THE EARTH TIMES
OCTOBER 1 – 15, 1996
‘Taiwan Enhancing Democratic Development’
Chi Su studied diplomacy at National Chengchi University, and political science at Johns Hopkins and Columbia Universities. He has served as a professor and in several government positions in Taipei, including a stint as vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, responsible for cross-Straits cultural, educational and liaison work. He assumed his present post as Director General of the Government Information Office last June. Excerpts from an interview by Ashali Varma of The Earth Times
What is the work of the Government Information Office?
Its responsibilities can be roughly divided into four categories: publicizing government policies and orders, providing assistance and information to the domestic media, distributing information internationally, and handling press and media exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits. We also distribute information internationally concerning democratic developments in the Republic of China (ROC) and the positive implications of our policy of pragmatic diplomacy for both stability in Southeast Asia and a new world order.
As Director General, what will be your priorities for the Government Information Office (GIO)?
Besides doing its best to publicize government policies and administrative orders, the GIO will also ensure that public opinion serves as a reference for policymaking so that the government and the public can proceed as one. Working from our current foundation of political, economic and cultural development, I hope that the people of my country can move together with one heart into the 21st Century. To help bring this about is my principal mission at this time.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) is a great economic power. Can you outline the important aspects of its current economic success and its strategic plan for the future?
Guided by good government policy and aided by the coordination and support of the citizenry after the Second World War, we put the economic assistance provided by the United States to good use, peacefully carried out land reforms, pulled ourselves up out of our post-war impoverishment and grew ever stronger despite intense pressure applied by the Chinese Communists. The ROC has now become the world’s 14th largest trading nation, with foreign exchange reserves just short of $90 billion and a gross national product which ranks 20th worldwide.
How has this experience affected the Taiwanese people?
Because of it we are very well aware of what developing nations need. We are both willing and able to give something backto the international community and join as a participant,a partner and a contributor, working for the benefit and prosperity of all.
From this point on, we will build upon the foundation of our current economic strength by devoting ourselves to the upgrade of industry, the development of science and technology, and the reform of management in order to raise national competitiveness.
Internationally, our efforts touch upon the idea of giving something back to the international community. By providing technological assistance and capital, making investments, setting up factories and other such activities, we assist developing nations to create a prosperous and economically developed environment. As for the focus of our future strategic plan, it is to develop Taiwan into an Asia-Pacific Regional Operations Center. This operations center will comprise six major sectors: Manufacturing, air transportation, sea transportation, telecommunications, finance and media.
How can the Government Information Office best project the ROC’s success to other countries?
The successful experience of the ROC has occurred on two levels. One is the rapid rise
of annual per capita income, which grew from US $50 in 1949 to US $12,000 in 1995. Over
the last two decades, the world has come to praise this as Taiwan’s “economic miracle.” The other is a “political miracle”– -full democracy, social diversity, intellectual freedom, and robustness of culture that we have achieved as a result of 10 years of pushing political reform. All these changes are treasures which have been inherited and accumulated over the last 50 years without a drop of blood spilt and at minimal social cost. We refer to them collectively as the “Quite Revolution.” The GIO disseminates information pertaining to these successful experiences in a number of ways to let the international community learn from them and gain an understanding of current conditions in the ROC.
In what ways can the GlO best reflect the issues of conservation and environmental protection that the Republic of China is involved with?
The Republic of China, as one member of the “global village,” has joined the ranks of other nations which have thrown themselves into the work of wildlife conservation and environmental protection. Now that the ROC has built a developed economy and its citizens enjoy an affluent lifestyle, the government and the people understand all the more the importance of balancing environmental concerns and economic development. The Government Information Office has published, in Chinese and several other foreign languages, a collection of books and pamphlets featuring the ROC’s efforts in the area of environmental protection. We have also produced photos, videotapes and documentary movies for release both at home and abroad. The GIO also distributes information through its World Wide Web site, and we have held photography exhibitions in major cities both in and outside Taiwan
What are your current major projects?
The GIO is drawing up concrete plans aimed at both winning international support and promoting cross-Straits press exchanges. Concerning our pursuit of international support, with the success of the ROC’s “Quiet Revolution,” and especially in the wake of our first direct popular election of the president and vice president, held in March of this year, the government has seen and experienced first-hand the democratic convictions of the people and the affirmation of the international community. Such positive images of our success must be spread.
At the same time, we must announce to the world that the Republic of China, having achieved so much, has nevertheless encountered a considerable amount of unfair treatment at the hands of the international community, and that this is by no means acceptable to the 21.3 million people in Taiwan. By making use of various channels to transmit our message, we will foster international understanding of the positive effects of our democratic political development on regional stability and the peaceful interaction between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits. We will also make appeals to the international community to support our bids to join international organizations so that we may contribute our strength to the establishment of a new world order.
What is it you hope to gain through press exchanges with the mainland?
Although the relationship between the two sides of the Straits is very complex, the crux nevertheless lies in the political gulf which separates our system of democratic openness and the autocratic and closed system on the mainland. Based on the important role press freedom plays in modern life, ever since lifting the ban on short term visits to Taiwan by mainland Chinese media personnel, we have been actively pushing to have each side set up media affairs offices. It is our hope that such exchanges will promote mutual understanding as well as foster a shared trust which will lead to positive interaction.
In what ways can the Republic of China better reflect its achievement to the world?
After achieving our “economic miracle,” we braved verbal attacks and military threats coming from the Chinese mainland and went on to successfully carry out in March of this year the first popular election of a president and vice president in the history of China. This achievement marks the perfect conclusion to the ROC’s nearly 10-year process of constitutional reform. We would like to take full advantage of this opportunity to familiarize the world with the accomplishments of our democratic development and explain how such development is certain to help improve relation between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits.