It has been six days since my trip to Singapore. During the news conference prior to the trip, I publicly pledged that, if invited, I would be very much willing to report to the Legislative Yuan on the outcomes of my meeting with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Regrettably, due to resistance from the opposition this morning, I am for now unable to go to the Legislative Yuan to deliver a state of the nation address and report to our legislators. Nevertheless, as a democratically elected president, I have a duty to expound on the results of the Ma-Xi meeting to the people of Taiwan, and have therefore convened this news conference to do so.
I want to begin by outlining the goals and significance of the meeting. Overall, the goals we had set for the meeting have mostly been achieved, in terms of domestic, cross-strait, and international considerations.
Domestically, we aim to establish an open and transparent oversight process. In terms of the cross-strait relationship, we strive to set up a model for interactions between the leaders of the two sides based on equality and dignity. Internationally, we want to consolidate high-level mutual trust with the United States based on our surprise-free approach. The two sides of the strait have jointly conveyed a message of peace, which is in the interests of Taiwan, mainland China, and the US. These are all very beneficial developments for Taiwan.
Four key elements can be further identified in terms of the meeting’s significance for peaceful cross-strait development. It marked the first meeting between the leaders of the two sides since Taiwan and mainland China came under separate rule 66 years ago, demonstrating to the world that the two sides have established a mechanism to resolve disputes in a peaceful manner, thereby setting an extremely positive precedent for the international community.
Secondly, it was the first time since the 1992 Consensus was reached 23 years ago that leaders of the two sides endorsed it at the same time, affirming that the 1992 Consensus serves as a common and critical political foundation in cross-strait relations. During the meeting itself, I reiterated the content of the 1992 Consensus to Mr. Xi as follows: “Both sides of the Taiwan Strait insist on the ‘one China’ principle, and each side can express its interpretation verbally; this is the 1992 Consensus of ‘one China, respective interpretations.’ For our part, we stated that the interpretation does not involve ‘two Chinas,’ ‘one China and one Taiwan,’ or ‘Taiwan independence,’ as the Republic of China Constitution does not allow it. This position is very clear, and is accepted by the majority of the people of Taiwan.”
Next, the meeting helped build a bridge between the two sides, establishing a new model whereby the two leaders can meet under conditions of equality and dignity. This meeting was the first step, allowing future leaders to follow suit.
The meeting also marked the first time our side could directly convey to the leader of mainland China our concerns about its military deployment against Taiwan, as well as Taiwan’s international space, and demand that the mainland show goodwill and take concrete action. Our government will closely monitor the follow-up measures taken by mainland China, and hopes that it will take our people’s concerns on security and dignity seriously.
With regard to reactions to the Ma-Xi meeting, both international and domestic, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of noon today, nearly 1,000 reports have been issued by international media outlets on the meeting. And governments from around the world have expressed recognition and support. John Kirby, spokesperson for the US Department of State, welcomed the meeting, while Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, expressed his country’s hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait resolve problems peacefully through direct dialogue. The European Union said the meeting was an encouraging step, demonstrating the level of trust that has been built through the ongoing process of rapprochement.
Governments of other countries in Europe and Asia, including Belgium, Germany, Korea, Russia, and Singapore, have voiced strong support for the meeting either through statements or remarks by spokespersons. Meanwhile, two days ago, Indonesia, a member of ASEAN, expressed its willingness to act as host or coordinator for the next meeting between the leaders of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. This goes back to what I have emphasized ever since I assumed office—as long as there is rapprochement between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, we can create diplomatic dividends.
As for domestic responses, a Mainland Affairs Council opinion poll released earlier today shows that more than 60 percent (61.6 percent) of people in Taiwan support the Ma-Xi meeting, while only 26.1 percent do not. In addition, 61.6 percent of respondents agree with the 1992 Consensus of “one China, respective interpretations,” the content of which I fully conveyed to Mr. Xi, while only 23.3 percent disagree. At the same time, 60.7 percent of people agree that the “one China” in the phrase “one China, respective interpretations” refers to the Republic of China, the highest percentage ever. Only 26.6 percent disagree with this.
Following the Ma-Xi meeting, 25.8 percent of respondents believe that cross-strait exchanges are moving too fast (a decline of 3.3 percentage points), 19.5 percent believe they are moving too slowly (an increase of 4.1 percentage points), and 41.5 percent think that they are moving at the right pace (a decline of 3.3 percentage points). This shows that the pace we are maintaining now is the right one. The percentage of people who believe the mainland government is unfriendly to us has fallen by 5.5 points, while the percentage of people who believe it is friendly to us has increased by 5.5 points, representing an overall turnaround of almost 11 percentage points.
Overall, most people are thus pleased to see a meeting between the leaders of the two sides and are willing to support the continued development of cross-strait relations—based on the 1992 Consensus of “one China, respective interpretations”—at the current pace. Both internationally and domestically, reviews of the Ma-Xi meeting have been overwhelmingly positive.
In addition, I want to state that the meeting was transparent and not in the least opaque. Let me reiterate that immediately after the two sides agreed on the meeting, on the very afternoon of Nov. 3, before reports first appeared in the media in the evening, I personally phoned President of the Legislative Yuan Wang Jin-pyng. I informed him that I had asked Premier Mao Chi-kuo, Secretary-General to the President Tseng Yung-chuan, and Mainland Affairs Council Minister Hsia Li-yan to call on him at 10 AM the next day to report about an important matter. I did not tell him what it was.
The next morning, the three officials gave a detailed report to President Wang, who then decided to convene a meeting for party caucuses at 2 PM that day, and asked Minister Hsia to deliver a report. At the caucus meeting, Minister Hsia saw that no representatives of the Democratic Progressive Party or Taiwan Solidarity Union were there. Nevertheless, he gave a full report to the other two party caucuses before holding a news conference at MAC at 5 PM.
At 10 AM the following morning (Nov. 5), I personally held an international press conference, answering 51 questions over the course of 75 minutes, offering specifics about my upcoming meeting with the mainland Chinese leader. At the meeting in Singapore on Nov. 7, my opening remarks were delivered in public. After the meeting, I held another international press conference, scheduled for half an hour, answering 14 questions in 32 minutes. In total, I responded to 65 questions at the news conferences at home and overseas.
On the flight back to Taiwan, I also gave an interview to the traveling press corps, going into detail about the meeting. Related coverage appeared the next day. On Nov. 9, MAC delivered a report to the Legislative Yuan and released the full text of my remarks in the meeting with the mainland Chinese leader. The three press conferences and two detailed reports have ensured a high level of openness and transparency. US Representative Matt Salmon, chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific under the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said I have shown “incredible transparency” and responsible leadership in my interactions with international media and Taiwan society.
Next is the state of the nation report. When news broke about my meeting with the mainland Chinese leader, DPP members were unanimous in their criticism that the decision-making took place within a black box and that it undermined Taiwan’s democracy. They demanded that I present a report at the Legislative Yuan. DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen stressed that the meeting must meet national needs, be supported by the people, and be subject to parliamentary oversight.
International media reviews and domestic opinion surveys indicate that there is indeed a need for leaders across the Taiwan Strait to meet for the purpose of ensuring the sustainable peaceful development of relations. More than 60 percent of our people believe that the meeting was beneficial for cross-strait relations and are willing to support the continued development of cross-strait ties on the basis of the 1992 Consensus. So the only question that remains concerns legislative oversight.
Actually, I publically pledged here on Nov. 5 that on returning from the meeting, in accordance with the Constitution, I was willing to report to the Legislative Yuan, should it invite me to do so. This is not the president’s right—but I am willing to accept the request. What are my considerations in this regard? Respect for the legislature, respect for the democratic values of the people of Taiwan.
I am the democratically elected president, and the Legislative Yuan comprises democratically elected representatives, so while I am not responsible to the Legislative Yuan, this is the constitutional design. But for such an important matter, I should give the legislature all the details, to make it established constitutional practice for the ROC president to address the legislature on the state of the nation. This is extremely important for the constitutional system of the ROC, so I feel that all who support that system should now allow me to deliver a state of the nation address.
This is not for my personal benefit or for the benefit of my party, but to create a grand and enduring constitutional system, so I really find the opposition party’s reasoning incomprehensible. The responsibility of legislative oversight should not be abandoned because of the selfish interests of one party. This is extremely disappointing.
I want to emphasize again that I hope the Legislative Yuan will soon change its mind and allow me to address it regarding the Ma-Xi meeting, so that we may together establish an important constitutional norm. Given the constitutional tradition of presidential respect for the legislature, for democracy, and for the people, every ROC president should make a state of the nation address. Whenever the Legislative Yuan changes its position, I will be ready.