President of the Republic of China
On May 20, 2008, Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated as the 12th-term president of the Republic of China (ROC). During the presidential election Ma campaigned on a platform to revive Taiwan's flagging economy and restore the core values of kindness, integrity, diligence, honesty, tolerance, and enterprising spirit. Ma secured a landslide victory with a total of 7.65 million ballots, or 58.5 percent of the vote. This election represented Taiwan's second peaceful transfer of political power, marking a milestone in the country’s democratic development. On January 14, 2012, he was re-elected as the 13th-term president, with 6.89 million ballots, or 51.6 percent of the vot
Ma Ying-jeou was born in Hong Kong on July 13, 1950, but he and his family permanently moved to Taiwan a year later, and have lived here ever since. In a family of five children, he is the only male sibling. Ma's father, Ma Ho-ling, was originally from Hengshan County in Hunan Province on the mainland. From his early years, the elder Ma was deeply involved in patriotic activities, joining the Youth Army and fighting in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Throughout his lifetime, Ma Ho-ling dedicated himself to his government and country. He served in various positions and capacities in the Kuomintang (KMT) Party and government after the war against Japan in 1945 until his death at the age of 85 in 2005. Ma Ying-jeou's mother, Chin Hou-hsiu, having also devoted her life to the government, is now a retired civil servant. In 1977, Mr. Ma married Chow Mei-ching. They have two daughters: Ma Wei-chung and Ma Yuan-chung. The smallest addition to their family is a stray dog that they adopted in 1999 and affectionately call Ma Hsiao-jeou (Little Ma).
Ma Ying-jeou graduated from Taiwan's foremost academic institution, National Taiwan University, in 1972 receiving a bachelor's degree from the College of Law. After earning a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from New York University in 1976, Ma received a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree from Harvard Law School in 1981, specializing in law of the sea and international economic law.
- Political Career:
Upon returning to Taiwan in 1981 Ma became the deputy director of the First Bureau of the Presidential Office. In this post, he served as President Chiang Ching-kuo's English interpreter and secretary. He was concurrently deputy secretary-general of the KMT's Central Committee. In 1986, he was assigned by President Chiang the heavy task of researching the possibility of lifting martial law, relaxing restrictions on cross-strait contacts (e.g. by permitting residents in Taiwan to visit their mainland relatives), and reforming the parliament.
On October 7, 1986, President Chiang granted an interview to Katherine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post. During the interview Chiang announced that Taiwan would act as soon as possible to lift martial law and the ban on forming new political parties. This event marked a momentous turning point in Taiwan's democratic development. As the president's English interpreter, Mr. Ma was witness to this historic milestone in Chinese civilization.
In 1988, he was appointed chairman of the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission of the Executive Yuan. Concurrently, he was also assigned to form a Mainland Affairs Task Force and subsequently became the body's executive secretary. Three years later, Ma was appointed to the newly established Mainland Affairs Council, becoming its first-ever vice chairperson while concurrently serving as a KMT representative at-large in the Second National Assembly.
In 1993, Mr. Ma was appointed Minister of Justice, in which position he launched an aggressive campaign to fight against corruption and drugs, investigated allegations of vote-buying, cracked down on organized crime, and reformed the prison system. In 1996, Ma was appointed minister without portfolio. Although no longer in charge of fighting crime, Ma nevertheless resigned in May 1997 to take responsibility for a series of heinous crimes, notably the kidnap and brutal murder of Pai Hsiao-yen, the daughter of a famous Taiwanese entertainer. He later returned to teach law at the College of Law, National Chengchi University.
- Taipei mayor and KMT chairman:
In 1998, Ma Ying-jeou joined the hotly contested race for Taipei mayor. This was the first time Ma would run for an elected position and face the scrutiny of public opinion. Campaigning on a platform built on technocratic expertise and a fresh outlook, Ma won the election with 760,000 ballots, or 51.13 percent of the vote. Four years later he secured a second term in office, winning 870,000 ballots, or 64.11 percent of the vote.
During his eight-year tenure as Taipei mayor, Ma succeeded in transforming Taipei into a world-class cosmopolitan city. Many domestic and international polls have frequently ranked Taipei among the top quality cities in the region. In 2005, Mr. Ma ran for the KMT chairmanship. He put forth a roadmap to reform the party's social and organizational structures and revitalize its image. Ma's message for change attracted wide support among young and swing voters, in the end securing him a landslide victory with 73% of the votes.
- Special allowance fund:
On February 13, 2007, Ma was indicted on corruption charges in connection with a special allowance fund that was under his discretionary use during his tenure as Taipei City mayor. In response to these charges Ma immediately issued a statement entitled, "Turning Grief and Indignation into Strength," in which he tendered his resignation as KMT Party chairman and officially announced that he would join the presidential race in 2008.
In the days following this event, media polls showed that over 70 percent of respondents believed in Ma's innocence. In August and December of 2007, both the Taipei District Court and Taiwan High Court ruled that Ma was innocent of all charges. This decision was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court on April 24, 2008, marking a definitive victory for Ma Ying-jeou.
- Presidential election campaign:
After announcing his presidential candidacy Ma campaigned tirelessly to reach the people. He launched a tour of the entire island, trekking on bike to countless towns and villages and living among the people in what the media coined Ma's "Long Stay." His sincerity, positive campaigning style, and technocratic expertise and experience won him strong grassroots support. On March 22, 2008, he was duly elected president of the Republic of China.
- Mandate of the people:
On May 20, 2008, Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated as the 12th-term president of the ROC. In his inaugural speech, entitled "Taiwan's Renaissance," Ma pledged to ease regulatory restrictions and tap into Taiwan's competitive advantages in order to encourage domestic firms to establish a strong home base in Taiwan while networking throughout the Asia-Pacific region and positioning themselves globally. However, he reminded listeners that while his administration would take steps to meet international competition head on, it would also act at home to look after the interests of the underprivileged and preserve the natural environment. In addition, Ma emphasized his intention to institute clean government and lead by example. In particular, he stated that for a young democracy, amending the constitution is not so important as honoring and executing the currently existing constitution.
In foreign policy, President Ma stressed his commitment to deepening Taiwan's participation in the process of regional economic integration in East Asia, and to transforming Taiwan into a "peacemaker," so that the international community will look at our nation in a whole new light. Regarding cross-strait relations, Ma stated his intention to adopt a stance of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force." In particular, he advocated the maintenance of the status quo under the framework of the ROC constitution and the resumption of negotiations with the mainland based on the "1992 Consensus." Ma called for Taiwan and the mainland to reconcile their differences in cross-strait relations and in the international community so that both sides could pursue win-win strategies that would contribute to the peaceful development of the region.
The president also extended his sincere condolences to the family members of victims in the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, and expressed his wish for the speedy recovery of the people and area, as well as his hopes that the people of mainland China could one day experience the same freedom, democracy, and equitable distribution of wealth that are enjoyed on this side of the Taiwan Strait.
President Ma declared his determination to uphold those ideals that best embody Taiwan's core traditional values—benevolence, righteousness, diligence, honesty, generosity, and industriousness. Furthermore, the incoming Ma administration envisioned creating a government that would work hand-in-hand with the people for a better tomorrow, and would make policy in accordance with the principle of "putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people."
Soon after taking office President Ma encountered severe challenges originating from beyond Taiwan's borders. The US subprime mortgage crisis triggered a financial tsunami that swept across the globe and left economic recession in its wake. President Ma's administration calmly responded by declaring a blanket guarantee for all bank deposits, taking steps to spur domestic demand, easing restrictions on cross-strait economic and trade ties, and adopting measures to increase employment. Meanwhile, the government identified six key emerging industries as future mainstays of the Taiwan economy, and stepped up efforts to bring about a more diversified industrial structure and jump-start new engines for economic growth. In addition, President Ma has attached great importance to promoting energy conservation and carbon reduction, which has helped Taiwan’s energy efficiency to exceed 2%. These environmental measures have steered national development in the direction of a sustainable, low-carbon economy.
Crafting a response to regional economic integration in Asia is another key policy focus for the administration. Guided by the principle of "helping people do business, making Taiwan more competitive," Ma set with determination about the task of signing a cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). The point of ECFA is to ensure that firms from Taiwan can compete on a level playing field internationally. The president is also seeking actively to sign free trade agreements with Taiwan's other principal trading partners to safeguard the competitiveness of our exports.
Parity and dignity are the non-negotiable preconditions of Ma's approach to cross-strait relations, and on these terms he has succeeded in re-starting cross-strait talks, defusing hostility, and establishing the conditions for peaceful interaction. During eight rounds of talks between Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, and Chen Yunlin, chairman of mainland China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, the two sides have signed 18 agreements covering such matters as: regular direct cross-strait flights; direct postal services; visits to Taiwan by mainland Chinese tourists; financial supervisory cooperation; food safety; cooperation on fishing crew affairs; product testing and certification; inspection and quarantine of agricultural products; joint crime-fighting and judicial assistance; protection of intellectual property rights; medical care and public health; nuclear power safety; and investment protection and promotion. By expanding the scope of cross-strait cooperation, the two sides are gradually building goodwill and trust.
In foreign affairs, President Ma has been pursuing a policy of viable diplomacy by emphasizing that the ROC should adhere to the principle that the purpose must be legitimate, the process must be lawful, and the implementation must be effective. The resulting improvement in cross-strait relations has put an end to a long and vituperative standoff between the two sides in the diplomatic sphere. This change has brought more stable ties with our diplomatic allies and strengthened substantive relations with countries with which we do not have official relations. As a result, important breakthroughs have come on many different fronts. The country has been able to send higher-level representation to the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, for example, joined the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, and been admitted as an observer at the World Health Assembly. These developments have greatly increased Taiwan's maneuvering room on the international stage, and provided a reason to continue developing the cross-strait relationship. Positive momentum is building. In addition, our foreign aid missions are active around the globe, and we have achieved our goal of obtaining visa-free entry for ROC nationals in 100 countries. The number of jurisdictions offering visa-free courtesies now accounts for almost all of the countries and territories frequently visited by ROC nationals. This indicates that the ROC has won respect from the international community. Moreover, on October 2, 2012, the United States announced that the ROC is to be included in its Visa Waiver Program, making it the only country among the 37 on the list that does not have official diplomatic relations with the US. This represents a big vote of confidence by the United States in the citizens of the ROC.
The point of viable diplomacy is to take a pragmatic and flexible approach to deal with Taiwan’s foreign affairs in order to ensure the country’s best interests. In response to the dispute over the Diaoyutai Islets, therefore President Ma proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative to defend the sovereignty and fishing rights of the ROC. “Safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity, and promoting joint exploration and development” are the objectives for which the ROC strives. The ROC has always attached great importance to its relations with friendly nations, and intends to play the role of a peacemaker within the international community. In the meantime, the ROC will continue working for peace and stability in East Asia.
Ma has clearly demonstrated his administration's commitment to clean government and the rule of law. Serious steps have been taken to end abuse of power, push forward with political and economic reform, engage in more dialogue with the opposition, establish a higher profile for Taiwan on the international stage, and open up direct postal, transportation, and trade links across the Taiwan Strait. In May 2010, moreover, he put forward six steps to a better Taiwan, pledging his intent to "strengthen the country through innovation, revive the country by promoting culture, save the country through environmental protection, stabilize the country by adhering to the constitution, secure the country by providing social services, and protect the country by promoting peace."
Looking forward to a "golden decade" for Taiwan, President Ma spoke in his 2011 New Year's Day Message of his four main hopes for the future, saying that he wants "educational reforms that provide a lasting solution," "environmental stewardship that provides lasting viability," "lasting justice," and "a lasting peace." On the first day of the ROC’s centennial, he called for national unity as we work to lay a firm foundation for another 100 strong years for the ROC, so that in the next century the ROC will become a nation the world will respect, and an inspiration to many.
During the first term of Ma's presidency, the Ma administration enabled Taiwan to undo the mistakes of the past, and established a firm policy orientation for the country. To further implement national development policies, in a press conference to explain his vision for a "golden decade" in September 2011, Ma stressed that this vision is based on the establishment of the "four assurances," which are: 1) to ensure that the sovereignty of the Republic of China remains independent and unimpaired; 2) to ensure the safety and prosperity of Taiwan; 3) to ensure ethnic harmony and cross-strait peace; and 4) to ensure a sustainable environment and a just society. These "four assurances" will provide the foundation for his eight visions for the nation, which are as follows: a robust economy; a just society; clean and competent government; high-quality culture and education; environmental sustainability; well-rounded development; cross-strait peace; and friendly relations with the international community. By so doing we can take self-confident action to engage with the world, take innovative action to develop our economy, and uphold social justice as we move forward, thereby completely remaking Taiwan and enhancing happiness and wellbeing.
On May 20, 2012, Ma was sworn in as the 13th-term president of the Republic of China. During his inaugural address, entitled "Upholding Ideals, Working Together for Reform and Creating Greater Well-being for Taiwan," he stressed that if we want our nation to develop, then we must reform; if we want reform, then we must bear the short-term pains of adjustment; and we absolutely cannot leave the hot potato issues and heavy burdens to the next generation. Ma said he is keenly aware that the most important duty and mission of a re-elected president is to work with the people to forge greater well-being. Therefore, his administration has identified five pillars of national growth that it aims to achieve to build a nation that enjoys the benefits of peace, justice, and well-being. First, it will enhance the drivers of economic growth. Second, it will create employment and realize social justice. Third, it will develop an environment characterized by low carbon emissions and high reliance on green energy. Fourth, it will build up culture as a source of national strength. And fifth, it will take active steps to cultivate, recruit, and retain talent.
Meanwhile, he has also identified "Three Legs of National Security" to ensure peace in Taiwan. The first is the use of cross-strait rapprochement to realize peace in the Taiwan Strait. The second is the use of viable diplomacy to establish more breathing space for ourselves in the international community. And the third is the use of military strength to deter external threats.
In addition, Ma pointed out that national security is crucial for the survival of the Republic of China, and the Constitution of the Republic of China is the supreme guiding principle for how the government deals with cross-strait relations. Within that constitutional framework, our cross-strait policy must maintain the status quo of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force," and promote peaceful cross-strait development on the basis of the 1992 Consensus, whereby each side acknowledges the existence of "one China," but maintains its own interpretation of what that means.
He further clarified in his address that when we speak of "one China," naturally it is the Republic of China. In other words, over the past two decades, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been defined as "one Republic of China, two areas." This status has remained unchanged throughout the administrations of three presidents. This is an eminently rational and pragmatic definition, and constitutes the basis for assuring the ROC's long-term development and safeguarding Taiwan's security. Both sides of the Taiwan Strait ought to squarely face up to this reality, seek common ground while respecting differences, and establish a consensus regarding "mutual non-recognition of sovereignty and mutual non-denial of authority to govern." Only in this way can the two sides move forward with confidence.