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September 24, 2017

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Ma promotes 'viable diplomacy,' China ties in New Year's speech

TAIPEI -- President Ma Ying-jeou said Friday that the policy of "viable diplomacy" he has advocated over the past seven years has been a success and has won respect from the international community.

"Over the past seven-plus years, we've advocated a policy of viable diplomacy, and have played the roles of peacemaker and provider of humanitarian aid. Our successes have won respect in the international community," Ma said in his New Year address, his last before stepping down in May.

He said that over the past 30 or 40 years, "our relationships with the United States, Japan, the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, New Zealand and Australia in terms of security, economy and trade, culture, and education have never been stronger."

He said that "viable diplomacy" does not mean inaction and that it is not passive.

"Viable diplomacy" means putting a stop to our pointless competition with China for allies in the global community, and playing an important role in that community by providing humanitarian aid and promoting peace, he said.

Ma cautioned against a return to the path of "scorched earth diplomacy," adding that history may repeat itself under such circumstances.

"We may find ourselves in dire straits like the previous administration, with allies abandoning us left and right, and international organizations barring us from participating," he warned.

He urged the incoming administration to "embrace the correct policy direction and stay the course."

The president also said the peaceful, prosperous and sustainable development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations has successfully turned the strait from a flash point into a peace avenue.

Ma said since he took office as president in 2008, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have signed 23 agreements, their top cross-strait affairs officials have met seven times, and direct flights across the strait have zoomed from zero to 120 daily.

Mutual trust has been accumulated to such an extent that on Nov. 7 of 2015, Ma said he and his mainland Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping were able to meet in Singapore.

He noted that the historic meeting between the top leaders of Taiwan and mainland China was an indication that they had built a communication mechanism to settle disputes peacefully. "It was a very positive example for the international community," he added.

It was based on his efforts to build and develop cross-strait ties that Taiwan was able to improve its relations with all foreign countries, including the United States, Japan, the European Union, and ASEAN countries, he said.

Ma said 161 countries now offer visa-free preferential treatment to Republic of China passport holders and Taiwan maintains close ties with its 22 diplomatic allies.

All of this is based on peaceful and stable cross-strait ties, which leads to what he calls "modus vivendi" diplomacy — a policy of not engaging the two sides of the strait in a competition of poaching the other's diplomatic allies.

He expressed hope that the next administration will use wisdom and follow the pragmatic and effective cross-Taiwan Strait policies that he has implemented for the past seven years.

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