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President Chen's National Day Message

Distinguished Guests, My Dear Associates, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Congratulations and greetings to each and every one of you!

Today, on the 93rd National Day of the Republic of China, we stand here in this solemn and momentous occasion to welcome this day—a glorious day that belongs to our 23 million fellow citizens. Let us wish the nation a happy birthday!

In 2000, Taiwan accomplished its first-ever transfer of power between political parties. The strengths of the people have set into motion the gigantic wheel of national reform and progress. Their determination released Taiwan from the burden and malaise from the past—remnants of the protracted one-party rule—and enabled the dynamic vitality of this young democracy to shine brightly again. The historical significance of this change of administration is more than just the relief of old maladies or burdens. This event lays the very foundation upon which our nation's stability and future developments can be ensured through persistent, comprehensive, and structural reform. This year, the inaugural speech of my second-term, titled "Paving the Way for a Sustainable Taiwan," signifies our hope of drawing on the support and strength of the people, so as to lay the permanent cornerstone for sustainable democracy, reforms, humanities, and peace. 

As Taiwan's democratization process continues, we will step-by-step realize the objective of popular sovereignty and completely restore political power to the people. However, our journey down the path of democracy will not end there. The quality of Taiwan's democracy and the essence of our civic society must be continuously enhanced, and the standard for the constitutional rule of law must be further examined and realized.

During the first half-century of authoritarian rule in Taiwan, freedom, democracy, and human rights were infringed upon. Moreover, defective government policies exploited inequality among different ethnic groups, suppressed certain languages and cultures, and caused discrepancy in national identity. These inequities continue to cause disruptions at heart of Taiwan and can be traced to the political oppression under our past dictatorial government. Following the democratization of our political governance, Taiwan must face its history with utmost sincerity to bridge the rifts and heal the wounds left behind by the past authoritarian government—through mutual understanding, tolerance, and respect. The furtherance of democracy and creation of civic society will protect the diversity of ethnic cultures and the right to pursue personal development. Together, we will safeguard the fruits of Taiwan's democracy, freedom, and prosperity; forge a new sense of shared destiny; and vigorously realize the goal of "ethnic diversity and national unity." 

The Conference on Ethnic and Cultural Development slated to convene in mid-October represents our will to candidly and sincerely face the important issue of ethnic harmony. It is hoped that by engaging in rational dialogue, learning from one another, and showing mutual respect, we can enhance understanding among ethnic groups and strengthen national identity and solidarity. The convening of this conference is by no means the end of our work. Rather, it marks the beginning of a new stage where Taiwan's society strives to reach higher levels of harmony and solidarity. In the future, the government will, in accordance with the consensus and recommendations formed at the Conference on Ethnic and Cultural Development, review current ethnic and cultural policies and implement measures to safeguard the status of all ethnic groups and promote the development of cultural diversity.

In the face of increasingly rigorous global competition, only continuous reform and innovation can ensure the sustainability of our national competitiveness. For over four years, the government has expedited the lifting of laws and regulations and actively upgraded the efficiency of government administration in order to revitalize the economy while launching comprehensive reforms. With these efforts, we have kept local industries out the shadow of recession and augmented national competitiveness.

At the end of last year, I proposed the "three-four-five" targets for economic development that should be reached within three years. Specifically, we will raise national spending on research and development to 3 percent of the GDP in 2006, reduce unemployment to less than 4 percent in 2005, and boost the economic growth rate to over 5 percent by the end of 2004. As a result of all the hard work of my fellow citizens, the economic growth rate for the first half of this year reached 7.17 percent, with the annual growth rate expected to exceed 6 percent overall. The average unemployment rate between January and August was 4.52 percent, with the annual figure likely to drop below 4.5 percent. The unemployment rate dropping down to 4 percent should be a feasible target for next year. We have achieved above and beyond the original goals we set for ourselves. This makes us all the more confident in what the future holds for our nation.

This year, Taiwan has also received high marks in several important surveys on national competitiveness. Taiwan ranked fifth among all nations and first among Asian countries in the World Economic Forum's survey of global growth competitiveness. Over the years, Taiwan's position in this survey has steadily risen, from tenth in 2001, seventh in 2002, sixth in 2003, to fifth this year. In the 2004 World Competitiveness Yearbook published by the Institute for Management Development in Switzerland, Taiwan placed twelfth, the highest-ranking Taiwan has earned from the same survey. Nevertheless, we should and will not be complacent; instead, on the foundation laid painstakingly over the previous four years, we must increase the depth and breadth of reforms at every front and continue to elevate our nation's overall competitiveness.

Through the collective efforts of the governing and opposition parties, as well as all sectors of society, the Legislative Yuan approved in August the constitutional revisions that include critical issues with regards to legislative reforms. These amendments are to halve the number of legislators; implement a single-district, two-vote system in the legislative election; codify national referendum in the Constitution; and abolish the National Assembly. The Executive Yuan in September drafted a bill—the Organic Law of the Executive Yuan—to modify its own structure, reducing the number of its 36 subordinate ministries and commissions to thirteen ministries, four commissions and five independent agencies. This action symbolizes a major stride in the history of Taiwan's governmental reengineering, an undertaking which has seen eight premiers over seventeen years.

All of our endeavors, from parliamentary reforms and governmental reengineering to possible future constitutional amendments, are efforts to enhance the management and efficiency of the government. These improvements will transform Taiwan into a normal, cohesive, competitive, and modern democracy. It is my hope that, with the full support of all the people and political parties of Taiwan, we will be able to advance, one after another, major reforms concerning state institutions and the quality of our democratic system. Such an accomplishment would create conditions conducive to Taiwan's sustainable prosperity, development, and progress. 

The goal of economic development goes beyond the accumulation of material wealth. Even more important is improving the quality and appreciation of life, as well as establishing a more humane and ecologically balanced living environment. The earthquake of September 21, 1999 was Taiwan's most devastating calamity in over a century. That tragedy prompted us to think seriously about how to live at peace with nature. The havoc wreaked by subsequent typhoons and torrential rains remind us of the importance and urgency of land conservation and environmental protection. In the future, we will bring new life to the land by shifting the focus of national land-use planning from utilitarian development to sustainable use and conservation.

Environmental protection and use of resources are two sides of the same token. With the world economy experiencing a broad-based recovery, global energy markets are bracing for an era of high oil prices. In the face of the steadily rising oil price, we must reflect on past policies that focused on the misguided pursuit of growth and relentless energy consumption. It is time to promote comprehensive energy conservation, as well as develop and adopt the use of alternative or renewable energies. We must strive for an energy policy more finely in tune with environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Ensuring the security of people's lives and property is the government's most imperative responsibility. "National security" should be the rhetoric commonly spoken by the whole citizenry. Faced with the mounting threat of force and increasing military preparedness from across the Taiwan Strait, every citizen should develop the awareness that raising Taiwan's defense capabilities is paramount for maintaining the peaceful status quo across the Taiwan Strait. It is also the foundation that will enable the two sides to pursue dialogue on an equal footing. "Don't think that the enemy will not come; instead, be ready and prepared." Everyone understands the logic of this statement. If Taiwan lacks a strong national defense, how can it deter military invasion or prevent the outbreak of war?

We will continue to strengthen the military and enhance our defense capabilities. Such efforts are not to enter an arms race with Beijing, nor do they signal an attempt to provoke China; they are founded entirely on the need for national security and self-defense, as well as the responsibility and duty that we must shoulder to safeguard cross-strait peace and regional stability.

National security should transcend party interests, and national defense requires long-term and continued planning. The items and contents of military procurement were initially proposed by the previous administration and the proposal is now coming to fruition after many years of endeavor, which should be a source of satisfaction to both the governing and opposition parties. A decision should not be considered correct one day but incorrect the next merely for electoral or political considerations. Our investment in national defense today is an investment in permanent peace and an investment in security for the next generation. We should not allow interim political strife to compromise our nation's long-term security. 

As head of state, I understand very well that national defense is not the only factor in securing peace, but it is certainly an indispensable prerequisite. My every waking moment is spent on contemplating the grave responsibility of how to improve cross-strait relations and secure Taiwan’s status and diplomacy in the international community. On this day of celebration for our Nation's birthday, I would like to expound on my thoughts and ideas on the directions and principles raised in my second-term inaugural speech of May 20. We cannot rely on others to ensure peace in the Taiwan Strait; and we must develop our own abilities to protect the current status quo. I would like to urge all political parties—the governing party and the oppositions alike—to relinquish their respective prejudice, and put national security and the people's well-being above their own self-interests. In order to make responsible decisions for the nation's survival and development and to ensure peace and security for our future generations, they should exercise rational communication and debate to promptly review the legislation and budget for national defense procurement.

My dear colleagues, we shall not forget the skies above Greece this August, when our athletes captured the first gold medal for Taiwan in the arena of the Athens Games—a historic moment and an answer to the prayer of our 23 million people. A great many of you were deeply moved, as I was myself. Although Taiwan is a small island, we must aspire to reach high goals. Despite meeting with relentless and unjustifiable suppression in the international stage, our efforts and strengths have finally enabled us to pass the test of competition and capture these medals that belong to all of us. This is Taiwan's story, a moving story of arduous sweat mixed with joyful tears.

For the past half a century, the 23 million people of Taiwan have dedicated themselves to the quest for democracy, to their passion for peace, to their fight for survival, and to their pursuit of advancement. This is the moving success story we have to share with the international community. With such remarkable achievements, we should be more confident of ourselves and of Taiwan. After four years of trials and tribulations, after overcoming innumerable obstacles, we should become more unified and dedicated in meeting the challenges ahead. Looking into the future, we must, in a concerted effort, shoulder the responsibility of creating our own destiny and be guided by the vision of a progressive Taiwan - a land of sustainable growth and development. 

In closing, let us wish a happy birthday and prosperity to the Republic of China, as well as good health and happiness to all our distinguished guests and my dear colleagues. Thank you very much!

【Source: Office of the President】