President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday pledged to facilitate economic liberalization to promote an open and prosperous economic environment, and defended his efforts to promote a civil society and peaceful cross-strait relations in a speech at the Double Ten National Day ceremony.
Ma outlined the government’s priorities in strengthening economic competitiveness, promoting a rational civil society and bringing reconciliation across the Taiwan Strait, calling for public support of the government’s efforts to find a viable way forward in the face of intense global competition.
“We must decide our own future. We should ask ourselves: On the path to democratization, do we want a civil society characterized by reason and tolerance? Or do we choose political infighting stemming from suspicion and confrontation? In cross-strait relations, do we want mutually beneficial cross-strait development? Or a cross-strait standoff full of tension and conflict?” Ma said at the ceremony held in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei.
The highly guarded ceremony was held amid waves of protests against the Ma administration over the recent political rift between the president and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
The area surrounding the Presidential Office Building was closed to the public, with heavy police force and barricades blocking the roads leading to the site of the celebrations. Ma and Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), accompanied by first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) and Wu’s wife, Tsai Ling-yi (蔡令怡), greeted foreign guests inside the building before attending the ceremony.
Facing a low approval rating and continuous protests against poor government performance, Ma promised to promote a mature civil society and reinforce democratic values by strengthening dialogue between the government and society.
“I have full confidence in our society... Through dialogue, the citizenry and the government can jointly promote social progress, realize social reform and foster rational competition among political parties. This may be a painful learning process that involves lots of trial and error, but the fruits of this effort will allow us to savor the sweet reward,” he said.
In defending what he described as practical and proactive government strategies, Ma said it was important for the nation to identify its niche amid intense global economic competition, while promoting rapprochement and cooperation with China.
He stressed the importance for Taiwan to pursue economic liberalization through the administration’s plans to sign free-trade agreements with major trade partners following the signing of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in 2010, saying that the nation should face competition with courage to create economic prosperity.
He touted his administration’s efforts to turn the Taiwan Strait into one of Asia’s most peaceful waterways and prosperous passageways, stressing the special relationship that Taiwan and China share.
“The people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are all Chinese by ethnicity. Cross-strait relations are not international relations... Each side acknowledges the existence of ‘one China,’ but maintains its own interpretation based on the ‘1992 consensus,’” he said.
The signing of the ECFA in 2010 and the cross-strait service trade agreement this year, and the meeting between Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) at APEC on Sunday, during which the two greeted each other by their official titles, showed the two sides’ consensus on putting aside the sovereignty issue to promote cross-strait relations, Ma said.
“The two sides should utilize frequent contacts and interaction to boost political trust... We will take cross-strait cooperation to a new level and revitalize the Chinese society,” he said.
On military reform, Ma defended the government’s effort to amend the law and transfer military cases to civil courts in the and promised to protect the rights of soldiers while improving the strength of the military.
He said that as the president, his foremost mission is to respect the Constitution and implement constitutional governance.