioned I won't dictate anything to the new president, and this will allow him to better do his job. This is what I should do as a regular citizen after my retirement, and it is precisely what I will do. After my term is up, I will visit many countries and cities around the world to meet with many old friends and some foreign friends. I really want to visit a number of places I have been unable to previously, especially those that I was prevented from visiting, or that it was inconvenient for me to travel to, as president. So I will get out and travel abroad if I have the chance. China is by no means my top destination, though, because there are still so many countries and cities I've never been to, and also a number I'd like to revisit.

(Should any discrepancy exist between the English and Chinese texts, the Chinese takes precedence.)

【Source: Office of the President】