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Taiwan's President Lai Ching-te delivers an acceptance speech during his inauguration ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, May 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te delivers an acceptance speech during his inauguration ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, May 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
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Taiwan will continue working with other democratic nations to “form a democratic community, and share our experiences across a range of fields”, its president, Lai Ching-te said in his inauguration address on Monday.

“We will work together to combat disinformation, strengthen democratic resilience, address challenges, and allow Taiwan to become the MVP of the democratic world,” Lai said as he became the 16th-term president of the Asian nation.

Hundreds of guests from around the world, including representatives of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, attended the ceremony in Taipei.

Among them was Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, who is leading a delegation to the inauguration of the fourth president of Taiwan since he came to office in March 2001.

In his speech, titled “Building a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous new Taiwan”, Lai noted that many people have interpreted his election victory and that of his Vice President, Bi-khim Hsiao as “breaking the eight-year curse”.

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The “eight-year curse” refers to the fact that before the Democratic Progressive Party victory that brought Lai to office, no political party had remained in office for over two terms since Taiwan became a democracy in 1996.

“But the reality is that in a democracy, the people have the final say. There is no such thing as a ‘curse’ in any election. It is simply that the people put the ruling party under the toughest of tests, choosing the nation’s future in the most genuine way,” he said.

Lai comes to office amidst heightened tension between Taiwan and China, which regards the self-governed island as a renegade province and has not ruled out using force to achieve its unification ambitions.

Lai, who China regards as a “separatist”, is governing Taiwan at a time when there is no clear majority in the island’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan.

Fish for shrimp 1
Taiwan president-elect Lai Ching-te interacts with Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadine Ralph Gonsalves while shrimp fishing in Taipei on Sunday, May 19, 2024, one day ahead of Lai’s inauguration. (Photo: Lai Ching-te/Facebook)

Lai told the inauguration that “democracy, peace, and prosperity” form Taiwan’s national roadmap.

“And they are also our links to the world,’ he further stated, adding, “As an important link in the global chain of democracies, a glorious era of Taiwan’s democracy has arrived.”

He said that since holding its first direct presidential elections, Taiwan has grown to become “one of the world’s most vibrant democracies.

“We have continued to enhance human rights, and show the world our values of democracy and freedom.”

The newly-inaugurated president noted that Taiwan was the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.

“Taiwan showed that democracy outperforms authoritarianism in fighting the pandemic.

“Whether in terms of democracy or freedom, Taiwan is consistently highly ranked among Asian nations. Democratic Taiwan is already a global beacon. And this honour belongs to all the people of Taiwan.”

He said his administration will “continue using Taiwan’s democratic vitality as a force for good, to promote national development and deepen international cooperation”.

Lai noted that next year marks the 80th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

“As with other nations, Taiwan walked a difficult path for post-war revitalisation, before getting to where we are today. No one wants these achievements to be destroyed by war.”

He said that today, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas continue to shake the whole world.

“And China’s military actions and grey-zone coercion are considered the greatest strategic challenges to global peace and stability,” Lai said.

He said there is already a strong international consensus that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait are indispensable to global security and prosperity.

The new president thanked nations around the world for their consideration and support for Taiwan.

“We would also like to declare to all that democracy and freedom are Taiwan’s unwavering commitments. Peace is the only option. And prosperity, gained through lasting peace and stability, is our objective.

“The future of cross-strait relations will have a decisive impact on the world. This means that we, who have inherited a democratic Taiwan, are pilots for peace.”

Lai said his government will uphold the Four Commitments, “neither yield nor provoke, and maintain the status quo”.

Lai’s predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen presented the “four commitments” in her National Day address in 2021, namely the commitment to a free and democratic constitutional system, the commitment that Taiwan and China should not be subordinate to each other, the commitment to resist annexation or encroachment upon Taiwan’s sovereignty, and the commitment that the future of Taiwan must be decided in accordance with the will of the Taiwan people.

“I also want to call on China to cease their political and military intimidation against Taiwan, share with Taiwan the global responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as well as the greater region, and ensure the world is free from the fear of war,” Lai said.

He said Taiwanese are peace-loving people who treat others with kindness.

“I have always believed that if the leader of a country puts the people’s welfare above all, then peace in the Taiwan Strait, mutual benefits, and prosperous coexistence would be common goals.

“Therefore, I hope that China will face the reality of the Republic of China’s existence, respect the choices of the people of Taiwan, and in good faith, choose dialogue over confrontation, exchange over containment, and under the principles of parity and dignity, engage in cooperation with the legal government chosen by Taiwan’s people,” Lai said.

He said that as Taiwan pursues the ideal of peace, “we must not harbour any delusions.

“So long as China refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan, all of us in Taiwan ought to understand that even if we accept the entirety of China’s position and give up our sovereignty, China’s ambition to annex Taiwan will not simply disappear.

“In the face of the many threats and attempts of infiltration from China, we must demonstrate our resolution to defend our nation, and we must also raise our defence awareness and strengthen our legal framework for national security,” Lai said.