Keynote Adress at The“Confidence-Building Measures: Successful Cases and Implications for the Taiwan Strait”
International Conference on “Confidence-Building Measures: Successful Cases and Implications for the Taiwan Strait”
Jan. 16, 2008
Good morning, my dear friends. Welcome to Taipei. First of all, I’d like to thank the New Taiwan Cultural Foundation and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for inviting me to attend this important conference. Most of you are my old friends. And others, I’m sure, will become our good friends pretty soon.
The main theme of this conference, the Confidence Building Measures (CBM), is very timely and critical not only to Taiwan but to this region as a whole. I am certain we would benefit greatly from your insights and experiences.
As you are probably aware, after eight years of economic stagnation, internal over-mobilization and external confrontation, the people in Taiwan are yearning for a change toward greater stability and prosperity at home and a peaceful environment abroad. The result of the most recent legislative election was merely a vivid reflection of this mood.
Indeed, Taiwan has:
1.never experienced such a long period of economic stagnation,
2.never seen its society so divided,
3.never had the wife of the president, two top presidential aides, 3 ministers and 4 vice ministers indicted or investigated for corruption,
4.never had such a partisan Central Election Commission,
5.never been criticized by so many countries, including all the major powers, in the world,
This is unprecedented for Taiwan. And people have already paid a terrible price. The next president will therefore face extraordinary challenges: an economy to revive, social and geographical divisions to reconcile, more jobs to create, more respect to restore to governmental organs, cross-strait tension to reduce, and cross-Pacific trust to rebuild.
This is a daunting task. But I have full confidence in Taiwan’s capability to recover. Over the past few years I have visited so many villages and townships all over Taiwan. I have stayed at the homes of so many ordinary citizens in the cities and countryside. I have spoken in great depth with citizens of so many different professions. Over and over again, I sensed that they have lost confidence in the current government, but have not lost hope in their future. They continue to be hard-working, peace-loving, well-educated, pragmatic and compassionate. In other words, they continue to embody the core values that made this island so special and so great.
A Mature Democracy
Therefore, if elected, I will do at least two things to set the train of Taiwan’s regeneration going. Internally, I will uplift our democracy to make it work for the benefit of the people, not any particular party. Externally, I will anchor our policy on the so-called “three nos” in order to foster a peaceful environment.
In the year 2000, the transfer of power was celebrated as a consolidation of democracy in Taiwan. But now some scholarly studies have shown that Taiwan’s popular belief in democracy is declining and is relatively low compared to neighboring countries. Personally I still have full confidence in democracy. Warts and all, democracy is still the best political system in the world today. If not for democracy, our voters would not have a chance to display their feelings and render a judgment on those in power. If not for our democratic system, the KMT would not have had an opportunity to reflect, reexamine, and reform ourselves in 2000. If not for democracy, the DPP who has been exposed as corrupt and incompetent would not be given an opportunity to reform itself this year.
This does not mean that our democracy is perfect. Far from it. Let’s face it: our democracy is still immature. After the painful experiences of the past few years, we should know by now that:
1.Democracy is not simply about election; it is also about fair-play in elections.
2.Democracy is not simply about competing for power, but also about compromise and cooperation after winning the power.
3.Democracy is not about abusing one’s power, but also about respecting those not in power; and
4.Democracy is not a license to trouble-making in its external relations; democracy and regional responsibility have to come hand in hand.
Hence, if elected, I will instantly start a process of healing and sharing. The differences between the Blues and Greens cannot possibly outnumber or outweigh the common bonds between us. If we aim to talk with Beijing to turn swords into ploughshares, we most certainly could and should bury our hatchets with the opposition parties.
I will also respect the Republic of China constitution. Over the past 15 years, it has been amended seven times. It plainly needs a respite. Therefore, as I promised a year ago, I will not seek to revise the constitution in the next two years. The current system should be allowed to operate for two years to see if it is workable.
More important, I believe it is time to cultivate a spirit of democracy in Taiwan. Respect for differences, fair-play, compromise, sense of responsibility toward the greater good, etc, are the “software” that make a democracy truly work. Unfortunately most of us have paid only lip service to them, but not put them into practice. In the future, I’d urge our people to join me in taking our democracy one level higher.
No Unification, No Independence, and No Use of Force
Externally, if I am given popular mandate, I will pursue a policy of “three nos.” That is, no negotiations for unification during my presidential term; no pursuit of de jure independence; and no use of force by either side of the Taiwan Strait.
Some have taken this “three nos” to be our new position. In fact, the KMT and I have professed this position for a long time. It was on this basis that the KMT administration had engaged Beijing in negotiations and private-sector exchanges in the decade of 1990s. Unfortunately, the “three nos” were broken one by one by both sides of the Strait during the last decade or so.
The Beijing leadership first shot missiles toward Taiwan area in 1995-96, thereby negating the “no use of force.” Henceforth, the PRC sought to expand its military buildup exponentially, posing ever greater threat to Taiwan’s security. Then, in the late 1990s, Beijing attempted to nudge the US toward “supporting China’s unification.” After the transfer of power in Taiwan in 2000, the Chen Shui-bian administration took a series of measures toward “de jure independence” against the advice of the US government and the dissent of the KMT, the PFP and other parties.
One of the clearest lessons of the 1995-2007 period is that all of the three adventures have failed. Beijing failed to achieve its goals with “use of force” and “unification,” and the DPP failed to attain “Taiwan independence.” In fact, they not only failed, but saw their attempt backfire at them. Beijing’s “use of force” served only to alienate Taiwan people’s hearts and minds against the mainland and alarm the international community over its rash behavior. Beijing’s “promotion of unification” not only failed to bring Taiwan and mainland closer, but helped to catapult a pro-independence candidate into the presidential office. After 2000, the DPP’s drive toward Taiwan independence in turn deepened the hostilities across the Strait and estranged our staunchest ally, the United States. Meanwhile, it served to weaken Taiwan economically, socially, militarily and diplomatically.
Therefore, when I proposed “no unification, no independence, and no use of force,” it was not merely a campaign slogan. Nor was it some old KMT wine in a new bottle. I spoke from the bottom of my heart and from the depth of my head. It derives from a lesson I learned in a painful way in the past few years.
Now I believe it’s high time to give “three nos” a chance, since all the three adventures have proven to be miserable failures. And either side had its share of mistakes.
I believe the “three nos” will work for Taiwan, because for a long, long time the general public has always been supporting the “status quo” more than either “independence” or “unification.” And with “three nos” I am merely putting Taiwan back to the pre-1995 period when Taiwan enjoyed high economic growth, political stability, moderate cross-Strait relations, strong national defense, and enhanced international status --- all at the same time.
I believe the “three nos” will be favored by the Beijing leadership, because it has shifted its emphasis from “promoting of unification” to “prevention of independence” for some years and any alternative is most likely to fail in the near future. With “three nos” Beijing could rebuild its relationship with Taipei, remove the thorniest problem from its relations with the US, and refocus its resources on other more pressing tasks.
I believe the “three nos” will also be welcomed by the international community as a whole, because it could finally be rid of a flash point. With “three nos” the world would be safer and gain a more mature and responsible democracy.
But, as I said earlier, I am acutely aware that this is a daunting task, that 2008 is not 1992, and that Taiwan now is not the same Taiwan a decade ago. A lot of water has flown under the bridge. Taiwan, Mainland China and the entire world have changed. But I will not flinch from those difficulties and challenges.
If the Taiwan voters offer me a job, I will do the job well. If the Taiwan people ask me to lead them out of the current conundrum, I will most certainly try my very best to make Taiwan rich and harmonious and standing tall and proud once again.