You are here

Ma Ying-jeou, “Inaugural Address,” May 20, 2008

Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated as Taiwan’s president on May 20, 2008.
May 20, 2008

President Ma's Inaugural Address

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.

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.

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.

II. Mission of the New Era

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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!