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September 24, 2017

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Taiwan's 2016 begins with politics

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou highlighted the peaceful development of cross-strait relations as one of the key achievements in his seven years in office and left "reminders" for his successor in the final New Year address he will give as president, on Friday, Jan. 1.

The New Year spirit did not last long as the Presidential Office and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) traded blows, and perhaps lawsuits, before the end of the first day of 2016 over Ma's address.

In his New Year message, Ma said that "over the past seven-plus years, we have successfully transformed the Taiwan Strait from a flashpoint of conflict into a path to peace," and highlighted the "major breakthrough" on Nov. 7, 2015 when he and his mainland counterpart Xi Jinping met in Singapore.

Ma also touted his government's achievements in pursuing "viable diplomacy" — by which he meant an end to "our pointless competition with the mainland for allies in the global community, and actively playing an important role in that community by providing humanitarian aid and promoting peace" — and ensuring social justice.

The president also shared his three "concerns" on cross-strait relations: economic liberalization, energy stability and a possible deterioration of cross-strait ties.

Ma's warning closely matched the KMT's criticisms of the policies of DPP presidential candidate and current race leader Tsai Ing-wen, who is calling for a departure from Ma's pro-China policies. The KMT contends this would lead to Taiwan's diplomatic and economic isolation. Tsai also supports a nuclear power-free future for the Taiwan.

"I sincerely hope the next administration will be wise," said Ma with concern for cross-strait policies. "And handle things with appropriate caution, and not misjudge the situation, and thereby subject the people of Taiwan to more turmoil and fear."

The president also pointed out that "some people, and some institutional environments, aren't completely ready for" economic liberalization.

In terms of energy policy, Ma said that "power shortages or power rationing will be hard to avoid" if the Nuclear Power Plant No. 4 is not put into operation and the three existing nuclear power plants are phased out. "Some people think we can both reduce carbon emissions and be nuclear free, but that kind of thinking is completely unrealistic.

In response, the DPP spokesman Ruan Jhao-syong (阮昭雄) said Ma is "disqualified" as the head of state who received approval ratings as low as 9 percent and yet failed to reflect on his mistakes. The Presidential Office spokesperson Charles Chen (陳以信) fought back, criticizing the DPP for its "gravely wrong comments" and labeling Tsai a "disqualified candidate" for failing to make clear her policy plans on cross-strait relations, the economy and energy. Chen urged Tsai to issue a public apology over the DPP's comments.

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