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President Tsai addresses Struggle for Freedom conference (excerpt: cross-strait relations)

  • Date:2022-11-16

As we work to resolve the lingering effects of the pandemic on the global economy and health, the fluid political situations in many countries around the world have only added to the already long list of challenges before us. The dangerous potential of authoritarian regimes to corrode democratic institutions and tarnish human rights and civic space cannot be ignored.

Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine serves as a prime example. This war is proof that dictatorships will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal of expansionism.

Regretfully, the Taiwanese people are very familiar with such aggression. And we have our own experience with the struggle for freedom. Only about three decades ago, members of civil society in Taiwan took to the streets. They protested and advocated for the lifting of martial law. They asked for more political and social rights for citizens. And they advocated for the democratization of Taiwan.

At the heart of this struggle was the embrace of democracy, a choice that the Taiwanese people fought for after decades of authoritarian rule. And once the Taiwanese people took this path, there was no turning back.

In recent years, the beautiful island we call home has been confronted by increasingly aggressive threats from our authoritarian neighbor, the People's Republic of China. From daily military intimidations, gray zone activities, and influence operations, to cyberattacks and periodic attempts at economic coercion, China has taken a range of actions with the goal of creating doubt and undermining confidence in what the Taiwanese people have worked so diligently for – our democratic way of life.

But the people of Taiwan continue to meet these persistent threats with calm and composure. And the Taiwanese people have never shied away from utilizing their skills and expertise to counter authoritarian interference.

For Taiwan, democracy is more than a fundamental value that unites our people; it is also a critical asset in addressing major challenges. Taiwan is now in the position to share its experience with the world and create alliances, allowing democracies to more effectively deal with crises and counter the threats of authoritarianism.

As we observed Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine from the other side of the world, Taiwan has been honored to play a role in assisting Ukraine in its struggle to defend its sovereignty and freedom. 

Together with like-minded partners, we will also make efforts to support Ukraine's reconstruction of its schools, hospitals, and infrastructure that have been destroyed by the war.

Our efforts must not stop here. The menacing behavior of authoritarian regimes should be a wake-up call to all democracies. We must work together to strengthen our resilience and safeguard our values.

But we can only achieve this goal with ample understanding of authoritarian tactics. That is why I am pleased to learn that the George W. Bush Institute is already tackling important tasks such as combating disinformation, reducing corruption that fuels authoritarian governments, supporting civic renewal, and advancing human rights as national security.

With all these ongoing efforts, we can now work together on countering and reducing influence exerted by authoritarian regimes worldwide. We must also strengthen the alliance of democracies to safeguard and serve the interests of the international community.