Thank you. It is a great honor to speak to this distinguished group of experts on global and regional security today. Asia continues to gain importance in the global economy, making peace and stability in this part of the world more essential than ever to each member of the international community. Thus, it is only fitting that we meet here for this year’s Asia-Pacific Security Forum at the very heart of East Asia and a crucial nexus of peaceful development and stability for the entire region―Taiwan.
Without question, the trajectory and tone of relations between Taiwan and mainland China constitutes one of the most meaningful aspects of geopolitical and security dynamics in this key part of the world. Any change in their relationship directly affects peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Over the past three years or so, President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration has overcome the roadblocks resulting from the closed-door policy of the past by adopting a practical attitude to open up a new stage of peace and stability in cross-strait relations and secure greater international participation for Taiwan while upholding national sovereignty. Nevertheless, the sustained military buildup on the other side of the Taiwan Strait requires Taiwan to maintain its ability to present a credible military deterrence that can prevent miscalculations which might undermine regional security and peace.
I. Taiwan’s role in East Asia today
From Taiwan’s perspective, East Asia is a region that offers potential for both development and conflict. Mainland China’s military establishment poses a major threat to our security, while political or territorial disputes in other areas of East Asia could also draw Taiwan into a conflict and shatter the peace and stability on which our prosperity and development depend. Yet rapid economic growth in mainland China and other East Asian nations provides a major opportunity for Taiwan in the areas of trade, investment and industrial cooperation. Geographically, as Taiwan occupies a key position alongside major shipping arteries linking Northeast and Southeast Asia, neighboring countries are all looking to see the present peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait maintained.
As a responsible member of the East Asian and world community, Taiwan is working to maintain peace, enhance development and prosperity and serve as an example of democratization in the region. This first step has been to expand cross-strait exchanges and reduce cross-strait tension while taking viable, pragmatic approaches to diplomacy in order to increase our international room for maneuver. Militarily, we continue to strengthen our defensive capabilities to protect the people and territories of the Republic of China. Such moves are critical to the creation of the stable regional environment necessary for our economic development.
II. Virtuous cycle of cross-strait progress and international participation
Since taking office in 2008, President Ma has actively espoused a virtuous cycle of cross-strait relations and global participation for Taiwan, noting that mainland China has grown to be the world’s second-largest economy, so our interaction with Beijing is both inevitable and necessary. From Taipei’s perspective, mainland China is both a risk and an opportunity, so the goal is to minimize the threat and maximize the opportunity that the mainland presents.
A peaceful and stabile cross-strait relationship is crucial for Taiwan’s survival and prosperity. Improved cross-strait ties offer Taiwan considerable economic synergies and greater opportunities to take part in international community events. Taiwan should not isolate itself anymore, we must think about how to reasonably open up to the mainland to demonstrate how maintaining peaceful relations with Taiwan is beneficial for both sides.
The ROC government’s current cross-strait policy is creating an external environment in which Taiwan can achieve steady development and safeguard greatest interest while maintaining durable cross-strait peace and prosperity as well as regional stability. The basis of President Ma’s cross-strait policy is that, within the framework of the ROC Constitution, there shall be no unification talks, no declaration of independence, and no use of military force to settle sovereignty disputes; and, based on the 1992 consensus, efforts to improve cross-strait relations shall be made while adhering to the principles of parity, dignity and mutual benefit.
Taiwan has taken a positive and constructive approach to furthering relations with the mainland, based on the principle of putting "easy matters before difficult ones," "pressing matters before less pressing ones," and "economic matters before political ones," to promote cross-strait exchange and cooperation. The result is that 15 cross-strait agreements have been signed so far. Following the signing of the ECFA in June last year, the two sides this year have reduced tariffs on hundreds of traded goods and services. They have also signed an agreement on intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, which allows Taiwanese films to enter the Chinese market without quota restrictions.
There have been concrete benefits for our external relations as well. This year Taiwan made its third appearance at the World Health Assembly, and has acceded to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). A peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship functions as a crucial force for building harmony in the Taiwan Strait area and the East Asia region. It is in the best interest of both sides of the Strait as well as others, and meets the expectations of the international community.
It is obvious that improving cross-strait relations are slowly having an international impact. Many countries now see Taiwan as a responsible stakeholder, affirming our value and expressing willingness to have more interaction with us. Soon after the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement was signed, Taiwan and Singapore announced discussions to explore the feasibility of a bilateral economic cooperation agreement. Other countries in South and Southeast Asia have also approached Taiwan regarding similar agreements.
Taiwan continues to face enormous difficulties in diplomacy and in the international arena, but the Ma administration has refrained from checkbook diplomacy and direct confrontation with mainland China in trying to lure away each other’s diplomatic allies, relying instead on the soft power and smart power of Taiwan’s economy and democracy to open up a way forward that benefits the Taiwanese people.
III. Yielding nary an inch while safeguarding Taiwan’s sovereignty
Despite the concrete results from the virtuous cycle of an improving cross-strait relationship and Taiwan’s room for international maneuver, some worry that President Ma’s cross-strait policy could involve yielding national sovereignty. President Ma elaborated his position on this issue when he attended the 2011 International Law Association Asia-Pacific Regional Conference in May. To quote: “Under the ROC constitutional framework, the cross-strait relationship is not one between states, but a special relationship for which the model of recognition under conventional international law is not applicable. Therefore, we cannot and do not recognize mainland China’s sovereignty, nor should we or do we deny its authority to govern mainland China. To put it simply, ‘mutual non-recognition and mutual non-denial’ means ‘the two sides do not recognize each other’s sovereignty, nor do they deny each other’s authority to govern.’”
In short it is the best pragmatic means for acknowledging the present status, accepting reality, shelving controversies and furthering peace. The actual progress in cross-strait relations over recent years has proven that such an approach can indeed be effective in dealing with the complexities and sensitive nature of cross-strait relations.
Thus, President Ma’s cross-strait policy not only does not harm Taiwan’s interest, it has rather pragmatically and steadily promoted cross-strait interactions and exchanges. He has turned the unsteady cross-strait relations of the past administration into a momentous force for integration with the Asia-Pacific region and for a global presence.
IV. Avoid war without fearing it, and prepare for war without seeking it
Nevertheless, mainland China remains a great threat to Taiwan by the obvious fact that even as the cross-Strait relationship continues to develop positively, Beijing has not yet committed to changing its military posture against Taiwan. The number of missiles in the coastal areas of mainland China targeting Taiwan has not dropped at all. Thus, continuing to strengthen security ties with powerful nations like the U.S. is a vital strategy for Taiwan.
During a videoconference held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies a while ago, President Ma cited three lines of national security for the Republic of China: institutionalization of cross-strait rapprochement, increasing Taiwan’s contributions to international development and integrating national defense and foreign relations.
The United States plays a key role in all three of the aforementioned lines of defense. Over the past three years, the Ma administration has handled Taiwan’s relationship with the U.S. in a low key manner with no surprises, resulting in a restoration of mutual trust at the highest levels. In decisions announced in October 2008 and January of last year, the U.S. agreed to sell Taiwan armaments worth US$12.5 billion.
Taiwan remains determined to be able to defend itself. Although mainland China's military budget has increased greatly over the past decade, President Ma has stated that it is impossible for Taiwan to engage in an arms race with mainland China, so Taiwan must be pragmatic and develop a military force that is strong, specialized, and skillful. Thus, Taiwan has continued to seek upgrades of our F-16 A/B fighter jets and acquisition of more potent F-16C/Ds from the United States. These planes would help to strengthen Taiwan's defensive capabilities. We have made all the necessary budgetary arrangements to complete this swiftly.
The new philosophy regarding cross-strait relations adopted by my government since President Ma took office in 2008 has resulted in constructive development in the direction of cross-strait rapprochement. The virtuous cycle of this relationship has had a spill-over effect for the international community, producing positive results for improved regional peace and stability. The substantive results achieved over more than three years indicate that President Ma’s cross-strait policies have been conducive to security in the Taiwan Strait. They have made Taiwan―situated at the heart of the Asia-Pacific region―into a concrete contributor to regional peace while achieving greater international participation.
The stability and security of East Asia at least in part depends on the vicissitudes of the cross-strait relationship. Taiwan will continue to act as a responsible stakeholder in the world order while ensuring that any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force would come with a heavy price. We urge that mainland China give top priority to re-adjusting its military deployment vis-à-vis Taiwan. I believe that our government’s overarching strategy will lead Taiwan to greater security and prosperity as we jointly strive with our historic partners and allies to achieve peaceful development worldwide.
Thank you for your listening. It's a great pleasure to be invited here to share with you my thoughts about current international development, Asia-pacific security and cross-strait issues. I believe that through the discussion and brain-storming by experts and specialists from different perspectives of geopolitics, economy, security, and so on for the next 2 days, our understanding of vital issues of the Asia-Pacific region will be deepened, and ideas and insights will be inspired. Thank you all again for your attention, and wish the 2011 Asia Pacific Security Forum the greatest success. Thank you!