Taipei, Oct. 8 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Tuesday condemned China's ongoing efforts to isolate the country internationally, saying that such oppression hinders regional peace.
Speaking on the opening day of an international forum in Taipei, the president said the region is facing challenges that can only be dealt with through a joint effort.
Taiwan is willing and able to participate more actively in regional partnerships, Tsai said, but Beijing's continuous suppression of the country internationally has been a major obstacle in achieving the goal.
"Contributions that can make the world a better place should never be subject to political pressures or blocked by unilateral coercion," she stressed, arguing that "China's efforts to isolate Taiwan have done nothing but hinder regional prosperity and stability."
She is thankful that more like-minded countries are willing to stand beside Taiwan and recognize its important role in the Indo-Pacific region.
The president's criticism of China came during a speech at the opening ceremony of the Yushan Forum.
Now in its third year, the annual conference was first launched in 2017 to promote Taiwan's regional status and support the government's efforts to forge a broader relationship with countries targeted by its New Southbound Policy (NSP).
In her speech, Tsai said there have been some significant results since the launch in May 2016 of the policy, which seeks to enhance exchanges with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand.
Last year, 50,000 students from NSP-covered countries studied in Taiwan and an all-time high of 20,000 Taiwanese students studied in these countries, according to the president.
Tsai also pointed to advances in two-way travel, trade and investment since she took office.
In 2018, 5 million visits were conducted between Taiwan and NSP countries, including 2.6 million visits made by travelers to Taiwan, an increase of 70 percent compared with 2015.
"For every four travelers in Taiwan today, one of them is from an NSP country," she said.
On the trade and investment side, Taiwan's total trade with NSP countries surpassed US$100 billion for the first time ever in 2017 and reached US$117 billion in 2018, nearly 20 percent higher than in 2015, Tsai said.
Also, Taiwanese firms have invested more than US$10 billion in NSP countries over the last four years.
Investment in those countries may be slightly down, however, from the previous four years (2012 to 2015) when approved investment in the six biggest ASEAN countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam), India and Australia totaled US$14.29 billion, according to Investment Commission figures.
But as the trade war between China and the U.S. continues, Tsai expected that more countries around the globe will choose to move their production bases to South and Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, the forum's keynote speaker, former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, lauded the NSP.
He praised its ambitious agenda to encourage cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, with a diverse scope that encompass agriculture, commerce, tourism and infrastructure and a wide geographic range that covers 18 countries.
Harper also shared his thoughts on the rise of populism, especially in the Western world, saying it has brought "disruptions" to the world in recent years as outlined in his book "Right Here, Right Now" that he wrote and published in 2018.
Attributing the trend mainly to technological innovation and political dissatisfaction, Harper suggested that the Indo-Pacific region should learn three lessons -- to make economic growth inclusive, ensure there is mutual benefit in trade, and control borders with prudent policies.
Harper encouraged the audience to stay optimistic about the future in this era of disruption, because the world still offers greater opportunities for people than in past.
Though technology advancements can be very destructive, they also present new opportunities, he said.