Steering through a Sea of Change
Speech by President Ma Ying-jeou
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Video Conference with
Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
April 16, 2013
I. Opening Remarks
Professor (Condoleezza) Rice, Professor (Larry) Diamond, Professor (Francis) Fukuyama, Admiral (Gary) Roughead, distinguished guests, faculty members and students of Stanford University, ladies and gentlemen: Good evening!
It's your evening now, but it's our morning here in Taipei. Before I start, I want to pay my deep condolences to the victims of the explosion that happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday. My prayers and thoughts are with their family members. In the meantime, I also strongly condemn the violence on behalf of the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Let's start.
It is a great pleasure to address my friends at Stanford University this evening. Stanford University has long been a distinguished center of learning. Under the guidance of Professor Diamond, the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, through the Journal of Democracy, has made incomparable contributions to the study of democracy. Since Taiwan represents a shining example of how democracy can take root in the Chinese-speaking world, it is only fitting to join you today for this videoconference.
II. Changes in East Asia
Since I took office as President of the Republic of China in 2008, the geopolitical situation in East Asia has undergone tremendous change. Five years ago, there were two flash points: the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait. Today, the Korean Peninsula is at an unprecedented level of tension: North Korea has conducted a third nuclear test explosion, and in the aftermath of the resulting UN sanctions continues its saber rattling, even claiming that it has abrogated the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended Korean War fighting 60 years ago. In contrast, tensions in the Taiwan Strait have been greatly reduced, and relations between Taiwan and mainland China continue to advance toward peace and prosperity.
This does not necessarily mean, however, that only one potential source of instability remains in East Asia. Geopolitical competition in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea is growing more intense even as the drive toward regional economic integration continues. In addition, three of the major players in East Asia―mainland China, South Korea and Japan―have changed leadership in the last eight months, while here in Taiwan, I was elected to a second term of office early last year.
Thus, amidst the uncertainty resulting from such changes, the Republic of China on Taiwan remains firmly committed to fostering peace and stability, and is a strong proponent of the liberal values cherished by democracies worldwide. It is against this backdrop that I would like to discuss how my administration has steered Taiwan through this sea of change.
III. How Cross-Strait Rapprochement Was Achieved
I decided to seek rapprochement with mainland China long before I took office in 2008. To ensure peace in the Taiwan Strait after some sixty tumultuous years, my administration had to meet both the challenges of establishing mutual trust between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and of rebuilding Taiwan's strength so that peace could be guaranteed.
From the start, the "1992 Consensus" (九二共識) was a critical anchoring point for Taiwan and mainland China to find common ground on the otherwise intractable issue of "one China." The consensus, reached between the two sides in 1992, established a common understanding of "one China with respective interpretations" (一個中國，各自表述). With this understanding as the foundation, my administration designed a number of modus operandi that broadly defined how Taiwan would pursue peace and prosperity with mainland China. These included iteration of the "Three No's"―"No Unification, No Independence, and No Use of Force"―under the framework of the Republic of China Constitution (在中華民國憲法架構下，維持不統、不獨、不武的現狀). This formulation, grounded de jure in the 1947 Constitution of the Republic of China, sets clear parameters for how both parties can work to move the relationship forward in a positive direction without misunderstandings or hidden agendas, so as to build mutual trust and achieve mutual benefit for the people on either side of the Taiwan Strait.
"Beating swords into ploughshares" requires pragmatism and the wisdom to remain focused on what can be accomplished in spite of past differences. So we then called for "mutual non-recognition of sovereignty, mutual non-denial of governing authority" (主權互不承認，治權互不否認) allowing both sides to pursue substantive exchanges without being derailed by disagreements over sovereignty issues.
We also spelled out clearly to the other side, as well as to the Taiwan public, how we intended to proceed with the cross-strait dialogue. The priority of issues for the two sides to address would be "pressing matters before less pressing ones, easy matters before difficult ones, and economic matters before political ones" (先急後緩、先易後難、先經後政). My administration firmly believed in setting a clear agenda from the start, to prevent the cross-strait dialogue being bogged down by intractable issues when we could see that agreement might be found on many others. The goal is to build mutual trust which is fundamental for long-term progress in developing a peaceful cross-strait relationship. I firmly believe that this "building-blocks" approach is the only way to achieve lasting peace in the Taiwan Strait.
The result of this is 18 agreements concluded between Taiwan and mainland China over the past five years, covering such issues as direct flights, tourism, economic cooperation, intellectual property rights, nuclear safety, and mutual judicial assistance. Let me just give you an example of how things stand now. Five years ago, there were no scheduled flights between Taiwan and the mainland. Now there are 616 scheduled flights per week. Five years ago, 274,000 mainland people visited Taiwan. In 2012, there were 2.5 million people. When the SARS epidemic first broke out in 2003, mainland China completely ignored Taiwan's needs and concerns. But when the H7N9 avian flu struck recently, public health experts from both sides began working together to check its spread.
Over the next three years, the two sides are expected to complete negotiations on trade in services and trade in goods under the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Both sides will also greatly expand the level of educational and cultural exchanges. For example, the number of students from mainland China studying in Taiwan, which currently is 17,000 a year, is expected to rise, and there will be more cross-strait cultural cooperation. Each side also intends to set up offices in major cities on the other side to take better care of the 7 million people and over 160 billion US dollars' worth of goods and services that moved across the Taiwan Strait last year alone. As a result, cross-strait relations are now the most stable and peaceful that they have been in over 60 years.
IV. Taiwan's Enhanced International Presence
As cross-strait relations continue to develop peacefully, Taiwan is gaining an enhanced international presence. The clear parameters articulated by my administration as we began resumption of the cross-strait dialogue counter any mistaken attempt to link Taiwan's greater international participation to an agenda of "two Chinas," "one China, one Taiwan," or "Taiwan Independence." Taiwan today strives to conduct itself as a responsible stakeholder, that is, as a facilitator of peace, a provider of humanitarian aid, a promoter of cultural exchanges, a creator of new technology and business opportunity, and the standard bearer of Chinese culture.
The international community has seen recently how Taiwan deports itself as a responsible stakeholder and facilitator of peace. Last August, my administration proposed an East China Sea Peace Initiative urging that negotiation take precedence over confrontation regarding the sovereignty dispute over the Diaoyutai Islets. The following November, Taipei and Tokyo began negotiations on an East China Sea fishery agreement. Sixteen rounds of such talks had been held since 1996 but no agreement was ever reached. This time, both sides decided to jointly conserve and manage fishery resources in the Agreement Area of the East China Sea without changing their respective territorial and maritime claims regarding the Diaoyutai Islets. A fishery agreement was thus signed six days ago which safeguards the security of fishing boats from both sides in the Agreement Area, which is twice the size of Taiwan. This agreement marks a historic milestone in the development of Taiwan-Japan relations, and sets a good example of how the concerned parties can find ways to settle their dispute and preserve peace and stability in the region at the same time.
Our efforts over the past five years to enhance Taiwan's participation in the international community have also resulted in concrete progress. The Republic of China has kept intact its diplomatic relations with its 23 allies, and has enhanced its substantive relations with other countries. For instance, we signed an investment agreement with Japan in 2011, and are working to sign economic cooperation agreements with Singapore and New Zealand, respectively, in the near future. Meanwhile, our health minister has attended the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the WHO as an official observer since 2009, the same year as Taiwan acceded to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) of the WTO. For five years in a row, former Vice President Lien Chan (連戰) at my request has attended as "leader's representative" at the Leaders' Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. On March 19 this year I led an official delegation to attend the investiture of Pope Francis, the first time for a Republic of China president to meet with a pope in the last 71 years, ever since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1942. Taiwan's enhanced international presence attests to a virtuous cycle of improved cross-strait relations that encourages greater international support for allowing Taiwan further opportunities to play its role as a responsible stakeholder. This in turn further enhances regional peace and stability, which is in the best interest of the international community.
V. Taiwan-US Ties: Security, Economic, and Cultural
My administration is fully aware that strength is fundamental to achieving peace. When I took office five years ago, my administration worked promptly to restore high-level trust between Taipei and Washington. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Taiwan is an important security and economic partner of the United States. We deeply appreciate the relationship we have with the United States, including US arms sales to Taiwan. Only with a sufficient self-defense capability can Taiwan confidently engage in a dialogue with mainland China. The stability engendered by America's enhanced presence in the Western Pacific will certainly help.
The United States is Taiwan's third largest trading partner but remains the most important source of our technology. However large a trading partner mainland China is to Taiwan, the United States has always been an important trade and investment partner to Taiwan. The ICT (information and communication technology) industries are Taiwan's most important export sector and they are the largest recipient of U.S. investment. We definitely want to deepen our economic ties with the United States. After successfully resolving the beef import issue last year, the Republic of China resumed trade negotiations with the U.S. under the 1994 Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Obviously, Taiwan needs to accelerate its pace of trade liberalization. For the good of its economic prosperity and national security, Taiwan cannot afford to be left out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Culturally, American values and its high academic standards have attracted Chinese students since Yung Wing (容閎) became the first Chinese student to study in the U.S. back in 1847. Generations of Chinese students who studied in the United States have brought American values back to their homeland, making tremendous contributions to China's modernization, including the 1911 revolution. Today, the United States still remains the most sought-after academic destination for Taiwan students.
Taiwan is grateful to the United States for letting Taiwan join the Visa Waiver Program beginning in November last year. The Republic of China is the 37th nation in the world to secure that status, and the only one that does not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States. The more than 400,000 Taiwan visitors to the U.S. each year not only take in American culture and natural scenery, they also shop very seriously in the United States and thus help reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Taiwan. In a word, relations between the Republic of China and the United States have continued to thrive and grow since the end of formal diplomatic ties in 1979.
Nevertheless, Taiwan still faces many challenges, with only limited resources at its disposal. In formulating Taiwan's national security strategy, my administration has steered Taiwan toward a tripartite national security framework. The first part involves institutionalization of the rapprochement with mainland China so that neither side would ever contemplate resorting to non-peaceful means to settle their differences. The second part involves making Taiwan a model world citizen by upholding the principles of a liberal democracy, championing free trade and providing foreign aid to the international community. The third part involves strengthening national defense capability. This national security strategy is formulated to facilitate peaceful and positive development of cross-strait ties while remaining grounded in a pragmatic realization of the challenges we face. In other words, Taiwan and the United States share the same values and interests in preserving regional peace and stability.
VI. Taiwan's Ultimate Value: A Beacon of Democracy
States in a security partnership frequently fear being entrapped or abandoned by their partners. In the past, some in the United States have expressed concern that as mainland China rises, Taiwan might someday entrap the United States in an unnecessary conflict with mainland China. Others fear that Taiwan is tilting toward mainland China, thus "abandoning" the United States. Both arguments imply that the United States should reduce support for Taiwan. But neither view is warranted. My administration's pursuit of rapprochement with mainland China has clearly helped preserve and enhance peace in the Taiwan Strait. My administration's adherence to the Constitution of the Republic of China legally rules out any possibility of a reckless change in the status quo.
Taiwan has so much in common with the United States, from our love of democracy, to respect for human rights and the rule of law, to support for free trade, and even to an intense passion for basketball and baseball! We are also crazy about Jeremy Lin (林書豪) and Chien-Ming Wang (王建民). Taiwan cherishes its longstanding friendship with the United States and will always cherish the values and culture that the Chinese people have developed over five thousand years. Preserving the Republic of China has immense importance that goes far beyond the borders of Taiwan. For the first time in Chinese history, we in Taiwan have proved that democracy can thrive in a Chinese society. It presents a shining ray of hope to the 1.3 billion Chinese people on the mainland. I know how much this means to the government and people of the United States, just as it does to my administration and the people of Taiwan.
Ladies and gentlemen, my administration will steer this democracy through the sea of change in East Asia. We will endeavor to strengthen peace and prosperity in the Taiwan Strait; and, in the meantime, we will strive for an enhanced international presence for Taiwan that allows it to play its role as a responsible stakeholder in the international community. I feel nothing but confidence about the future of the Republic of China!
President Ma's Closing Remarks Following Q&A:
Dear friends and colleagues, since 2008 there have been peace and prosperity in the Taiwan Strait. We have seen more trade and investment, and movement of people and information, across the Taiwan Strait. We have seen an increasing number of mainland tourists, students, and professionals coming to Taiwan by direct flights. We certainly hope that they can bring home some new understanding, new appreciation, and new perspectives on what we have achieved here. On the other hand, it is also good for Taiwan people traveling to the mainland to understand more about their development. There is some cooperation—indeed a lot more—in the fields of education, culture and sports, criminal justice, and public health. We would like to see all these have some positive impacts on the peace and prosperity in the strait.
Harking back to events that happened in the past two decades in the Taiwan Strait and in the triangular relationship among Taipei, Washington, and Beijing, we may say we have finally found an equilibrium point where every party involved can be in a winning situation. This equilibrium point was possible because all parties recognized that negotiation serves as a much more efficient way than confrontation to bridge the gaps between and among them. Yet, by no means is this equilibrium point a certainty. We have to nurture it by being perceptive to others' vital interests, by sending the right signals, by being careful with the political rhetoric and gestures we make, and most importantly, by being credible.
Still, this is not enough. Taiwan has to meet a number of challenges on the domestic front to keep pace with the dynamic equilibrium in the strait and in East Asia. These challenges are daunting, but not insurmountable. Distinguished faculty members, ladies and gentlemen, as the president of the Republic of China, I will continue to steer Taiwan toward peace and prosperity. Our work is not done.
Thank you very much.