President Tsai Ing-wen delivered her 2021 New Year's Address on the morning of January 1 in the Entrance Hall of the Presidential Office Building. She thanked all citizens for uniting to combat the pandemic and helping Taiwan achieve what the whole world has been longing for: a normal lifestyle. As president, she said her most important responsibility in 2021 is to ensure that everyone can lead a normal life, and that we move forward with the global economic recovery. In complex and ever-changing global circumstances, she said, Taiwan will stay resilient and overcome the many challenges we face.
Following is the full text of the president's speech:
Friends from the media and those watching live, fellow citizens, and our friends around the world who care about Taiwan: Good morning.
On this, the first day of 2021, I would like to begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. I am sure that before going to bed last night, many of us must have thought to ourselves, "It has been a long year, and it is finally over."
This time last year, before the world knew that a pandemic might occur, we implemented on-board quarantine for all flights from Wuhan to Taiwan. Many people thought that was questionable. But in retrospect, that kind of early deployment was the right decision.
Looking back on 2020, we saw wave after wave of the pandemic wreak havoc around the world, impacting economies and our daily lives.
In many countries, children have not been able to go to school, adults have not been able to go to work, and many jobs have disappeared. Economic activity declined sharply, and the number of deaths around the globe due to the pandemic continues to rise.
Fortunately, in Taiwan we are relying on professional expertise, mutual trust, and social unity to combat the virus together.
We have not imposed lockdowns, so people go to work and school as usual. By following disease prevention instructions, last April 12 Taiwan became the first country in the world to open its professional baseball season.
People wearing masks at concerts and arts and cultural events was a very rare sight around the world in 2020. Most importantly, Taiwan's economy maintained positive growth and our stock market reached new heights.
Although our economy will still face many challenges in the coming year, we have good reason to be optimistic. The global pandemic remains serious, but Taiwanese companies and employment remain stable, and investment continues. Clearly, the worst is already behind us.
We have already stabilized and are ready to surge ahead. Our transformation to a digital economy, the development of the Six Core Strategic Industries, 5G services rollout, and construction of forward-looking infrastructure will all make rapid progress once their budgets are approved.
Over the past year, Taiwan has achieved what the whole world is longing for: a normal lifestyle. That is quite an accomplishment. I want to once again thank everyone in Taiwan for your persistent efforts. From fighting the pandemic to economic relief and stimulus, everyone played their part.
As president, my most important responsibility in 2021 is to ensure that everyone can lead a normal life, and that we move forward with the global economic recovery. This will be our top priority to strive toward.
I also have some important news to share today, the first day of the New Year:
Last Wednesday we formally opened the electrified South Link Line, something that everyone has been looking forward to for 40 years. The "last mile" of Taiwan's round-island electrified rail system is finally finished.
Today, the minimum wage was raised once again. Given the pandemic's effect on the global economy, although the increase was modest, it is still a remarkable achievement.
On January 11 we will start to issue new passports, with the word "TAIWAN" featured prominently on the cover. Citizens will carry these passports when they travel abroad and engage with the world.
This year we will construct 15,000 units of social housing nationwide. This is a great step forward for the largest social housing construction project in the history of Taiwan.
Last year on New Year's Day I pledged to promote a farmer pension system. And that system began operations today. So no matter your occupation, Taiwan has a retirement system for you.
Next, if the Legislative Yuan passes the budget, the childcare allowance will be increased again beginning this year. We are also making faster progress than expected toward our goal to add 3,000 new public preschool classes. The government's plan to work with you to raise our children together from birth through the age of six is well underway.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will also convene this year to address global climate governance issues. We will consult widely to identify the future sustainable development methods most appropriate for Taiwan, while turning the challenges of carbon reduction into new opportunities for industry investment and job creation, and finding new directions for Taiwan's sustainable development.
This year marks my fifth year as president of the Republic of China. Throughout my administration, public support has waxed and waned. While seeking re-election, the voters put me to the test once again.
Every day, I have been conscientious and given my all, working to reach the targets we committed ourselves to. Most importantly, the nation is heading in the right direction, and Taiwan is making progress.
From the recent discussions and disputes surrounding the decision to further open the domestic market to beef and pork importation that meets international standards, I fully understand why previous administrations could not follow through with their promises to do that.
Taiwan depends on trade to survive. This issue was left pending by three successive administrations, so there was no way to avoid it.
With utmost humility, I ask my fellow citizens for your understanding, and hope everyone knows that we thought long and hard before making this decision.
Of course, trade is not our only challenge. As I continuously emphasized last year, the world is changing. In complex and ever-changing global circumstances, as president I have to be even more cautious in building a sustainable future for Taiwan.
We have to think long-term, and go step by step, because the future holds even more challenges for our national development.
From a global strategic standpoint, Taiwan is more important than ever. Stabilizing relations across the Taiwan Strait is no longer just an issue for the two sides. It is a concern for the whole Indo-Pacific region and has already become a focus of international attention.
Over the past year, military aircraft and naval vessels from across the strait have been active around Taiwan. This has undermined cross-strait relations, and poses a threat to the peaceful and stable status quo in the Indo-Pacific.
I want to reaffirm that in dealing with cross-strait relations, we will uphold our principles and not act rashly. We are willing to facilitate meaningful dialogue under the principles of parity and dignity as long as the Beijing authorities sincerely want to resolve differences and improve cross-strait relations.
When the pandemic is under control, we look forward to the gradual return of regular, orderly people-to-people exchanges across the strait to improve mutual understanding and reduce misunderstandings. My principles for dealing with cross-strait affairs have always been joint discussions, finding solutions, and pragmatically solving problems.
The year 2020 has ended. But the beginning of a new year means more than just turning a page on the calendar. We do not know when the pandemic will end, or when we will be able to travel abroad again. The uncertainties of 2020 will continue into this new year.
But I want to assure everyone that 2020 was by no means the most difficult year in human history. The flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the Second World War in the 1940s were all extremely challenging for the people who lived through them.
But people around the world have always been resilient, just like our previous generation. With so much to do after the war, they still went on to create an economic and democratic miracle. These experiences tell us that as long as there is light and water, a rose of hope can grow through a crack in the concrete.
I also want to say a few words for our international audience.
Taiwan has been proud to have worked alongside the international community to confront the challenges posed by COVID-19. We have shown again and again that "Taiwan can help."
As a force for good in the world, we will continue to be an indispensable member of the international community, both now and into the future.
We are also deeply grateful for the international community's continued support for Taiwan. Your willingness to stand together with us as we are faced with difficult regional and global challenges, is significant for the 23 million freedom-loving people of Taiwan. Our democracy is stronger because of your support.
Thank you. We hope everyone around the world is able to enjoy a restful and safe new year.
My beloved fellow Taiwanese, no matter how difficult the crisis, as long as we come together, we can get through it. Looking back on 2020, I am honored to have overcome so many challenges together with all of you. We are "Better Together," and wish each other well as we continue to pull together and forge ahead into the future.