Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen's Remarks at the DPP National Party Congress

Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen made the following remarks during the 16th session of the Democratic Progressive Party's National Party Congress that took place on July 20th: 

Good afternoon Chairperson Su, Chairperson Hsieh, esteemed guests, party delegates and our party colleagues.

We are a political party. Politics is what we do. But at times, we must also ask ourselves: just what is politics? This is, in fact, a question I’ve often continued to quiz myself on since entering politics.

Just a few days ago, I saw an expression in a movie - it left a very deep impression on me. The expression stated that: ‘Politics exists as a strong response to the difficulties we face as a country.’ 

And without a doubt, Taiwan is in a time of crisis. The current administration has continued to fail to respond to growing public discontent and the increasing challenges we face. It has also at times even chosen to stand in opposition to the public will.

As a result, today thus represents a very important moment. Here at the our National Party Congress, we declare that the people have had enough. The time for change has arrived. Through our local administrations, we will transform the everyday lives of the Taiwanese people. Through their good governance, we will reacquire the public's trust in politics.  

In the near future, we will make very effort to forge a new road of reform to rechart our country's path following the six years of KMT mismanagement. This road of reform will be an important precursor for the DPP's return to power. 

And so to all those who are frustrated with this administration's inefficiency, we want to say that the moment of reform has arrived. The public deserves a better way of living. It deserves a government that is not only more efficient, but also more capable. This year, 2014, will be the year when change comes to Taiwan. We will give those in government both a warning and a lesson. But more importantly, we will give Taiwan an opportunity for a new beginning.

Today, I have a few words to express how I feel. They are "We must be cautious because we are treading on thin ice". Leading this party is a great honor, but at the same time, it is also of the heaviest of responsibilities. 

To all of our party colleagues seated here today, I know that our common objective is to see this party win. But for us to do so, we must persuade voters through our values. Every vote they cast is not just a choice in favor of a candidate; but indeed, it is an expression of their choice in values. So it is clear that if the DPP's values are not accepted by the people, then we will not achieve true victory.

As a result, our victory must be build on a victory of values and of ideals. It cannot be build on our opponents' failure in governance.

If our victory is dependent soley on the KMT's mismanagement in government, than this victory will be fleeting and it will be a short-lived victory. It will not bring about the change that we want to see or lead Taiwan post the challenges that so clearly exist.

A look at our current situation shows us that those challenges are enormous; our economy has lost its engine for growth in the lack of a comprehensive economic strategy.  The constitutional structure we have is broken and is unable to properly reflect the public will. Our cross-strait relationship lacks transparency and has, in fact, been monopolized by business interests. Across generations, our country has lost it grasp of fairness, and the people are losing hope in their future. 

With our county in this deep of a crisis, our responsibility continues to grow. And with the increasing hope and expectation now placed on the DPP, we need to become more mindful, and vigilant in our duties.

If we accept that politics exists as a strong response to the difficulties we face as a country, the we, as politicians, must take on a greater share of responsibility and duty for our common objectives. We must understand the challenges we face and the issues that matter to our citizens.

And what are those issues?

There are ones that affect their everyday lives; the staggering cost of housing, the increasing cost of everyday goods, and stagnating salaries. These are the issues that the public is rightfully angry about.

Then there is education. The dysfunctional plan for a 12-year mandatory education system has left our children at a loss as to what comes next.

The people also care about social welfare. For a middle class family, the increasing difficulty in taking care of the young and the elderly, further to the increasing price of everyday goods, have left people asking: "Where is the government?"

There are also problems attached to the question of food safety; 'What is safe to eat? How is it that the business that have illegally profited from selling tainted food products escaped the reach of the law?'

The KMT administration is clearly unable to manage these challenges that we face and to resolve the public discontent that has grown as a result. And in the future, the failure to address the challenges that are sure to come will lead the public to lose all trust in what the government can do. As such, it is quite evident that this government is one that is no longer capable of managing this country. 

And while this is taking place - our government in disarray and public content growing by the day - where is the president and what is he going?

He is busy. He is busy battling political foes to concentrate is own authority. He is occupied in using this country’s fragile cross-strait relationship to attain for himself some sort of historical significance. And he is engaged – in criticizing the opposition and using this confrontation to shore up his flagging popularity. 

It is clear that under his administration, the people have lost their trust in politics and in the future.

As a result of this, there are people that believe that all politics is bad and that both parties are the same. But I want to tell everyone here: To believe this is a mistake.
We look back at our own motivations for entering politics. Why did we choose the DPP – the poorer party, the one that was without resources?

It was because this party was idealistic. Within its founding spirit, this was a party that possessed the desire to formulate change in Taiwan’s politics.

It was also because of our values: Our hope for this country’s future and the desire to see the people hold on to a better one. And I’m sure that was the reason why most of us here decided to enter politics. As a result, this party remains the party of ideals for the future.

In the past, this party has proposed many different visions for the future of this country. Many times, we were in the minority when these policies were proposed. But over time, much of these proposals gradually entered the mainstream. And as time goes on, we have continued to refine and adjust those ideas so that they progress in step with the present.
We were the first party to propose the concept of building a welfare state. In opposition, we supported a broad policy of subsidies. Later in government, we also established a pension program. Now we are planning a system of comprehensive care as part of our plan to continue to improve Taiwan’s welfare structure.

We were also the party that steadfastly advocated a nuclear-free homeland, enshrining our position into the party platform at a time when opposition to nuclear power was in the minority . In 2010 we put forth an agenda for achieving a nuclear-free homeland by 2025; and today, the goal of eliminating nuclear power has become the mainstream opinion in our society.

At the same time, we have always been the party that places Taiwan first and supports Taiwan-centric values. Even during the martial law era, when it was illegal to have a Taiwanese identity, we pushed ahead with the idea that the future of our country could only be determined by the people of Taiwan. And with the passage of time, we enshrined the definition of Taiwan and the Republic of China as a sovereign and independent country in the 1999 ‘Resolution on Taiwan’s Future” ’ – and that any change to this will have to require the approval of our 23 million citizens. In modern Taiwanese society, this is the proposal that has already reached the strongest of all consensuses.

Now, as we look to the future and the difficult challenges that this country faces, we must once again start from ourselves. We must reflect, and we must reform.

To do so, we will open the doors to the DPP. We will integrate the party with society and society with the party. And we have endeavored to include the many different voices we have in society in our party personnel and in the board of directors for our think tank, the New Frontier Foundation.

In order to make civic participation a reality, we have already begun the process of public discussions both on-line and in person. Through our interactive platform – DPP on Line – we will empower each and every citizen to be able to raise their own proposals for our party to work on. And this is a mechanism that will serve as a constant remainder for us to be able to acutely respond to what the public expects of the DPP.

At the same time, the party’s internal structure is also undergoing a process of change. The handover of responsibilities to the emerging generation of leaders is well underway. As part of our self-assessment and reform, we are employing younger staff in greater numbers, and at the same time giving them greater responsibilities. And in the process of changing Taiwan – we want to emphasis that the DPP is not alone. We continue to coordinate with each of the forces in opposition so that we can affect the kind of diversification, rejuvenation and invigoration that are party wants to see.

Furthermore, to encourage greater numbers of younger people to enter politics and public affairs, we have launched a ‘Grassroots Democracy’ plan to support young candidates in borough and village chief elections. We will , empower them to initiate change from in their own hometowns from the bottom-up. We have also formed a ‘“Youth Congress’ project” to cultivate the next generation of Taiwan’s .social and political leaders.

In the discussion of public policy, the DPP will become more forceful in reflecting the concerns on this country’s future shown by many of our citizens. In both the Citizens Economics Conference’’ and the ‘Citizen’s Constitutional Conference’ that we have coming up, we will begin to engage in a wide-ranging dialogue about our “‘new model of economic development,' as well as alternatives for reforming our constitutional framework. Our hope is that the DPP, together with civil society, can put forth consensus-based proposals that are able to address the daunting task of addressing Taiwan’s many challenges.

The DPP is also changing in other ways; we hope to infuse it with more capacity and more vitality, so that it becomes capable of not only reflecting concerns raised by the public, but also to reform and change itself so that it can more closely understand what the public wants to see. And we will continue to make the DPP even stronger and better prepared to respond to the challenges that we continue to face as a country.

‘Clean and Diligent Governance: Pushing Forwards with New Reform’ is the theme of this year’s National Party Congress. The theme is also a solemn remainder for us. We must constantly ask ourselves whether we are ready and prepared to deal with the challenges we face. 

The theme also reflects the expectations that the society holds towards the DPP, as well as the standard by which we will judge ourselves. For it is clear that if our actions become diverge from those words, we will lose the support of the people.

As a result, at the DPP, we cannot only make the promise of reform to the people. From this day forward, we must also engage the full range of our capabilities to push forward this task as a response to our challenges. The 2014 elections will mark the beginning of the transformation of Taiwan’s politics.

Based on our values, we will continue to push forward, on Taiwan’s road to reform. This is a road that will also lead to the DPP’s return to governance. I invite everyone to join us in this forward march . Together, we will accomplish the monumental task of reform, and together we will overcome our country’s national crisis. Please accompany me as partners in our undertaking. Thank you very much.