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Tsai reiterates Taiwan's willingness to engage in dialogue with China

02/16/2024 07:01 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen (center) and senior officials wish businessmen who have operations in China a happy Lunar New Year during a banquet held at the Grand Hotel in Taipei Thursday. CNA photo Feb. 16, 2024
President Tsai Ing-wen (center) and senior officials wish businessmen who have operations in China a happy Lunar New Year during a banquet held at the Grand Hotel in Taipei Thursday. CNA photo Feb. 16, 2024

Taipei, Feb. 16 (CNA) Taiwan has never stopped seeking to resume dialogue with China and will continue to do so, as long as it can be achieved on the basis of dignity and parity, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Friday at a Lunar New Year banquet attended by Taiwanese businesspeople who do business in China.

Tsai made the remarks during her speech at the annual banquet held by the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). The occasion marked the last time Tsai will attend the event in her capacity as president.

Taiwan will continue to explore the possibility of resuming dialogue with China in the hope that orderly exchanges will gradually resume, which is in the interests of people on both sides and conducive to promoting prosperity in the region, the president said.

Tsai also thanked Taiwanese businessmen, who are a major driving force in Taiwan's economy, for working with her administration over the past eight years by branching out to more countries around the world and diversifying export markets, which helped regulate cross-strait trade and boosted Taiwan's economic performance internationally.

Acknowledging that Taiwan faces geopolitically induced economic uncertainties, Tsai said the country nonetheless has adopted a "non-provocative and prudent" stance and proved itself to be a reliable partner in the international community.

"We have remained committed to defending Taiwan's democracy and freedom and walked shoulder-to-shoulder with our international allies toward the world," and Taiwanese businesspeople play an indispensable part in bringing Taiwan to the world and maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait, she said.

Tsai also touted the economic policies and achievements of her administration, including the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade, the New Southbound Policy, the signing of a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with Canada, and the Three Major Programs for Investing in Taiwan, which encourages Taiwanese businesspeople operating in China to pull out from the Chinese market and instead invest in Taiwan and includes rent subsidies and loans to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Yeh Fei-cheng (葉飛呈), honorary chair of Zhuhai Association of Taiwan Businesses, told reporters on the sidelines of the event that cross-strait ties have been rather "inconvenient" compared with when former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was in office, and especially so after Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德), a self-described "practical worker for Taiwan independence" was elected Taiwan's new president.

It is the shared hope of Taiwanese business people that Lai will refrain from talking about or signaling Taiwan independence after he takes office to prevent Beijing from making any unnecessary politically motivated moves, Yeh said.

Taiwanese businessman Wang En-kuo (王恩國), who serves as an advisor to the SEF, said he hopes Beijing will realize that Taiwan will not make any abrupt changes to the "status quo," under which Taiwanese people are used to living.

Beijing thinks the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will push for Taiwan independence, but the fact is that the DPP has not done so in its 16 years as Taiwan's ruling party, Wang said, adding that the U.S. will not allow Taiwan to unilaterally change the "status quo" in the Strait.

Wang said he hoped Beijing would realize that cross-strait relations have historically been reasonably cordial when U.S.-China relations are good, but with U.S.-China rivalry intensifying, it is only natural that Taiwan, as a member of the democratic alliance, will lean closer to the United States.

Meanwhile, the DPP should also realize that the Chinese leadership is obligated to push for the unification of China and must respond to the Chinese people's desire for a unified China, Wang said.

As such, it is to be hoped the DPP will work to de-escalate tensions and not recklessly trigger China with actions or language Beijing may consider provocative, he said.

In his remarks, SEF Chairperson David Lee (李大維) said cross-strait relations did not have to be a "battle to the death" but could be mutually advantageous, while also calling on the two sides to engage in dialogue without any preconditions.

Also at the event, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said Lai has openly said he would continue Tsai's cross-strait policy and called on China to be rational in its attitude toward Taiwan's new administration after Lai is sworn in on May 20.

Maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait is the responsibility of both sides, Chiu noted.

(By Lu Chia-jung and Sean Lin)

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