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President Tsai's remarks at dinner banquet with Taiwanese expatriates in Los Angeles


President Tsai's remarks at dinner banquet with Taiwanese expatriates in Los Angeles

It's great to be here knowing that we have finally found a ballroom like this capable of holding so many of our friends from across Los Angeles. In fact, I think this is one of the largest banquets we have held in the United States, and I'm very pleased it could be right here in Los Angeles.

Before I begin, I want to recognize some of our special friends here with us tonight.

First is someone who needs no introduction. He's so popular in his constituency and the Taiwanese-American community that we have long considered him to be half Taiwanese. Of course, the fact that he loves to eat xiaolongbao (steamed pork dumplings) makes this even more convincing. I'm talking about Chairman Ed Royce (Chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs).

As I was saying to him a bit earlier, I had the opportunity to meet his wife Marie in Taipei in June. And you cannot find a couple that is more supportive of the Taiwan-US relationship and all the values we cherish. Thank you!

I also want to acknowledge Congressman Brad Sherman, who has always so warmly welcomed me to Los Angeles. I'm happy he still came, even though we are outside the 30th district (Congressman Sherman's district) this time. But Brad has long been more than a friend. If you take a look at his record, you will see the tremendous things he has done for Taiwan and our bilateral relationship. So, thank you, Brad.

Also with us tonight is [Congresswoman] Judy Chu, sitting next to me, a longtime member of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus. I had the pleasure of meeting her when I was running for the presidency in 2015 and again as president in 2016. I know she is a fixture in the Taiwanese-American community. And I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge her at this time here in Los Angeles. Thank you, Judy.

I also want to acknowledge all the dignitaries who are with us tonight. Of course, we also have a special guest. I don't really know whether you are a guest or not. You are always one of us. It's Chairman James Moriarty [Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)]. We're sorry he had to come all the way from Hawaii to Los Angeles this time to join us. But you can tell by his remarks the enthusiasm he feels for Taiwan. Under his leadership at AIT, our bilateral relationship has grown tremendously and we're happy he's here today with us.

Since my last visit to Los Angeles, a lot has happened in our relationship with the US. We have seen the approval of the first major arms sale by the Trump administration. Important legislation, including the Taiwan Travel Act, has passed thanks to our friends in Congress. And in June, we witnessed the opening of the new AIT compound in Taipei, a concrete symbol of the US commitment to Taiwan.

On trade, we have engaged in more substantive cooperation in areas from the New Southbound Policy to the digital economy. And in promoting people-to-people ties, we welcomed the expansion of the Global Entry program to include Taiwan earlier this year, which will make it easier for many Taiwanese to come visit the US.

These developments show that despite the unprecedented challenges we face from across the Strait to our freedom, democracy, and way of life, our relationship with the United States has never been stronger. This gives us confidence in our values and beliefs. And they show that in a community of like-minded nations, the people of Taiwan do not stand alone.

After all, the depth of our friendship with the US has always been reflected by the power of our values and resolve of our convictions. The freedom of speech, assembly, and the ability to select new governments through the ballot box, rather than force, is what brings our countries together, and what sets us apart from others.

I want to thank all of our friends from Congress, the Executive Branch, and AIT, as well as the Taiwanese-American community as a whole, for your continued support of Taiwan. Thank you. And I will now continue my remarks in Mandarin, and also in Taiwanese.

Following are translations of the portions of President Tsai's speech delivered in Mandarin and Taiwanese:

Before I start my remarks in Mandarin and Taiwanese, I have something to tell you first. Moments ago, I was briefed on some sad news about a fire that broke out this early morning at the Taipei Hospital under the Ministry of Health and Welfare in New Taipei City. Although there was an emergency evacuation, some patients unfortunately lost their lives in the blaze, which is quite regrettable. So I want to express my condolences to the families of the deceased, and hopes the injured will recover soon. Although I'm in transit, I heard the news very quickly, and already instructed the responding agencies to extinguish the fire and rescue the victims as quickly as possible.

This marks my second visit to Los Angeles since I became president. The reception is just as warm and cheerful as the gathering two years ago, but in a bigger venue with more people. Today, we see that many Taiwanese expatriates drove for many hours just for this event to cheer us on, and support the reforms the government has implemented over the past two years. We really feel your approval and affection, for which we are deeply grateful.

I wonder if you remember my visit to Los Angeles in 2015 when I was running for office, I found that there are more people here today than at the 2016 banquet, and there were more in 2016 than had come to the 2015 banquet.

Thank you. From the presidential campaign through winning the election, and including the government's current reform efforts, we remain committed to every job undertaken, but there were many challenges over the past two years. Throughout that process, we are very grateful for rooting, warmth, and support from so many people.

When I attended the banquet with Taiwanese expatriates in Los Angeles in 2015, I promised that if I became president, I would work for a stronger, more prominent Taiwan. In 2016, when I was here again soon after my inauguration, I told everyone that while reforms wouldn't happen overnight, I would lead Taiwan step by step, moving steadily forward.

Now I'm back in Los Angeles, and want to present a report, which could be seen as a status report on the government's accomplishments. I want to tell you about my administration's achievements over the past two years, and that we're working really hard to fulfill our commitments.

First, in terms of enhancing democracy, I want to report to my fellow countrymen that Taiwan's democracy has continued to make progress over the past few years. After the Democratic Progressive Party won a majority in the Legislative Yuan in recent years, we initiated reforms to make the legislature more transparent. One of our most significant achievements was setting up a live-broadcast channel so that the public, including Taiwanese abroad, can watch Legislative Yuan proceedings in real time.

Last year, the government amended the Referendum Act, removing past restrictions and returning the right to hold referendums to the people of Taiwan. We also established the Transitional Justice Commission earlier this year. Like South Africa, Germany, South Korea, and many other democratic nations, Taiwan is pursuing transitional justice.

We also recently saw the formal opening of Taiwan's National Human Rights Museum. The museum sites, where political prisoners were sentenced and imprisoned during the authoritarian era, have now become venues for human rights education. I specially encourage second- and third-generation Taiwanese-Americans to visit the museum. On their next trip to Taiwan, by walking through the two parks that are part of the museum, one on Green Island and one in Jingmei in New Taipei City, they will gain an even deeper appreciation of Taiwan's democratic development.

The second task is achieving a more just and fair society. Three years ago, I had stressed to the Los Angeles expatriates that when my administration took office, it would implement a fairer taxation system. So the government introduced reforms that reduce the tax burden on low and medium-income groups and wage earners. So a young person in Taiwan today who earns less than NT$30,000 per month or NT$400,000 per year, or a family of four with annual income of less than NT$1.23 million, doesn't have to pay taxes.

Commodity prices in Taiwan have always been well controlled, so our prices are generally okay. The only exception is housing. Our young people can't afford to buy a house and to live in urban areas. We have to address this problem, because young people, after all, have a right to live in the city. That's why we have been actively building social housing, which is for rent only, not for sale. And those units are rented to young people at lower prices so they can survive in the city. Currently, 22,000 units have been built or are under construction, and by 2020, the number of social housing units completed or under construction will reach 47,000. We also plan to complete 200,000 units of social housing over eight years. The number of completed social housing units will go up faster and faster as time goes by. Once we have got the basic legislative framework in place, development of social housing will speed up.

Three years ago, I also pledged to establish a universal, affordable long-term care system. There is a very heavy burden that affects a lot of young people today. That is the burden of caring for family members who are in need, especially the elderly. Caring for elderly family members makes it impossible for many young people to work full-time. That's why we decided to launch the Long-term Care 2.0 Plan. About NT$30–40 billion in government revenues has been earmarked to fund the Long-term Care 2.0 Plan. Families with members suffering from diminished mental and physical abilities are eligible for assistance under this plan. And we're planning to build a community healthcare system in Taiwan's grassroots communities. The number of our long-term care centers is rising quickly. The government's original schedule was to have 1,500 care centers by the end of this year, but there are already 1,600 and it's only August.

This shows, on the one hand, that central and local governments truly are efficiently implementing long-term care policies. And it also clearly demonstrates that Taiwan's society really does need long-term care services.

In recent years, a steadily growing percentage of people with diminished mental and physical abilities have been taken care by the government. Before departing on this trip, I received documents from our Ministry of Health and Welfare which show a 40% increase in the number of people with diminished mental and physical abilities who are now under government care.

If we keep working, I do believe our long-term care system alongside our national health insurance will be a system that makes Taiwanese feel secure and proud. When our people need to be cared for, or need medical services, the government should provide them with comprehensive care. This is fundamental.

The business community was worried that we would require them to pay the cost of long-term care insurance. But that has not been the case. Instead, we have earmarked about NT$30–40 billion in the government budget to fund it. The government's total budget this year is bigger than last year's. It comes to around NT$2 trillion, but the overall budget deficit as a percentage of GDP has only increased by about a tenth of a percentage point. In other words, we are working to keep control of our fiscal spending, and have enough resources and funding to do the things that must be done.

Enhancing democracy, creating a more just and fair society, developing a caring society, and setting up a comprehensive care system will help Taiwanese feel that their country is fair and supportive. But there's another important thing—we have got to get our economy humming. We must transform Taiwan's economy. In the past our economy was driven primarily by manufacturing and exports. After more than two years of effort, we are starting to transit to an "innovation-driven economy." We found that exports are no longer the sole driver of Taiwan's economic development; domestic demand is gradually taking center stage. Our economy now flies on two wings. Previous administrations have wanted to achieve this, too. However, after over two years of sustained effort by my administration, domestic demand in Taiwan is increasing steadily. And this steady increase in domestic demand is also playing a key role in our economic development. Particularly in the second half of this year, with international trade is poised to become increasingly complicated, ensuring stable domestic demand and positive growth will enable our economy to achieve continued growth.

You have all heard of the "5+2 industrial innovation program." The goal of this program is to spur the development of seven designated industries and ensure that Taiwan's economy will be innovative and competitive in the next generation. As we are starting to see a lot of substantial investments and high-quality job opportunities, it shows that our "5+2 industrial innovation program" has started to pay off after more than two years of work.

Over the past two years, we have expanded links with the ASEAN, South Asia, Australia, and New Zealand through our New Southbound Policy. Taiwan's exchanges with New Southbound countries in tourism, trade, industrial cooperation, and education are also progressing. Instead of being overly dependent on a single market, we are diversifying our international engagement.

I want to specially mention that flight routes between Taiwan and the US West Coast have also become more important over the past few years. Because innovative West Coast firms like Microsoft, Cisco, Google, and Amazon, have all set up or expanded their R&D centers in Taiwan, specializing in forward-looking fields like AI, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing.

Many Taiwanese-Americans have played a pivotal role behind the scenes in these investments. And our Asia Silicon Valley initiative has set up offices in Taoyuan in northern Taiwan, linking Taiwanese and global innovation communities. We hope Taiwanese-Americans will play a key role in this regard.

Not long before I arrived in Los Angeles, Taiwan's Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫) had just visited Silicon Valley. I believe that Taiwanese-Americans play an influential role in innovative industrial cooperation between the two sides of the Pacific. So, my friends, your expertise, experience, and connections are just what Taiwan needs right now. I therefore invite all of you to lend a hand, and look for opportunities for Taiwan.

Another encouraging example is the energy transformation in Taiwan. Our efforts to develop offshore wind power have attracted large-scale investment by relevant enterprises from Denmark, Germany, Canada, Australia, and Singapore. We expect that NT$1 trillion worth of investments will be spent on our world-class wind farms in Changhua in western Taiwan.

High-quality capital investments from the United States and around the world flowing to Taiwan is improving our job market, and creating more and better job opportunities for our young people. More importantly, such investments are expediting Taiwan's economic restructuring and the process of innovation and transformation.

New investments in fields like AI and green energy show that our efforts have yielded preliminary results from promoting the "5+2 industrial innovation program," improving infrastructure, deregulation, and recruiting and retaining talent. Our economic growth rate exceeded 3% for a fourth consecutive quarter this year. In fact, we even topped Korea's growth rate. After seven consecutive years, Taiwan's investment rate is no longer declining, while private investment will exceed NT$3 trillion for the first time.

New investment, new industries, and new job opportunities are appearing. Taiwan's industrial sector is reversing the trend toward hollowing out, while our economy is overcoming stagnation and sluggishness. So I hope that everyone can work together to expand our innovation-based economy, a key to strengthening Taiwan's overall economy.

I want to tell my fellow countrymen and my friends here that Taiwan has never backed down from challenges. Despite opposition of all kinds, we are moving forward with needed reforms. In the midst of geopolitical struggles, we are a stabilizing force in regional politics, holding fast to our free and democratic way of life.

I believe you have all witnessed that over the past few years, US-Taiwan relations are growing stronger. Behind the progress in Taiwan-US relations are the efforts of many Taiwanese-Americans. While our countrymen are residing abroad, their hearts are still with Taiwan, and they are always willing to do something for Taiwan.

Whether in business or diplomacy, Taiwanese-Americans can't just be spectators or cheerleaders, and there are many things they can do for their homeland. Taiwan's survival and development depend on the influence and support of Taiwanese-Americans. All of our compatriots on hand can play a role in strengthening Taiwan. I'm grateful to share a meal with everyone.

I want to thank all of you, and ask you to continue to provide support and encouragement. Reforms take time, but if Taiwanese unite, there is nothing we can't do. So let's all roll up our sleeves and work together. Because that's the only way to change Taiwan for the better, and forge our own path into the future.

I thank everyone for such a warm welcome, and also thank the US government, the government of the State of California, the Los Angeles city government, and Americans everywhere for their help during the transit stop. I also thank every distinguished guest for being with us today, and wish you all the best.

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