A New Era of Opportunity for Taiwan

Report Asia

A New Era of Opportunity for Taiwan

April 28, 2000 8 min read
Chen Shui-Bian
Counselor to the President

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.:

This is a time of historic change in Taiwan. With his stunning electoral victory on March 18, President-elect Chen Shui-bian ended more than 50 years of KMT [Kuomintang] rule in Taiwan and initiated the first peaceful transfer of power in 5,000 years of Chinese history.

Mr. Chen's victory has raised many questions about Taiwan's future, as well as its relations with Beijing and Washington. The President-elect would like to introduce himself to you and to hear firsthand any questions or concerns leaders of Congress may have about this transition.

To help open a channel of communication at this critically important time, The Heritage Foundation is proud to sponsor this Capitol Hill videoconference. I have known Mr. Chen for more than 15 years, and it is at his request that we are hosting this forum.

At this time, it is my pleasure to introduce to you President-elect Chen Shui-bian.

Affectionately known as "A-bian" to his friends, Mr. Chen was born into a poor family in southern Tainan County in 1951. Despite the humble circumstances of his youth, he consistently finished first in his class from elementary school through the prestigious National Taiwan University Law School. He went on to serve as a city councilor, national legislator, and eventually as mayor of Taipei.

On May 20, he will be inaugurated as the tenth president of the Republic of China. Mr. Chen is recognized by his friends and foes alike for his passion, intelligence, diligence, and commitment to democracy, human rights, and social justice.

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D., is the President of The Heritage Foundation.

President-Elect Chen Shui-bian:

It is a high honor for me to have this opportunity to address you at a time of historical change in Taiwan. Two hundred years ago, when Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams and became the third President of the United States, he created the first-ever party rotation and a peaceful transfer of power in the U.S. It has also paved the way for democracy in America.

Two hundred years later, under the leadership of the Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan experienced the rotation of political power only 13 years after the founding of the Party. This is not simply a historical coincidence, but a result of the joint efforts of both civilizations.

I believe the key priorities of my new government constitute the major concern of yours. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts tonight. I also look forward to addressing your questions and concerns.

For the past several decades, Taiwan and the United States have shared mutual interests in three key areas: the support of common values such as democracy and freedom, the maintenance of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region, and the improvement of multilateral relations between Washington and Taipei.

It is our strong belief that to develop a free and democratic society and to create a prosperous economy, we need to maintain a peaceful and stable environment. In this regard, I would like to express deep appreciation to the United States for its consistent support for Taiwan's security under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. We are looking forward to continued support from your country.

During Taiwan's presidential campaign, the Chinese government released a hostile White Paper on Taiwan policy. President Clinton reacted immediately by reiterating a peaceful resolution to cross-Strait disputes and encouraged the resumption of cross-Strait dialogue. President Clinton specifically emphasized that any ultimate resolution to the cross-Strait relations must meet with the consent of the Taiwanese people. This is the strongest support to Taiwan's democracy.

The Congress also displayed its full support for the process of Taiwan' s election and affirmed Taiwan's peaceful transfer of power. I would especially like to express my deep appreciation to the Clinton Administration and the Congress for your support and concern about the democratic development of Taiwan.

To resume bilateral talks between Taipei and Beijing and to pursue a normalization of cross-Strait relations not only serve the interests of both parties, but also are welcomed by the U.S. and countries in Asia. The new government in Taiwan will take into consideration the improvement of cross-Strait relations and the maintenance of peace and stability across the Strait as the first priority.

In terms of how to normalize cross-Strait relations, as in the campaign, I would like to repeat my "three nos" policy; namely, the new government will not declare independence or change the title of the country. Nor will we put the "special state-to-state" theory into the constitution or hold a referendum to decide the future of Taiwan unless the Chinese government intends to use force against Taiwan.

As the elected loader of the people of Taiwan, I cannot ignore their right to determine their own future. I can, however, assure you that we have no intention of exercising that right except under the most extreme circumstances. It is my conviction that the pursuit of permanent peace is the ultimate goal of rationality as well as the new leader's moral responsibility.

My objective is to promote policies that are conducive to peace, prosperity, and freedom on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. To this end, I have offered to go to the Mainland myself on a mission of peace, to restore dialogue and overcome mutual misconceptions. I have also extended an invitation to President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji, and Mr. Wang Daohan to visit Taiwan for the same purpose.

I propose that the content of our discussion not be predetermined by the interests of one side, but that all views may be openly discussed without prejudice. As long as both parties have goodwill and sincerity, I am confident that we can introduce wisdom and creativity to find the best solution.

I do, however, have one suggestion about the content of the cross-Strait dialogue: that it focus on mutually beneficial economic opportunities. In this regard, the normalization of economic and trade relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait represents a new window of opportunity for the resumption of cross-Strait talks.

Normal trade with China does much more than promote China's economic development. It also promotes Taiwan's own economic growth. I am sure both sides can establish mutual trust based on mutual interests, and by doing so, a comprehensive and constructive cross-Strait relationship will provide peace, prosperity, and stability to the Asia-Pacific region. For the bilateral relationship to be improved to a greater extent, the accession of both sides to the World Trade Organization will play a significant role. I would call for the U.S. government to help both Taiwan and China to become members of the WTO.

As President-elect, I would be remiss if I did not promote the importance of economic relations with Taiwan. Taiwan is the world's leading producer of many computer, Internet, and information technology products and services. Many of these Taiwan firms have manufacturing relationships on the Mainland. Taiwan also is the world's 14th largest trading nation and the ninth largest market for U.S. exports. As I strive to find ways to enhance Taiwan's economic competitiveness, I hope that Beijing and Washington might more fully appreciate the value of close economic relations with Taiwan. The new government will also eliminate unnecessary regulations and allow the market to function on its own.

Our March 18 election was a closely contested race. I was fortunate to win with a greater platform of political reform, national defense, economic opportunity, and welfare policy. As each of these areas are affected by Taiwan's relations with the Mainland, it is my hope that during my administration we will be able to establish a new relationship with the Mainland--one that will alleviate potential tension across the Strait and aim at long-term peace. To pursue reform in an environment of stability, therefore, is the first important task facing the new government.

A key slogan from my campaign was "to build a new and clean government and to bring about prosperity for a new millennium." I do believe this is a new era of opportunity. At this time of unprecedented change, we have an opportunity to reassess and reform our political, economic, and defense systems. We also have an opportunity to improve our substantive relations with Mainland China and the United States.

This is a bold agenda. I will do my utmost to achieve progress toward these ends. With your continued support and friendly advice, I am confident we will meet with success.

Finally, to all of your distinguished colleagues, I would like to extend an invitation to return to Taiwan to witness a growing, thriving democracy in action. I would be honored to have you present at my inauguration on May 20, or to receive you anytime thereafter as the tenth President of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Thank you very much for your time. See you in Taipei on May 20.

The Honorable Chen Shui-bian is President-elect of the Republic of China.

The Honorable Tom DeLay:

Congratulations on your election. You and the people of your country stood up to great intimidation and defended your right to a democratically elected government.

Not only is this freedom great for all of your own people, but your democracy serves as a shining example to hundreds of millions of Chinese who are oppressed on the other side of the Strait. The contrast between your freedom and the despotism of communist China could not be greater.

I want to take this opportunity to assure you that the congressional leadership is dedicated to continuing our constructive relationship with Taiwan. You are a good ally and a strong democracy--your very existence proves that there is hope for those living under tyranny. The peaceful transition of power you are now undertaking is what democracies are all about, and America wants to help you in any way we can.

Sometimes the truth is overlooked, but support for your nation is almost unanimous in the United States Congress. Both political parties are strong supporters of Taiwan and your freedom, and this will not change.

Again, congratulations on your accomplishments. Your courage and determination inspire us all.

The Honorable Tom DeLay, Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, represents the 22nd Congressional District of Texas.


Chen Shui-Bian

Counselor to the President