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  • President Ma attends Cross-Strait Youth Forum
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President Ma attends Cross-Strait Youth Forum. President Ma Ying-jeou attends Cross-Strait Youth Forum. President Ying-jeou Ma attends Cross-Strait Youth Forum.
President Ma Ying-jeou on the morning of April 28 attended the Cross-Strait Youth Forum, where he delivered an address entitled Visions for Cross-Strait Interaction in a New Age. The president explained that exchanges between youth of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can help to solidify a foundation for sustained peace between Taiwan and mainland China while also boosting the competitiveness of Taiwan students and helping to build up Taiwan as a higher education hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

After listening to comments expressed by representatives of students from mainland China and Taiwan, the president stated that the more contact there is between students on the two sides, the better they will understand each other. This, he said, will enable students from each side to better think about things from the perspective of their counterparts. This type of interaction is definitely meaningful, the president added, saying that it is conducive to building long-term peace. After listening to the remarks of student representatives, the president noted that he deeply senses that interaction between students of the two sides has already gotten off to a good start and that this interaction should continue to be expanded in the future.

The president also cited the famous French short story The Last Class, explaining that in the 1870s, France and Germany had a deep dislike for each other in the wake of long-running warfare between the two sides. After World War II, however, France and Germany embarked upon a large-scale student exchange program, which ultimately helped to promote cooperation among many countries throughout Europe. President Ma remarked that this example shows that if long-lasting peace is to be achieved in the Taiwan Strait, it will have to begin with the younger generation. He elaborated by saying that if young people are able to build friendships at a relatively early age, this will undoubtedly be conducive to the development of cross-strait peace.

President Ma mentioned that quite a number of students from Taiwan are already pursuing studies in mainland China and that a considerable number of mainland Chinese exchange students are also studying here. Two years ago the government completed revisions to regulations in order to allow students from the mainland to come to Taiwan to pursue studies on a full-time basis. Recruitment of students formally began last year, he pointed out, stating that the Ministry of Education this year carried out a comprehensive review on the "Three Restrictions and Six Prohibitions" Policy with an eye toward carrying out further liberalization.

The president stated that he advocates opening Taiwan's doors to students from mainland China in order to create a foundation for longstanding peace between the two sides, and also to foster healthy competition between students from the two sides. It will also lead to cooperation, and give students on the two sides chances to learn from each other. President Ma turned to the developmental history of Harvard University to prove his point. He noted that Harvard was founded in 1636 and after several waves of reform, the institution developed into quite a good university in the 19th century. By the middle of the 20th century, the university was considered one of the world's leading universities, and now in the 21st century Harvard regularly ranks in surveys as the world's top university. What Harvard relies on, he said, is research, education, and competition. In particular, in the post-war period, large numbers of European students have gone to the United States to pursue their studies. In addition, the United States has also marketed its universities very effectively, thereby attracting the world's best students. William C. Kirby, former dean of Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, has recommended that Taiwan allow mainland students to pursue their studies here because it would boost the competitiveness of Taiwanese students.

President Ma stressed that Taiwan has no choice but to pursue this route. Not only must it open its doors to mainland Chinese students, it must also welcome students from Southeast Asia and the entire world. Presently, he said, foreign students constitute 4% of all university students here, and the government hopes to boost this share to 10% by 2020 to enhance the competitiveness of Taiwan's students. President Ma added that exposure to foreign students will also help local students develop a capacity to empathize and put oneself in others' shoes, while being neither easily intimidated nor haughty. Characteristics such as these, said the president, will one day make students leaders with international vision in our society.

The president furthermore stated that Taiwan has relatively ample educational resources and that the present university acceptance rate is 92%. As a result, Taiwan is in a good position to open its campuses to students from the rest of Asia, in particular students from Southeast Asia. If Taiwan is able to manage this situation well, it has the potential to become a hub for higher education in the Asia-Pacific region, the president stated.

Student representatives said that it is still a bit difficult for students from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to relate to each other, and pointed out that regulations forbid mainland students from working here. In response to these comments, the president stated that when he was a student in the United States, he took advantage of all opportunities available to interact with his American counterparts, and worked to blend into American life. He also remarked that as long as you are determined to overcome difficulties and take the initiative to interact with local students, you will be accepted. With regard to the "Three Restrictions and Six Prohibitions" Policy, the Ministry of Education will carry out a thorough review with an eye to reducing impediments to a minimum and forging maximum consensus on the opening of Taiwan's campuses to mainland students. Restrictions will be minimized so long as consensus can be reached, he said.

The president also touched on the role of the media in Taiwan. He commented that Taiwan is a society that provides freedom of the press and that media criticism of political figures is a common occurrence. If something is not accurate, letters can be sent to media sources to explain or clarify various situations. In any event, he said that freedom of speech must be respected because democracy must abide by a certain set of rules.

After completing his remarks, the president asked the student representatives in attendance about their feelings on what constitutes the biggest gap between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and about hikes in electricity rates and gasoline prices here. President Ma also reiterated the importance of interaction among youth between the two sides in helping to promote mutual understanding and cross-strait peace.
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