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President Tsai's remarks at luncheon with Taiwanese expatriates in San Francisco


President Tsai's remarks at luncheon with Taiwanese expatriates in San Francisco

This is my last speech on this trip. In fact, I have already forgotten how many others I have made over the course of this journey. Yet while this is the last one, it is also the one with the most people!

Each time I come to San Francisco and get the chance to meet with expatriates from Taiwan, the events are always amazing, and today is no exception, with this enormous hall packed with people. Someone asked me: What are we here for today? Some say that photos are the most important thing, and they definitely won't leave until they get a photo taken. Others say, no, today the Republic of China is picking up the tab, so we don't want to miss out on a great meal. And yet others say, we come mainly to see our compatriots. We have been able on this trip to transit through the United States, and we always want to visit with people from Taiwan who are working hard and making their mark everywhere in the world, and especially here in California. All of these things are true, but to me the most important thing is a feeling, the feeling of all of us being together.

It is sometimes quite lonely being the president, because no matter where I go, in front me, to the left, behind me, and to the right, there are always people, and when I shake hands with people, my security guards always say, just shake hands lightly and briefly, it's enough, so I can't even give all of you firm, long handshakes. And when we run out of time, they say, sorry but we are out of time, come back again next time, and we will get in touch if there's an opportunity. Therefore, what I most hope for is to see a lot of people together, to see many people showing their support, and sometimes bringing complaints. If there is only support but no complaints, there’s likely something wrong. It is healthy for there to be not only support, but also complaints. When I was in Taiwan I was told, oh, you are going to San Francisco, a lot of people there are complaining. I have indeed seen people here who have complaints, but I've also seen people who are supportive, and I thank you all.

Today we have a lot of local American friends with us, so I want to start by thanking them. First I want to thank American Institute in Taiwan Chairman James Moriarty, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, and also Mrs. Marie Royce, the wife of Chairman Ed Royce of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives. We are also particularly grateful to Chairman Charles Chow (周達昌) of the Chinese Community Cultural Association. Although you spoke in Cantonese, I understood for the most part what you were saying. Thank you!

We have an especially large delegation for this trip, and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce several members of our team. They are National Security Council Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Minister of Foreign Affairs David T. Lee (李大維), ROC Representative to the United States Stanley Kao (高碩泰), and Minister Wu Hsin-hsing (吳新興) of the Overseas Community Affairs Council. There are also several members of the Legislative Yuan in our delegation, including Mr. Pasuya Yao (姚文智) from Taipei City, Mr. Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄) from Taiwan's southernmost county of Pingtung, Ms. Chou Chen Hsiu-hsia (周陳秀霞) of the People First Party, Ms. Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) of the New Power Party, Mr. Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) from Chiayi County, and Ms. Yu Wan-ju (余宛如). Also in our delegation is Yilan County Magistrate Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢), who everyone admires and likes. Of course there are also several vice-ministers of central government agencies. There is Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Mei-Hua Wang (王美花), whose husband Mr. Wellington Koo (顧立雄) is just as famous as she is. We also have Deputy Minister of Agriculture Weng Chang-liang (翁章梁). In addition, we also have quite a few figures from the business community with us: President Huang Yu-cheng (黃育徵) of Taiwan Sugar Corporation; Chairman Chen Yu-jan (陳郁然) of the Taiwan International Agricultural Development Company, a man who really knows how to sell kiwifruit, and who has successfully marketed New Zealand kiwifruit to the Japan market—his current job is to export Taiwan fruit throughout the world; Chairman Chan Cheng-tien (詹正田) of the Taiwan Textile Federation; President Lin Ching-po (林清波) of the Hotel Royal Group, a senior business leader; President Lin Chien-sung (林見松) of the World Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce; General Manager Robert Wang (王定愷) of Acer Inc.; and Chairman T.J. Tsai (蔡宗融) of the Power Master Group, who is also the president of a solar energy company. Just by looking at all these delegation members from the business community, you can tell what kinds of things we are trying to accomplish in Central and South America. But before I formally begin my address, I would also like to say a few words to thank our American friends who are here today.

First I want to extend, in a personal capacity, a warm welcome to Mrs. Marie Royce, a good friend of mine and of Taiwan. I believe most of you here know Marie's husband, Chairman Ed Royce of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, one of Taiwan's staunchest friends in the US Congress. I want to thank Marie herself, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, and friends from the California State Legislature, for their attendance.

I am here today once again with all of you. Last time when I met with everyone I did so as a presidential candidate, but this time I come as president. The most important thing the president does is to handle the nation's external relations. I have been president for roughly seven months, and this is my second trip abroad. Each time we go abroad we have to visit so many countries, and this time we traveled to four countries. What makes me very happy is that, every place that we have gone to, our ministers have complimented me by saying that they have never seen me take a nap or nod off. I can really eat and really sleep, but to me the most important thing is that I am at my most energetic when I see our expatriates.

Our itinerary this time started in Houston, and I never expected that it could get so cold there, it was sub-zero. I was really moved by our Taiwanese friends in Houston. It was really cold that day, and it was approaching evening, but outside there were still big crowds of people standing there. When I came out I shook hands with them one by one, and they waited for such a long time just to shake my hand, I was really touched and I feel very grateful to them.

Now we are here in San Francisco, and last night there were also a lot of people waiting outside, and their hands were also very cold, though a little warmer than in Houston. The weather here is better. This time, before we left for Central America, we sensed that our diplomatic ties were starting to get a little unstable, but when we got there we felt: Okay, things are still quite stable. Why are relations still in good shape, still stable? It's not because I went there, but because, over many years now, our foreign affairs teams have accomplished so much in these countries. Taiwan's agricultural missions, in particular, could well be described as having "the Midas touch". They have once again created superior strains of seeds for local agricultural products. Taiwan has a policy known as the One Town One Product (OTOP) project, and Honduras also has the same policy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has transferred some of our OTOP products to Honduras. I saw they are producing small potatoes, just so small and extremely tasty, a special variety that we improved for them, and since then it has been widely cultivated there. Another example is avocado; we helped them with variety improvements, and large-scale production has begun. Taiwan's agricultural technical missions really bring Taiwan’s technology to our diplomatic partners, so that they can cultivate and produce the staple foods they need, and now it is even possible for them to do exports. We have also assisted in the area of education, helping children in remote areas in many ways. If I hadn't gone there myself, I really would have never known that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was doing so many things. So perhaps the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as the representative of the whole ministry, deserves a big round of applause from everyone.

Taiwan has long cultivated relations with its diplomatic allies, providing prompt assistance with infrastructure and public services that they need for development, for example, by providing medical services, medicines, and more. When I was in El Salvador, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren told me that when they experience food shortages, Taiwan has always been the first to ship rice. In another country I was told that when their medical supplies run short, the first country to provide them with medicines has always been us—Taiwan.

The countries of Latin America have emerged from the dark days of civil war and instability of the past and are now focused on national development. Every president, every person who governs a country, wants what is best for their country, and hopes someone will help with national development, and that is precisely the area where a good friend like Taiwan should help. I also want to encourage Taiwanese expatriates in San Francisco and throughout the US to go to Latin America and seek out investment opportunities. I know that many people who have built successful businesses will sometimes go on a cruise—a lot of people have mentioned to me that they have taken cruises. Next time you really want to take a cruise, take it to Latin America and look around down there. You’ll really find different cultures, different sceneries, different life experiences. So everyone, please do your homeland a favor and visit Central America if you have time. Even if you do not invest, going there as a tourist is good as well.

During this trip, my delegation learned about the state of industrial development in Taiwan's diplomatic allies in Central America. All the delegation members discovered that the Central American region has immense potential for prosperity. Just now I introduced Taiwan Textile Federation Chairman Chan Cheng-tien (詹正田) to you all. If you don't go to other places, you don't fully realize how incredibly powerful Taiwan's textile sector is—they are everywhere, you can see them everywhere. After our visit, Chairman Chan was already thinking about new textiles strategies, because the new US president says he wants to bring manufacturing back to the US, and many of our diplomatic allies in Central America want industrial development, and their exports to the US benefit from free trade agreements or other preferential treatment. In addition, we also are beginning redeployment in Asia, for example with the New Southbound Policy, so we can have wider and broader presence. This is the moment for the people of Taiwan to think about new strategies and new deployments, starting with the textiles industry.

The conditions facing Taiwan are in a state of flux, and we must look within this flux for opportunities for our industries. This is a responsibility that we all share, and while the government must do more than anyone, I ask you to please support the government to project the power of Taiwan into the world.

The new administration has been in power seven months. Some people are unsatisfied, and others feel like the government has done just "okay." But let me tell you, in these seven months we have, beyond a doubt, set to work on many issues, and we have worked hard to find solutions to problems that have built up over many years. For instance, the biggest problem Taiwan now faces is economic transformation. Another huge problem is to prevent the pension system from going bankrupt, because we can't have a situation where people are unable to get any money when they retire. And Taiwan also needs judicial reform. There are many things we need to do. But the most difficult part of any endeavor is getting started. If these problems were easy, simple, and solvable, then I trust that the presidents who served before me would have resolved them by now. So what is left over are difficult, long-festering issues that get people really upset. We know that the people elected us to deal with precisely such issues, so now that we are in office, if we don't do it, we'll be letting our voters down.

This path is a challenging one. It will make lots of people very uncomfortable, and will force a lot of people to venture outside their comfort zones. In the process of venturing outside their comfort zones, many people will complain because they will be facing an uncertain future. And there will be those who feel that the people have already given the ruling party a majority of seats in the Legislative Yuan, so shouldn't reform be easy? Just pass some laws and it's done! These people are therefore frustrated with the government, and say it is incompetent, and that these problems can all be solved in a short time, right? But I say to each of you, if our problems were easy to solve, the previous president would have solved them. He also had a legislative majority, but he didn't dare take the necessary action. What we need to do is lay a solid foundation for our next generation. We need to convince our own people that if our own generation will do just a little bit more, the next generation will enjoy better lives. We must persuade our society to accept this. The pension system, for example, absolutely must be reformed. We cannot allow the system to go bankrupt, nor can we allow the financial burden borne by the next generation to exceed their ability to pay. In fact, pension reform is an extraordinarily thorny issue facing many countries. We simply must bite the bullet and get this done, but for those whose interests are affected in the process, we must see to it that they are appropriately looked after. This is something that the government must do, and I believe that this is something that everyone wants to see happen. Everyone supports pension reform. But everyone has a different sense of what pension reform should be, and everyone has a different idea of how quickly pension reform can be done. If we can get this pension reform accomplished, I do believe that Taiwan—the Republic of China—is a nation with a future.

Everyone knows the government is focusing on the "5+2" industries. This means that the government wants to concentrate national resources on the "5+2" industries in order to give the economy a shot of forward momentum, thereby revitalizing and upgrading Taiwan's economy and ensuring that it has the strength needed for structural reform. Leading the "5+2" industries is the "Asia Silicon Valley" initiative, and Silicon Valley is of course where we all are right now. Ladies and gentlemen, you are the core element in our plan to stimulate industrial transformation. So today we are here in San Francisco, and I want to ask for help from all our good friends in San Francisco—San Francisco will be the bellwether in Taiwan's "5+2" industrial development plan. This morning I visited the Asia Silicon Valley Initiative office in Sunnyvale. It is located in a place with a really fun name, it's called "Plug and Play." We want to plant our flag there, to enable Taiwan's capabilities and energy to come here, and the capabilities and energy from here to go to Taiwan, and to add them together. This is the most critical part of our plan.

I want to ask my fellow countrymen here to support this initiative. But what I feel really happy about is that, this morning among our guests there was an American who told me, Taiwan has too many PhDs. I remember that one of my teachers told me that the Taiwanese suffer from a chronic condition called "over-schooling." I told him, there are good PhDs and there are bad PhDs. Then I corrected myself, and I said there are PhDs that are useful and some that are not very useful. The fault lies not with the young people themselves, but with the education and working environment that older people have given them. There are only useless PhDs when education and employment are not well matched. We must aim to ensure that there's a good match between education and employment for the next generation, that PhDs are useful. On the other hand, if education and employment are well matched, maybe there is no need for a person to get the PhD at all; it's enough to have a master's or bachelor's degree. There's not necessarily even a need to go to university at all. A person can go to vocational or technical school and still get a good job and do it well. Our collective challenge is to educate the next generation so that it has the ability to meet the requirements for a good job, though it is even more important to create a good work environment and opportunities for them.

I see a lot of young people here. I recall when I was graduating from the London School of Economics, one of my teachers said I was "young and promising." When I heard that I thought I was so great, that I was the smartest person in the world, though later I ran into some difficulties. But what I really want to say is that the young people I see here are genuinely "young and promising." So if you agree that you are young and promising, stand up so everyone can have a look. Those who stand not only have to be young, but also promising, that depends on your own self-evaluation. Here are good people, people with experience, Silicon Valley professionals like Mr. Qiu Jun-zih (邱俊智), and we have young people who have a great future ahead of them.

You might ask if I, as president, have confidence in Taiwan. In fact I have a great deal of confidence in Taiwan. But I have to ask you all one thing, and that is to have confidence in your president. This president will not disappoint you. But this president will ask you to do a lot yourselves, and to follow a very challenging path. In this process, you will definitely complain, and you will definitely feel that this Tsai woman has no idea what she is doing. And you will definitely wonder: When will we finally get there? And I say to you all: We will definitely get there.


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