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President Lee Responds to National Assembly's Recommendations
1998-12-11

President Lee Teng-hui responded today to the National Assembly after listening to its recommendations on national affairs. His response focused on government reconstruction, building the second-stage of Taiwan Experience and promoting pragmatic diplomacy. The summary of his response follows:

 

Government Reconstruction

 

Speaker Chien and members of the National Assembly:

 

Many of you have presented valuable and substantial recommendations on government reconstruction. For this, I would like to express my appreciation.

 

Government reconstruction lays the basis for this country's greater development. I realized long ago, from the moment I became President of the ROC in January 1988, that although we have accomplished considerably in economic and social developments, we still face ever-changing trends, fierce international competition and our people's high expectations. If we do not prepare in advance by initiating institutional reforms as early as possible, we will soon encounter serious bottlenecks in our development, and the luster of our progress will quickly fade. This will certainly hinder the progress in our national development and the promotion of our people's well-being.

 

To settle this problem once and for all, we must undertake government reconstruction, which in turn, must begin with constitutional reform.

 

The Constitution is the most fundamental law of a country. Any amendment would not be effective without first building the national consensus needed for such action. Therefore, under the coordinated efforts of the ruling and opposition parties, the government convened the National Affairs Conference in July 1990. The most important conclusion of this conference was to determine the direction for our constitutional reform, a prelude to the reform.

 

It took the selfless and tireless dedication of all the members of the three National Assemblies to accomplish the formidable, four-stage task of constitutional amendment over the course of past ten years. By this epoch-making accomplishment, we have successfully transformed our country into a democracy. Not only is the free will of our citizens fully respected and their political well-being greatly promoted, but also our country has received worldwide affirmation and won a new status in the international community. Most of all, we have successfully paved a grand path for the future development of China.

 

The fourth-stage of constitutional reform was completed in 1997. Its objectives include establishing a government system in which power is commensurate with responsibility, and streamlining government bureaucracy and hierarchy. For more than a year now, some of the important measures regarding this reform have already been carried out, while relevant government departments are working on the implementation of others. The Executive Yuan is in charge of the drafting or revising of several basic bills, of which the Temporary Statute for Taiwan Provincial Reconstruction has recently been promulgated in October of this year and its effects are gradually appearing. Many relevant bills are awaiting approval in the Legislative Yuan, such as the Organization Standards for the Central Government, the Law Governing the Maximum Number of Central Government Personnel, the Organic Law for Local Governments, and the Law Governing Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures. I believe that these bills will help promote administrative efficiency after their legislation and implementation.

 

The inefficiency of the Legislative Yuan has always been a concern of our citizens. To date, more than 1,000 bills are pending examination and approval, adversely affecting improvement of government's administrative efficiency and the people's well-being. In order to carry out government reconstruction, the Legislative Yuan has been actively pressing forward the legislation or revision of five major bills-the Organic Law of the Legislative Yuan, the Organic Law of the Legislative Yuan Committees, the Law on the Scope of the Legislative Yuan's Functions and Powers, the Procedural Rules for the Legislative Yuan and the Rules of Behavior for Legislators. After their implementation, these bills will give a face-lift to the Legislature Yuan, marking a new page in the history of the Yuan.

 

Many of you have also expressed concern over parliamentary reform. Parliamentary reform involves the Constitution and therefore, should start with a constitutional amendment. Amending the Constitution is a very difficult job, and if it is to be done effectively, the collective wisdom and consensus of all our citizens are required. I hope that the constitutional research panel of your Assembly will rigorously study and discuss this issue and come up with valuable conclusions that build consensus in our society and that provide the groundwork for future constitutional amendments as well as for improving the legislative branch.

 

Moving Toward the New Century; Creating the Second-stage Taiwan Experience

 

In my response to your recommendations during the second plenary last year, I remarked that since my inauguration as the ROC's first popularly-elected president, I have urged the Administration to undertake various reforms, which are aimed at laying a foundation for the long-term stability and sustainable development of our country. I hope that as we enter into the 21st century, we will build our country into a modern society that upholds the principles of freedom, democracy and equitable distribution of wealth, and in which there is a balanced development between spiritual culture and materialistic civilization.

 

With the blink of an eye, one year has elapsed. In retrospect, our efforts have produced some favorable results, but the reform as a whole has remained incomplete and its progress has failed to meet the people's expectations. This demands a comprehensive examination into the causes of the slow progress. Basically, we are not self-confident enough in our abilities; we are not open-minded enough when assessing problems; and we show insufficient resolve in putting forward the reforms.

 

If we mean to thoroughly implement these reforms and attain the aforementioned goals of our national development, we need to regain our people's self-confidence and face our problems with courage. To move toward our set goals, we need to deliberate with an open mind, and speed up the reforms with steadfast determination and willpower.

 

In fact, we should have confidence in ourselves. Nevertheless, in the face of external shocks, there have always been a few people who entertain fear, spread pessimistic views and even panic. This has given rise to diverging opinions and disunity in our society, gravely sapping our strength as a whole. As a matter of fact, to review our development process, we have created the enviable economic miracle and democratic feat under very difficult internal and external circumstances. In particular, we completed our direct presidential election in 1996 despite Peking's saber rattling, for which we received world acclaim and officially became a member of the democratic community. During the recent Asian financial crisis, which has ravaged most of our neighboring countries, we have managed to weather the crisis and thereby earned international affirmation. All these testify to our solid strength. If we can build up our confidence, establish consensus, unite and strive in solidarity, the future of our country will be very bright.

 

Of course, a country invariably encounters developmental errors, omissions and bottlenecks during its rapid development. These recent years, a number of problems have emerged in our society. In particular, a series of major events relating to public order, industrial security and aviation safety have occurred, which, together with serious floods and earthquakes, have claimed many lives and properties. The government has adopted relief measures to deal with the aftermath of these events. Nonetheless, we cannot treat them as isolated events, but should rather conduct an in-depth and systemic review in order to seek their fundamental solution. Actually, they represent the abuses accumulated over the course of our development. Our disregard for environmental protection and soil conservation has exacerbated the damages caused by natural disasters; our neglect of institutional reform and attitude modification has invited events that jeopardize public security. To permanently prevent similar problems, we must draw lessons from our past experience, review our mistakes honestly, and establish a modern system of management and personnel training that will meet our needs.

 

After all, for a country to stand tall in the international arena; it must ultimately depend on itself. It has to rely on its own development and achievement to earn its dignity and status. Today, for us to gain the upper hand in international competition or in cross-strait relations, we can only do so by relying on our own efforts. We must accelerate our reform, break through the development bottlenecks and recreate new heights in our political and economic developments, to win greater affirmation and support from the international community. Since taking office, I have urged for the implementation of political, economic, social, educational and judicial reforms, and have promoted spiritual reform, a campaign for social reconstruction, in order to guide our country toward development of an even greater magnitude. Of course, any reform cannot be completed overnight, and there will certainly be some obstacles and difficulties during its process. Only with firm determination and willpower, can we fully complete our reforms.

 

Currently, we are at a crucial juncture in our national development. I hope that all our citizens and, in particular, all the government departments will fully realize that only by seizing the opportunity of reform, can we accomplish even more remarkable achievements in our development. I also firmly believe that our citizens possess enough wisdom and capabilities to restore confidence, to review problems with an open mind and to execute the reforms with self-assurance and zeal. The "three-in-one" elections have just been concluded after an electoral process that is marked by reason and maturity. Now we must stand united and join hands to convert our enthusiasm during the election campaign into a driving force behind our development, so that we can expedite the implementation of these cross-century reforms and lay the groundwork for our country's long-term development. With the advent of the 21st century, let us join together to create the second stage of the Taiwan Experience.

 

Promoting Pragmatic Diplomacy

 

I appreciate your concerns and recommendations for our foreign affairs. Now, allow me to brief you on the state and stance of our pragmatic diplomacy.

 

Following the end of the Cold War, the trend toward globalization has gradually eclipsed the traditional concept of sovereignty during the past 10 years. Territories or borders no longer hinder international cooperation and exchanges, and international organizations have adapted to this trend by beginning to revise the rules of game. Today, new norms have emerged in many areas including trade, maritime affairs, fishery, environmental protection, medical care, and so on. As a member of the global village, if we do not participate, who else in this changing world will fight for our rights or protect our interest? Therefore, we must actively participate in international activities. This is by no means "promoting Taiwan independence," nor creating "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan." Rather, it is to secure the ROC's survival and development, and to protect the immediate well-being of our 21.8 million people.

 

In spite of our limited geographic area and natural resources, we have created a world-acclaimed economic miracle during the past half century, through the concerted efforts of our people. According to the latest World Development Report by the World Bank, our GNP totaled US$285.2 billion in 1997. For the fourth consecutive year, we ranked 19th among the world's 210 economies, surpassing such advanced European countries as Belgium, Sweden and Austria. Our per capita income amounted to US$13,233, the 24th highest in the world. Meanwhile, we are the world's 14th largest trade power and are ranked number three in terms of foreign exchange reserves. According to the above figures, we are among the top 10 percent in world rankings, and our economic strength cannot be ignored. What we can be even more proud of is that after our concrete achievements in economic development, we then initiated political reform in keeping with the current trend. During the last 10 years, we have consolidated the consensus of our people and undertaken a four-stage constitutional reform. Through a peaceful and stable process, we have attained our goal by becoming a true democracy, realizing the ideal of "popular sovereignty" and adding a new force to the democratic camp.

 

In retrospect, we have received much international assistance in our political and economic developments. While enjoying our outstanding accomplishments today, we hope to contribute to the international community and to share our successful experience with other countries, in order to fulfill our responsibility as a community member. Regrettably, this intention has been hampered and discouraged repeatedly by mainland China. Peking's high-handed approach is not only lacking in "national sentiment;" it also fails to comply with the universal principles of peaceful co-existence and reciprocity in this global village. Therefore, I would like to reiterate here: Since 1949, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have existed under separate rule by two equal political entities, each exercising its own exclusive jurisdiction. The existence and development of the ROC is an undeniable reality. We insist that prior to the ultimate reunification of China, the ROC should have the freedom to participate in international activities. This is not a challenge to the existing international status of Peking, but is rooted in a "win-win" consideration, that the two sides will learn to coexist and cooperate with each other in the global village. This will then help open a grander framework for our national development and lay a more solid foundation for regional security, and consequently, world peace.

 

In the face of Peking's unreasonable interference, we must continue to build up our national strength as a solid backing for our practical diplomacy. Furthermore, our private sector is energetic, creative and flexible, and has good foreign connections. I hope the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can work out a "people-to-people diplomacy" that aims at combining the energies of both government and private sector to broaden our international space, to effectively seek international support, to open up a brand new horizon for our diplomacy, and to secure the safety of our country and the well-being of our people.

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