The president of the Republic of China, Taiwan, has underscored the importance of opening the Asian island nation to the world, expressing hope that the country will become a "free economic island" characterised by productivity of its people, high added-value in its products, and most importantly, high incomes and wellbeing for its citizens as a result. This kind of Taiwan, he envisaged, will become the top investment choice for businesses, while for its citizens, it will become a happy home.
Ma Ying-Jeou was speaking Thursday while addressing his nation on the occasion of the 102 years of nationhood, which was celebrated in a colourful style in the heart of Taipei, adjacent to the presidency. Attended by leaders of Taiwan's allies around the world including The Gambia's vice president and minister of Women Affairs, Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy; President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. of the Republic of Palau; prime minister of the Solomon Islands; the event dubbed "Double Tenth" is a significant national activity of Taiwan in that it commemorates the founding of the nation in 1911, becoming the first Asian Republic.
At this stage of nationhood, not only has Taiwan become a country that truly values democratic principles, it has also become an economic giant in Asia, playing a critical role in modern industrial and technological innovations.
But in order to consolidate the gains and stimulate greater economic transformation, President Ma insisted that they should expand the scope of liberalisation for both domestic and international financial and economic activities. This, he said, will help Taiwan to advance more quickly towards the goal of becoming a "free economic island".
"We hope these liberalisation measures, along with other industrial development plans, will generate at least NT$300 billion worth of private sector investment and create 45, 000 jobs in the next two years," he underscored.
He was however quick to reiterate that only by opening their market will Taiwan's young people have a grand stage for realising their grand hopes. In this era of global competition, the Taiwanese leader noted, the use of labour has become more internationalised and flexible. This, he stressed, has warranted the need to put emphasis on investing in the country's youths more than ever before. To this end, he unveiled that his government is stepping up efforts to develop a policy aimed at increasing employment opportunities for young people. The idea, he explained, is to make the youths more employable and help them realise their dreams of starting businesses and finding jobs.
"In recent years, young students from Taiwan have won high marks in international invention and design competitions. This clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of our country's promotion of creativity education and cooperation between industry and academia," he indicated.
Further commenting on the liberalisation, the Taiwanese leader said although some are concerned that it will have a negative impact on their economy, he was quick to point out that economic competitiveness has always been the nation's strength. The flexibility and resilience of their enterprises, as well as their progress in many global competitiveness rankings, according to him, prove that their economy is strong and robust.
"The government has made thorough preparations for the possible adverse effects of liberalisation. There is no need to sell ourselves short. My fellow citizens, fear of competition will cause our economy to wither. Only if we have the courage to compete can we create economic prosperity. This is the only way forward for the structural transformation of Taiwan's economy," he emphasised.
President Ma also unveiled that his country is in the midst of integrating industrial and academic resources, and developing 10 fundamental industrial technologies so that they take root in Taiwan and form the foundation for industrial innovation and upgrading in the future. He also stressed that companies must be actively helped to transform into "backbone enterprises" so they can develop key technologies and gradually establish themselves in what he called "hidden champions" in the global supply chain.
Regional economic integration
The Taiwanese leader also noted that in order to become a free economic island, Taiwan must comprehensively take part in regional economic integration and speed up the promotion of free economic pilot zones.
Embracing civil society
President Ma also seized the opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to embracing a viable civil society along the path to democratisation. He opined that it is not just only their economy that should be aligned with global trends, saying civilisation in its entirety must be aligned as well.
"Along the path to democratisation, my responsibility as president is to continue reinforcing democratic beliefs and culture so as to build up civil society. When we established democracy, we learned as we went. Now we need to put civil society into practice in a nation that is already democratic. In concrete terms, a mature civil society demonstrates high-quality democracy. That is to say, under the principle of constitutionalism, human rights are protected, the rule of law is thoroughly implemented, and the judiciary is independent, so civil society is able to thrive," he emphasised. While noting that he has confidence in their society, President Ma averred that they seek a civil society that values diversity and tolerance; a culture where governance is rational, citizens are friendly and caring, and the government is actively responsive.
While telling his fellow countrymen that now is the time to unite and move forward, President Ma Ying-Jeou stressed that they must bequeath to their children a liberalised and prosperous economic environment, a rational and caring civil society, a peaceful cross-strait relationship, and a friendly and cooperative space for themselves in the international community." "This is our niche, and our way forward," he concluded.
Parade and performance
Meanwhile, the celebration was also marked by a colourful military parade by the armed and security apparatus of Taiwan under the Joint Military Marching Band as well as performances by selected groups such as Vox Nativa Children's Choir; Taiwan National Choir WeKIDS Children School, amongst others.