Taipei, Oct. 10 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) used her National Day address Monday to underline Taiwan’s resolve to defend its sovereignty, saying there was «no room for compromise» when it came to preserving the country’s free and democratic way of life.
The following is the full text of her speech, titled «Island of Resilience: A Better Taiwan for the World»:
National Day Celebration Chairperson You Si-kun (游錫堃), President Surangel Whipps Jr. of the Republic of Palau, distinguished guests, dear friends, and my fellow citizens watching on TV and online: Good morning.
I. Moving Taiwan forward in the face of the pandemic
Today is the 111th National Day of the Republic of China, and the 73rd National Day since the Republic of China government relocated to Taiwan.
For more than two years now, fighting COVID-19 has been our country’s greatest challenge. That is why I want to begin my remarks today by thanking all my fellow citizens, who have worked hard for our pandemic response and have helped one another through this difficult period. Each of you has played a heroic role in these efforts.
The atmosphere on this National Day is very different from that of the past two years. In three days, border restrictions will be loosened, and Taiwan will resume normal exchanges with other countries around the globe. This step also signifies that we are emerging from the shadow of the pandemic and moving toward life as normal.
For more than two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected the whole world. We remember and grieve for our fellow citizens who have passed away due to the pandemic. Their passing reminds us that there will always be room for us to do better. But thanks to your cooperation and solidarity in looking out for one another, Taiwan’s pandemic prevention efforts have earned global recognition in comparison with many other countries.
As we have brought the pandemic under control, Taiwan has enjoyed stable economic growth. That, together with our development strategy directed toward innovation and transformation, has helped resolve our longstanding economic stagnation.
As most economies around the world slowed, Taiwan’s grew at a rate of 6.57 percent in 2021, our best performance in recent years. This year’s International Institute for Management Development World Competitiveness Yearbook also ranked Taiwan seventh worldwide for competitiveness, and first for total R&D personnel per capita.
The fruits of Taiwan’s economic development have also been reflected in our public revenues. In each of the four years since 2018, our central government has recorded annual budget surpluses of more than NT$100 billion. Last year, that figure reached a record high of almost NT$300 billion.
The stability of our public finances has, in turn, given us more resources to invest in infrastructure, boost scientific research, strengthen national defense, and construct a more well-rounded social safety net.
These accomplishments were possible because of the work of all our fellow citizens. As president, I want to thank all of our guests and leaders from across Taiwanese society here today. I also want to thank the 23 million people of Taiwan for your participation in our democracy and contributions to our nation.
Instead of holding us back, the pandemic has helped the world see Taiwan’s resilience. Not only did we manage the spread of COVID-19, we helped Taiwan take a step forward, and made our country a better place.
II. Our next challenge: building a resilient nation
But just as in baseball, being able to turn one inning around does not mean the next one will be a walk in the park. Having come through the outbreak of the virus, we know that our next challenges will be even greater, requiring a calm and collective response.
The post-pandemic world order is in a state of rapid change. Countries across Europe and the Americas are suffering from inflation and the resulting economic downturn. While inflation in Taiwan is still at a controllable level, we must nevertheless prepare for the developments that might be triggered by a global economic contraction.
At the same time, global supply chains are still undergoing restructuring. Though Taiwan already holds a key position in the fields of semiconductors and information and communications technology hardware and software, we must quickly catch up in other fields to ensure our strong footing. In addition, disasters caused by extreme weather events remind us that we must build mechanisms for rapid response.
Aside from economic developments, Russia continues its war against Ukraine, while China’s military activity in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and the Taiwan Strait undermines peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. We absolutely cannot ignore the challenge that these military expansions pose to the free and democratic world order. These developments are inextricably connected with Taiwan.
With Taiwan a part of this changing landscape, we cannot leave things to chance. Instead, we must stand up for our democracy, and prepare prudently and sufficiently to respond to any possible contingency.
Looking back, we can see that we were able to weather the challenges of the pandemic precisely because of Taiwan’s resilience. Over the remaining two years of my term, we will continue to resolutely uphold our Four Commitments. We will also enhance the resilience of four key areas: our economy and industry, social safety net, free and democratic government system, and national defense.
The work of making the Republic of China (Taiwan) a more resilient country is now our most important national development priority.
III. Responding to a changing economic landscape as well as managing global industrial development
The foremost task in creating a more resilient country is building a resilient economy and industry that can stand firm amid global headwinds and adapt to changing global trends.
The most pressing of such economic trends are global inflation and the resulting financial contraction, which have introduced a heightened risk of an economic downturn and financial instability.
To control inflation and ensure the stability of our peoples’ livelihoods, we are managing these issues at the source and working to stabilize the prices of water, electricity, oil, natural gas, and other staples and critical raw materials, expending every effort to reduce overall price fluctuations.
We have also strengthened our mechanisms for responding to instability in financial markets. Through effective policies and government spending, we will boost our investments in next-generation infrastructure and talent cultivation, creating more job opportunities and upholding our economic growth momentum.
In terms of industrial development, we must respond forcefully to the accelerating restructuring of global supply chains. We must speed up our efforts to promote the development of our Six Core Strategic Industries, while continuing to consolidate our advantages in the semiconductor sector.
I want to specifically emphasize one point to my fellow citizens and the international community, which is that the concentration of the semiconductor sector in Taiwan is not a risk, but is the key to the reorganization of the global semiconductor industry.
We will continue to maintain Taiwan’s advantages and capacity in leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing processes, and will help optimize the worldwide restructuring of the semiconductor supply chain, giving our semiconductor firms an even more prominent global role.
To improve our ability to respond to economic shocks, we will also work to ensure the security of our critical infrastructure, so that in the case of any emergency, we will still be able to maintain the normal functioning of our industrial sector and society through the effective allocation and stable supply of key goods.
And to further integrate with the international community, we are comprehensively pursuing cooperation and exchanges with New Southbound Policy countries and states across the Indo-Pacific, as well as with Central and Eastern Europe. Through collaboration in cutting-edge technologies, reciprocal investment, financial support, and other means, we are building more resilient global supply chains and distribution networks.
Moreover, we will keep in step with global efforts to respond to extreme weather events. This past March, we published Taiwan’s Pathway to Net-Zero Emissions in 2050 and sent a draft of our Climate Change Response Act to the Legislative Yuan for review. This is about more than Taiwan’s promises to the international community – it is our collective responsibility to future generations.
IV. Comprehensively strengthening our social safety net
Being a resilient nation is not just about being able to address economic risk; social resilience is equally important.
A resilient society needs to be built upon a foundation of economic equality. These past few years, we have raised salaries, cut taxes, and increased benefits to reduce the burden on our people, putting into practice our commitment to care for disadvantaged groups.
Strengthening and building out our social safety net has been a focus of our policy implementation. We continue to increase our emergency response, rescue, and healthcare capabilities, as we hope to provide our citizens with more comprehensive care.
Over the two years and more of fighting the pandemic, we have seen the members of Taiwan’s medical and public health network demonstrate their experience and ability in responding to crises. Let me take this opportunity to ask you all once again to give our nation’s hardworking healthcare workers a big round of applause.
To further enhance our resilience and better respond to future challenges, we will work to maintain sufficient medical staffing levels while increasing reserve capacity at hospitals. We will also continue to strengthen emergency response systems across our healthcare network, improving Taiwan’s ability to address all potential health risks.
Earthquakes are a common occurrence in Taiwan. Over the past few years, our government has been rebuilding and renovating schools, bridges, and roads to enhance their earthquake resistance and strengthen the resilience of our public infrastructure.
To respond to sudden disasters, we will also consolidate our nation’s emergency shelter resources, bolster our civil disaster preparedness and evacuation capabilities, and raise the public’s mental resilience so that they can respond promptly and calmly in the face of disaster.
To address the challenges of a low birth rate and an aging society, we have significantly and consistently increased annual spending on social services in an all-out effort to build a friendlier environment for raising children. We have increased birth subsidies and childcare allowances, and have significantly expanded the availability of affordable childcare and preschool. We are also rapidly expanding long-term care services, and have put forward a plan to deal with Taiwan’s super-aging trend.
We are actively building social housing, promoting our subletting management scheme, expanding rent subsidies, raising employment injury insurance coverage and protections, and improving the insurance and pension system for citizens in the agriculture and fisheries sectors. These are all part of our efforts to look after every group in need.
In addition, we continue to put resources toward setting up community mental health centers, where we are adding staff and developing services tailored to local communities so that citizens can find the help they need where they need it.
Social welfare spending in this year’s budget is over NT$600 billion, and will exceed NT$700 billion next year, setting another all-time high. Continually strengthening our social safety net and ensuring help for all who need it is a duty that our government must fulfill.
V. Shoring up our democracy and garnering international support
Aside from issues of national governance, building democratic resilience is key to safeguarding Taiwan.
Our primary task in this regard is to make our commitment to a free and democratic system an unbreakable national consensus. In a democratic society, we can have different positions and we can debate with one another, but we should unanimously and resolutely stand behind our free and democratic system, no matter how much external pressure we face.
Next to that is the task of improving transparency and our ability to identify disinformation. Taiwan is one of the countries most targeted by information warfare, a non-traditional security threat that persistently interferes with the functioning of our democratic system.
In facing infiltration and attempts at sabotage by external forces, we must respond with a more transparent and democratic approach. For instance, during the pandemic, the regular press conferences held by our Central Epidemic Command Center have helped our public stay on top of the latest information, reduce panic, and prevent disinformation from affecting public confidence in our pandemic response.
Going forward, we will continue to strengthen fact-checking mechanisms targeting disinformation, enhance the transparency and accessibility of information, and help our people more effectively distinguish fact from fiction to neutralize the threat of information warfare.
The other part of this work is to continue deepening Taiwan’s international cooperation and close ties with democratic allies. As the expansion of authoritarianism has gradually come to threaten the global order, friends from across the world have traveled to Taiwan to express their heartwarming support. In fact, Taiwan is now receiving more international attention than ever before.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) has become an important global symbol of democracy and freedom. The international community fully understands that upholding Taiwan’s security means upholding regional stability and democratic values. The destruction of Taiwan’s democracy and freedom would be a grave defeat for the world’s democracies.
Our democracy is not just about defining Taiwan’s international role for the rest of the world; it is our core strategy for strengthening Taiwan’s social resilience.
VI. Upgrading our national defense and uniting behind a common purpose
Over the past few years, we have stepped up defense reform and increased our defense budget each year in order to strengthen our national defense capabilities and resilience. Through our actions, we are sending a message to the international community that Taiwan will take responsibility for our own self-defense, that we will not leave anything to fate, and that we will work with our allies to jointly maintain security and stability in the region.
As part of this effort, we are ramping up the mass production of precision missiles and high-performance naval vessels. In addition, we are working to acquire various small, highly mobile precision weapons that will help us develop comprehensive asymmetric warfare capabilities, ensuring that Taiwan is fully prepared to respond to external military threats.
Our domestic efforts to build aircraft and ships have achieved significant results in recent years, with our indigenous submarine project also progressing as planned. Just two weeks ago, Taiwan’s first domestically developed and constructed 10,000-ton landing platform dock Yushan was officially delivered.
And just earlier, you saw our Brave Eagle advanced jet trainers flying overhead. These are the results of our concerted efforts to enhance our military capabilities. I want to thank all of our military personnel for working with us to overcome all manner of challenges, and for making hard-earned progress in advancing our defense self-sufficiency.
To ensure that our national defense is truly comprehensive, we also established the All-out Defense Mobilization Agency to bolster our military training capacity and refine reserve training programs, increasing the readiness of our reservists by giving them access to equipment and weaponry similar to that used by our active-duty troops.
Forming a military force that can effectively respond to the demands of modern warfare and building an overall mobilization capability that integrates the military and the public are issues that demand our immediate attention. We must ensure that our preparations, supplies, and personnel can be resiliently, accurately, and promptly deployed to address any situation, whether in times of peace, disaster, or war.
But most importantly, we must all rally around a common purpose and broaden public awareness of our self-defense needs. Protecting our territory and safeguarding our nation has never been the work of the military alone. Every citizen is a guardian of our nation.
In recent times, we have seen Taiwanese of all ages and genders, including young parents, senior citizens, and students without military experience, take it upon themselves to participate in classes on community defense, first aid, and information awareness. This is the true meaning of collective participation in national defense.
VII. Upholding peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait: the joint responsibility of both sides
Peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is the basis for the development of cross-strait relations. It is regrettable that, in recent years, the Beijing authorities’ escalation of their military intimidations, diplomatic pressure, trade obstructions, and attempts to erase the sovereignty of the Republic of China (Taiwan) have threatened the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region.
During the past 73 years, the people of Taiwan have lived and grown together on this land, and have formed our own strong sense of identity and belonging. The broadest consensus among the Taiwanese people and our various political parties is that we must defend our national sovereignty and our free and democratic way of life. On this point, we have no room for compromise.
The differences between the two sides of the strait stem from historical factors as well as from our divergent experiences in democratic development. The Beijing authorities should not make any misjudgment on account of Taiwan’s vigorous democratic system. They must not mistake that there is room for compromise in the Taiwanese people’s commitment to democracy and freedom, and thus attempt to divide Taiwanese society by exploiting the fierce competition between our political parties. This way of thinking and acting is of no benefit to cross-strait relations, and will only push our two sides further from each other.
I want to make clear to the Beijing authorities that armed confrontation is absolutely not an option for our two sides. Only by respecting the commitment of the Taiwanese people to our sovereignty, democracy, and freedom can there be a foundation for resuming constructive interaction across the Taiwan Strait.
We look forward to the gradual resumption of healthy and orderly cross-strait people-to-people exchanges after the loosening of border restrictions on both sides, thereby easing tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
Provided there is rationality, equality, and mutual respect, we are willing to work with the Beijing authorities to find a mutually agreeable arrangement for upholding peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. This is our shared responsibility. VIII. A better Taiwan for the world
My fellow citizens, the greatest duty for all of us living on this land is to do everything we can to give the next generation a better country, and to give the world a better Taiwan.
Greater economic growth for Taiwan means more complete and resilient global supply chains.
A more secure Taiwan means a more peaceful and prosperous region and world.
And a more democratic Taiwan means a stronger global democratic alliance.
This is the years-long road we have traveled, from a darker time to a brighter future. Though it has been a difficult road, those difficulties have shown us what it means to be Taiwanese, and have helped us see what Taiwan means to the world.
Today’s Taiwan is democratic, free, prosperous, and culturally diverse. Not only has Taiwan become a focus of global attention, but our people have come together around a shared determination to safeguard our homeland. Today, saying «I am Taiwanese» is a statement of honor and an expression of pride.
My fellow citizens, we are all family. Let us stand on the world stage with courage, determination, and confidence. Let us make Taiwan a Taiwan of the world, and let us give the world an even better Taiwan.
I wish all the best to the Republic of China. I wish all the best to Taiwan. Thank you.