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Televised Speech Marking the First Anniversary of the New Administration

(The following is the full text of President Chen Shui-bian's televised speech, which was broadcast on May 18, 2001) 

My Dear Fellow Countrymen, Good Morning! 

Last week, I had an opportunity to visit the countryside with many media managers, view major development projects, and listen to valuable opinions. I presided over the commissioning of the world's first wing of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets and inspected medical facilities and observed the achievements of the tourist industry and aquacultural development on offshore islands. 

In southern Taiwan, I noticed the great improvement of water quality, industrial upgrading, and the integrated development of the Kaohsiung International Harbor. The eastern region is developing green tourism, and our bio-tech industry is expanding. During these two days, all friends from the media personally felt the vitality and competitiveness of the people whether on Taiwan or the offshore islands, in the north, the south, the east, or the west. We were deeply impressed by their diligence, steadfastness, and wholehearted dedication to work. 

During my two-day trip, I was especially amazed by the breeding of freshwater lobsters at the National Penghu Institute of Technology. We saw many cylindrical tubes in the breeding pond. The guide told us that during its development, the lobster must repeatedly shed its shell. Before its new shell has hardened, the lobster is extremely vulnerable to attack by fish and shrimps. It needs a shelter, where it can safely grow a new shell and become a bigger lobster. 

Looking back over the past year, we find the process of changing the governing party is like shedding a shell. In the five thousand years of ethnic Chinese history and half a century of Taiwan's development, this was the first peaceful transfer of power. Both members of the government and the opposition must experience a transitional period of adjustment before they learn their roles well. 

We must acknowledge that neither the administration nor the opposition has been fully successful in its transition this past year. New problems have thus arisen in the course of democratic transformation. Although both the governing and opposition parties must devote an even greater effort, I am ready to examine and reflect. I hope that those in the government will accept a greater responsibility and not only be audacious in changing but also successful in transforming. 

In the past fifty years, Taiwan's political, economic, and social developments have gone through many phases--from dependence on foreign aid to economic independence, from authoritarian rule under the Emergency Decree to freedom under democracy, and from identity crisis to emphasis on Taiwan. All these transformations were painful and have tested us. There were some unavoidable frustrations and confusions during the process; however, our country successfully surmounted them and stepped into a promising new era. 

In the past one year, the international community and the international media have carefully watched Taiwan, because the 23 million people on Taiwan opened a new page in their history with unparalleled courage. The latest issue of the Time magazine has again made a detailed report on the past year's change of political party on Taiwan. From the global perspective, Taiwan faced severe trials. Nonetheless, the political, economic, and cultural achievements accomplished by its 23 million people are unsurpassed in global Chinese society. 

Dear fellow countrymen, there is no reason for us to be pessimistic. Despite the dual challenges of political and economic transformation, the new administration has this past year achieved outstanding and valuable results, including consolidating our democracy, stabilizing cross-strait relations, eliminating deep-seated irregularities, and expanding diplomatic relations. 

The global recession and transforming domestic industry remain our greatest challenges. I firmly believe that people from all sectors of society do not care whether the new or former administration is to blame for the rising unemployment or the slowdown of the economy. Nor are they willing to see disputes continue between the Executive and Legislative Yuans. Therefore, we will urge the various ministries and agencies under the Executive Yuan to propose and quickly implement counter-strategies, as well as formulate important medium- and long-term national development plans over the next six months. 

From a long-term point of view, Taiwan will face a lower economic growth rate and a higher unemployment rate. It will be an inevitable war Taiwan must fight, and the administrative agencies cannot fight it alone. Only with the wisdom of the private sector and the governing and opposition parties will it be possible for Taiwan to win the war. 

Therefore, I plan to convene an economic development advisory conference under the Office of the President that is above partisan politics. I will personally chair the conference and invite members from the governing and opposition parties, academia, business, and labor to jointly contribute their wisdom for the nation's long-term economic development. By convening this conference, I hope we can find the most suitable remedy for each problem and further implement the three priority policies of "Taiwan first," "economy first," and "investment first." 

I fully understand that only when the long and exhausting political strife has ended can we win the war for our nation's economic development. In an effort to stabilize the political situation at home and break the deadlock, we hope the governing party will continue to strongly adhere to its reformist ideals in order to win the support of the people. Thus, the work begun by the change of political parties will further progress in a new legislature. 

In addition, we hope to form a stable majority in the legislature by joining with opposition members who share our ideals and support our reform efforts. Only by so doing can the interaction between the executive and legislative branches reasonably function and major national policies be smoothly promoted. 

Over the past year, people have become tired of the confrontation and deadlock among the governing and opposition parties. When the new administration first took office, the working hours regulation, which would have been a victory for labor, capital, and government, was boycotted by the opposition parties and eventually led to a defeat for all. This left us deeply exasperated. Whatever the outcome of the election at the end of 2001, people do not want this to continue.

Therefore, for the national interest and political stability over the coming two and half years, we would like to open our hearts and extend both hands to propose "joining ideals, sharing resources, making Taiwan first, and rising above political factions" to seek the greatest amount of cooperation among the ruling and opposition parties. Regardless of the outcome of the election this year, we will form a coalition government and a majority alliance in the Legislative Yuan after the election, in order to rebuild the legislature and establish political stability. 

The ROC is currently transforming, and consequently, cross-strait relations are likewise in transition. Half a century of enmity between the KMT and the Chinese Communists finally ended with the ROC's change of governing parties, and since our nation now has a new governing party and leader, it is only natural for the Chinese mainland to require some time to adjust. During both the presidential election and my inauguration last year, cross-strait relations were very tense and unstable. Many people doubted the new administration's ability to handle cross-strait relations. 

Although the Chinese mainland has not given the new administration a single opportunity to gain credibility in the past year, at the same time no ground has been lost. In an attempt to disrupt our national unity, the Chinese mainland has continuously disregarded our goodwill and sincerity, while trying to associate itself with both opposition parties and the private sector. The evidence shows, however, that we not only have the ability to manage but also the wisdom and creativity to enhance and further stabilize cross-strait relations. Recent international developments have also boosted our confidence. Indeed, peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait are not just expectations of the people of Taiwan, but are also in the best interests of Asia and the rest of the world. 

I would like to call on my fellow countrymen to stand firm and unwavering. Do not be distracted by the murmuring of others. We are willing to resume cross-strait negotiations and dialogue at any time and on any subject, so long as they are under the principles of democracy, parity, and peace. Last year's "historic handshake" between the leaders of North and South Korea added a glorious new page to world peace, and I feel that I have a similar mission to accomplish in the development of cross-strait relations. 

This year's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum will be held in Shanghai on the Chinese mainland. Based on the rights and obligations of the ROC as a full APEC member and after careful consideration, I would like to take this opportunity to express my desire to attend the forum in person. Aside from trade and economic issues, I also wish to hold direct talks with President Jiang Zemin on other important issues of concern to the people on both sides, such as the establishment of the "Three Direct Links." I sincerely hope that the Chinese mainland authorities can open their hearts and bravely write a new chapter in history by allowing the leaders on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to create their own "historic handshake." 

Over the past year, I have constantly deliberated on Taiwan's value, Taiwan's spirit, and Taiwan's future. Viewed from its geographical position and the size of its population, Taiwan is only a small island at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. But there are many countries that are as large as Taiwan in terms of land area and population, and many more that have better conditions than this island. 

However, because Taiwan's people are hardworking, optimistic, and tolerant, and because of their high level of education, our country has repeatedly transformed itself, and constantly attracts the attention of the world. Whenever I receive a foreign guest or grant an interview to the international news media, I always say that because Taiwan has great people, it does not need a great leader; however, I believe the Republic of China definitely has an opportunity to become a great country. 

My fellow countrymen, temporary difficulties should not diminish our self-confidence. Temporary setbacks will not wear down our will for advancement. The more others think we cannot do well, the more we should do better. After the transformation, Taiwan surely can create even more outstanding achievements. I have confidence and hope that we can all work together with added vitality. 


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