President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday praised former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) for his dedication to the nation’s development and thanked him for helping shape his government’s economic policy, diplomacy and cross-strait relations.
“Vice president Siew’s contribution was not only in finance, he is also an expert on diplomacy and cross-strait relations. He met with me at least twice a week to discuss issues and participated in the policymaking process. The decisions were not made by me alone,” Ma said during a speech at a ceremony for the launch of Siew’s autobiography in Taipei.
Siew, 73, stepped down on Sunday upon Ma’s re-inauguration. He had announced last year that he would only serve one term as vice president so that more duties could be transferred to the next generation. Ma later chose Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), a former premier, to serve as his running mate.
Wu, top government officials and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) heavyweights including former KMT chairmen Lien Chan (連戰) and Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) attended the ceremony.
In publishing his autobiography, titled The Power of Smiling: Vincent Siew, Fifty Years of Public Service (微笑的力量－蕭萬長公職之路五 十年), Siew defended Ma’s commitment in leading the nation forward and promised to continue to offer advice as a close friend of the president, even after he has retired.
“I’ve witnessed President Ma’s dedication to the nation and his hard work over the past four years. In facing the new challenges ahead we should be fully supportive of him and help make the nation better,” he said.
As a political veteran, Siew worked for more than 10 years in foreign affairs and became the first Taiwan-born premier in 1997 under then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).
He also served as a minister of economic affairs and KMT vice chairman.
Siew was also the running mate of former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) in the 2000 presidential election. After losing the election, Siew continued his work in the field of economics, including serving as convener for a private group of economic advisers for then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
He earned the nickname “Smiley Old Siew” in 1988 for wearing a smile even after some protesters against the then-government’s decision to allow the import of US turkey threw eggs at him.
The president yesterday described Siew as a politician who stayed calm in the face of various political storms over the years, and said the government would work harder on turning the nation into a “free-trade island,” an idea proposed by Siew during the presidential campaign in 2008.