President Tsai Ing-wen, who has now been in office for three years, gave her first New Year's Day address this morning. She admitted the nine-in-one local elections at the end of last year were a severe inspection for the ruling party but said the election results did not represent a shift in grassroots Taiwanese wanting to abandon sovereignty for Taiwan. She then proposed a new sweeping cross-strait rhetoric, the "four musts."
In her first New Year's Day address since her inauguration three years ago, President Tsai Ing-wen wished the people a happy and healthy new year and newly elected local officials a smooth and peaceful year. She also called the recent local elections a grave test for the ruling party.
The results of this election absolutely do not represent a grassroots sentiment that we want to abandon our sovereignty. They also absolutely do not represent a national sentiment that Taiwanese people want to take a step back or concede.
Tsai said while Taiwan's sovereignty cannot be abandoned, the development of cross-strait relations cannot be ignored. To that end, she proposed her new "four musts."
Here, I must urge China to face the reality of the existence of the Republic of China, Taiwan head-on. China must respect the commitment of 23 million people to freedom and democracy. China must deal with the differences between us in a peaceful, equal way. China must also sit down to talk through the government or government-authorized agencies with public power. If China can't so much as work with us with sincerity to fight African swine fever, how can the two sides of the Taiwan Strait be one family? Instead of forcing Taiwan's politicians to speak cryptically, why not pragmatically cooperate on the issue that people on both sides of the strait care most about, which is civic safety?
Tsai said she is not opposed to normal cross-strait interaction and exchanges between cities, but cryptic language cannot be used to blur political preconditions or force submission. According to Tsai, pragmatic understanding is what is most truly needed between the two sides. She also said civic oversight mechanisms need to be legally strengthened to monitor cross-strait sovereignty issues that may arise from future cross-strait interaction, and civic, information security, and cross-strait democracy safety nets need to be legislated. She also said her top priorities in 2019 would be improving the livelihoods of the people and safeguarding sovereignty. The president promised to unveil new policies that Taiwanese people can feel.