Drawing upon his observations of Taiwan and experience as a statesman, former US president Bill Clinton talked about the importance of integration and institutional capacity in bridging the gaps between communities in our increasingly interdependent world in a speech at the Taipei International Convention Center last night.
During his keynote speech for the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), Clinton used the situation between Taiwan and China as an example of the positive and negative interdependence that characterizes the 21st century.
"Although I am not president [of the US] anymore, I have watched the situation in Asia, and between China and Taiwan very closely. I see continuing negative tensions over political differences and positive economic and personal contacts," Clinton said.
The fact that over 100 million Chinese work for companies owned by Taiwanese businessmen and the recent success of the Lunar New Year cross-strait charter flights, are examples of such a contrasts, Clinton said. He cited al-Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the US, made possible by the ready access to information and technology created by positive international interdependence as another such example.
Such situations tell us that we cannot escape each other, Clinton said, and added that the challenge of the 21st century is to move from a world of unstable interdependence to one of integrated communities with a greater number of partners and fewer enemies.
Clinton's speech was delayed for about an hour because his flight could not land due to bad weather. Accompanied by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), he walked into the packed auditorium of the TICC at 7pm. The audience stood and chanted greetings in Chinese to the former US president.
Among the dignitaries in the audience were Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (
Clinton, who visited Taiwan four times when he was governor of Arkansas, said he was glad to be back and recalled these earlier trips at the beginning of his speech.
"When I was a young governor, I came to Taiwan four times between 1979 and 1988. I noticed all the changes on this island," he said. "I watched the remarkable economic growth and your political growth. I have watched the development of your democracy with great appreciation and admiration."
Sharing his experience of promoting democracy all over the world, Clinton said the TFD, which was formed to support democracy not only in Taiwan but also around the world, could do important work beyond its borders.
Clinton, who noted the significance of strengthening institutional capacity in furthering economic development, democracy and humanitarian works in many countries, said he hoped the TFD could help freedom and democracy-loving people in other countries.
To promote democracy, he said, the world needs to find concrete ways to cooperate.
"For the first time in all human history, we have the ability to build a global system of integrated communities," he said.
After the speech, Mark Chen and Wang, representing the TFD, gave Clinton a gift: a jar made by Aboriginal people. Only the head of a tribe can own this kind of jar, which was decorated with a string of beads on around its mouth.