Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) held a press conference – or a “tea reception” for reporters – at → Taipei Guest House on Saturday afternoon local time.
The following are excerpts from her introductory statement, translated into English. Links within blockquotes added during translation.
Main link: → Presidential website
I’m very glad to meet with all the friends from the press here today. Apart from being happy to speak to the reporters ahead of schedule, I would also like to take the opportunity of this tea reception to report to all our compatriots about the efforts we have made for this country since the new government came into office.
I believe that all reporters present here, and many compatriots too, will know that a few days ago, the dispute concerning the national highway toll station dispute has been resolved.
Although some different views and opinions remain, concerning the solution to this dispute, I believe that, when watching on television how everyone smiled while the curtain fell on the dispute, many people, just like me, felt happy for them and their families.
To some people, this solution only means to give in to a group of people protesting in the streets. However, I want to look at the entire issue from a different perspective. As far as we are concerned, the point is that now that the curtain has fallen on this struggle, this society and above all some families can get back to their daily lives.
This is what governments are for. Some people →say that this [approach] is called giving out sweets to those who quarrel. But as far as this government is concerned, the real issue here isn’t the noise. The issue is if the noise is justified, and if the government listens. My expectation to myself and to my team, during the past three months, has been that we are prepared to listen, to communicate, and to find a solution.
I know that the friends from the press are curious about what I have done since May 20 [inauguration day], on a daily basis. In fact, after becoming president, my life and work have seen changes, and although the issues now are different, they have changed in a rather simple way, as mentioned in my inaugural speech: they are about solving problems.
Many problems have accumulated for a long time, and the previous government wanted to solve some of them, but wasn’t successful. There have also been some problems the past government neither wanted to solve, nor had the strength to solve.
The people who elected us want the new government to address and solve issues in a pragmatic and courageous way. The people do not want the new government to shift responsibilities altogether to the past. Therefore, I tell myself every day, and my governing team, too, that the people expects to see a different government.
In the decisionmaking process, I have to admit that we haven’t considered things sufficiently, and that we haven’t dealt with them sufficiently. When that happens, we will adapt, honestly face this, and that we will change. We won’t harden, we won’t weaken. During the Democratic Progressive Party government, and no half-minute incident.
For the past three months, the new government’s main four areas of attention have been as follows.
(1): Aborigines, Industrial Relations
The first one has been about solving longstanding problems in Taiwanese society. On August 1, I apologized to the aborigine nation on behalf of the government. For several hundred years, the aborigine people have suffered unfair treatment, that can’t be changed by a simple apology. But this society needs a starting point. I want to make the first step. Although the form of my apology sparked some controversy, we can take a successive approach and honestly face the problems that have accumulated during the past few hundred years.
Industrial relations disputes have long existed in Taiwanese society. In the wake of global economic change as well as economic slowdowns, weak labor rights and protection, have become more and more important issues. As for enterprises, and small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, there have been transformational problems, which has also led to more and more tense industrial relations.
The new government has not tried to avoid the issue. We have chosen to handle the problem directly. Of course, we admit that to solve years-old disputes in a short time and to achieve social consensus in a short time is difficult. We want to communicate with society again, especially with labour organizations’ and small and medium-sized enterprises’ views, and we want to listen more carefully. This will be reflected in my future arrangements.
We also need to understand that if the Taiwanese economy doesn’t speed up transformation, labor disputes, even if solved for a while, will continue to trouble labour and industry.
(2): “Ill-Gotten Party Assets”, Judicial Yuan Nominations, Pension Reform
The second field of work discussed by President Tsai is recently-passed legislation on “ill-gotten party assets”, as described →here by the English-language Taipei Times in July. Tsai, in her address to the press on Saturday, referred to the process as a first step in the handling of rightening the authoritarian period in Taiwan (i. e. the decades of martial law under KMT rule). Tsai Ing-wen conjured a duty on the part of the KMT to share responsibility in the process:
I want to emphasize in particular that this is done to remind all politicians that many things that were considered natural within the authoritarian system, will not be allowed to happen again in today’s democratic society. What matters more is that, to create a more fair political environment in Taiwan, is our common responsibility.
In that “second field of work”, Tsai also mentioned a controversy concerning judicial yuan nominations – both nominees chosen by Tsai Ing-wen herself – which resulted with the nominees →bowing out:
I admit that the previous judicial yuan nomination sparked controversy in society. In the end, both nominees decided to decline with thanks, and I want to thank the two nominees for granting me a chance to think again. Of course, this was my responsibility. I will remember this experience carefully. The new government will communicate more carefully with the masses in future.
Another major issue addressed as part of the second field of work is pension reform.
(3): Taiwan’s New Economic Development Model
The third field of work for the new government is the new model for Taiwan’s economic development. During the past three months, our ministries and commissions in charge have actively worked on this matter. National construction programs made by think-tanks during our time in opposition have been turned into policies by the government offices. From here, the budgets of the offices in charge will be devised.
Concerning involvement in economic construction, and the promotional economic development plan concerning the five big innovative industries and the acceleration of technological innovation etc., our budgets for the coming year will grow correspondingly. This stands for our goal to build the new economic model round innovation.
As for a safe internet, for our social housing policies, and for the expansion of community care, raising the quality of long-term care, treatment and prevention, etc., we are also increasing the budgets.
Involvement in overall economic development will not limit itself to government budgeting. We will also encourage publicly-owned institutions to invest in new kinds of industries, lending impetus to non-governmental enterprises, especially the upgrading transformation of small and medium-sized enterprises.
The budgeting is only the beginning, and the real test is to do things well. In fact, the cabinet is in a state of overall mobilization. During the past three months, under the → executive yuan president‘s leadership and the coordination of the government affairs committee as well as the efforts of the heads of ministries and commissions, the new government hasn’t been lax. I have lists from every governmental commission concerning their issues and their progress, and can explain each of them. I believe that these lists can also be found on the executive yuan’s website.
I do not hope that people will use the first one-hundred days to judge my successes and failures, and I’m not going to judge the cabinet members’ performances based on the first one-hundred days.
Reform takes time. I’m not going to shrink back in the light of lacking short-term results or because of difficulties in promoting reform. When something goes wrong, it will be corrected, and what goes well, will be advanced boldly. I believe that this is what the Taiwanese people expect from government at this stage.
(4): Cross Strait Relations, Remembering Wang Tuoh
Fourthly, we will maintain the necessary communication with the relevant countries to maintain regional peace and stability, and to handle external relations. In particular, after the outcome of the arbitrational →decision concerning the South China Sea has been issued, we will, together with all countries, maintain the stability of the South China Sea situation. The people want the government to do more regarding sovereignty in the South China Sea, and we understand and acknowledge that.
As for the cross-strait relations [with China], I re-emphasize the importance of “maintaining the status quo”. Our goal is to build consistent, calculable and sustainable cross-strait relations under the current constitutional systems.
We will soon announce the staffing issues at the Strait Exchange Foundation. At the current stage, we have a choice among several candidates, and are at the final stage of consultations and assessments. Apart form the Strait Exchange Foundation, we will fill the remaining vacancies in government staff as soon as possible.
Some move quickly on the road of reform, and some move slowly, but as long as there is a common direction, we should support and encourage each other. There may be bumps on the government’s path in the coming days, but we will continue to make efforts forward.
Some say that solving the highway toll station staff issue is something “the previous government didn’t succeed to do”. As far as I am concerned, this is the greatest encouragement for our new government. To do what the previous government didn’t succeed at is what change of government is about.
There is one more thing. I want to mention a very particular man. When I took the office of Democratic Progressive Party chairpersonship in 2008, the party’s secretary general was → Mr. Wang Tuoh. Not long ago, he also left us. On his sickbed, he still showed concern for me. I will always remember how, when I wasn’t viewed favorably by the outside world, when the Democratic Progressive Party’s morale was at its lowest point, he bravely stepped forward, and together with me, he helped the Democratic Progressive Party to climb out from that lowest point.
In those difficult days, he often encouraged me, and he reminded me that when the thing you are doing is right, you must stick to it. I’m really sad that he can’t be in this world to see, with us, the changes of Taiwan.
But I will always remember what he said during his last days, he said “our way of governing must be different from the past, it must be successful.” I want to use these words to wind up my address. Everyone in the government team, put up the ante.