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President Tsai Ing-wen Inaugural Address Pays Homage to Covid-19 Heroes

Breaking with tradition, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen delivered her second-term inaugural speech without a large audience to adhere to the social distancing restrictions. 

Tsai, 63, won a landslide victory in Taiwan’s presidential election in January on the heels of pro-democracy protests in neighboring Hong Kong. In the face of Beijing’s attempts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, tourism bans, and military demonstrations, Tsai has repeatedly urged Beijing to respect Taiwan’s democratic will. 

“This is the most special presidential inauguration in the history of the Republic of China,” Tsai said, thanking the people of Taiwan for “making such a difficult feat happen.” 

President Tsai extended her gratitude towards every person who patiently lined up outside of pharmacies. “You have shown the world Taiwan’s commitment to civic virtues, even in times of great distress,” she said. 

She went on to thank people who complied with home quarantine and isolation requirements. “You’ve put up with inconveniences in your daily life to keep others healthy,” she said. 

This sense of pride in our country, this community’s shared destiny, and the memories of these past months will live on in all of our hearts. This is what solidarity feels like. — Tsai Ing-wen

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Taiwan twice captivates the international community

Tsai said, “Since January, Taiwan has twice astounded the international community: first, in our democratic elections, and second, in our achievements in the fight against Covid-19.

Due to the country’s successful Covid-19 response, ‘Taiwan’ has appeared on various international media outlets. ‘Taiwan’ was also written on the boxes of medical aid we sent overseas, Tsai said. “We will always offer help to the international community whenever we are able to.”


Taiwan’s six core industries in the post-pandemic era

Tsai’s speech switched its cadence from expressing gratitude to discussing Taiwan’s economic strategies. She mentioned that the pandemic has deeply shocked the world, changing the global political and economic order as well as accelerating the restructuring of the global supply chain. It has also changed how people live and spend money, and even changed the international community’s imagination of Taiwan and its geopolitical situation.

“In 2016, we initiated a new economic development model to help connect Taiwan’s economy to the world,” she said. But in the next four years, Taiwan will face massive changes and restructure in the international economy.

Tsai listed her government’s approach to six strategic industries: 

  1. Continue to develop Taiwan’s information and digital industries. Take advantage of Taiwan’s strengths in the semiconductor and ICT industries to secure a central role in global supply chains, and make Taiwan a new base for the development of IoT and artificial intelligence. 

  2. Develop a cybersecurity industry that can integrate 5G, digital transformation, and national security. Forge a trustworthy and protective cybersecurity system and supply chain. 

  3. Create biotech and medical technology industries that can synchronize with the rest of the world. During this pandemic, Taiwanese teams have proven their capabilities in discovering and producing new drugs and vaccines. 

  4. Develop national defense and strategic industries by integrating military and civilian capabilities. Promote technological integration between the military and the private sector in addition to the current domestically-produced naval vessel and aircraft programs, stimulate private-sector production capabilities, and advance into the aviation and space industries.

  5. Accelerate the development of green and renewable energy industries. Achieve the goal of deriving 20 percent of Taiwan’s overall energy from green sources by 2025. 

  6. Ensure the provision of critical supplies, maintain a certain degree of self-sufficiency in the production of face masks, medical and daily supplies, energy, and food.

Tsai also mentioned that in the arena of international affairs, countries that break free of their dependence on others will have a head start on national development. 

“In the coming years, domestic demand will be the sustenance of our industrial development,” she said. “The best example of this is the way in which strategic demand for face masks and other medical supplies during the pandemic has spurred the development of related industries.”

The future defense and renewable energy industries can both follow the model of the pandemic response, developing at a fast pace. 

“We will continue to organize ‘national teams,’ like our face mask team, according to the size and conditions of different industries. We will use our government’s guarantee of domestic demand to establish a global strategic materials manufacturing industry under the ‘Taiwanese brand’ and expand into other markets.

‘Every Taiwanese is a hero’

At the end of her speech, Tsai praised the many heroes in the combat against Covid-19. She asked the national face mask team, the Central Epidemic Command Center’s public health team, and Premier Su Tseng-chang’s team to stand up for a round of applause. 

“I may not be able to call out all of your names, but I want everyone to know that Taiwan has overcome countless challenges over the past 70 years, relying on not just one or two heroes, but thanks to countless heroes such as yourselves, working together to turn the wheels of history. You have helped make Taiwan a happy, safe, and prosperous place for generations to come.”

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