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President Chen's Cross-century Remarks

  • Date:2001-01-01

Today, President Chen made his "cross-century" remarks and extended New Year greetings to all citizens. The full text of his speech follows: Several hours from now, the year 2000 will draw to an end, and a new century will begin. As we join the world in joyously welcoming the new century, we remember that tomorrow is also the 90th anniversary of founding of the Republic of China. I would like to share the happiness of transcending the centuries with my compatriots at home and abroad. Let us join together in wishing our country progress toward a successful new era. A review of the history of the 20th century will show civilization's great strides forward. Scientific and technological innovation made impossible dreams come true. Progress in medicine has nearly doubled average life expectancy. Consequently, a longer, more comfortable, and more convenient life has enabled people to make myriad remarkable achievements in such fields as science, technology, and culture. From the perspective of technology and civilization, the 20th century was indeed the best that mankind has ever experienced. However, due to cultural conflicts and suffering caused by totalitarianism and wars, the 20th century was also the era that affords us the most lessons and deserves our sober reflection. After it was ceded to Japan in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, Taiwan entered the 20th century, frustrated by its inability to control its own destiny. Nevertheless, for over a century, the determination of the people of Taiwan to be their own masters and not capitulate has never changed. During the past century, Taiwan has experienced a variety of struggles: from resisting colonial rule, to maintaining a bastion of anti-communism, to developing a democratic movement under an authoritarian system. We can say the 20th century has especially favored Taiwan, as it has given the people of this land a chance to challenge and better themselves. Taiwan is like a "rose that will never be squashed," in the words of the senior Taiwan writer Yang Kuei. Even in the darkest age of suppression, the people on Taiwan still maintained their pragmatism, diligence, and undaunted character. Over the course of an entire century, the people of Taiwan established the best definition of the "Taiwan spirit." Today, the world has clearly seen the "Taiwan experience," which has been created by the people on this island. The Republic of China has successively made hard-earned economic achievements, courageously "fought big with small", and created a world-acclaimed miracle on Taiwan. Furthermore, in this last year of the 20th century, the people of Taiwan have peacefully transferred political power through a mature, democratic process, setting a new milestone for the ideals of freedom and democracy. My dear fellow countrymen, in a few hours the first sunlight of the 21st century will be shining on the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean. At the turn of the century, we should attentively reflect on the dignity of being Taiwanese. Today, as everyone happily greets the new century, we should also join in identifying new opportunities for Taiwan. Throughout the next century, Taiwan's economic competitiveness will still sustain our survival. As a result of the world economic recession, the United States and Japan have further reduced their estimated national economic growth rates. Once again, there will be severe tests for Taiwan's prosperity. Although we have previously passed through energy and financial crises unscathed, the government and the private sector must prepare for a worsening situation. Before our World Trade Organization accession, the ROC government has to prepare the nation for new situations, including cross-strait economic and trade issues and full-scale engagement in the world market. In the past, the government adopted the policy of "patience over haste," considering the different circumstances and eventualities of that time. In the future, we will adopt the new perspective of "positive openness with effective management." As the knowledge-based economy has become the established direction for national development, we will progressively implement the macro-economic plan we have prepared to manage Taiwan's position in world trade and economics during the new century. Experience has shown that Taiwan did not fear economic depression, fierce competition, or a series of severe difficulties. However, we are worried that the industrial sector is not prepared to upgrade and transform itself before the next round of economic problems strike. Today, our target of competition is not internal, it is not the competition between the ruling party and other political parties, and it is not a battle between labor and management. Fostering Taiwan's international industrial competitiveness and the capability of our next generation to compete in the world is essential for our economic sustainability. On May 20, 2000, Taiwan experienced its first change of political parties in power. The majority party in the Legislative Yuan became the opposition. Since that day, although we spared no effort, the new government is still unable to function as effectively as it should. Therefore, I must examine myself, and I am willing to humbly learn. In facing the political and economic conditions over the past six months, all of us clearly understand that only a stable political situation can ensure economic prosperity, reform, and progress. I believe that, if we continue to clench our fists against each other, we will not be able to hold anything in our hands. Only with open hands can we accomplish anything, with opportunities to hold out our hands and embrace. Only reconciliation and cooperation among political parties can ensure the greatest benefits for the entire citizenry, generate a new consensus on future cross-strait relations, and create a turning point for the two sides. As we look back on the early years of the 20th century, people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have undergone much turmoil and suffering. I have stressed in my inaugural speech that the people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait share the same ancestral, cultural, and historical background. We believe that the leaders of the both sides possess enough wisdom and creativity to jointly deal with the question of a future "one China," while upholding the principles of democracy and reciprocity and building upon the existing foundations, and construct conditions for cooperation through goodwill. Actually, according to the Constitution of the Republic of China, "one China" should not be an issue. We hope the mainland can have better understanding of the doubts in the minds of the people of Taiwan. If the mainland can neither respect nor understand the will of the 23 million people of Taiwan to make their own decision, this will lead to unnecessary differences between the two sides. At the beginning of this new century, the people of Taiwan have the highest expectations for improving cross-strait relations and preserving eternal peace in the Taiwan Strait. I wish to express my sincerest gratitude to all people in both the ruling and opposition parties, including the members of the Supra-party Task Force on Cross-strait Relations, for dedicating themselves to improving cross-strait relations. On the basis of the "three acknowledgements and four recommendations", proposed by the Supra-party Task Force on Cross-strait Relations, I hope to give a positive response as soon as possible to the recommendation to “establish new mechanisms or adjust the existing mechanisms, in order to continuously build internal consensus on issues related to national development and cross-strait relations among all domestic political parties and sectors of our society”. I have always felt that the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait came from the same family, and that they all pursue the same goals of peaceful coexistence and mutual prosperity. Since both sides wish to live under the same roof, we should be more understanding and helpful rather than harming or destroying each other. Thus, we would like to appeal to the government and leaders on the Chinese mainland to respect the existence and international dignity of the Republic of China; publicly renounce the use of force; and overcome the current dispute and deadlock through tolerance, foresight, and wisdom. The integration of our economies, trade, and culture can be a starting point for gradually building faith and confidence in each other. This, in turn, can be the basis for a new framework of permanent peace and political integration. Eventually, there will be unlimited possibilities for benefiting the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in the 21st century. I recently had the opportunity to read some of Taiwan's historical records and was deeply inspired by one picture in particular: a portrait of the Red Leaf Little League Baseball Team. In this black-and-white photograph, there was a barefoot aboriginal boy at bat. His face showed full concentration, as he focused all of his energy on his responsibility. Meanwhile, his teammates stood by on the sidelines anxiously watching and giving encouragement. Such a beautiful moment perfectly captures 20th century Taiwan and is a memory that I will never forget. My dear fellow countrymen, history has passed the bat to us, and it is now our turn to stand at the plate. The 21st century will undoubtedly throw us several good pitches, as well as one or two dusters. Regardless of what is thrown to us, however, we must stand firm and concentrate all of our strength and willpower for our best swing. Let us welcome the full promise of the 21st century with confidence and courage. I wish everyone a happy New Year! Thank you.