First of two parts
[On the morning of May 20, ROC-Taiwan 14th-term President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice President Chen Chien-jen attended inaugural celebrations at the plaza in front of the Presidential Office Building. President Tsai also delivered her inaugural address. The following is an English translation of President Tsai’s speech]
Esteemed heads of state and guests from our allies, distinguished ambassadors and representatives, dear friends, our fellow citizens across the country:
Our gratitude and responsibilities
Just moments ago, in the Presidential Office building, Dr. Chen Chien-jen and I were officially sworn in as the 14th President and Vice President of the Republic of China. We must express our gratitude to this land for nurturing us and to the people for placing their trust in us. Most importantly, we deeply appreciate the democratic institutions of this country, which have allowed us to accomplish Taiwan’s third transition of political power through a peaceful electoral process. We also overcame many uncertainties throughout a four-month long transition period that concluded peacefully today.
Once again, the people of Taiwan have shown the world through our actions that we, as a free and democratic people, are committed to the defense of our freedom and democracy as a way of life. Each and every one of us participated in this journey. My dear fellow Taiwanese, we did it.
I would like to tell you that, regarding the results of the Jan. 16 elections, I have always had one interpretation only. The people elected a new president and new government with one single expectation: solving problems. At this very moment, Taiwan faces a difficult situation that requires its leaders to shoulder the burdens without hesitation. This is something I will not forget.
I would also like to tell you that, the multitude of challenges before us require that we face them honestly and shoulder the responsibilities together. Therefore, today’s speech is an invitation. I invite every fellow citizen to carry the future of this country.
It is not the leader who makes a country great; it is the collective striving of the people that makes this country great. A president should not only unite her own supporters; she should unite the entire country. To stand united for change—that is my earnest hope for this country. Here, I sincerely call on everyone to give this country a chance. Let us leave behind the prejudices and conflicts of the past, and together fulfill the mission that the new era has entrusted to us.
At this moment and as President, I declare to the citizens of this country that my administration will demonstrate resolve in spearheading this country’s reform, and will never back down.
Building a better country for the younger generation
The path forward is not a smooth one. Taiwan needs a new government that readily takes on each and every challenge. And it is my job to lead such a government.
Our pension system will go bankrupt without reform.
Our rigid educational system is increasingly out of touch with society.
Our energy and resources are limited, and our economy lacks momentum, with the old model of OEM manufacturing facing a bottleneck. This country urgently needs a new model for economic development.
Our population is rapidly aging, while the long-term care system remains inadequate.
Our birthrate remains low, while a sound childcare system seems a distant prospect.
Our environment still suffers from severe pollution.
Our country’s fiscal situation is far from optimistic.
Our judicial system has lost the trust of the people.
Our families are deeply disturbed by food safety scandals.
Our wealth disparities are still widening.
Our social safety net is full of holes.
Most importantly, and I must stress: our young people still suffer from low wages. Their lives are stuck, and they feel helpless and confused about the future.
Young people’s future is the government’s responsibility. If unfriendly structures persist, the situation for young people will never improve, no matter how many elite talents we have. My self-expectation is that, within my term as President, I will tackle this country’s problems step by step, starting with the basic structure.
This is what I want to do for the young people of Taiwan. Although I cannot give every young person a raise instantly, I can promise that the new administration will initiate actions immediately. Please give us some time, and please join us on this journey of reform.
To change young people’s predicament is to change a country’s predicament. When its young people have no future, a country is certain to have no future. It is the solemn duty of the new administration to help young people overcome difficulties, achieve generational justice, and deliver to the next generation a better country.
1. Transforming economic structures
To build a better country, going forward, the new administration must accomplish a number of tasks.
The first is to transform Taiwan’s economic structure. This is the most formidable task that the new administration must take on. We must not think lightly of ourselves, and we must not lose confidence. Taiwan enjoys many advantages that other countries lack. We have the vibrancy and resilience of a maritime economy, the pragmatic and reliable culture of engineers, a well-developed industrial chain, nimble and agile small and medium enterprises, and of course, our relentless entrepreneurial spirit.
In order to completely transform Taiwan’s economy, from this moment on, we must bravely chart a different course—and that is to build a “New Model for Economic Development” for Taiwan.
The new administration will pursue a new economic model for sustainable development based on the core values of innovation, employment and equitable distribution. The first step of reform is to strengthen the vitality and autonomy of our economy, reinforce Taiwan’s global and regional connections, and actively participate in multilateral and bilateral economic cooperation as well as free trade negotiations including the TPP and RCEP. We will also promote a “New Southbound Policy” in order to elevate the scope and diversity of our external economy, and to bid farewell to our past over-reliance on a single market.
Furthermore, the new administration believes that the only way for Taiwan to overcome the current economic stagnation is to stimulate new momentum for growth. Our export and domestic demand will serve as twin engines for growth, allowing business production to become closely integrated with the livelihoods of the people, while building close ties between foreign trade and the local economy.
We will prioritize our plans to promote five major innovative industries, with the goal of reshaping Taiwan’s global competitiveness. By protecting labor rights, we will also actively raise productivity and allow wages to grow in lock-step with the economy.
This is a crucial moment for Taiwan’s economic development. We have the resolve and the ability to communicate. Going forward, we have systematic plans to engage in interagency cooperation, in order to consolidate the strength of the entire country and bring forth this new model.
As we pursue economic development, we must not forget our responsibility to the environment. Our New Model for Economic Development will be fully integrated with national land-use planning, regional development and environmental sustainability. Industrial planning strategy and national land-use should not be fragmented or shortsighted. We must also pursue balanced regional development, which requires planning and coordination by the central administration. And it requires our local governments to uphold the spirit of regional joint governance.
We must not endlessly expend natural resources and the health of our citizens as we have done in the past. Therefore, we will strictly monitor and control all sources of pollution. We will also bring Taiwan into an age of circular economy, turning waste into renewable resources. We will gradually adjust our energy options based on the concepts of sustainability. The new administration will seriously address issues related to climate change, land conservation and disaster prevention. After all, we only have one earth, and we only have one Taiwan.
2. Strengthening the social safety net
The second area that the new government must address is to strengthen Taiwan’s social safety net. Over the past few years, several incidents of violent crime affecting the safety of children and youth have shaken our entire society. However, a government cannot remain in a state of shock. It must demonstrate empathy. No one can endure the pain and suffering on behalf of the victims’ families. However, the government, and especially the first responders, must let the victims and their family members feel that, when unfortunate incidents occur, the government is on their side.
Beyond offering empathy, the government should propose solutions. We must do everything we can to prevent the repeated occurrences of tragedy, by swiftly mending holes in areas such as public safety, education, mental health and social work. The new administration will address these issues with the utmost seriousness and readiness to act, particularly on public safety and anti-drug efforts.
The issue of pension reform is crucial for the survival and development of Taiwan. We should not hesitate, nor should we act in haste. Vice President Chen Chien-jen is spearheading the establishment of a Pension Reform Committee. Previous administrations have devoted some effort to this issue, but public participation was inadequate. The new government will launch a collective negotiation process, because pension reform must unite everyone involved.
For this reason, we will convene a national congress on pension reform that brings together representatives from different social classes and occupations to engage in negotiations on the basis of societal unity. Within a year, we will offer a workable proposal for reform. Whether you are employed in the private or the public sector, life after retirement for every citizen should receive fair protection.
Furthermore, on the issue of long-term care, we will establish a high-quality, affordable and extensive long-term care system. Like pension reform, long-term care is a process of social mobilization. The new administration’s approach is for the government to lead and plan, while encouraging citizens to organize in communities; through the efforts of collective social assistance, our goal is to build an adequate and comprehensive system. Every senior citizen can comfortably enjoy life after retirement in a community they are familiar with. Every family will see their burden of care lightened. We cannot leave senior care entirely to the free market. We will take up our responsibilities, plan and implement step by step, and get adequately prepared for the arrival of a hyper-aging society.
[The second half of President Tsai’s inaugural speech will be published tomorrow.]