Ma Ying-jeou’s National Day Address

Forging Ahead Together
With Composure in the Face of Adversity

Legislative Yuan President Wang; Republic of the Marshall Islands President Loeak; Vice presidents and prime ministers from our diplomatic allies; Members of visiting delegations; Ambassadors and representatives stationed in the ROC; Vice President Wu; Presidents of the Five Yuan of the ROC; Senior Advisors and National Policy Advisors to the President; Heads of government agencies; Esteemed leaders and overseas compatriots; Friends watching on television and the Internet; My fellow citizens:
Good morning to you all!

Today is the 101st National Day of the Republic of China. It is also the first National Day since I began my second term as president. Each year, this is a time for us to celebrate the birth of our nation. Yet it is also a time for us to remember the hardships and struggles of our ancestors, and to remind ourselves that we must continue our efforts.

Nearly nine months have already passed since this year’s presidential election. During this period, enormous political and economic changes have occurred, both here in Taiwan and around the world. Some of our government’s policies have received criticism from the public. This has at times been directed at me personally, and occasionally at my administration as a whole. Some charge that our policy measures have not been well thought out. Others say that we have failed to clearly communicate our intentions. We have listened very attentively to these criticisms. We have taken a close look at our performance, and sought to make improvements. Our response will come in the form of concrete action.

The global economic situation this year is no less severe than it was during the financial tsunami of four years ago. And on top of that, tensions in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea have escalated. These constitute major challenges for Taiwan.

Yet we need not fear them. Indeed, I am certain that, as long as we remain composed and make a concerted effort to deal with all the difficulties we face, we can eventually overcome them. I therefore propose four main directions in which we should all move together. These are:

1. Reforming industrial structure and raising salary levels;
2. Eliminating investment barriers and increasing job opportunities;
3. Defending sovereignty and fishing rights, and promoting regional peace; and
4. Solidifying democracy and the rule of law, while enhancing the development of cross-strait relations.

Reforming industrial structure and raising salary levels

Although Taiwan’s economy has grown over the past dozen years, many people have seen their salaries remain stagnant, and they are naturally unhappy about it. In order to resolve this difficult situation, our industry must move toward higher value-added development; only then will labor productivity increase and salary levels rise. Therefore, we must reposition ourselves in the international economic and trade system and restructure our industry accordingly, so as to create a new development model for Taiwan’s economy.

Taiwan should become a supplier of key components and precision equipment, as well as a developer of innovative services. In addition to fostering new growth-driver industries, we must also support the efforts of our businesses to develop critical technologies, produce key components, and carry out research and development efforts aimed at creating precision equipment with intelligent functions and unique competitive advantages. This multi-track approach will ensure that our industrial firms will not be easily replaced by, nor be dependent upon, those of other nations. Aside from manufacturing, we must also keep track of market trends and develop innovative business models, so that the service sector will enjoy a greater share in our industry’s output value and exports. In this way, we can transform our service industry into another engine that can drive economic growth and help to raise pay levels. These efforts to adjust our industrial structure that I have just now discussed are underway already.

Furthermore, we want to expand our economic and trade links with other nations in order to facilitate the marketing of Taiwan’s products and services around the world. Two years ago, we signed the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China, our number one trading partner, and this past August we concluded the Cross-Strait Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, the Cross-Strait Customs Cooperation Agreement, and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on cross-strait currency clearance. Follow-up negotiations under the ECFA are now moving forward at a rapid pace.

Also, the steady improvement in recent years of relations with Japan, our second largest trading partner, has yielded increasingly close ties between our two countries. Over the past two years, the number of flights between Taiwan and Japan has increased by 45%, while the number of destinations served has gone up by 90%. In fact, since Taiwan and Japan signed the Taiwan-Japan Bilateral Investment Arrangement last year, Japanese investments here have increased by 26 percent, making Japan our top source of foreign investments this year.

Elsewhere, our negotiations on economic cooperation agreements with Singapore and New Zealand are proceeding quite smoothly, and we have also commenced feasibility studies on similar agreements with several other Asia-Pacific nations. And in early September the United States, our third largest trading partners, agreed to prepare for a resumption of talks with Taiwan under our bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, and we will be striving to create favorable conditions for Taiwan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Moreover, on October 2, the United States announced that the ROC is to be included in its Visa Waiver Program. Note that we are the only country among the 37 on the list that does not have official diplomatic relations with the US. This represents a big vote of confidence by the United States in the citizens of the ROC, and it will further deepen people-to-people ties as well as our bilateral economic and trade relations. It also further enhances mutual trust at the highest levels of government.

These new developments will help us integrate ourselves into the regional and global economic and trade systems, and emerge as a star performer in the latest round of international competition.

Eliminating investment barriers and increasing job opportunities

Another issue of great concern to the people of Taiwan is employment. We need to nurture a more favorable business environment in Taiwan to help generate jobs. Once domestic and foreign investment grows, the economy will thrive, and jobs will increase.

Taiwan recently placed number four in an international research organization’s global rankings of the best investment climates in the world, but the government will continue striving to clear investment obstacles and achieve better infrastructural balance between the various regions of Taiwan. Currently, in northern Taiwan, the central and local governments have collaborated to launch the Taoyuan Aerotropolis Project. Both the public and private sectors will invest enormous amounts of capital in this project, which is expected to generate an economic impact of NT$2.3 trillion and create 260,000 jobs. In central Taiwan, the Taichung Software Park and the Taichung City Precision Machinery Science and Technology Park are already underway. In southern Taiwan, the government will open a Free Economic Demonstration Zone in Kaohsiung. By nurturing a free and open environment that meshes well with the international economy, we can attract foreign service-sector enterprises and professionals to southern Taiwan.

In eastern Taiwan, the Suao-Hualien Highway Improvement Project and the South-Link Highway Expansion Project are currently underway. To improve our railway system, 17 newly procured high-speed tilting trains with a total of 136 tilting cars will start operation in early 2013, and after we complete the Hualien-Taitung Line Electrification Project and the Double-Tracking Project to relieve traffic congestion at bottleneck sections at the end of next year, travel between Taitung and Taipei will only take three and a half hours. The South-Link Railway Improvement Project will also continue as planned. Once these projects are finished, people will be able to easily make one-day round trips between any two points in Taiwan, including the eastern part of the island.

Tourism is another area where employment could be expanded. The number of visits from overseas is expected to hit an all-time high of 7 million this year. The public and private sectors need to go all-out to provide visitors with a higher-quality experience. More investment is needed, so that we can reach our goal of attracting 10 million visits from overseas in 2016.

Beyond these flagship projects, however, there is more that the government needs to do. It also needs to create a more hospitable and convenient investment environment through further deregulation. But I want to stress that, in relaxing restrictions on the investment of foreign capital in Taiwan’s industries, we will be sure to continue to safeguard our national security and interests. In the future, liberalized policies will become the norm, and barriers the exception. We need to eliminate controls on the labor market to match modern trends, provided that we do so in a manner that strikes a proper balance between promoting investment and protecting the interests of domestic labor.

Defending sovereignty and fishing rights, and promoting regional peace

No incursion into our national territory can be countenanced, nor can we waver in defense of our sovereignty. The recent situation in the waters around the Diaoyutai Islets has gained worldwide attention. Whether looked at from the perspective of history, geography, or international law, the Diaoyutai Islets have always been part of the territory of the Republic of China, and are among the islands that belong to Taiwan. In particular, the waters surrounding the Diaoyutais have for hundreds of years been the traditional fishing grounds of fishermen from Taiwan. Our government’s patrol vessels will continue to protect our fishermen and defend our territorial waters in this area.

The ROC has always sought peace and attached great importance to its relations with friendly nations. In response to the dispute over the Diaoyutai Islets, I proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative on August 5 to advocate that each party set aside disputes and engage in dialogue. “Defending sovereignty and fishing rights, resolving the dispute through peaceful means, and promoting joint exploration and development” are the objectives for which we strive. The same principles also apply to the South China Sea. The ROC intends to play the role of a peacemaker within the international community, and will continue working for peace and stability in East Asia.

Solidifying democracy and the rule of law, while enhancing the development of cross-strait relations

The rule of law is essential for democracy, and clean, competent government is essential for the rule of law. Without clean and competent government, democracy and the rule of law are just empty phrases. This is why, since entering politics, I have always sought to be a clean and competent official. It is why, since taking office as president, I have called on public servants to “have integrity, get results, and show compassion.” And this is why I have solemnly pledged to deliver clean and competent governance.

My fellow citizens: the democratic achievements of the Republic of China here in Taiwan have garnered the attention of the entire Chinese-speaking world. Taiwan has proven that democracy can take root and bear fruit within the framework of Chinese culture. This is why I am convinced that there is more to the relationship between Taiwan and mainland China than just complementary economies and fruitful cultural ties. I believe we can also have a dialogue on democracy and the rule of law.

In the past four-plus years, the ROC government has signed 18 agreements and reached two points of consensus with the mainland. These developments will bring substantive benefits to the people of Taiwan. The government will continue efforts to expand interactions across the Taiwan Strait on the basis of the 1992 Consensus, whereby each side acknowledges the existence of “one China” but maintains its own interpretation of what that means. We shall thoroughly review and revise the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, and will also push for both sides to set up offices in one another’s territory to serve the needs of businesses, students, and the general public. This will be the key focus of our work on the cross-strait relationship as we move forward.

During the September 2012 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, the ROC envoy, Dr. Lien Chan, expressed to mainland leader Hu Jintao the strong desire of Taiwan’s people to meaningfully take part in international organizations, and he met with a positive response. We welcome this development, as the sort of mutual trust that this evinces is highly beneficial for the development of the cross-strait relationship, and it definitely improves how people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait feel about each other.

Forge ahead together for Taiwan’s resurgence

My fellow citizens: the government has encountered many challenges since it moved to Taiwan over 60 years ago, but the people of Taiwan have squarely faced all difficulties and kept moving courageously forward. Today, we again face adversity, both domestically and internationally. But our objectives are consistent and we are of one mind, so we will be able to overcome these difficulties. This is how we weathered the global financial crisis four years ago. We all achieved it together, pushing forward one step at a time.

There are many stories from the past 100 years of the Republic of China that fill us with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Our forefathers have bequeathed this nation to us, and we are duty-bound to ensure that the nation continues to thrive. The wheel of history cannot but continue to roll on. The days and years ahead are filled with infinite possibilities. It is my firm belief that the Republic of China has a bright future. May we forge ahead together, unfazed by whatever difficulties we may face, and jointly strive for Taiwan’s resurgence!

Let us proclaim together:
Long live the Republic of China!
Long live democracy in Taiwan!
Thank you!