Chair Tsai Ing-wen: Our Role in Maintaining Regional Stability

Chair Tsai Ing-wen's remarks at session with Taiwan Foreign Correspondents Club on July 1 at the DPP Headquarters. 

Good afternoon. I’d like to welcome all of you today to the DPP and I’d like to especially thank the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents Club for joining us and ensuring that we have a very productive session today.
During my last talk with the TFCC in 2011, one of the main issues that I talked about was the importance of maintaining the right balance in our external relations: the balance in our relationship with China and the rest of the world. With the events that have taken place in Taiwan over the past year, and especially the recent controversies over the Service Trade Agreement and the political context of our relationship with China, it is clear that this topic continues to be of the highest importance. 
To start, many things have been said about the DPP and free trade. It is important to note and iterate that the DPP is not against trade liberalization. Our economy is dependent on trade, and for us trade liberalization and globalization is not a question. It is a challenge and an opportunity that Taiwan must deal with. And we must do so in a manner that will provide the greatest benefit to our economy and is acceptable to the public here.
This is a process that also has to be closely monitored and carefully supervised. We have to ensure that those who are less likely to benefit from the open market and free trade are looked after.
Hilary Clinton, as you may know, recently made a number of remarks about Taiwan’s economic relationship with China. She mentioned that we must decide ‘how economically dependent do we want to be?’ She also said that Taiwan must look at the ‘unintended consequences’ of this relationship. I agree. For China, it cannot just be one economic agreement after another, without looking at questions of our economic and political dependency, its impact on our economy and our relationships with our other trading partners.
China is important. But this relationship cannot take place in isolation. This is why we have expressed to our friends in the US and elsewhere, our interest in the TPP, the RCEP and other trading blocs. And as our partners in the US have mentioned on many occasions, integration in the TPP is a process that does not, as President Ma claims, have to go through China.
Second is matter of Taiwan’s defense. Under President Ma’s administration, we have seen a continuous shift of resources away from national defense; at the same time that our military imbalance with China continues to grow rapidly. I believe that a solid national defense is essential for Taiwan to be able to negotiate on equal footing with Beijing.
A future DPP government will signal a renewed priority in national defense. To do so, we will start with a commitment to raise military spending to 3% of GDP, which the current administration has consistently failed to do, and to use defense budgets more wisely. With increased tensions in the region especially between Japan and China, as well as in the South China Sea, we feel there is a need for Taiwan to play an active role in ensuring peace and stability with our neighbors and think creatively about how to resolve longstanding problems.
Finally, is the matter of our cross-strait relationship. What we have seen over the past few years is the failure to properly manage our cross-strait relationship with the Taiwanese public. Our people have been quite clear, including what we saw during Zhang Zhijun’s visit to Taiwan, that discussions over the cross-strait situation cannot supersede our freedoms, liberties, democracy and way of life.
At the DPP, we understand the importance of managing this relationship so that it is credible and acceptable to the Taiwanese public. In the past, the KMT’s monopolization of dialogue with China has led to misunderstandings in what China can expect. For our part, we need to ensure that China knows that public opinion and a respect for our democracy remains the highest guiding principle in cross-strait relations, so that they can adjust their expectations accordingly.
We must continue to improve the quality of dialogue with China to provide them with this alternative view. This will be done through cross-strait exchanges as well as effective communication about our policies and our platform. To be clear, under a future DPP administration, maintaining peace and stability for Taiwan and the region will be of the highest priority. Strong communication will ensure that cross-strait ties remain consistent and predictable to China and the international community.
Again, I would like to thank you for joining us at the DPP today.