For full recording of President Ma Ying-jeou’s speech and Q&A, click on the audio player above.
On Tuesday evening California time, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou gave a speech via live teleconference to an audience of scholars, students, and diplomats at Stanford University.
Ma touted that US-Taiwan relations has been at its best in 36 years, and he credits that to his “successful handling” of cross straits relations based on the 1992 Consensus, and a “low-key, surprise-free approach” to dealing with the US.
Referring to his record of managing relations with China, Ma said that without the 1992 Consensus, he doubts the current status quo can be maintained. “I hope this invaluable model will continue well into the future, even after I step down as President,” Ma said.
But when pushed by Stanford professor Thomas Fingar on how a status quo is dynamic and always changing, Ma said the current status quo is very different from the status quo seven years ago. Ma believes that people on both sides of the Strait now feels a need to preserve the current status quo.
During the speech, Ma was asked a question from the audience about economic inequality in Taiwan. Ma answered that in the last 30 years, Taiwan has tried “every possible way” to narrow the income gap, and that Taiwan has done better than Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea.
In addition, Ma mentioned changing the tax system to “make the rich contribute more,” and increase social welfare. Specifically, he said that spending on welfare subsidies has increased to become the biggest government budget item.
“This is a question that will be with us for a long time,” Ma said.
Another audience member asked if China becomes more democratic, whether the Taiwanese people will support unification. “A very good question, and a very hypothetical one,” said Ma. He said that if mainland China became democratic, it would decrease the psychological distance between the two sides.
Responding to Ma’s speech, the opposition DPP said that Ma’s claim to reducing wealth inequality was too far from the reality of living and job opportunities in Taiwan. The DPP’s chairwoman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen is currently on a tour of the United States, meeting elected officials and scholars in Washington DC this week.
According to Taiwan Indicator Survey Research’s results of May 28th, President Ma’s approval rating is at 18.8%, as increased from 15.4% two weeks prior.
(Feature photo of Ma Ying-jeou, by Chieh-Ting Yeh)