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Remarks by Minister Lai in the Meeting with the ARATS Delegation

  • Date:2010-12-21

Chairman Chen, Chairman Chiang, Friends of the ARATS and the SEF Delegations, Fellow Colleagues at the MAC, Good day!

I am very happy to be able to meet once again with Chairman Chen. On behalf of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), I would first like to sincerely welcome Chairman Chen and the delegation under his leadership to Taiwan for the Sixth Chiang-Chen Talks. I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks and affirmation to Chairman Chiang, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) negotiation delegation, Chairman Chen and the ARATS negotiation delegation for your hard work and efforts during this period of time.

Chairman Chiang and Chairman Chen have just signed the Cross-Strait Agreement on Medical and Health Cooperation, which establishes a reliable and effective mechanism for cross-strait cooperation on the control of communicable diseases and safety management of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and Chinese herbal medicine. This Agreement will enable universally shared health values to be gradually and further realized in the societies on both sides of the Strait. It will also make an important contribution to protecting the health rights and interests of the people on both sides.

Although the Cross-Strait Investment Protection Agreement was unable to be signed at this round of talks, definite progress has been made in this area through the efforts made by the two sides over the past few months. We all need to keep working to reach the goal of signing the Agreement.

Early next year, the MAC and the SEF will celebrate their 20th anniversaries of founding respectively. Looking back at the evolving situation in the Taiwan Strait, the past two decades have been an era full of challenges and changes, making the Strait a place that has consistently captured the attention of the international community. In the past, cross-strait relations were characterized by tension, confrontation, and mutual suspicion; at one time even close to the brink of war. But today, we can all sit together and negotiate on the signing of an agreement. Compared with the recent turmoil in Northeast Asia, this achievement sets a precious example and has earned a high level of support from the international community. I believe Chairman Chen and I share the same view that the two sides should care for and cherish this hard-won situation of peace and stability.

I believe that as this mechanism of institutionalized cross-strait negotiations matures and grows firmer, it will enable further progress in the development of benign cross-strait interactions. The two sides are making history together. The road has been difficult, but the results are invaluable. It is just like the painting behind me—"Bumper Harvest of the Oyster Farmers in Qigu, Tainan," which shows oyster farmers at harvest time, and their life by the sea under the blue sky. It makes me think of an old Taiwanese song called "The Oyster Woman," which expresses the simple voice of a female oyster-picker. She does not haggle over fate but never surrenders to destiny. There is one line that goes: "Only hard work brings success," reflecting the perseverance and diligence of the women in traditional farming and fishing villages. Their spirit is very touching. The livelihood of oyster farmers depends on bumper harvests. In the same vein, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have worked earnestly to complete the signing of the 15 agreements and one consensus at the six rounds of Chiang-Chen Talks. The benefits of these agreements are gradually emerging and the fruits are jointly shared by all the people on both sides.

I often say it is the people that play the leading role in cross-strait relations. The interests of the people on both sides need to be understood, respected, and truly protected in order to enable relations between the two sides to move steadily forward, to lay a solid bedrock for cross-strait peace and prosperity, and to prevent the risk of backsliding or crises. Promoting peace through institutionalized cross-strait negotiations is a road that we must continue to take firmly. Of course, it is rather normal that disagreements and frictions arise in the course of communicating and building mutual understanding. However, so long as we hold a firm position, keep the interests of the people in mind, face up pragmatically to the needs of the people, confront problems with empathy, and resolve issues with patience, I believe that we can travel long and far on the road of institutionalized negotiations and continue the benign development of cross-strait relations.

The efforts by the Mainland side and its goodwill towards cross-strait relations over the past more than two years deserve much praise. A good foundation for establishing mutual trust and promoting the healthy development of cross-strait relations has also been laid. At the same time, we need to remind ourselves that the development of cross-strait relations is like contacts among people. The more frequent the contacts are, the deeper the understanding will be. The two sides not only see their similarities, but also jointly face up to their existing differences. Owing to these differences, it is inevitable that some people feel hesitant or suspicious of cross-strait developments. Various surveys of public opinion in Taiwan society all show that: on the one hand, institutionalized cross-strait negotiations enjoy a high level of support in Taiwan society, with nearly 80% of the public supporting institutionalized negotiations. All of the previously signed cross-strait agreements also earn support levels of nearly 60% to over 80%; on the other hand, however, some people in Taiwan harbor considerable doubts about the promotion of cross-strait relations. We should not and cannot avoid this objective fact. As the Minister of the MAC, my conviction is clear: the government has the responsibility to listen carefully to the voice of the people of Taiwan, to understand their needs and concerns, to speak up for them, to stand with them, to join with them, and together to take this correct path of developing healthy cross-strait relations.

We also understand that the expectations of the people of Taiwan and the people of mainland China regarding the development of cross-strait relations are not entirely the same. But why would it matter? As long as the two sides are willing to treat each other in a friendly and rational way, without fear of facing up to their differences, they will be able to find a foundation on which they can work harder together. Based on this foundation, the two sides will be able to further demonstrate their ability and confidence when dealing with cross-strait affairs, moving towards the goal of cross-strait peace, stability, prosperity, and development. Through our joint efforts, I am confident that we can overcome any obstacles or hardship that may appear; in addition, the people on both sides will feel that cross-strait exchanges and negotiations do not jeopardize their respective identities and dignity. I fully believe in future lasting peace between the two sides, and hope that everyone will work hard together to achieve it. Thank you!

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