President Tsai Ing-wen delivered a new year's address on the morning of January 1 in the Presidential Office auditorium, stating that the new year will be a year of fighting for our livelihoods, protecting our democracy, and safeguarding our sovereignty.
A translation of the president's full remarks is as follows:
My dear fellow citizens, and friends from the media:
Good morning, and Happy New Year!
As we begin a new year, I would like to wish all my fellow citizens a Happy New Year, and the best of health.
Last year, we all experienced the election campaign. Every election has winners, and losers, and here I would like to extend best wishes to all the city mayors and county magistrates who were elected. I wish you all success and smooth sailing in your new posts.
Since the elections are over, it is now time for our society to come together and show solidarity again. I hope that all our fellow citizens will bravely join together to embrace the challenges that lie ahead.
In many respects, the central government's policies in 2018 have laid a good foundation for 2019. One example is that starting today, the minimum wage for laborers will be raised to NT$23,100, and the hourly rate for part-time workers will be raised to NT$150. We have raised the minimum wage every year for three consecutive years, and formally said good-bye to the NT$22,000 monthly wage that came to represent low wages for young people.
In addition, when filing income taxes in May this year, I believe that many of our fellow citizens will discover that their four major deductions are higher. And our friends with monthly salaries of NT$30,000 or less will basically be exempt from paying personal income tax. So everyone will see and feel that the government really is working hard to keep more money in people's pockets.
In addition to increasing wages and cutting taxes, this year we will also take even greater steps to alleviate the public's financial burdens. For the past two years, the economy has grown, and national tax revenues have exceeded expectations. So I have asked the Executive Yuan to make concrete proposals as soon as possible, making low-income citizens a priority in enjoying the benefits of economic growth.
This is just like a profitable company, which should make it a priority to share those profits with its employees. And a nation should do likewise. One focal point of government policy efforts in 2019 is to make an all-out effort to enhance people's livelihoods and take better care of young people and the disadvantaged.
In 2019, the changes and challenges of international society will be more severe, and more volatile. The US-China trade war will certainly impact Taiwan's overall economy, industrial development, and financial stability.
Since I took office, I have always placed tremendous importance on changes in the international situation. As a national leader, my responsibility is to find space for Taiwan to survive and develop in a highly uncertain international environment.
In 2019, my responsibility will be even greater. I have already directed our national security team and all government agencies to carry out all necessary response measures. US-China relations will profoundly influence Taiwan's economic structure, so we absolutely cannot take this situation lightly.
Fortunately, over the past two years, the government has been preparing for this situation in the best way possible. Whether it's industrial transformation spurred by our "5+2 industrial innovation program," expanding domestic demand by supporting public infrastructure efforts under our Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, or diversifying our global footprint through the New Southbound Policy, we have been working to adjust previous economic and trade strategies that were overly dependent on China to respond to dramatic changes in the international situation.
Over the past two plus years, many Taiwanese business people in China have told me that they are eager to return and invest in Taiwan. The administrative team led by Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) has taken their message to heart, and done everything they can to resolve the "five shortages" (land, electricity, water, labor, and talent) over the past year. Beginning today, an action plan to welcome Taiwanese companies abroad to invest in Taiwan will also be implemented for three years to pave the way for Taiwanese companies to return home. Now is the best time to do everything possible to welcome Taiwanese firms back to Taiwan to invest.
And of course, among the international political and economic challenges in 2019, we cannot overlook the development of cross-strait relations.
I acknowledge that the recent "9 in 1" elections were a serious test for the current government. But I must emphasize that the election results absolutely do not mean that grassroots public opinion in Taiwan favors abandoning our sovereignty, nor do they mean that the people want to make concessions regarding Taiwanese identity.
We do not oppose normal cross-strait interaction. Even more, we do not oppose cross-strait municipal exchanges. But cross-strait exchanges must be healthy and normal. They cannot depend on vague political preconditions, or forced submission to "passwords" or acceptable phrases. What the two sides of the strait really need is a pragmatic understanding of the fundamental differences in the values we espouse, our lifestyles, and our political systems.
So here, I am calling on China that it must face the reality of the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan); it must respect the commitment of the 23 million people of Taiwan to freedom and democracy; it must handle cross-strait differences peacefully, on a basis of equality; and it must be governments or government-authorized agencies that engage in negotiations. These "four musts" are the most basic and crucial foundations that will determine whether cross-strait relations develop in a positive direction.
Before the two sides can establish a sustainable relationship, we must honestly face all threats and risks to our national security, especially China's attempts to use the openness and freedom of our democratic system to interfere in Taiwan's internal politics and social development. This has now become Taiwan's greatest challenge.
To safeguard Taiwan's security, we will set up a three-part security network for cross-strait exchanges.
The first part of that network will strengthen security on people's livelihoods.
During our recent efforts to prevent an African swine fever epidemic, China's government has never followed the relevant agreements and provided Taiwan with accurate, real-time reports about the epidemic situation. Once African swine fever spreads to Taiwan, it will seriously impact the related industries, as well as people's livelihoods and the larger economy. More importantly, it will give the Taiwan public a negative impression of China. And that is something we do not welcome.
If we can't even have sincere cooperation on epidemic prevention and treatment, how can we talk about both sides of the Taiwan Strait being one family? Instead of doing everything possible to get Taiwan political figures to say certain "passwords," it would be better to be pragmatic, and cooperate on issues that people on both sides care about most like security on people's livelihoods. Our government will be on high alert at all points of entry to prevent epidemic infections from entering Taiwan. And once again, I am appealing to all Taiwanese to face up to the seriousness of swine fever. I am also calling on China once again to set aside preconceived ideas, set aside antagonisms, and focus on what is most important—security on people's livelihoods.
The second part of that security network will enhance information security.
In addition to continuing to enhance our national defense capabilities, national security should also be expanded to include information warfare. Democracy can be manipulated, and other democratic nations around the world have also recently become aware of this problem.
In Taiwan, the flood of disinformation, including from the other side of the strait, has unsettled hearts and minds. So I have already asked the Executive Yuan to submit concrete countermeasures to address the spread of disinformation. To address the information and communication security controversies surrounding Chinese companies that have caused international concern, I have also asked our national security agencies to prioritize and clarify all relevant issues to ensure the information and communication security of all critical infrastructure. We cannot allow any gaps in our information and communication security.
The third part will enhance security protecting democracy in cross-strait interactions.
Taiwan is a democratic country. We therefore should not be forced to accept unilateral positions on cross-strait political issues, and the people of Taiwan must be able to participate in and monitor cross-strait political dialogue.
I have thus directed our national security agencies to investigate and discuss this situation, and where cross-strait interactions may impact sovereignty issues, strengthen democracy monitoring mechanisms, and establish a robust security network for Taiwan to protect democracy through rule of law.
My fellow citizens: The theme for our 2019 new year's flag-raising ceremony is "Brave and Confident–One with the World." In our rapidly changing world, Taiwan's best option is to persevere on the path of democracy, and work together with like-minded people around the globe.
Just a few days ago, the number of foreign visitors to Taiwan in 2018 surpassed 11 million, setting a new record. That shows the love the world has for Taiwan, and Taiwan's importance to the world. So Taiwan can be confident, and should be.
This is a new year, a year to fight for our livelihoods, a year to protect our democracy, and a year to safeguard our sovereignty. In 2019, I will be working every day to propose economic policies that have an impact that people can really feel, and build all three parts of our security network to protect Taiwan.
Let me close by once again wishing all of my fellow citizens a Happy New Year. Thank you.