Go TO Content

Mainland Affairs Council

Others

President Chen's Interview by Julian Lopez Gomez, Euronews

Transcript of an Interview
with President Chen Shui-bian
by Julian Lopez Gomez, Euronews

Q1. Confronting an economic and commercial superpower like the People's Republic of China, what kind of argument and support do you have to defend your country?

A: Taiwan is a maritime country. It is an island nation. We have to reach out to the world. That is where our hope lies, and that is where we can build and create a future. We are fully aware that Taiwan cannot afford to isolate itself from the world. That, however, does not mean that we should put all of our economic resources into one particular nation.

Indeed, the Chinese market is a very important one for Taiwan as part of its global strategy, but China is definitely not the only market, nor the ultimate market, for Taiwan's products.

>From Taiwan's perspective, China is not an ordinary nation. Rather, it is a nation that is very hostile towards Taiwan and it aims to annex Taiwan at any time.

Currently, China has deployed 820 ballistic missiles along its southeastern coast targeted at Taiwan, and this number increases at a rate of 100 to 120 every year.

In March 2005, China's National People's Congress passed its so-called anti-secession law in an attempt to form a legal basis for future military action against Taiwan. Since its establishment, the PRC government has refused to acknowledge Taiwan as an independent, sovereign nation. Moreover, it maintains that Taiwan is one of its provinces, and a part of the PRC.

China has also threatened Taiwan, stating that if Taiwan refuses to accept the "one-China" principle and eventual unification with China, then it will use missiles or force against Taiwan.

With regard to the normalization of economic and trade relations with China, we do not oppose the idea. However, we must undertake risk management.

First of all, the most important thing is to uphold Taiwan's identity and Taiwan consciousness. Taiwan is not a part of China, nor is it subordinate to China. Additionally, we must maintain Taiwan's economic independence and avoid leaning too heavily on China. However, as long as companies keep their roots, their headquarters, their bases, and their R&D centers in Taiwan, then the Chinese market can be considered as one piece in our broader strategy to "deeply cultivate Taiwan while we reach out to the world".

Second, according to a report issued by the US Congress, total foreign investment in China amounts to US$560 billion, and of that figure one-half has come from Taiwan. Forty percent of the goods ordered from Taiwan are manufactured abroad, and of this figure, 90 percent are produced in China.

Considering Taiwan's overdependence on, and economic tilt towards, China, we must often remind ourselves to strengthen risk management. That is why we formulated the policy of "proactive management and effective liberalization" as the guiding principle to regulate cross-Strait economic and trade ties.

This does not mean the tightening up nor the liberalizing of cross-Strait economic and trade relations. As the government, we must remind our businesspeople that when they invest in China, they must undertake risk management, whether that refers to political or business risk. In other words, preventive measures are very important and must not be overlooked.

Q2. You have suggested that you are willing to talk to China if it commits itself to democratic reforms. What kind of reforms are you talking about?

A: Yes, I have said that we are willing to enter into consultation and dialogue with China at any time under the four major principles of sovereignty, democracy, peace, and parity. By sovereignty, we mean that China must respect and acknowledge the fact that Taiwan is an independent, sovereign nation. By democracy, we mean that the free choice of Taiwan's 23 million people must be respected with regard to the future of Taiwan and of cross-strait relations. By peace, we mean that any disputes or differences of opinion concerning the two sides of the Taiwan Strait must be resolved peacefully through dialogue and not through the use of force or other non-peaceful means. By parity, we mean that we are willing to take the 1992 Hong Kong meeting as a basis to resume consultation and dialogue on a government-to-government level.

I have stated that if China meets the following conditions, then perhaps one day, the people of Taiwan might cease to refuse the idea of ultimate reunification: first, China must abandon totalitarian rule under the Chinese Communist Party; second, China must implement a genuine democratic system and safeguard its people's freedom of religious belief, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and of the Internet, and freedom of assembly and association; third, China must cease to oppress Taiwan in the international arena, including in the areas of diplomacy, politics, the economy, and the military. This includes not obstructing Taiwan's participation in important international organizations such as the World Health Assembly (WHA); fourth, China must give up on its attempts and preparation to use force against Taiwan, withdraw the missiles it has targeted at Taiwan, and repeal the so-called anti-secession law; fifth, China must respect the free choice and decision of the 23 million people of Taiwan.

Q3. Some critics say that the European Union has adopted a "backseat" position on Taiwan. Do you share this feeling? What do you expect from the European Union to improve the relationship between the European Union and Taiwan?

A: We attach great importance to the pragmatic and friendly relations between the EU and Taiwan. We can be the strongest of allies on many issues, especially the economy, trade, and commercial cooperation, based upon our shared belief in the universal values of democracy, freedom, human rights, and peace.

Taiwan has established representative offices in most EU countries. We welcome and appreciate that the EU has, in recent years, set up an official representative office here in Taiwan.

The European Parliament has passed many important resolutions in support of Taiwan in recent years. The European Parliament has also called for EU member countries to issue visas to facilitate visits by top officials from Taiwan, including myself, to European countries.

Moreover, the European Parliament has passed several resolutions urging the Chinese government to withdraw all the missiles it has deployed along its southeastern coast targeted at Taiwan.

In addition, the European Parliament has passed many resolutions calling for the disputes between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to be resolved peacefully through dialogue, and not through the use of force or other non-peaceful means.

Furthermore, the European Parliament has passed many resolutions in support of Taiwan's bid to become an observer at the WHA and to participate in activities related to the World Health Organization (WHO).

We're extremely grateful for these friendly gestures on the part of the European Parliament towards Taiwan. We also wish to express our highest respect for the European Union.

The European Union expressed its very serious concern over the so-called anti-secession law passed by China's National People's Congress last year. This year, the European Union also expressed support for Taiwan's bid to become an observer at the WHA.

Some EU member states have proposed lifting the arms embargo against China, which has been in place ever since the Tiananmen Square Incident 17 years ago. But at this point, the arms embargo is still in force, as the proposals have failed to generate a consensus among the parties involved.

The arms embargo was imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident when the Chinese government ordered its People's Liberation Army to crack down on innocent civilians. In the 17 years since, the human rights record in China has not improved much, and its non-democratic rule and arms buildup continue to be loathed by the community of nations. This is why the EU has decided to maintain its arms embargo against China--to prevent its member states from selling weapons to an undemocratic China, which might use these weapons against a democratic Taiwan.

In 2001, Liberal International decided to confer on me its Prize for Freedom. Originally, the award ceremony was to be held in Denmark. But the Danish government refused to issue me a visa. Then, the ceremony was moved to Strasbourg in France. However, the French government also refused to grant me a visa. In the end, it was my wheelchair-bound wife, Wu Sue-jen, who attended the ceremony and received this important award on behalf of me and on behalf of Taiwan.

I think for EU member states, it was indeed a great irony that I was not allowed to go to Strasbourg, the headquarters of the European Parliament, to receive the Prize for Freedom, given the fact that EU member states have long believed in the principles of freedom, democracy, human rights, and peace.

Q4. Your country is currently working in a number of humanitarian operations around the world. How would you define Taiwan ... has been in other countries? (question unclear)

A: Taiwan used to be a recipient of international aid. For example, many people, including myself as a young boy, drank milk that was donated by the United States. And after consuming the flour donated by the United States, some of us wore clothing made from the flour sacks. Now that we have enjoyed such miraculous economic development and have made such remarkable democratic achievements, we have been thinking about how to give back to the international community to repay the generosity we received in the past. Nearly 50 years ago, back in 1959, we dispatched our first-ever agricultural mission to Vietnam. To date, we have stationed agricultural, technical, and medical missions on the African continent, in South Pacific countries, and in Central and South America. We would like to show care for those people and nations that, like Taiwan in the past, suffer from poverty.

I can give you an example of how Taiwan has helped to solve some social problems in one of our south Pacific island allies, Nauru. Nauru had employed some workers from Kiribati and Tuvalu to work in a phosphate mine. This mine was later shut down. For some reason, these workers could not go home, and it created a serious social problem for Nauru. Taiwan extended its help to arrange for these workers to return home, thus solving these three nations' social and labor problem.

In the past, some of these nations could not produce rice or cultivate vegetables and fruits, but Taiwan's agricultural and technical teams were able to help them to become self-sufficient and self reliant.

Also, on the African continent, we have helped our diplomatic allies Malawi and Swaziland in preventing the spread of AIDS. Furthermore, in Sao Tome and Principe we have sent a team of experts to help exterminate malaria-causing mosquitoes. In the last decade, we have spent more than US$450 million in emergency relief funds on medicine and sanitation.

No matter if we are talking about the September 11 terrorist attacks, the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, or the refugees in Iraq and Iran, Taiwan's 23 million people, as represented by numerous private charity groups and non-governmental organizations, have been among the first to commit to giving humanitarian assistance and providing generous aid.

This year, we established an action team, Taiwan International Health Action (Taiwan IHA), to effectively integrate the limited medical and sanitation resources of the government and the private sector. Such an action team will provide timely aid to people in need, thereby making a greater contribution to the world.

Q5. You have mentioned that your country is working hard to become an observer in the WHO -- the World Health Organization. Why do you think you deserve that status?

A: I think it is very clear that issues such as health care and disease prevention transcend national boundaries. This being the case, the 23 million people of Taiwan should not be deprived of their human right to health, nor should this right in any way be ignored or limited.

Three years ago, Taiwan had an outbreak of SARS. Because this island is geographically close to China, it was among the first to be affected. At the beginning of the outbreak, we felt really helpless. Because Taiwan is not a member of the WHO, we could not obtain the most accurate and up-to-date information.

SARS not only claimed the lives of many of our people, it also caused Taiwan's economy to flounder for six months. International exhibitions were forced to be cancelled, and travelers from abroad did not dare to visit Taiwan. That is why Taiwan's economy posted negative growth in the second quarter of 2003.

China's response to this tragedy can be summed up by the words of the Chinese Health Minister, who on a TV news report on the sidelines of a 2003 WHO meeting exclaimed, "Who cares about Taiwan?"

Today, the whole world is very concerned about the outbreak and spread of avian flu, because in the past four centuries there have been twelve global pandemics. During the pandemic of 1918, the population of Taiwan was only 3 million, but we lost some 25,000 to the disease.

Now there are already about 50 countries affected by avian flu, and the death toll has climbed to over 100. Taiwan has not yet confirmed any case of the flu, but all of our neighboring countries have been affected.

Since last August we have convened three National Security Meetings to discuss how to combat the possible outbreak of avian flu, but given our geographic proximity to China, Vietnam and Indonesia, and the fact that Taiwan is along the path taken annually by migratory birds, the last thing we wish to see is for Taiwan's people to be deprived of their right to health, or to see that right ignored or restricted.

The people of Taiwan want to become a member of the World Health Organization family, and the people of Taiwan want their country to become an observer to the WHA. Taiwan should not be the only hole in the global disease prevention network, or remain the only one absent from important international health organizations. Above all, Taiwan should not be segregated and isolated from the global disease prevention network. We are not even using our formal national moniker to apply for formal membership in the WHO. We just humbly wish to become an observer at the World Health Assembly as a "health entity." Two years ago, during the WHA, the United States and Japan voted in favor of Taiwan's bid. As well, over the past several years, the European Parliament has continually expressed support for Taiwan's inclusion in the WHA as an observer. We have tried in vain for the past nine years to be admitted. This is the tenth year, and we are still seeking admission. Taiwan's hope to become an observer at the WHA has nothing to do with the issue of sovereignty, and it has no bearing on the so-called one-China policy. If we consider that even the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta can become observers to the WHA, then why are the 23 million people of Taiwan denied the right to participate? European nations have no double standards in terms of respecting the universal values of democracy, freedom, human rights, and peace, so I do believe that the desire of Taiwan's people to enjoy the human right to health deserves the attention and support of the international community, including European nations and people.

【Source: Office of the President】