On the morning of July 18, President Tsai Ing-wen attended the opening ceremony of the 20th anniversary celebration for the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD). In remarks, President Tsai stated that today is not just a celebration, it is also an appropriate time for all of us to reflect on the past, present, and future of democracy. Noting that Taiwan has been confronted by increasingly aggressive and constant threats from the other side of the Taiwan Strait, she emphasized that the Taiwanese have never shied away from confronting the challenges of authoritarianism; instead, the Taiwanese people meet them head-on and fight every day against the forces that seek to undermine our democracy. She said that by working together to first understand sharp power, we can then elaborate the best strategies to counter authoritarian influence. We must also continue fostering the democratic alliance to serve the interests of the international community, she added.
President Tsai reiterated that we must work together, as democracies, to counter the tactics that authoritarian regimes use to undermine our institutions and also to become more resilient and safeguard our values. The Taiwanese are ready to share their story of resilience, she added, and we want to learn from the experiences of our international partners. She expressed her hope that the event today will help deepen our democratic ties and cultivate new ideas for a shared democratic future.
A transcript of President Tsai's remarks follows:
Let me begin by welcoming the international partners who came all the way to Taiwan to celebrate the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy's 20th anniversary with us. I also want to thank all the Taiwanese civil society organizations for joining us on this special occasion. My appreciation also goes to the TFD and its staff for working so diligently to make this event possible.
It is a great honor to be here today among so many long-time democracy advocates. I want to recognize Carl Gershman, Founding President of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Without his persistent advocacy and efforts, the founding of the TFD 20 years ago would not have been possible. Over the years, Mr. Gershman has lent his unwavering support to the TFD and Taiwan's democracy. What you did for Taiwan and TFD is something we will always be grateful for.
I also want to thank NED's President Damon Wilson. It is great to see you again after you brought the World Movement for Democracy's Global Assembly to Taiwan last year. It was the first time Taiwan hosted so many democracy advocates from around the world.
Today is not just a celebration. It is also an appropriate time for all of us to reflect on the past, present, and future of democracy.
The 20th Century was a century of democracy. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, the world experienced the "Third Wave of Democratization." People from Eastern Europe to Asia to Latin America embraced the values associated with democracy and human rights.
A similar development happened in Taiwan. The Taiwanese people fought for decades to bring about the democracy we enjoy today. Our transition to democracy was not easy. Nor was it without blood, sweat, and tears. Many suffered, some even lost their lives, in the pursuit of democracy.
Now, Taiwan's democracy is more than a fundamental value that unites our people; it is a part of our identity and a critical asset in addressing major challenges.
As we sit here today, democracies and the rules-based international order are facing their greatest challenges since the Cold War.
In the past three years, global health and economy were debilitated by the pandemic of the century. As we work to repair the impact of this terrible global event, we find ourselves facing attempts by authoritarian regimes to corrode our democratic institutions and undermine human rights.
The Taiwanese people are all too familiar with such aggression. In recent years, Taiwan has been confronted by increasingly aggressive threats from the other side of the Taiwan Strait – from military intimidation and economic coercion, to cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns. All of these constitute attempts to create doubt and erode citizens' confidence in what we have been working so hard for, that is: our democratic way of life.
But even under these constant threats, the Taiwanese have never shied away from confronting the challenges of authoritarianism. Instead, the Taiwanese people meet them head-on. We fight every day against the forces that seek to undermine our democracy. The Taiwanese are ready to share their story of resilience. And we want to learn from the experiences of our international partners as well.
Back in 2017, our partner, NED, published an influential report in which they coined the term ''sharp power.'' The report identified how authoritarian regimes are exercising sharp power and other manipulative tactics to take advantage of our free and open societies, promote their alternative narratives, and undermine our democracies.
If we are to meet this challenge, we must work together, as democracies, to counter the tactics that authoritarian regimes use to undermine our institutions. We must also work together to become more resilient and safeguard our values.
By working together to first understand sharp power, we can then elaborate the best strategies to counter authoritarian influence. We must also continue fostering the democratic alliance to serve the interests of the international community. I hope this very occasion can serve as a reminder of how important it is that we continue on this path.
I want to end my talk by thanking our international partners again. Your presence here is a strong symbol of your solidarity with Taiwan's democracy. The people of Taiwan are always grateful and encouraged by such support.
I am confident that your participation in this event will help deepen our democratic ties and cultivate new ideas for a shared democratic future. I believe that the members of our civil society here with us are also eager to share their experiences with you.
I wish you all a productive event. And to those who plan to remain in Taiwan for a few more days after this event, I hope you enjoy Taiwan's beautiful scenery, friendly people, and of course, our delicious food.
Following her remarks, the president received a Democracy Service Medal from NED President Damon Wilson.