Stuck between China’s call for Tsai Ing-wen’s recognition of the 1992 consensus and Taiwanese pro-independence groups calling for Tsai’s declaration of independence of the island, President Tsai’s inauguration was highly monitored by both local and international media. However, despite the world’s focus on how Tsai would handle the cross strait issue, her respect paid to the Taiwan aboriginals can only be described with one word: beautiful.
This would be seen in the least likely spot- the singing of the Republic of China anthem. Prefacing the national anthem, indigenous children sang a chant from Taiwan’s Pai Wan tribe to bless the land, as the ROC anthem fused into this aboriginal chant, it serves as a reminder that while the Han Taiwanese, Hakka Taiwanese and the ROC have taken up most of the island, the rich aboriginal culture still exists. It is a hope for harmony between those originally here and those wishing to bring Taiwan into a new future.
Knowing Taiwan’s deep and, often times, dark history, Tsai says she will establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to “address the historical past in the most sincere and cautious manner.” She further promises in three years to publish a report on transitional justice to uncover the truth of ROC governments’ past wrongdoings, heal wounds, and clarify responsibilities. With this, “history will no longer divide Taiwan. Instead, it will propel Taiwan forward.”
Also speaking of the past, Tsai acknowledged the 1992 meeting between China and Taiwan and urged that “[the] two governing parties across the strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides.” As she talks about cooperation between PRC and ROC, she also recognizes the need for unity within Taiwan itself.
“The new government's duty is to move Taiwan's democracy forward to the next stage: before, democracy was about winning or losing the election. Now, democracy is about the welfare of the people. Before, democracy was a showdown between two opposing values. Now, democracy is a conversation between many diverse values.”
While respecting the past, Tsai looks to the future, recognizing that Taiwan must find a new model for a prosperous economy. Acknowledging Taiwan’s faults, she promises the government will push for improving the work environment for Taiwan’s youth while at the same time preparing for Taiwan’s aging population. With the focus on economy, there is also a reminder that Taiwan is a country with limited resources and it must respect and care for its environment because “[after] all, we only have one earth, and we only have one Taiwan.”
The first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is a problem. Tsai identified the key issues that the new government must tackle and all eyes will be on her to see if she can keep this respect for the past and hope for the future.
Read the full transcript of Tsai's inaugural speech here.
Edited by Olivia Yang