Heads of State of Our Diplomatic Allies, Distinguished Guests, Overseas Compatriots, My Fellow Taiwanese, and Dear Friends in front of a Television Set or Computer: Good Morning!
I. Historical Significance of the Second Turnover of Power
Earlier this year on March 22, through the presidential election of the Republic of China, the people changed the course of their future. Today we are here not to celebrate the victory of a particular party or individual, but to witness Taiwan pass a historic milestone.
Taiwan's democracy has been treading down a rocky road, but now it has finally won the chance to enter a smoother path. During that difficult time, political trust was low, political maneuvering was high, and economic security was gone. Support for Taiwan from abroad had suffered an all-time low. Fortunately, the growing pains of Taiwan's democracy did not last long compared to those of other young democracies. Through these growing pains, Taiwan's democracy matured as one can see by the clear choice the people made at this critical moment. The people have chosen clean politics, an open economy, ethnic harmony, and peaceful cross-strait relations to open their arms to the future.
After opening by saying the election result isn't about one party, Ma immediately moves to hack on the DPP. The opening lines are basically a campaign speech -- the points Ma makes were all talking points during the election, and the rankest of rank hypocrisy. The KMT is by far the dirtier of the two parties ("Clean politics"); and it created the system of ethnic divide-n-rule politics ("ethnic harmony"). Cross strait relations have been entirely peaceful under Chen (the only cross strait fighting took place in the Chiang era), even if China doesn't like him, and Taiwan's economy is one of the most open in the world. Ma is of course referring to DPP restrictions on economic exchanges with China, restrictions that are routine for countries bordering China.
Note that also there is no positive nod to the previous administration for its many accomplishments. This is completely graceless moment for both parties -- the DPP stayed away from the inaugural. Neither party looks very big-hearted here -- but it must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Greens, to see Ma, who carved out a career fighting Taiwan's democratization, heading up the very democracy whose existence he put so much effort into suppressing. Cool note: a reference to computers and online viewing right there in the opening remarks! Onward...
Above all, the people have rediscovered Taiwan's traditional core values of benevolence, righteousness, diligence, honesty, generosity and industriousness. This remarkable experience has let Taiwan become "a beacon of democracy to Asia and the world." We, the people of Taiwan, should be proud of ourselves. The Republic of China is now a democracy respected by the international community.
Yet we are still not content. We must better Taiwan's democracy, enrich its substance, and make it more perfect. To accomplish this, we can rely on the Constitution to protect human rights, uphold law and order, make justice independent and impartial, and breathe new life into civil society. Taiwan's democracy should not be marred by illegal eavesdropping, arbitrary justice, and political interference in the media or electoral institutions. All of us share this vision for the next phase of political reform.
The relentless flow of hypocrisy continues -- political interference in electoral institutions? Last time I checked, it was the KMT controlled legislature that was holding up the budget to attempt to gain control of the Central Election Commission (CEC). As for Ma's remarks on civil society....
On the day of Taiwan's presidential election, hundreds of millions of ethnic Chinese worldwide watched the ballot count on TV and the Internet. Taiwan is the sole ethnic Chinese society to complete a second democratic turnover of power. Ethnic Chinese communities around the world have laid their hopes on this crucial political experiment. By succeeding, we can make unparalleled contributions to the democratic development of all ethnic Chinese communities. This responsibility is ours to fulfill.
Some points on the language here. Ma uses "zhonghwa minzu" and related terms in this speech. The DPP did not use those terms -- as part of its goal of building a real civil society, a real nation, the DPP did not use ethnic terminology to refer to status of Taiwanese -- it used "guomin" (= citizens). Ma's construction of Taiwan as a polity peopled by ethnic Chinese society is a massive step backwards for the construction of a nation-state with a civil society here that is independent of ethnicity. Perhaps another hidden meaning of the constant referencing of Singapore becomes clear -- Singapore is a multi-ethnic society, predominately Chinese, in which the Chinese basically run the show. There's even a nifty little analogue between the Taiwanese and their admixture of aboriginal physical and cultural traits, and the Peranakan of Singapore.
Further down the English term "subethnic groups" is used. That's outrageous. The reference to Taiwan as an "ethnic Chinese" society is a clear denigration of the aborigines and of those who see themselves as "Taiwanese" rather than "Chinese." It also places them in subordinate position relative to the dominant Han. There's more of this...
II. Mission of the New EraSome translation issues -- "this has been true throughout history" in Chinese actually says it is an "iron law of history."
The new administration's most urgent task is to lead Taiwan through the daunting challenges from globalization. The world economy is changing profoundly, and newly emerging countries are arising rapidly. We must upgrade Taiwan's international competitiveness and recover lost opportunities. The uncertainty of the current global economy poses as the main challenge to the revitalization of Taiwan's economy. Yet, we firmly believe that, with right policies and steadfast determination, our goals are within our grasp.
Islands like Taiwan flourish in an open economy and wither in a closed one. This has been true throughout history. Therefore, we must open up and deregulate the economy to unleash the vitality of the private sector. This will strengthen Taiwan's comparative advantages. Taiwan's enterprises should be encouraged to establish themselves at home, network throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and position themselves globally. Taiwan's labor force must learn to adapt to rapid technological changes and industrial restructuring. Our youth must develop character, a sense of civic duty, global perspectives and lifelong learning capabilities. All forms of political interference in education must be eradicated. In this era of globalization, the government must satisfy the basic needs of the underprivileged and create opportunities for them to develop. While pursuing growth, we must seek environmental sustainability for Taiwan and the rest of the world.
Another KMT hot-button issue was the DPP's reforms of the colonialist educational system implemented by the KMT -- this was glossed as "political interference in education" in the KMT lexicon. In other words, this tastes like another hack on the DPP...
The new administration must also restore political ethics to regain the people's trust in the government. We will endeavor to create an environment that is humane, rational and pluralistic one that fosters political reconciliation and co-existence. We will promote harmony among sub-ethnic groups and between the old and new immigrants, encourage healthy competition in politics, and respect the media's monitoring of the government and freedom of the press.
"Sub-ethnic groups." Scratch Ma, and you find a Han chauvinist of the old school? The scary part is the hint here that the Presidency might well unleash Ma Ying-jeou son of crazed ROC nationalist Ma Ho-ling, not Ma Ying-jeou, pragmatist and globalist. Word has it this speech is in large part the work of Su Chi, who is now a key player in the new administration.
The new administration will push for clean politics and set strict standards for the integrity and efficiency of officials. It also will provide a code for the interaction between the public and private sectors to prevent money politics. I hope every civil servant will keep in mind: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The KMT will honor its sincere commitment to accountability in governance. The new government will be for all the people, remain non-partisan and uphold administrative neutrality. The government will not stand in the way of social progress, but rather serve as the engine that drives it.
Historical note: As I recall, Lord Acton's famous dictum was actually formulated as an argument
As President of the Republic of China, my most solemn duty is to safeguard the Constitution. In a young democracy, respecting the Constitution is more important than amending it. My top priority is to affirm the authority of the Constitution and show the value of abiding by it. Serving by example, I will follow the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, especially the separation of powers. We must ensure that the government is based on the rule of law. The Executive Yuan must answer to the Legislative Yuan. The Judiciary must guarantee the rule of law and protect human rights. The Examination Yuan must make the civil service sound. The Control Yuan must redress mistakes by the government and censure malfeasance by civil servants. All told, we must take this opportunity to re-establish a robust constitutional tradition.
No mention, of course, that it was the KMT controlled legislature that impaired the function of the Yuans -- by holding up bills in the Legislative Yuan, killing budgets, and blocking DPP appointments. The Control Yuan, responsible for the auditing function, had a backlog of 20,000 cases last time I checked, because the KMT blocked the DPP Control Yuan appointments.
Ma here is also taking a hack at the DPP -- "respecting the Consitution is more important than amending it." The DPP's goal was Constitutional reform. Here Ma is signaling that there will be none in his tenure. But irrespective of one's politics, the ROC constitution was never meant to be more than the candy coating over a one-party state. It needs plenty of change.
Taiwan has to be a respectable member of the global village. Dignity, autonomy, pragmatism and flexibility should be Taiwan's guiding principles when developing foreign relations. As a world citizen, the Republic of China will accept its responsibilities in promoting free trade, nonproliferation, anti-global warming measures, counter-terrorism, humanitarian aid, and other global commons. Taiwan must play a greater role in regional cooperation. By strengthening economic relations with its major trading partners, Taiwan can better integrate itself in East Asia and contribute more to the region's peace and prosperity.
Here Ma uses all the right words the US and international financial interests want to hear. Can he deliver?
We will strengthen bilateral relations with the United States, our foremost security ally and trading partner. Taiwan will continue to cherish its diplomatic allies and honor its commitments to them. We will expand cooperation with like-minded countries. On top of that, we will rationalize our defense budget and acquire necessary defensive weaponry to form a solid national defense force. At the same time, we are committed to cross-strait peace and regional stability. The Republic of China must restore its reputation in the international community as a peace-maker.
More sweets for the US. And another sly hack at the DPP -- "restoring" the reputation the ROC had as a peacemaker -- because, by inference, it was all troublemaker under Chen. As if the ROC was ever viewed by anyone as a "peacemaker." Further -- it is China that is the threat. And sure enough, there's no mention of that -- PRC missiles and military, all gone. No mention of course that it was the KMT-controlled legislature that hung up the purchase of "necessary weaponry" for years during the Chen Administration...
I sincerely hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can seize this historic opportunity to achieve peace and co-prosperity. Under the principle of "no unification, no independence and no use of force," as Taiwan's mainstream public opinion holds it, and under the framework of the ROC Constitution, we will maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. In 1992, the two sides reached a consensus on "one China, respective interpretations." Many rounds of negotiation were then completed, spurring the development of cross-strait relations. I want to reiterate that, based on the "1992 Consensus," negotiations should resume at the earliest time possible. As proposed in the Boao Forum on April 12 of this year, let's "face reality, pioneer a new future, shelve controversies and pursue a win-win solution." This will allow us to strike a balance as each pursues its own interests. The normalization of economic and cultural relations is the first step to a win-win solution. Accordingly, we are ready to resume consultations. It is our expectation that, with the start of direct charter flights on weekends and the arrival of mainland tourists in early July this year, we will launch a new era of cross-strait relations.
The 1992 Consensus was a fiction, but if both sides agree to use it as a framework, then it exists.
We will also enter consultations with mainland China over Taiwan's international space and a possible cross-strait peace accord. Taiwan doesn't just want security and prosperity. It wants dignity. Only when Taiwan is no longer being isolated in the international arena can cross-strait relations move forward with confidence. We have taken note that Mr. Hu Jintao has recently spoken on cross-strait relations three times: first, in a conversation of March 26 with US President George W. Bush on the "1992 Consensus"; second, in his proposed "four continuations" on April 12 at the Boao Forum; and third, on April 29 when he called for "building mutual trust, shelving controversies, finding commonalities despite differences, and creating together a win-win solution" across the Taiwan Strait. His views are very much in line with our own. Here I would like to call upon the two sides to pursue reconciliation and truce in both cross-strait and international arenas. We should help and respect each other in international organizations and activities. In light of our common Chinese heritage, people on both sides should do their utmost to jointly contribute to the international community without engaging in vicious competition and the waste of resources. I firmly believe that Taiwan and mainland China are open minded enough to find a way to attain peace and co-prosperity.
Fine points: Hu of China is "Mr. Hu" but Bush of the US is "President Bush." Heh. Then there is "the common Chinese heritage" -- unless you're an aborigine, I suppose. Ma thinks of himself as the President of a "Chinese" polity and not as the head of a multiethnic nation-state where everyone is a citizen. For Ma and his crowd, "ethnic harmony" appears to mean subordination of all ethnic groups to Han supremacy. The State Department congratulated Ma thusly:
We congratulate Ma Ying-jeou on his inauguration. We look forward to working with Taiwan’s new leaders and maintaining the vibrancy of our economic and people-to-people relationship.
We welcome initiatives to reduce tension in the Taiwan Strait. As President Bush said after the March vote, “the election provides a fresh opportunity for both sides to reach out and engage one another in peacefully resolving their differences.”
Two other translation points to make: the English text says "our common Chinese heritage" but the Chinese is explicit -- the people on the two sides of the Strait both belong to the Chinese race" (兩岸人民同屬中華民族).The second translation issue is even more interesting. Entirely dropped from the English text is the very next sentence, which says 中華民族智慧之高 which translates "the great intelligence/wisdom" of the Chinese race." As I noted, Ma's thinking treads the well-worn path of Han chauvinism in which other ethnicities are arranged in order below the dominant and wisely benevolent Han. The DPP, by contrast, offered "proto-state to state" and "partnership" with all the original peoples. As you read Ma's comments on the great Chinese people, recall the prominence of aborigines and aboriginal themes in Ma's election adverts, like this one in which everyone in the top row with Ma and Siew is an aborigine.
Yet the original people of the island have simply vanished from Ma's speech.... at this moment a pro-KMT aboriginal legislator stormed out of the speech and denounced this phraseology, pointing out that the aborigines in Taiwan have been here longer than the formulaic 5,000 years of Chinese civilization.
And speaking of crucial non-mentions, what key nation is conspicuous by its absence: Japan. It's par for the course for Real Chinese © to denigrate Japan -- but Ma had been trying to mend fences with Japan, where he had been viewed with suspicion. One important opportunity, lost....
In resolving cross-strait issues, what matters is not sovereignty but core values and way of life. We care about the welfare of the 1.3 billion people of mainland China, and hope that mainland China will continue to move toward freedom, democracy and prosperity for all the people. This would pave the way for the long-term peaceful development of cross-strait relations.
"...what matters is not soveriegnty..." Sovereignty, according to Ma, is not important. With that line he throws away two decades of policy work by Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian. Further, during his campaign, Ma promised to safeguard the sovereignty of Taiwan and the right of the people to choose -- but hey, now that he's in power, all that disappears. It's "not important." His own words. As Taiwan News observed:
For example, one media reported that Ma mentioned Taiwan 50 times and the Republic of China only nine times, but in none of these nearly 60 references did the new head of state commissioned by our 23 million people acknowledge that either Taiwan or the ROC was "a sovereign and independent country," which he reaffirmed repeatedly during his campaign to ease concerns that his new government would "sell out Taiwan."
In addition, Ma made absolutely no mention of the principle, endorsed by himself and his party in media advertisements March 15, that "Taiwan's future must be decided by the Taiwan people alone."
This omission is even more disturbing in light of his claim that "the decisive factor in the resolution of the cross-strait issue is not the dispute over sovereignty but the way of life and core values."
On the contrary, the question of sovereignty is not a dispute over ownership of a piece of land but the right of a people organized in a state to make the fundamental decisions on their national future, including whether they wish to end their independent existence and affiliate with another state.
The fundamental issue between democratic Taiwan and the authoritarian PRC is precisely over the right of the Taiwan people to make their own decision or, in other words, over Beijing's abject refusal to acknowledge the "people's sovereignty" of the 23 million Taiwan people.
And if we don't have sovereignty, we don't really have democracy, do we? As Hong Kong is sadly finding out.... So what "core values" is Ma referring to? Dollars to donuts, it's that shared Han supremacy...or, as Feiren pointed out in the comments, the Confucian values he indexed as Taiwan having rediscovered.
The damage from the recent earthquake in Sichuan was shocking. All Taiwanese have expressed deep concern and offered immediate emergency assistance. We offer our deepest condolences to the earthquake victims and pay homage to the rescue workers. May the reconstruction of the affected area be completed at the earliest time possible!
III. Taiwan's Legacy and Vision
Upon being sworn in, I had an epiphany about the significance of accepting responsibility for the 23 million people of Taiwan. Although I have never felt so honored in my life, this is the heaviest responsibility that I have ever shouldered. Taiwan is not my birthplace, but it is where I was raised and the resting place of my family. I am forever grateful to society for accepting and nurturing this post-war immigrant. I will protect Taiwan with all my heart and resolutely move forward. I'll do my very best!
For over four centuries, this island of ours has welcomed waves of immigrants, nurturing and sheltering us all. It has provided us, our children and grandchildren, and the generations to come a safe haven. With its lofty mountains and vast oceans, Taiwan has invigorated us in mind and spirit. The cultural legacies we inherited over time not only survive on this land, but flourish and evolve, creating a pluralistic and vigorous human landscape.
The Republic of China was reborn on Taiwan. During my presidency, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China. This democratic republic, the very first in Asia, spent a short 38 years on the Chinese mainland, but has spent nearly 60 years in Taiwan. During these last six decades, the destinies of the Republic of China and Taiwan have been closely intertwined. Together, the two have experienced times good and bad. On the jagged path toward democracy, the ROC has made great strides. Dr. Sun Yat-sen's dream for a constitutional democracy was not realized on the Chinese mainland, but today it has taken root, blossomed and borne fruit in Taiwan.
Ma has talked many times throughout this speech about democracy. His own opposition to it is a matter of public record, but he does not refer to his past here, nor does he thank the opposition he defeated for driving democratization here in Taiwan. Instead Ma links the idea of democracy back to Sun Yat-sen, as if the democracy movement here from the 1950s on never existed. Graceless.
On the other hand, you can read the reference to "for over four centuries" as a reference to Taiwan's 400 years of history, a common phrase in pro-Taiwan thinking. So Ma may be attempting to take some sort of conciliatory position here.
Finally, note that Ma talks of the ROC and Taiwan as two distinct but intertwined things. He reinforces that later by added Kinmen and Matsu to the homeland.
I am confident about Taiwan's future. Over the years, I have traveled to every corner of the island and talked with people from all walks of life. What impressed me most was that the traditional core values of benevolence, righteousness, diligence, honesty, generosity and industriousness could be seen everywhere in the words and deeds of the Taiwanese people regardless of their location and age. These values have long been ingrained in their character. This is the wellspring of our progress, also lauded as the "Taiwan Spirit."
One can see that Taiwan is blessed with an excellent geographic location, precious cultural assets, a maturing democracy, innovative entrepreneurship, a pluralistic society, active civic groups, patriotic overseas compatriots, and new immigrants from all over the world. We should couple the "Taiwan Spirit" with our comparative advantages and the principle of "putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people." This way we can transform our homeland Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu the envy of the world.
Ma's definition of the homeland includes "Kinmen and Matsu." Here also the English text omits Ma's direct quote of the words the DPP used in the Feb 28, 2004 "Hands across Taiwan" event. Ma quotes the words from the key song, “Hand Holding hand, Heart United with Heart 心連心、手牽手” and then concludes, “let us all strive together 大家一起來奮鬥. Ma apparently repeated these words in Taiwanese too.
To revive Taiwan requires the efforts of both the government and the people. We need the expertise of the private sector, cooperation among all political parties, and participation by all the people. My dear compatriots, from this moment on, we must roll up our sleeves to build up our homeland. Together, we can lay a solid foundation of peace and prosperity for our children, grandchildren and the generations to come. Let's work hand in hand for our future!
My dear compatriots, please join me: Long live Taiwan's democracy! Long live the Republic of China! Thank you!
Once again, the reference to "revival" -- a core KMT talking point in the election. The reaction was, according to several news reports, wait-and-see. Jonathan Adams had a nifty piece in the Christian Science Monitor with some reactions, including crystal ball gazing on the subject of China:
On such issues, the extent of China's goodwill remains unclear. "The ball is in Beijing's court," says Lo Chih-cheng, a political scientist at Soochow University in Taipei. "Economic links can be resolved on the basis of the '92 consensus, but when it comes to issues of international space and a peace accord, I'm not sure if that will be good enough for Beijing."
What will Beijing do?