Tsai Ing-wen, "Taiwan: Policy Challenges, Choices, and Leadership in the Next Decade" -- Q & A | Summary and Q&A

September 26, 2011
Harvard University
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Tsai Ing-wen, "Taiwan: Policy Challenges, Choices, and Leadership in the Next Decade" -- Q & A

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This video features Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, discussing various topics including advice for students, Taiwan-China relations, job opportunities, democratization of China, and the future of Taiwan. She emphasizes the importance of being a rebellious student and challenging existing knowledge, as well as being prepared for changes and challenges. She also highlights the need for innovation and competitiveness in the job market. In terms of Taiwan-China relations, Dr. Tsai stresses the importance of maintaining a peaceful and stable relationship and normalizing trade and investment between the two countries. She also discusses the potential benefits of China's democratization for Taiwanese people and the possibility of a united, free, and democratic nation.

Questions & Answers

Q: What advice would you give to students to face a new China and a new Taiwan?

Dr. Tsai advises students to challenge their teachers and peers, not assuming that everything they are taught is always correct. Being a rebellious student is important, as things are changing rapidly and what is true today may not be true tomorrow. Students need to be prepared for changes and challenges at any time. This advice applies to students from China as well, as the challenges faced by young people are the same all over the world. Additionally, students from China have the additional task of expediting the democratization of China, as it aligns with the common values of freedom and democracy held by the international community.

Q: How should Taiwanese students deal with a growing mainland China?

Dr. Tsai advises Taiwanese students to face a growing mainland China with confidence. Although Taiwan is smaller in size and population compared to China, it has a decent and open society with diversity and creativity. Confidence and a certain degree of accommodation are needed to sit down and have dialogue with China. By working together and finding common ground, Taiwan and China can meet future challenges.

Q: Are there concrete policies to mitigate income disparity among young people in Taiwan?

Dr. Tsai highlights the importance of creating job opportunities for the next generation. However, instead of relying solely on others to provide employment, she encourages young people to be prepared to be their own boss and develop their own business ventures. Dr. Tsai's economic policy focuses on creating new industries that provide good job opportunities and creating an infrastructure to support these new ventures, including access to capital, technology, and business development assistance. Additionally, she emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary skills and the ability to work with people from different fields.

Q: How do you respond to press reports that suggest disappointment from American officials regarding your election victory?

Dr. Tsai states that if these reports are true, they would be inconsistent with the assurances given by American officials during meetings. The US government has repeatedly conveyed its neutrality in the election and its willingness to work with whoever wins. Dr. Tsai believes that these messages are consistent and that the US remains committed to maintaining a stable and peaceful relationship with Taiwan.

Q: How do you react to the accusation that the DPP prefers to use violence to achieve democracy and human rights?

Dr. Tsai challenges the definition of violence in a democratic society and asserts that it is normal for people to speak louder and express their views when advocating for freedom of speech. In a democratic society, the most important thing is to safeguard the freedom of speech, although it is important to give proper respect and consideration to others while exercising that freedom. She acknowledges that embarrassment can occur in a democratic society and that politicians are subject to such moments frequently.

Q: What is your China policy compared to the KMT's?

Dr. Tsai's China policy aims to maintain a peaceful and stable relationship that serves the best interests of all parties, including Taiwan, China, the US, and other Asian countries. She emphasizes the need to normalize trade and investment between Taiwan and China by establishing the necessary infrastructure, such as legal frameworks, coordination processes, and dispute settlement mechanisms. She also advocates for a balanced Asia through collective efforts and discussing security issues collectively. Dr. Tsai believes that maintaining a peaceful and stable regional order and promoting democratic development are common objectives for both Taiwan and China.

Q: How do you expect US-Taiwan relations to develop, given recent decisions like the refusal to sell Taiwan F-16s?

Dr. Tsai believes that the US will continue to be an important element in Asia and Taiwan's best friend, given their shared commitment to democracy and maintaining a stable and peaceful regional order. She acknowledges that there may be differences in certain issues, such as arms sales, which depend on the timing and understanding of decision-makers. Dr. Tsai emphasizes the need for constant communication and understanding to identify the best time for transactions and the most suitable weapons for any particular period.

Q: How do you plan to make clean energy a reality in Taiwan?

Dr. Tsai plans to make the south of Taiwan a center for developing alternative energy industries. She believes that the region's good agriculture, plenty of sunshine, and suitable cities make it well-suited for this purpose. Dr. Tsai's policy focuses on creating new industries related to alternative energy, which will not only reduce reliance on traditional power supplies but also create new job opportunities. She emphasizes the importance of infrastructure, including legal frameworks, capital acquisition, and incubation systems, to support the development of alternative energy.

Q: How do you plan to build competitiveness in Taiwan, given the outsourcing of jobs?

Dr. Tsai acknowledges that job losses due to the outsourced manufacturing sector is a common occurrence in mature economies. She believes that Taiwan's advantage lies in its open, democratic, multicultural society, as well as its access to quality education and a good social structure. Dr. Tsai's plan is to focus on innovation and value-based competition to stay competitive in the job market. She suggests that young people need to be innovative and add value to their products, and she aims to facilitate this by creating an environment supportive of entrepreneurship, including infrastructure for raising capital and acquiring technology.

Q: How do you plan to differentiate your China policies from Chen Shui-bian's?

Dr. Tsai expects her China policies to differ significantly from Chen Shui-bian's because her government and supporters are more experienced and sophisticated. She believes that with experience and understanding, her government will be better positioned to exercise the flexibility needed to manage Taiwan-China relations effectively.

Q: How can the DPP prepare for a situation where the KMT refuses to accept defeat after an election?

Dr. Tsai acknowledges the possibility of the KMT refusing to accept defeat in an election but believes it is unlikely due to the maturity of Taiwan's democracy and the sophistication of its voters. She emphasizes the importance of ensuring a smooth transition, which is the responsibility of everyone in Taiwan. Although she cannot rule out the possibility, Dr. Tsai is confident that the people of Taiwan will ensure a peaceful and successful transition.

Q: Why do people in Taiwan hate each other in politics?

Dr. Tsai attributes the animosity among people in Taiwan's politics to overcompetition in a crowded market. However, she notes that the focus is shifting towards policy-driven competition, which is a positive development for their democracy. She hopes that this shift will continue, and policy discussions will take precedence over personal animosity.


Dr. Tsai's speech touched on various topics, including advice for students, Taiwan-China relations, job opportunities, democratization of China, and the future of Taiwan. She emphasized the need for students to challenge existing knowledge, be prepared for changes, and be innovative. Dr. Tsai believes in maintaining a peaceful and stable relationship with China, normalizing trade and investment, and promoting democracy in the region. She plans to create job opportunities through new industries, particularly in clean energy. Dr. Tsai also highlighted the importance of innovation, value-based competition, and building a supportive environment for entrepreneurship. Lastly, she hopes to shift focus from politics to policies and foster a more cooperative political environment in Taiwan.

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