Basseterre, St. Kitts (CUOPM) — As the Republic of China (Taiwan) prepares to celebrate its 103rd National Day, the Communications Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister (CUOPM) salutes its solid relationship with its Asian ally.
We reproduce for readers in cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis information on the political, social, economic and social development of Taiwan.
I. Robust growth and sustainable development
Today we celebrate with a joyous heart the 103rd National Day of the Republic of China, a special occasion that we wish to share with you. Just over a century ago, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of our nation, overcame trials and tribulations to formulate a blueprint for the future development of the ROC. His ideals have now been fully realized in Taiwan, where we enjoy freedom, democracy, and equitable prosperity, and which has become an exemplary model for other ethnic Chinese societies. The ROC will continue to contribute to regional peace and stability, global economic prosperity, and sustainable development for humankind.
II. Significant political and economic achievements
1. Democracy and human rights
The ROC was the first democratic republic in Asia. Since 1996, it has held five direct presidential elections and twice experienced the peaceful change of governing party. The concepts of democracy and rule of law are deeply embedded inTaiwan’s society, while human rights protection is a major cornerstone on which the nation is built. The Freedom in the World 2014 report issued by Freedom House rated Taiwan as one of the freest countries in Asia. Although the ROC is not a member of the United Nations, it has passed enforcement acts whereby the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women have been incorporated into domestic law. In February 2013, the ROC published its first official human rights report and invited a group of foreign scholars and experts to Taiwan to review it in accordance with relevant UN procedures.
2. Economy and innovation
Taiwan has enjoyed a strong economic performance and its national competitiveness has increased steadily. Its economic growth is expected to reach 3.41 percent this year, up from 1.3 percent last year. Major international ratings agencies have continued to affirm Taiwan’s sovereign credit rating outlook as stable. In the Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015published by the World Economic Forum in September of this year, Taiwan was listed as the 14th-most competitive among the 144 nations surveyed, or fourth in the Asia-Pacific region, higher than the Republic of Korea and mainland China.
The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom released in January by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal placedTaiwan at 17th among 185 surveyed economies, or fifth among 41 Asia-Pacific economies, behind Hong Kong, Singapore,Australia, and New Zealand. Moreover, Taiwan was rated the sixth-most innovative country in the world—leading all newly industrialized nations—for the 2009-13 period by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
III. Vision for the future
In his inauguration speech on May 20, 2012, President Ma Ying-jeou set out the Golden Decade framework with a policy vision built on the “four assurances” of ROC sovereign independence and integrity, Taiwan’s security and prosperity, ethnic harmony and cross-strait peace, and a sustainable environment and a just society. This national vision encompasses eight elements: robust economy, just society, clean and competent government, flourishing culture and high-quality education, environmental sustainability, well-rounded development, cross-strait peace, and friendly relations with the international community. Taiwan looks to advance in all aspects and to play the role of a peacemaker, provider of humanitarian aid, promoter of cultural exchange, creator of new technology and business opportunity, and standard-bearer of Chinese culture.
In his 2014 New Year’s Day address, President Ma also stated that the government will continue to adopt a dual-track strategy and seek public unity in facilitating trade liberalization aimed at increasing Taiwan’s competitiveness. Taiwan will actively participate in regional economic integration and strive to gain access to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). In an effort to significantly promote liberalization and globalization, it has launched the free economic pilot zone project, focusing on five key sectors: smart logistics, international healthcare, value-added agriculture, financial services, and education innovation.
IV. Concrete actions taken to promote regional peace
President Ma has been committed not only to pursuing peaceful cross-strait relations, but also to maintaining regional peace, stability, and prosperity. In response to the Diaoyutai Islands issue, he proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative on August 5, 2012, calling on all parties concerned to (1) exercise restraint and refrain from taking any antagonistic actions; (2)shelve controversies and not abandon dialogue; (3) observe international law and resolve disputes through peaceful means; (4) seek consensus on a code of conduct in the East China Sea; and (5) establish a mechanism for cooperation on exploring and developing resources in the East China Sea.
Following this proposal, Taiwan and Japan signed a fisheries agreement on April 10, 2013, thereby resolving a 40-year dispute over fishing rights in the waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands. This concrete manifestation of the East China Sea Peace Initiative provides the best testimony that disputes can be resolved through peaceful means. While firmly upholding its sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands and surrounding waters, ROC employed the concept that sovereignty cannot be divided but resources can be shared to reach a consensus with Japan on shelving the sovereignty claim dispute and protecting the rights and interests of fishermen from both sides. This has contributed to regional peace and stability, and effectively minimized disputes between the two countries.
The Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement and the East China Sea Peace Initiative have received commendation worldwide as well as extensive coverage by international media. In an effort to further promote the initiative, its spirit and principles, President Ma released the Statement on East China Sea Airspace Security in February 2014, urging all parties concerned to observe international law, initiate as soon as possible bilateral talks on the overlapping ADIZs issue that directly affects aviation safety, as well as create a multilateral negotiation mechanism and jointly establish a code of conduct for the East China Sea covering both maritime space and airspace.
On August 5, 2014, President Ma pointed out at the East China Sea Peace Forum held in Taipei that the territorial dispute between mainland China and Vietnam brought to the forefront by oil exploration in the South China Sea in May underscores the fragility of regional peace and prosperity. He urged the parties concerned to contemplate how the principles of the East China Sea Peace Initiative could be introduced to resolve South China Sea issues.
V. Participation in regional economic integration
On July 10, 2013, Taiwan signed an economic cooperation agreement (ECA) with New Zealand, the first free-trade pactTaiwan has concluded with a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It not only contains trade-related rules, but also touches upon the opening up of a number of industries including the aerospace, film, and television sectors. This WTO-Plus agreement covers 99 percent of products from both sides, 83 percent of which enjoy a zero-tariff rate. After the agreement came into effect, two-way trade increased 15 percent year-on-year to US$800 million in the first half of 2014.
On November 7, 2013, Taiwan concluded an agreement on economic partnership with Singapore, its first ECA with a top-10 trade partner and a Southeast Asian nation. These two ECAs have not only boosted Taiwan’s economic cooperation with New Zealand and Singapore, but also added momentum to Taiwan’s economic and trade liberalization, increased its overall competitiveness, and demonstrated to the world its determination to further deregulate trade and investment. Their success encourages other countries to move forward with ECA negotiations with Taiwan. A number of feasibility studies are currently being conducted on signing similar agreements with other major Asian trade partners, which would create conditions favorable to Taiwan’s bid to join the TPP and the RCEP.
In March and April 2014, the US State Department publicly welcomed Taiwan’s interest in TPP participation. Likewise, at an international press conference on June 18, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its readiness to welcomeTaiwan’s presence in the TPP.
VI. Successful implementation of viable diplomacy
The ROC government began promoting a viable diplomacy policy in May 2008. By adopting the principles of dignity, autonomy, pragmatism, and flexibility, it has expanded Taiwan’s international space, consolidated relations with diplomatic partners, and enhanced substantive ties with other nations. Viable diplomacy has won the support of the people as well as widespread recognition in the international community. For his contribution to peace and stability in East Asia through the East China Sea Peace Initiative, President Ma received the Eisenhower Medallion in September 2014. This award is the highest honor conferred on the world’s most distinguished individuals and organizations by People to People International, which was founded by US President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Other recipients include former US President Ronald Reagan (1986) and former South African President Nelson Mandela (2010).
The concrete achievements of viable diplomacy include the following:
1. Stable growth of ties with our diplomatic allies and other countries
The ROC maintains strong partnerships with its 22 diplomatic allies, and mutual visits by high-ranking officials are frequent. In January, President Ma led a delegation to visit São Tomé and Príncipe and Burkina Faso, and to attend the inauguration of President Juan Hernández of Honduras. In July, President Ma led a delegation to visit El Salvador and to attend the inauguration of Panamanian President Juan Valera. These visits served to strengthen ties with these nations. Vice President Wu Den-yih led a delegation to Vatican City this April to attend the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. The visit strengthened ties between our two countries and enhance the ROC’s international visibility.
Premier Jiang Yi-hua led a delegation to El Salvador to attend the inauguration of President Salvador Sanchez this June, while Defense Minister Yen Ming led a delegation to Burkina Faso and attended celebrations for Swazi King Mswati III’s 46th birthday this April.
The ROC also enjoys increasingly close relations with other countries and regions, especially the US, Japan, and the European Union. Our president and premier transited the US three times this year, and were accorded great courtesy. In April, Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy visited Taiwan and established a partnership on environmental issues of international import, showing that mutual trust is strong. Also that month, the US House of Representatives passed the Taiwan Relations Act Affirmation and Naval Vessel Transfer Act in support of US arms sales to Taiwan.
Taiwan-EU relations have also been furthered through the Taiwan-EU Consulting Meeting, a videoconference that took place in June. Here, a review was made of bilateral trade, business, education, technology, human rights, nuclear safety, national security, and cybersecurity policies. High-level visits have been frequent, with trips this year by Vice President Wu, Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta, Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai, as well as former Minister of Labor Pan Shi-wei.
Taiwan has a long, close relationship with Japan. Bilateral trade has developed and personnel exchanges have grown. In 2012, mutual visits topped 3.76 million, while two-way trade hit US$62.4 billion, with each being an important trade partner of the other. Moreover, Taiwan and Japan signed a fisheries agreement in 2012.
2. Greater international participation
On September 11, Shen Chi, Director General of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, attended the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization as a guest of the President of the ICAO Council. This marked a concrete step forward in our efforts to achieve meaningful participation in ICAO, which began in earnest in 2009. In addition, the ROC Minister of Health and Welfare has attended the World Health Assembly as an observer for five years in a row, following a 38-year absence from the UN system. Moreover, Taiwan is represented by a presidential envoy at APEC Economic Leaders’ Meetings. It has acceded to the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement and gained observer status at the annual assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Taiwan is also seeking meaningful participation in activities under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
3. Visa-waiver privileges
A total of 140 countries and territories now offer visa-waiver or landing visa privileges to ROC nationals, up from 54 six years ago. Recent additions to the list include the US, Japan, the UK, Schengen countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Israel, and Turkey. Our nationals therefore enjoy greater convenience and dignity when traveling abroad than before.
4. Economic cooperation agreements
The eighth round of TIFA talks between Taiwan and the US was held in Washington this April, after the talks were resumed in 2013. To speed up the opening of Taiwan’s service market, Taiwan completed negotiations with 22 member countries of the World Trade Organization, including the US, Australia, and the EU, on a multilateral trade in services agreement toward the goal of greater economic integration, having also completed the aforementioned accession to the GPA, as well as participating in the ITA II. In July, Taiwan and 12 other WTO members released a joint statement announcing the beginning of negotiations on an environmental goods agreement.
VII. Humanitarian aid
As a responsible stakeholder in the international community, Taiwan has dedicated itself to providing humanitarian aid. The ROC government and private organizations have made important contributions in such areas as disaster prevention, humanitarian aid and charity, medical aid, and development cooperation. Remarkable results have been achieved as a result of these efforts, which include:
1. Emergency relief
Taiwan cooperates with international organizations to carry out disaster prevention programs. For instance, Taiwan has launched disaster and landslide prevention projects in Haiti and Honduras.
After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, the ROC government provided US$200,000 in cash and some 680 tons of supplies delivered in 18 flights by ROC Air Force C-130 cargo planes as well as by a naval vessel. A further US$4 million was donated by the private sector.
The ROC government and the Red Cross Society of the ROC donated 44 prefabricated houses and other relief supplies valued at US$1 million to the Republic of Palau, also in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. ROC naval vessels also traveled toPalau to deliver the supplies. Palauan President Remengesau expressed his gratitude to the ROC for providing the single largest donation his country had ever received.
The eagerness with which the public and private sector provided aid to these two countries highlights the close ties Taiwan enjoys with the Philippines and Palau, and also how Taiwan is living up to its responsibilities as a provider of humanitarian aid.
2. Medical aid and development cooperation
TaiwanIHA has been invited by the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA), headquartered in Japan, to travel overseas with it to provide medical aid by, for example, aiding Changhua Christian Hospital in its work in St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Furthermore, as part of our humanitarian aid efforts, Taiwan has dispatched medical teams to nations in the Asia-Pacific region, Africa, and Latin America, so as to help bring about long-term improvements in healthcare. Currently, 14 technical and medical teams from Taiwan are working in 30 countries around the globe. They are cooperating with host nations on some 35 projects that will boost the local economy and improve people’s wellbeing.
Taiwan has donated some 100,000 sets of personal protective equipment in an effort to help squelch the Ebola epidemic in Africa and is looking for opportunities to provide assistance that taps into Taiwan’s advanced medical care expertise.
VIII. Exercising Taiwan’s soft power through culture
Taiwan has been keen to encourage international exchanges and promote salient aspects of Taiwan’s pluralistic culture to the world through all manner of cultural and academic activities. Specific achievements include:
1. Cultural exchanges
First Lady Chow Mei-ching led the Taipei Philharmonic to Finland and Estonia this July, and viewed a display from the Imperial Collection of the National Palace Museum at Tokyo Museum. This September, she led Contemporary Legend Theatre and the Ju Percussion Group to France and Austria.
Taiwan’s Team Win Lion Dance Theatre has also recently performed in Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, and Sweden. Some 19 events were held across North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific in support of “A Narrative of Light and Shadow: Female Photographers from Taiwan,” which was widely covered in the international press.
In September, Taiwan hosted the Latin American and Caribbean Culture Festival attended by ambassadors and representatives from relevant nations. This was a good example of President Ma’s concept of cultural diplomacy and ofTaiwan’s being a promoter of cultural exchanges.
2. Youth exchanges
Taiwan has initiated many international exchange projects for young people, including the International Youth Ambassadors Program, the Teen Diplomatic Envoys program, and the International Youth Taiwan Culture Camp. It has also signed working holiday agreements for young people with 11 countries: Japan, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, theRepublic of Korea, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Hungary, and Slovakia. Young people were also selected to represent Taiwanin the APEC program Voices of the Future. These activities have encouraged greater exchanges among young people and promoted understanding between different cultures.
3. Taiwan Academy
Traditional aspects of Chinese culture have been well preserved in Taiwan, and Taiwan has developed into an important center for Chinese-language creative and pop culture ventures. To further promote Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics, the government has begun to set up Taiwan Academies in major cities around the globe. It has long pushed for the use of digital technology in helping people learn Mandarin Chinese and traditional Chinese characters and conduct research in the fields of Taiwan studies, Sinology, and Taiwan culture. In October 2011, Taiwan Academies opened in the US cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Houston, and 208 contact points have been set up in 64 countries. Moreover, the ROC government offers 1,000 Taiwan Fellowships and Scholarships every year to encourage foreign students and scholars to study and conduct research in Taiwan.