President Tsai Ing-wen on the morning of October 10 attended the ROC’s 107th Double Tenth National Day Celebration in the plaza fronting the Presidential Office Building, and delivered an address entitled “Democratic Taiwan Lights up the World.” She explained that Taiwan will respond to dramatic changes in international politics and economics by seeking stability, adaptability, and making progress, and build a stronger Taiwan by strengthening national security, the economy, and the social safety net.
The following is a translation of the president’s address:
National Day Celebration Chairperson Su Jia-chyuan, distinguished guests, my fellow countrymen watching live on television and online: Good morning.
Today is the 107th birthday of the Republic of China, and many expatriates and good friends from around the world are here to celebrate with us. On behalf of the people of Taiwan, let me express our sincere gratitude to all of you who have come so far to join us.
On this National Day, we should not just celebrate together. We should also reflect together on our country’s future. In the past year, all countries have been tested by the changing international landscape, and Taiwan is no exception. The government is constantly looking for opportunities within these challenges, and our country’s optimal strategic position and path to the future in a changing world. Today, I want to take this opportunity to fully explain to the public how the government is responding to those challenges and changes.
I trust that you have all seen dramatic changes in the international political and economic situation. The US-China trade dispute has led to a restructuring of the global industrial division of labor, with repercussions for the existing economic and trade order.
Accordingly, Indo-Pacific region dynamics and cross-strait relations have also become more complex. The international community is concerned about China’s attempts to challenge the regional status quo. As Taiwan is on the frontline of the Western Pacific, we are naturally subject to tremendous pressure.
For some time now, China’s unilateral diplomatic offensive and military coercion have not only harmed cross-strait relations. They have also seriously challenged the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
In the face of suppression, some people have wanted the government to adopt a more confrontational stance. Others believe that we should give in and compromise.
But ladies and gentlemen: The more dramatically things change, the more Taiwan has to maintain stability, remain composed to reduce pressure, and calmly find our survival niche.
Over the past two years, I have consistently insisted on: Protecting the free and democratic way of life of our 23 million people; defending the sustainable development of the Republic of China; and maintaining cross-strait peace and regional stability. These are the greatest common denominators among all the people of Taiwan, and every responsible politician and political party must defend them to the end.
As the entire world is dealing with the expansion of Chinese influence, the government that I am leading will show the world Taiwan’s strength and resilience. The best way to defend Taiwan is to make it indispensable and irreplaceable to the world.
The people of Taiwan will never accept any attempt by external forces to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. And the international community will never approve of and support the violation of universal values.
So once again, I am calling on the authorities in Beijing, as a responsible major power, to play a positive role in the region and the world, instead of being a source of conflict.
As president, I want to assure everyone that we will neither act rashly to escalate confrontation, nor will we give in. I will not be provoked into confrontation or conflicts that endanger cross-strait relations, nor will I deviate from the will of the people, and sacrifice Taiwan’s sovereignty. In a world of dramatic change, we will not misjudge the situation. Escalating conflicts or giving in will only make things worse.
Instead, we will respond by seeking stability, adaptability, and making progress. There are many challenges on the path ahead, but at this stage, we must travel this path with sure and steady steps.
An effective response strategy must be rooted in national strength. So right now, our most important task is to strengthen national security, economy, and the social safety net. We will continue to make Taiwan stronger, and irreplaceable in the global community. This is Taiwan’s niche for sustainable survival.
Current challenges to our national security go beyond traditional defense and military security. Diplomatic pressure, social infiltration, and economic security are all potential threats. Our current priority is to formulate an overall strategy, and bolster our national security.
The first element in fortifying our national security is to strengthen value-based diplomatic links, and establish Taiwan’s irreplaceable strategic importance.
Taiwan occupies an important geostrategic position. In facing changing international circumstances, our strategic choice is clear, and that is to staunchly defend freedom, democracy, and the market economy. These fundamental values have been important foundations in helping Taiwan become a model of Asian democracy and develop a strong economy.
In the past two years, facing pressure from China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) has upheld its values and beliefs, been extremely resilient, and therefore garnered the support of more and more like-minded countries.
The United States is a case in point: The US Congress recently passed many Taiwan-friendly legislative bills. Vice President Mike Pence also openly condemned China’s suppression of Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts, and lauded our democracy.
Japan, which shares our democratic values, has also spoken up for Taiwan in international gatherings, and we have also come to each other’s aid in times of natural disaster. This has helped us forge a closer friendship.
Recently, the European Parliament passed a resolution to recognize Taiwan’s democratic development and call for the EU and its Member States to do their utmost to urge China to refrain from further military provocation toward Taiwan and endangering peace in the Taiwan Strait.
Many of our diplomatic allies have actively advocated on Taiwan’s behalf, to remind everyone that Taiwan should not be left out of international cooperation. Attending our celebrations today are three important friends who have continued to give Taiwan their support: Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez, Saint Kitts and Nevis Governor-General Sir S. W. Tapley Seaton, and Saint Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.
Let us take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to them. Our friends have travelled very far to join us, so please join me in welcoming them with a round of applause.
The second element in fortifying our national security is to upgrade our national defense capabilities.
Our military strategy is resolute defense and multi-domain deterrence. Its core value lies in upgrading the ROC military’s capabilities. As I have said before, as long as I am president, our national defense budget will grow steadily every year. Our lean and combat-ready troops absolutely have the ability to defend the sovereignty of the Republic of China (Taiwan)!
In addition, we are also working to enhance our national defense self-sufficiency. In June of this year, I visited the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) to preside over a launch ceremony for our new advanced jet trainer assembly line. Two months later in August, I was at the Navy Command Headquarters to announce the launch of a “new navy.”
By re-initiating the domestic development and manufacturing of advanced training aircraft and submarines, which had been on hold for some time, we will lead our national defense industry into a new era. In the future, our national defense industry will not only strengthen military capabilities, but will also become a key driving force for industrial development through industrial upgrading and clustering.
The third element of national security is preventing foreign powers from infiltrating and subverting our society, ensuring that our democratic institutions and social economy function normally.
We are determined to defend the values of Taiwan’s diverse democracy. But if another country takes advantage of our society’s freedom to infiltrate society and create chaos, we absolutely will not sit by idly, and will take any and all preventive measures necessary.
Whether it be disseminating disinformation, illegally obtaining scientific and technical intelligence, maliciously damaging the information security system, intervening in the election process, or interfering with government operations, if there is irrefutable evidence of crime, the perpetrators will suffer serious consequences.
For cases involving systematic dissemination of disinformation from specific countries, we will strengthen cross-border collaboration. That includes not only experience sharing, but also setting up monitoring and notification mechanisms, so that together, we can respond to any damage or negative impact that disinformation has on social stability in various countries.
The fourth element of our overall national security planning is to realign and rearrange our global economic and trade strategy.
To address the US-China trade dispute and a major restructuring of the global economic and trade order, we have to adjust Taiwan’s role in regional development and global supply chains. We will use Taiwan’s medium and large businesses’ ability to integrate a regional division of labor and their global reach, plus the dynamism of our small and medium sized enterprises to develop a brand new strategic deployment as a catalyst to completely transform and upgrade Taiwan’s economy.
So there are three important things we have to do:
First, from an industrial structure and resource complementarity standpoint, we have to establish close industrial division of labor and technical links with advanced industrial entities like the United States, Europe, and Japan in R&D and cutting-edge manufacturing to create new, high-efficiency supply chains.
Second, in terms of resource and market sharing, we need to create key industry chains that support economic development and people’s livelihoods and wellbeing through diversified cooperation with New Southbound countries and other emerging markets that have developmental potential. That will promote mutual prosperity and economic development.
Third, work with governments from our diplomatic allies to face the challenges of climate change, find new development opportunities, establish a foundation for sustainable economic development, and open new markets, new production bases, and new global bases of operation for Taiwan in the future.
To strengthen the economy, we need to promote economic transformation, implement our infrastructure plan efficiently, resolve the five shortages, and make sure that everyone shares in the benefits of economic development.
The key to economic transformation is technology. The government is currently pursuing four major objectives: a system orientation, software-hardware integration, civil-military unity, and international connectivity to quickly upgrade technological standards and R&D capabilities, important foundations for upgrading the economy.
We are using a fresh mindset to dismantle outdated structures and remove obstacles to competition, guiding industry toward new opportunities.
As part of our new approach, our “5+2 industrial innovation program” is already driving industrial transformation and upgrading. Thanks to the introduction of smart manufacturing, Taiwan’s machinery industry output value exceeded NT$1 trillion last year, with enhanced precision and increased added-value, raising manufacturing standards in the aerospace, Internet of Things, and medical device industries.
In addition, our goal for a nuclear-free homeland required a blueprint for green energy development, and has attracted international offshore wind firms to invest in Taiwan. And the related wind power industry chain is also gradually taking shape.
We also want to strengthen our diverse international presence so that industry can respond to changing circumstances by quickly adjusting supply chains.
The Executive Yuan has already formed a task force to help Taiwanese companies diversify their production bases. We will do our best to fully support Taiwan companies that are willing to return here and invest, and assist those companies that want to invest in other countries.
The first stage special budget for our Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program is also being implemented, and we are gradually reaping the benefits of that infrastructure, which will contribute to expanding domestic demand. In the next stage of the program, Taiwan will prioritize investment in infrastructure for green energy, digitization, water resources, railways, and urban-rural development.
In Changhua County, tax revenue generated by green energy will put the local government on firm financial footing, providing the fiscal balance to ensure that students have nutritious lunches, and funding for social welfare programs.
In tribal homelands and remote areas, we are rolling out broadband infrastructure to connect those children with the world through the Internet, and narrow the urban-rural gap.
We are also improving water resource management, and construction of the Shihmen Reservoir’s Jhong Jhuang backup tank, Hushan Reservoir’s downstream tap water project, and the Tsengwen Reservoir’s silt prevention tunnel will give us a steady water supply throughout Taiwan.
We are now addressing localized flooding due to extreme weather patterns and heavy rainfall through detention ponds, artificial lakes, river development, and sewer dredging to rapidly reduce the impact of natural disasters.
In eastern Taiwan, our transportation infrastructure efforts like the Suhua Highway improvement project and the South-Link Highway improvement project have already yielded initial results.
The public is also concerned about railway infrastructure, and we have redoubled our efforts, beefing up the railway system into Eastern Taiwan and rail routes connecting Hualien and Taitung to make the round-island railway system more complete.
Many plans for new construction are in progress throughout the island, and getting ready for the approval stage. They include the Keelung and Hsinchu light rail systems linking urban areas in northern Taiwan; Taichung’s Shanshou Line connecting areas of central Taiwan, and MRT Green Line extension to Changhua; the Kaohsiung MRT’s Red Line extension and new Yellow Line.
Railway infrastructure development not only provides convenient transportation, but also reduces air pollution caused by motor vehicles.
Our goals in promoting the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program are to improve the investment climate, balance regional development, and create a better environment and lifestyle for Taiwan’s next generation.
We have devoted extensive effort to improving the investment environment. Shortages in the five key production factors—land, water, electricity, talent, and labor—that businesses are concerned about are all being resolved, one after another, by Premier Lai’s practical approach.
Let us remember the anxiety last summer surrounding power supply. We were on Code Orange alert for a total of 66 days. But this past summer, both the weather and the economic climate were hotter than last year, yet we didn’t experience a single day under Code Orange, and made it through the power supply crisis.
Let us also remember that in the first half of this year, western Taiwan saw very little rain, and everyone was worried about the water supply. But by tapping into new sources and reducing water usage, reallocation and backup measures, plus the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, we made it through that challenge as well.
Corporate giants including TSMC, Winbond Electronics, and Powerchip have all recently expanded their investments in Taiwan. And world-class companies like Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and Facebook have either begun to set up R&D centers in Taiwan, or proposed new collaboration programs. These all show that our accomplishments in improving the investment environment have been well-received by the private sector at home and abroad.
With the economy’s structural transformation and infrastructure construction both underway, and the investment environment showing improvement, we can see that Taiwan’s economy is recovering, and beginning to show steady growth.
Two years ago, three straight quarters of decline ended. During the first five months of this year, we recorded the lowest same-period unemployment rate in 18 years. And over ten straight years of declining incomes also came to an end in 2017, with real earnings hitting a historical high.
Improving economic indicators are of course wonderful, but what is most important for the government is to have everyone share in the growth dividend.
So this year, we raised wages for military personnel, public servants, and public school educators by 3%, spurring wage increases in the private sector. We have also accelerated increases in the minimum wage, which will finally break the so-called “22K” barrier and reach NT$23,100 next year. We are also lightening the burden on student loans, by introducing a four-year period during which borrowers only have to pay the interest on their loans.
Next year, tax reforms will go into effect to optimize the tax system and also promote tax equality. There will be a major increase in the four major deductions, so that those who earn less than NT$30,000 a month will not have to pay individual income tax. Families with preschool age children will also enjoy much larger tax exemptions.
As for creating a sound social security net, when I first took office in 2016, people’s most pressing concerns were high housing costs, the lack of care services for senior citizens, the heavy burden of childcare, poor public security, and the influx of illegal drugs threatening the nation. In terms of overall social security, there was much that needed to be done. Over the past two years, we have therefore moved at full speed to strengthen our social security system.
The government has initiated a wide range of social housing projects to help achieve residential justice. Over 24,000 housing units have either been completed, or are now in-progress. Counting subsequent construction projects, by the end of this year, that number should reach 35,000 units. In Taipei City and New Taipei City, where this problem is most serious, over 5,400 units have been occupied over the past two years. I have inspected some of the units myself, and people are satisfied with both the quality and quantity.
The long-term care services that the public so urgently needs have been upgraded under our Long-term Care 2.0 Plan. All you have to do is dial 1966 long-term care service hotline, and designated staff will provide assistance. We also increased caregiver compensation so that more people are willing to participate, and thus increased the supply of services to meet the needs of more families. Over the past year, these efforts have helped increase the number of patients receiving long-term care services by 50%, and the number of people who accessed “care for the caregiver” services also doubled.
Taiwan’s low birth rate has already become a national security issue. In addition to providing subsidies, we have also made great progress toward publicly funded childcare by setting up a “quasi-public system” for daycare and preschools. There are currently 56,000 openings available for quasi-public and publically funded services, making affordable childcare more widely available than ever before. Our goal is clear: Lighten parents’ burdens so the birthrate will improve.
Public security is a widespread concern, and with the help of technology and smart deployment of police personnel, crime numbers are trending down. We are also rooting out organized crime and fraud. Prosecutors and police are cracking down on fraud rings and crime organizations of all kinds including gangs that have violated the newly amended Organized Crime Prevention Act, and have indicted over 1,300 people this year to date.
In two sweeps carried out this February and June under the Safe Neighborhoods Drug Enforcement Project, 9,700 kilograms of drugs from all categories were confiscated, and more than 1,900 drug manufacturers, traffickers and drug lords were arrested. Over the next four years, NT$10 billion has been allocated to fund a New Era Anti-Drug Strategy to eradicate drug networks from our society.
My fellow countrymen: Our country’s course of development is changing. Change should not be feared, because we change to adapt to a shifting world, so that Taiwan can continue to stand tall.
Change also helps to correct the wrongs of the past, so that when we hand this country over to the next generation, they will no longer be weighed down with unbearable burdens. So for the past two years, we have been racing to reform our public policies. If our country wants to make progress, there can be no turning back.
There is no turning back from pension reform, because we cannot allow every succeeding generation to teeter on the edge of financial crisis.
There is also no turning back from a nuclear-free homeland, not just for New Taipei City and Pingtung County where the plants are located, but also for every succeeding generation of Taiwanese, so that they may live free from the threat of nuclear catastrophe.
And we can never turn back from transitional justice. Previous administrations made mistakes, and this administration must bravely face them. The only way that democracy can make major strides is by clarifying truths and keeping the lessons of the past in mind.
Reforms may be painful, but in 10 years, or 20 years, the next generation will appreciate the choices we make today. Moments like this test a leader’s resolve, but I will shoulder this burden, and lead our country in the right direction.
Before I close, I want to give a special thanks to the representatives who led us in singing the national anthem. They are the guardians of our lighthouse.
On our country’s coastline, there are 36 lighthouses. And a special group is charged with guarding these beacons, and protecting those at sea. Today, on behalf of our country, I thank all of you for braving solitude and hardship to light up our shorelines.
Taiwan itself is a beacon. Our democratic transition once illuminated our own path through the darkness, and remains a beacon in the night for those who long for democracy. So to all of our friends who are pursuing democracy in Hong Kong, in mainland China, and around the world: You can always look to Taiwan, because Taiwan’s democracy lights up the world.
When the world really sees the beauty of Taiwan, Taiwan will never be alone. I want to tell all of our international friends that we have the courage to persevere on our path.
Our democracy may look noisy and argumentative, but we always rally around Taiwan, and we always find strength in unity. Because this country belongs to all 23 million Taiwanese. Our country must be kept intact, and passed on to the next generations.
We have always believed that our distinctive resilience allows Taiwanese to respond to never-ending internal and external challenges by coming together to make this country better. This captures the true meaning of this year’s National Day theme: “Taiwan, Together.” And now, let us wish the Republic of China a happy birthday, and wish everyone good health, and all the best. Thank you.