Ma Ying-jeou introduces “Golden Decade, National Visions” blueprint

Taiwan Leader Ma Ying-jeou introduced the “eight visions for the nation” that make up the government’s “Golden Decade, National Visions” blueprint on the press conferences at the Presidential Office. He addressed the fourth vision (“high-quality culture and education”) and the fifth vision (“environmental sustainability”) in the blueprint.

Ma Ying-jeou stated that “culture and creativity” and “educational reform” are critical to achieving high-quality culture and education, with the objective of this vision being to further enhance the quality of the public and the nation’s competitiveness. Meanwhile, “green energy and carbon reduction,” “an eco-friendly homeland,” and “disaster preparedness and rescue” are the three main pillars of environmental sustainability. The government, the president explained, will continue working to foster an outstanding living environment.

The following are the remarks made by Ma Ying-jeou:

I’d first like to discuss “high-quality culture and education.” As I completed my second year in office last year, I proposed my “six steps to a better Taiwan.” The first of these six steps is to strengthen the country through innovation, while the second is to revive the country by promoting culture. In fact, we are not solely talking about technology when we speak of strengthening the country through innovation. Rather, this initiative also includes innovation by the cultural and creative industries. In seeking to revive the nation by promoting culture, meanwhile, our focus is completely on culture. My goal in including this idea as part of the “high-quality culture and education” vision is to enable the ROC to become a standard-bearer of Chinese culture throughout the world. Here in Taiwan we have developed a Chinese culture with Taiwan characteristics, and this culture has become attractive on many fronts. On the one hand, it combines the best of traditional culture, while on the other hand it demonstrates the creativity that bubbles forth in a free and democratic environment. To be sure, this is precisely one of our strengths in the international arena.

As for educational reform, everyone is certainly concerned about education, and educational reform has elicited quite a bit of discussion. The goals in my latest proposal for educational reform are to enable education to develop in a more adaptable manner, boost the quality of our people, and enhance national competitiveness. Consequently, culture and creativity and educational reform constitute the main components of my vision for high-quality culture and education.

Let’s first discuss how we can boost the voice of Chinese culture in the international community, approaching the issue from the perspectives of both physical infrastructure and systems. Taiwan society continues to change, and industry is also constantly transforming. In culture, aesthetics, and many other aspects of traditional experience, we are continually evolving in new directions. The Council for Cultural Affairs has already been in operation in its current form for several decades, and the time is ripe for it to become the “Ministry of Culture.” Starting next year, this “Ministry of Culture” will come into existence. It will be a larger organization that is better prepared to carry out its work. It will also work to integrate the affairs of related organizations. Meanwhile, the Executive Yuan’s National Development Fund will provide nearly NT$10 billion to support the cultural and creative industries. The Council for Cultural Affairs long ago began tapping into the funding made available from this source to assist the cultural community, which is relatively lacking in funds to realize its dreams. Of course, we cannot achieve our goal simply by spending NT$10 billion of the government’s money. Rather, private-sector venture capital must also get involved in the effort to create an affluent, safe, and aesthetically pleasing society.

Our arts and cultural community in recent years has really exhibited outstanding excellence in cinema, television, and music. In the music industry, for example, 80% of Chinese-language music is produced in Taiwan. Our Chinese-language pop music and other products have enormous sway in the market. Combined with traditional cultural heritage, you can see why we possess enormous advantages over other countries in the area of culture and creativity.

As for physical infrastructure, besides cultural centers that are already in existence in New York, Paris, and Tokyo, we are preparing to add eight more cultural centers throughout the world. This initiative will be carried out by the Ministry of Culture, and the facilities will showcase Taiwan’s art and culture. Meanwhile, 14 government agencies will work with the private sector on the establishment of “Taiwan Academies.” The difference between the two is that a Taiwan Academy will be a cross-ministerial initiative that covers not only arts and culture, but also highlights the Taiwan experience, technology, economic affairs, the Hakka people, and indigenous tribes.

Meanwhile, six major performance facilities are currently under construction, including the Wei-Wu-Ying Center for the Arts in Kaohsiung, the Pingtung County Performing Arts Center, the Miaobei Performing Arts Center, the Taichung Metropolitan Opera House, and pop music centers in Kaohsiung and Taipei. In addition, the National Palace Museum Southern Branch will open in 2015. Furthermore, the main museum also has an expansion plan to increase exhibition space to secure its place among the world’s leaders and accommodate a number of visitors comparable to other world-class museums. The National Palace Museum has a collection of some 600,000 to 700,000 items, while it is able to display only some 100,000 of these works of art at any one time. Consequently, it must constantly rotate its exhibitions, meaning that it takes many years for a full rotation to be completed. It is hoped that after expansion, the National Palace Museum will become one of the world’s greatest facilities. At present, the museum tallies over three million visitors a year, and it is hoped that this number will rise further in the future. The museum has always left a deep impression on anyone who has visited it. I hope that during my second term, we can finalize these plans and fully implement them. This initiative is not only about increasing exhibition space. Rather, we want to fully integrate the collection and exhibitions in a high-tech manner. At the same time, a cultural park will be constructed across from the museum to even better promote the collection of the National Palace Museum.

The second part of this broad initiative is related to educational reform. This not only includes continuing our Program for Excellence in Higher Education and our University Teaching Excellence Project, but also refers to extending compulsory education to 12 years. This had been under discussion for decades, and will take effect in 2014. Before then, however, we need to ensure that pre-school education is made available throughout the nation. Last year, I introduced a plan under which tuition would be waived for five-year-old children entering school. This plan has already been put into practice in remote areas and indigenous communities. Now, it is time to extend this plan to the rest of the nation. Starting this year, all kindergartens will be included, with financial subsidies amounting to NT$14,000 per student at public schools and NT$30,000 at private schools. Furthermore, starting this year, students can enter vocational high schools free of tuition if they are from households with annual income of under NT$1.14 million. Looking at this objectively, the households of students in vocational high schools generally have a weaker economic footing than those with students in academically oriented high schools. Consequently, this means that even more people will benefit from the program. We expect this number to be about 490,000.

Twelve-year compulsory education will start in 2014, with students seeing their tuition waived for high school and vocational high school. Meanwhile, 75% of students will be able to enter high schools and vocational schools without taking entrance exams. I also hope that students will be able to go to schools in the vicinity of where they live. Within five years, our target is for 85% of students to be able to go to schools near their homes, up from the current 60%. In addition, we want to see this rise to over 90% in 10 years. The main reason for pushing this initiative is to reduce the time spent by students commuting to and from school. Going to class near home enables students to put more focus on their studies. I just mentioned that the 12-year compulsory education system will begin in 2014, that 75% of students will be able to go to school without taking entrance exams, and that within 10 years 85% of students will go to school near their homes. However, exams will still be required to enter a handful of distinctive schools or classes. Everyone can see that our goal is not the pursuit of quantity, but rather to provide the education that meets the needs of students. In other words, we are seeking to boost the quality of education and students, thereby enabling the public to be more broad-minded and free-thinking.

The fifth vision for the nation is “environmental sustainability.” The main pillars of this vision include “green energy and carbon reduction,” “an eco-friendly homeland,” and “disaster preparedness and rescue.” In the coming five to ten years we will invest considerable effort and resources in developing renewable energies, with a special focus on green energy. On another front, we will also transform Taiwan’s industrial structure. In order to keep in step with the times, we will seek access to low-carbon energy and renewable energy, and create a nation of low carbon emissions that conserves energy, water, and the environment. To be specific, we hope to install 1,000 offshore and land-based wind turbines. We will first place these turbines in shallow waters near the shore, but over time will build them further from the coast. We plan to complete Taiwan’s first offshore wind farm pilot project in 2015, followed by a full-scale offshore wind farm in 2020. We expect that these farms will have a rated capacity of 600 MW, which is equivalent to the capacity of 120 wind turbines. At the same time, we will also promote the use of solar power. We refer to our goal as the “million roof” solar panel project for Taiwan. It may sound as though we are seeking the installation of solar panels on one million roofs, but that is not the case. Rather, the amount of solar power we want to generate in the future will be equivalent to having solar panels on the roofs of one million structures. Of course, solar panels will be installed on quite a large number of roofs. In the future, we will promote an energy wholesale pricing system. We will formulate an annual target and will then encourage the installation of solar panels on all types of structures. Within five years, in other words, by the end of 2015, we will want 420 MW of generating capacity to have been installed, and we hope that this number will rise to 1,020 MW by 2020. This amount of capacity would be equivalent to solar panels being installed on the roofs of 340,000 structures. Not all solar panels will actually be installed on roofs; some will be installed elsewhere.

Over the next 10 years, we want to create an “eco-friendly homeland” and a “toxin-free homeland.” We want to reverse the past situation in which the rampant use of public resources resulted in damage to the environment. We want to keep pollution from entering into our lives. Polluters must face heavy fines to offset the external costs generated by their activities. We will penalize companies that generate profits by causing pollution, and take steps to prevent such behavior from occurring in the first place. We want to gradually restore destroyed environments. To be sure, over the past several years, the Keelung River and the Tamsui River in northern Taiwan, and the Erren River between Tainan and Kaohsiung have been cleaned up, giving us confidence that we can achieve our objectives. In particular, over the past year, the improvements in air pollution have been unprecedented. This demonstrates that we are doing quite a good job. In the future we will assess the level of pollution that the environment can bear and then draft related policies to reflect that situation.

Over the past three years, the work we have carried out with regard to carbon emissions and electricity conservation has been quite successful. Prior to my administration taking office in May 2008, carbon emissions here had been extremely high for many years, while energy-use efficiency was quite low. Over the past three years, however, we have reversed the situation. In 2008 and 2009, carbon emissions were extremely low. In 2010, carbon emissions reached 6% due to extremely strong economic growth. However, energy-use efficiency has improved quite a bit. This is something that we are extremely pleased about, and that gives us confidence. We previously pledged to the international community that our carbon emissions in 2020 would return to 2005 levels, while emissions in 2025 would return to the levels seen in 2000. We are increasingly confident that we will achieve our objectives.

Lastly, I would like to address disaster preparedness and rescue. Two years ago, areas of southern and eastern Taiwan suffered terrible damage due to Typhoon Morakot. This disaster forced us to re-examine our entire mechanism for preparing for and responding to disasters, from our legal framework to government organizations. After two years of hard work, central government agencies have developed a package of measures that are more effective than those used in the past. In addition, the central and local governments work closely together and employ the best communications and information technology to ensure that the most up-to-date disaster preparedness and rescue information can be transmitted to those who need it.

Two years ago on October 5 when Typhoon Parma swept through Taiwan, we began to institute preventive evacuations. Over 7,800 people in parts of southern Taiwan were evacuated, and the result was that there was no loss of life. It is impossible to say what would have happened if those people had not been evacuated. Evacuations in Yilan County in northeastern Taiwan got off to a slower start than we would have liked, but we were fortunately able to get the job done. Despite heavy flooding and landslides, no further harm took place. We have been able to build on our experiences each time and learn from them. Now, many local governments are quite familiar with what needs to be done and preventive evacuations take place before a storm arrives. I think the progress we have made in this respect is really valuable. This is precisely the meaning of a principle that I have stated for many years—we must emphasize disaster preparedness over disaster relief, and evacuation over other preparedness measures .

Meanwhile, our nation’s armed forces have adopted disaster preparedness and rescue as a core mission. They are strictly carrying out the policy of “preparing for disasters in advance, deploying troops with an eye to disaster preparedness, and ensuring readiness for rescue operations.” I am confident that government agencies are relatively familiar with this basic concept. And we’ve discovered that since we began implementing this policy the number of related disasters has declined. Still, we cannot let down our guard. We need to realize that humans cannot afford to fight with Mother Nature. Consequently, we must do our best to avoid disasters. We must make every effort to simply not be in dangerous areas when storms occur. I am confident that everyone understands what I am saying. In the years ahead, our disaster preparedness measures cannot only be aimed at typhoons, of course. We also have to be prepared for earthquakes and possible tsunamis. We must be ready for a multiple disaster, including a nuclear accident. Therefore, in the future we will stage annual drills to ensure that local governments are familiar with the steps that need to be taken in the event of such occurrences. I have always embraced the belief that “practice makes perfect” and that “hard work can make up for shortcomings.” Through regular preparation and practice, you develop skills. Actually, many disasters are avoidable. We believe that we have learned an enormous amount over the past two years. I also am deeply grateful to central government agencies and local governments for their cooperation in this effort.

Among the government officials attending the press conference were Vice President Vincent C. Siew, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Secretary-General to the President Wu Jin-lin (伍錦霖), Vice Premier Sean C. Chen (陳冲), Secretary-General of the Executive Yuan Lin Join-sane (林中森), Minister without Portfolio Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), Deputy Secretary-General to the President Kao Lang (高朗), Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥), Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji (吳清基), Council for Cultural Affairs Minister Emile C.J. Sheng (盛治仁), Environmental Protection Administration Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen (沈世宏), Atomic Energy Council Minister Tsai Chuen-Horng (蔡春鴻), Government Information Office Minister Philip Y.M. Yang (楊永明), Vice Minister of the Interior Tseng Chung-ming (曾中明), Council for Economic Planning and Development Deputy Minister Hu Chung-ying (胡仲英), and Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Hu Sing-Hwa (胡興華).