“I am Taiwanese” a statement of honour from the Island of Resilience: Tsai
TAIPEI -- Today, saying "I am Taiwanese" is a statement of honour and an expression of pride, President Tsai Ing-wen has said in her Double Tenth National Day address to the nation.
She directly addressed the differences existing between what she calls "the two sides of the strait", differences, she said, which stemmed from historical factors "as well as from our divergent experiences in democratic development".
"I want to make clear to the Beijing authorities that armed confrontation is absolutely not an option for our two sides," she said.
"Only by respecting the commitment of the Taiwanese people to our sovereignty, democracy and freedom can there be a foundation for resuming constructive interaction across the Taiwan Strait.
"The Beijing authorities should not make any misjudgment on account of Taiwan's vigorous democratic system.
"They must not mistake that there is room for compromise in the Taiwanese people's commitment to democracy and freedom, and thus attempt to divide Taiwanese society by exploiting the fierce competition between our political parties.
"This way of thinking and acting is of no benefit to cross-strait relations, and will only push our two sides further from each other."
Tsai said: "We look forward to the gradual resumption of healthy and orderly cross-strait people-to-people exchanges after the loosening of border restrictions on both sides, thereby easing tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
"Provided there is rationality, equality and mutual respect, we are willing to work with the Beijing authorities to find a mutually agreeable arrangement for upholding peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. This is our shared responsibility".
Tsai said Taiwan was upgrading its national defence and uniting behind a common purpose.
"Over the past few years, we have stepped up defence reform and increased our defence budget in order to strengthen our national defence capabilities and resilience," she said.
"Through our actions, we are sending a message to the international community that Taiwan will take responsibility for its own self-defence, that we will not leave anything to fate, and that we will work with our allies to jointly maintain security and stability in the region.
"As part of this effort, we are ramping up mass-production of precision missiles and high-performance naval vessels.
"In addition, we are working to acquire various small, highly-mobile precision weapons that will help us develop comprehensive asymmetric warfare capabilities, ensuring that Taiwan is fully prepared to respond to external military threats.
"Our domestic efforts to build aircraft and ships have achieved significant results in recent years, with our indigenous submarine project also progressing as planned.
"Just two weeks ago, Taiwan's first domestically-developed and constructed 10,000-ton landing platform dock, Yushan, was officially delivered.
"To ensure that our national defence is truly comprehensive, we have also established the All-out Defence Mobilisation Agency to bolster our military training capacity and refine reserve training programmes, increasing the readiness of our reservists by giving them access to equipment and weaponry similar to that used by our active-duty troops.
"Forming a military force that can effectively respond to the demands of modern warfare, and building an overall mobilisation capability that integrates the military and the public are issues that demand our immediate attention.
"We must ensure that our preparations, supplies, and personnel can be resiliently, accurately and promptly deployed to address any situation, whether in times of peace, disaster, or war.
"But most importantly, we must all rally around a common purpose and broaden public awareness of our self-defence needs. Protecting our territory and safeguarding our nation has never been the work of the military alone.
"Every citizen is a guardian of our nation.
"In recent times, we have seen Taiwanese of all ages and genders, including young parents, senior citizens, and students without military experience, take it upon themselves to participate in classes on community defence, first aid and information awareness.
"This is the true meaning of collective participation in national defence."
Turning to the economy, Tsai said Taiwan had enjoyed stable economic growth as the COVID-19 epidemic was brought under control.
"That, together with our development strategy directed toward innovation and transformation, has helped resolve our longstanding economic stagnation," she said.
"As most economies around the world slowed, Taiwan's grew at a rate of 6.57% in 2021, our best performance in recent years.
"This year's International Institute for Management Development World Competitiveness Yearbook ranks Taiwan as seventh worldwide for competitiveness -- and first for total R&D personnel per-capita.
"In each of the four years since 2018, our central government has recorded annual budget surplusses of more than NT$100 billion. Last year, that figure reached a record high of almost NT$300 billion.
"The stability of our public finances has, in turn, given us more resources to invest in infrastructure, boost scientific research, strengthen national defence and construct a more well-rounded social safety net.
"Instead of holding us back, the COVID-19 pandemic has helped the world see Taiwan's resilience. Not only did we manage the spread of COVID-19, we helped Taiwan take a step forward, and made our country a better place".
Tsai said Taiwan's next challenge was to build a resilient nation. This, she said, would not be "a walk in the park".
"Having come through the outbreak of the virus, we know that our next challenges will be even greater, requiring a calm and collective response.
"The post-pandemic world order is in a state of rapid change. Countries across Europe and the Americas are suffering from inflation and the resulting economic downturn.
"While inflation in Taiwan is still at a controllable level, we must nevertheless prepare for developments that might be triggered by a global economic contraction.
"At the same time, global supply chains are still undergoing restructuring.
"Though Taiwan already holds a key position in the fields of semiconductors and information and communications technology hardware and software, we must quickly catch up in other fields to ensure our strong footing.
"In addition, disasters caused by extreme weather events remind us that we must build mechanisms for rapid response."
Tsai said that, aside from economic developments, Russia continued its war against Ukraine, while China's military activity in the South China Sea, East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait undermined peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
"We absolutely cannot ignore the challenge that these military expansions pose to the free and democratic world order," she said.
"These developments are inextricably connected with Taiwan.
"We must stand up for our democracy, and prepare prudently and sufficiently to respond to any possible contingency.
"Looking back, we can see that we were able to weather the challenges of the pandemic precisely because of Taiwan's resilience. Over the remaining two years of my term, we will continue to resolutely uphold resilience of four key areas: our economy and industry, social safety net, free and democratic government system and national defence.
"The work of making the Republic of China (Taiwan) a more resilient country is now our most important national development priority."
The foremost task, she said, in creating a more resilient country was to build a resilient economy and industry that could stand firm amid global headwinds and adapt to changing global trends.
"The most pressing of such economic trends are global inflation and the resulting financial contraction, which have introduced a heightened risk of economic downturn and financial instability.
"To control inflation and ensure the stability of our peoples' livelihoods, we are managing these issues at the source and working to stabilise the prices of water, electricity, oil, natural gas, and other staples and critical raw materials, expending every effort to reduce overall price fluctuations.
"We have also strengthened our mechanisms for responding to instability in financial markets.
"Through effective policies and government spending, we will boost our investments in next-generation infrastructure and talent cultivation, creating more job opportunities and upholding our economic growth momentum.
"In terms of industrial development, we must respond forcefully to the accelerating restructuring of global supply chains. We must speed up our efforts to promote development of our Six Core Strategic Industries, while continuing to consolidate our advantages in the semiconductor sector.
I want to specifically emphasise one point to my fellow citizens and the international community. The concentration of the semiconductor sector in Taiwan is not a risk. Rather it is the key to the reorganisation of the global semiconductor industry.
We will continue to maintain Taiwan's advantages and capacity in leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing processes, and will help optimise the worldwide restructuring of the semiconductor supply chain, giving our semiconductor firms an even more prominent global role.
"To improve our ability to respond to economic shocks, we will also work to ensure the security of our critical infrastructure, so that in the case of any emergency, we will still be able to maintain the normal functioning of our industrial sector and society through the effective allocation and stable supply of key goods.
"To further integrate with the international community, we are comprehensively pursuing co-operation and exchanges with New Southbound Policy countries and states across the Indo-Pacific, as well as with Central and Eastern Europe.
"Through collaboration in cutting-edge technologies, reciprocal investment, financial support, and other means, we are building more resilient global supply chains and distribution networks."
Turning to social issues, President Tsai said the Government was addressing the challenges of a low birth rate and an aging society by significantly and consistently increasing annual spending on social services in an all-out effort to build a friendlier environment for raising children.
"We have increased birth subsidies and childcare allowances, and have significantly expanded the availability of affordable childcare and pre-school," she said.
"We are also rapidly expanding long-term care services, and have put forward a plan to deal with Taiwan's super-aging trend.
"We are actively building social housing, promoting our subletting management scheme, expanding rent subsidies, raising employment injury insurance coverage and protections, and improving the insurance and pension system for citizens in the agriculture and fisheries sectors.
"We continue to put resources toward setting up community mental health centres, where we are adding staff and developing services tailored to local communities so that citizens can find the help they need where they need it.
"Social welfare spending in this year's budget is over NT$600 billion, and will exceed NT$700 billion next year, setting another all-time high."
Aside from issues of national governance, Tsai said building democratic resilience was the key to safeguarding Taiwan.
"Our primary task in this regard is to make our commitment to a free and democratic system an unbreakable national consensus.
"In a democratic society, we can have different positions and we can debate with one another, but we should unanimously and resolutely stand behind our free and democratic system, no matter how much external pressure we face.
"Next to that is the task of improving transparency and our ability to identify disinformation.
"Taiwan is one of the countries most targetted by information warfare, a non-traditional security threat that persistently interferes with the functioning of our democratic system.
"In facing infiltration and attempts at sabotage by external forces, we must respond with a more transparent and democratic approach.
"Going forward, we will continue to strengthen fact-checking mechanisms targetting disinformation, enhance the transparency and accessibility of information, and help our people more effectively distinguish fact from fiction to neutralise the threat of information warfare.
"The other part of this work is to continue deepening Taiwan's international co-operation and close ties with democratic allies.
"As the expansion of authoritarianism has gradually come to threaten the global order, friends from across the world have travelled to Taiwan to express their support. Taiwan is now receiving more international attention than ever before.
"The Republic of China (Taiwan) has become an important global symbol of democracy and freedom.
"The international community fully understands that upholding Taiwan's security means upholding regional stability and democratic values. The destruction of Taiwan's democracy and freedom would be a grave defeat for the world's democracies.
"Our democracy is not just about defining Taiwan's international role for the rest of the world; it is our core strategy for strengthening Taiwan's social resilience."
Returning to security, President Tsai said it was regrettable that, in recent years, the Beijing authorities' escalation of their military intimidation, diplomatic pressure, trade obstruction and attempts to erase the sovereignty of the Republic of China (Taiwan) had threatened the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region.
"During the past 73 years, the people of Taiwan have lived and grown together on this land, and have formed their own strong sense of identity and belonging," she said.
"The broadest consensus among the Taiwanese people and our various political parties is that we must defend our national sovereignty and our free and democratic way of life.
"On this point, we have no room for compromise."
Tsai said greater economic growth for Taiwan would mean more complete and resilient supply chains.
A more secure Taiwan meant a more peaceful and prosperous region and world. And a more democratic Taiwan meant a stronger global democratic alliance.
"This is the years-long road we have travelled, from a darker time to a brighter future," she said.
"Though it has been a difficult road, those difficulties have shown us what it means to be Taiwanese, and have helped us see what Taiwan means to the world.
"Today's Taiwan is democratic, free, prosperous, and culturally diverse. "Not only has Taiwan become a focus of global attention, but our people have come together around a shared determination to safeguard our homeland.
"Today, saying "I am Taiwanese" is a statement of honour and an expression of pride.
"My fellow citizens, we are all family. Let us stand on the world stage with courage, determination, and confidence.
"Let us make Taiwan a Taiwan of the world."