Tsai pledges to defend Taiwan amid China threat in National Day speech

10/10/2021 01:35 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen (center) waves to the crowds at the end of Sunday morning
President Tsai Ing-wen (center) waves to the crowds at the end of Sunday morning's National Day celebrations in Taipei. CNA photo Oct. 10, 2021

Taipei, Oct. 10 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) pledged on Sunday in her National Day address to defend the country's sovereignty and democracy amid "unprecedented challenges" brought by China's increasing military coercion and to make sure Taiwan will not be forced to take the path China has laid for the country.

In her speech at the 110th Double Ten National Day of the Republic of China (ROC), the official name for Taiwan, Tsai reiterated Taiwan's determination to defend itself and maintain regional peace and stability. She said that such stability and order is being challenged by China's increasing military coercion in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and across the Taiwan Strait.

Reiterating her ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) stance on cross-strait relations, Tsai said her administration's goodwill toward Beijing will not change and that it will continue to do its part to prevent the cross-strait status quo from being unilaterally altered.

Tsai, however, emphasized that resolving cross-strait differences "requires the two sides of the Strait to engage in dialogue on the basis of parity."

She said Taiwan will not act rashly and will do its best to ease tensions, stressing that "there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure."

"We will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us."

"This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people," she stressed.

President Tsai Ing-wen delivers her National Day speech. CNA photo Oct. 10, 2021
President Tsai Ing-wen delivers her National Day speech. CNA photo Oct. 10, 2021

Tsai's Four Commitments

Tsai laid out four commitments, which she believed should serve as a common ground shared by the people of Taiwan despite different political affiliations, as speaking to leaders of three main opposition parties in Taiwan, namely, Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), Taiwan People's Party Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), and New Power Party Chairperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) who were at the national day ceremony.

"Let us here renew with one another our enduring commitment to a free and democratic constitutional system, our commitment that the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China should not be subordinate to each other, our commitment to resist annexation or encroachment upon our sovereignty, and our commitment that the future of the Republic of China (Taiwan) must be decided in accordance with the will of the Taiwanese people."

"On the basis of this shared foundation, we have a responsibility to seek an even broader consensus, so that we can be united in the face of future challenges," she said.

In her National Day address, Tsai also thanked Japan, the United States, Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland for their respective donations of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan as the world continues to face a serious pandemic and vaccines are in short supply.

The president spoke of Taiwan's face mask donations last year. "The face masks we sent out across the world last year showed that Taiwan can help. And the vaccines they sent us this year are vaccines of friendship."

"This is a virtuous cycle, and I can assure the international community that Taiwan will continue to contribute to the world and expand this virtuous cycle further afield," she said.

She also pointed out that though the pandemic impacted domestic demand, it did not affect Taiwan's overall economic growth prospects.

In particularly, the global shortage of semiconductor chips has highlighted Taiwan's importance in global supply chains.

The world has begun to pay attention to Taiwan's key position in the region, and Taiwan's determination to expand trade relations with major partners has been demonstrated with the resumption of bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between Taipei and Washington and Taiwan's recent application to join the regional trade bloc, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), according to Tsai.

"We believe we have the ability to work with like-minded partners to contribute to the international community. Taiwan today is no longer seen as the orphan of Asia, but as an Island of Resilience that can face challenges with courage," she stressed.

Since 2016, when Tsai of the pro-independence DPP took office, Beijing has adopted a hardline stance on cross-strait relations and has cut off dialogue with Taiwan.

At the core of the issue is Tsai's refusal to recognize the "1992 consensus," a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then-KMT government and the Chinese government that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledged there is only "one China" with each free to interpret what "China" means.

The DPP contends that the consensus is a "mere illusion," as Beijing does not recognize the idea that each side is free to interpret what "one China" means.

The KMT, however, insists it's the best way to reduce tensions, put aside differences and ensure peace and prosperity for Taiwan. It pointed out that acceptance of the consensus led to good relations between the two sides when it was in power from 2008-2016, without hurting Taiwan's democracy, sovereignty or freedoms.

Over the past two years, Beijing has further stepped up its military pressure toward Taiwan by sending military aircraft into Taiwan's air defense identification zone on a daily basis, drawing concerns from the international community.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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The president's speech begins at 1:40:00. Courtesy of the Presidential Office
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