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President Lee's New Year's Day Message

The full text of President Lee's New Year's Day Message is as follows: 


Ladies and Gentlemen:


This is the 86th New Year's Day of the Republic of China. This past year, our countrymen have joined forces in the struggle for national survival and development, overcoming difficulties and ultimately achieving an abundance of accomplishments. Looking to the new year before us, as long as we bravely bid farewell to the old and embrace the new, I am confident that during this eighty-sixth year of the Republic of China our national development will attain new heights.


We may say with great pride that 1996 was the most crucial year in the modernization of the nation, and one in which the Republic of China received the greatest affirmation and scored its most glorious achievements ever. On March 23 of last year, the ROC held the first-ever election by popular vote for president and vice president in Chinese history. Despite the Chinese mainland's attempts at intimidation by conducting military exercises and missile tests off Taiwan's shores, our entire citizenry held to their convictions and remained undaunted, overcoming external interference through reason. Ultimately, the epochal task was smoothly accomplished, realizing the ideal of popular sovereignty propounded by our nation's Founding Father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and establishing a grand democratic order of stable and long-lasting national governance.


On May 20, having received the mandate of our people, I and Mr. Lien Chan took the oath as the ninth-term president and vice president, respectively, of the Republic of China. In my inaugural address, I explicitly stated that we must continue to promote constitutional reform, clean up the election process, ensure honest and efficient government, enhance law and order, and realize multiparty politics. We must also proceed according to schedule in developing Taiwan into an Asia-Pacific regional operations center; nurturing a liberalized and globalized economy in as short a time as possible; establishing a low-tax, obstacle-free business climate; reforming the land system; and bolstering our small- and medium-sized businesses. We must also cultivate the spirit of the rule of law, implement educational reform, revive family ethical values, encourage frugality and simple living, draw up appropriate plans for national land use, strengthen ecological and environmental protection, and sequentially establish a balanced, fair, and sustainable social security system. We must also nurture a new culture, shape a new social order, demonstrate concern for the welfare of our compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau, and assist the development of overseas Chinese businesses. Furthermore, we must step up contact with the Chinese mainland and bolster our international relations, resolve the issue of national reunification, and invite individuals from all sectors of society to discuss national development plans.


On June 10 of last year, the cabinet was reshuffled. With comprehensively raising national competitiveness as the prerequisite, the results of administrative reform have begun to appear. The Council on Education Reform of the Executive Yuan, after two years of research and discussion, submitted a general consultative report on educational reform, in which the improvement of the compulsory education and technological and vocational education curricula were major near-term priorities.


In the area of promoting judicial reform, the judiciary and executive departments have worked together, and each project is in the process of implementation. Especially in view of the recent deterioration of the crime situation in our society, forceful steps have been taken to root out organized crime, severely punish official corruption, crack down on drugs, and halt trafficking in smuggled guns.


To develop the economy, the Asia-Pacific Regional Operations Center plan is officially under way. Affected by the global economic situation, the ROC's economic growth started to show signs of stagnation, resulting in an increase of the number of unemployed. However, the economy has recovered to some extent recently. Last November, the unemployment rate was 2.86 percent, a decrease of 0.19 percent from the previous month, while 1996 economic growth remained at 5.7 percent. In addition, the runs on a small number of local farmers' association credit cooperatives and banking organizations have been managed appropriately, with regular operations restored. Each economic and non-economic factor affecting economic development has been improved through various kinds of administrative measures.


To further foster public unity and to pool our forces in order to establish a new stage of national development, I carried out a promise which I made in my inaugural address--to invite members of the public and private sectors to a five-day Conference on National Development starting December 23 of last year. During the conference, we thoroughly exchanged ideas on such topics as "constitutional government and multiparty politics," "economic development," and "cross-Strait relations," and reached agreement on modifications to the central government, demarcating central- and local-governmental jurisdictions, improving the way elections are held, further bringing about multiparty politics, raising national competitiveness, promoting the Asia-Pacific Regional Operations Center plan, participating in international economic and trade organizations, as well as the various policies and principles for interaction with the Chinese mainland, including cross-Strait consultations and trade and investment relations. The conference is very fruitful and we shall, in accord with legal procedures, distill these highly valued constructive recommendations into policies and expeditiously enact them.


For the past fifty years, the ROC's world-acclaimed "economic miracle" and "political accomplishments" have constituted the first phase of the "Taiwan Experience." Starting today, we are heading toward the objective of the second phase. This involves building the Republic of China into a modern democracy where spiritual and material culture develop in harmony. We should consider this to be a new index of national development and the new hope of all our citizens.


Looking to the future, the ROC's democracy and prosperity provide a solid foundation and advantageous opportunity for further national development. However, when confronted with a multitude of complicated reform tasks in the new phase, the "human" factor is surely the key to success. In other words, public zeal for progress is the best guarantee for the success of reforms. Therefore, we must comprehensively raise the morale of our people and encourage the requisite "spiritual reengineering" to forge ahead. We must profoundly understand that as we enjoy democracy and freedom, and no longer need fear economic want, we are faced with a rapidly changing and diverse world. Thus, our promotion of social progress and national development should in no way constitute trying to fulfill insatiable extrinsic desires, but rather should involve our looking to the intrinsic abilities within ourselves. Every citizen should feel a sense of obligation to be a steward of the nation and actually join in the action.


The essence of "spiritual reengineering" lies in affirming oneself and one's fellows. It emphasizes both individual freedom as well as respect for the freedom of others. With this as our foundation, we can work to encourage lifestyles and values of tolerance, fraternity, solidarity, frugality and sustainable development. This is the only way to fashion a free and democratic, humanistic and caring, thriving and exuberant society. For many years now, I have pursued Dr. Sun Yat-sen's ideal of popular sovereignty. I have also suggested the idea that we are all part of a mutually interdependent community. Both of these concepts embody the objectives and practice of "spiritual reengineering."


Ladies and Gentlemen, ensuring peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and expanding our international presence are and have always been central to the survival and development of our nation. We have adhered to our position that the people on both sides of the Strait are Chinese, and have set out the Guidelines for National Unification. Guided by these principles, we have worked without fail to promote peaceful exchanges, mutual trust and common prosperity. I have called on both sides to come together and seriously address the problem of ending our confrontation. In response to the will of my 21.4 million countrymen, I have offered to make a journey of peace to the Chinese mainland. Clearly, we are completely sincere in our pursuit of an improvement in relations between Taipei and Peking.


Although the mainland authorities have yet to respond reasonably, we will continue our efforts. With patience and a "slow but steady" approach, we will engage in constructive dialogues and exchanges with the mainland in order to create a China reunified under freedom, democracy and prosperity. At the same time, we must continue to expand our international presence. This includes actively seeking to participate in international organizations, promoting bilateral and multilateral relationships on all fronts, as well as strengthening reciprocity and cooperation. Our actions are firm, reasonable, pragmatic and feasible. They conform perfectly to the common values and standards of a civilized world. Their significance in maintaining peace both regionally and globally is tremendous.


With the 21st century nearly here, every nation is going full out on behalf of its development into the next century, hoping to gain the upper hand in this keen international competition. This being the case, and in light of the current state of our national development, it is clear that we must map out broad and far-reaching plans for the future. Only by working even harder to boost our international competitiveness will we stride confidently into the new century. Therefore, there are a number of points to which we must pay special attention:


First, we need to strengthen constitutional democracy and perfect multiparty politics. Constitutional democracy is a practicable system, not a purely theoretical framework. In practicing democracy, we must uphold democratic values, responsibility and efficiency, and strive to achieve a comprehensive and effective system. Indeed, this should serve as the starting point for interaction between political parties. While competing, they can seek cooperation and thereby ensure that democracy truly serves both to enhance the welfare of the people and to promote the further development of our nation.


Second, we must improve social order and maintain social stability. The democratization and liberalization of society are essential for safeguarding human rights and realizing civilized values. However, democracy and the rule of law are inseparable. While being free, we must strive for discipline. We must make every effort to bolster the consciousness of the rule of law, and to value discipline and social norms. Those who violate the law must be punished accordingly. It is our responsibility to guarantee that all have the right to live their lives free of fear.


Third, we must improve the business climate and invigorate economic development. Economic development supports social prosperity and represents the lifeblood of the nation's future survival and development. We must take both economic and non-economic factors into consideration and examine our administrative measures and the direction of our policy. Improvements will require the removal of all unreasonable investment barriers and the creation of a fair and efficient environment in which to operate businesses. We must promote sustainable national economic development and take our place among the ranks of developed nations.


Fourth, we need to upgrade our defensive capabilities and safeguard national security. A key factor that has contributed to a stable environment and enabled us to devote ourselves to national development has been our maintenance of a capable and powerful military. Our aspirations for peace embody the spirit with which our nation was founded. The promotion of stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region is even more our goal. Therefore, we must continue to upgrade our defensive capabilities in order to ensure the security of our nation and the welfare of the people. This in turn will further contribute to the overall stability of the Asia-Pacific region.


Ladies and Gentlemen, in the coming year we shall have to face many unprecedented challenges and pursue even farther-reaching ideals. Therefore, we must make use of "spiritual reengineering" to respond to the situation we shall face in this new age, make use of forward-looking thinking to set new goals toward which to strive, and resolutely unite to forge a new national will. I am confident that so long as we stay in step with the times, redouble our efforts, and pool the wisdom and strength of every citizen, we can overcome all difficulties, and write yet another glorious chapter in our history by creating the second stage of the "Taiwan Experience."


Long live the Republic of China!

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