Fireside Chat with Dr. Ko Wen-je, Chairman of the Taiwan People’s Party and Former Mayor of Taipei

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Dr. Bonny Lin: Good afternoon and welcome. I’m Bonny Lin, director of the China Power Project and senior fellow for Asian security at CSIS.

This afternoon I am fortunate enough to host a special guest for this live – for this fireside chat, and it’s Dr. Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party. He’s the chairman of the Taiwan People’s Party, and he was also former mayor of Taipei.

As you know, Taiwan is coming up to its next presidential election in January 2024, and that election will have significant consequences in terms of cross-strait relations but also U.S.-Taiwan relations. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Ko with us today to dissect a little bit about the issues that are impacting that election, as well as, too, to understand what are the key topics and key priorities for his party.

So let me – before turning it back to Ko, let me actually give a little bit of his background. So Dr. Ko was mayor of Taipei from 2014 to 2022. And he has been the chairman of Taiwan’s People Party since 2019. Before becoming mayor, he was a doctor at National Taiwan University Hospital. He was also a professor at National Taiwan University College of Medicine. To many of his biggest fans, he is affectionately known as Professor Ko, or Ko P. So with that, let me actually turn to Dr. Ko. Thank you, again, for joining us today, and let me turn to you to brief opening comments on your end.

(Note: Unless otherwise indicated, Mr. Ko speaks through an interpreter.)

Dr. Ko Wen-je: (In English.) OK, Bonny. It’s a great pleasure to be here. Thank you for the invitation.

The purpose of my trip to United States this time is to get to know the United States and to be known by the United States, to better understand the future direction of U.S.-Taiwan policy, and for U.S. to better understand the rising third horse in Taiwan as well. This is my third time to visit Washington, D.C. You know, the first time was in 2013, just before my election campaign for the Taipei city mayor. The second time was in 2019, immediately after my successful reelection for Taipei city mayor. And now is the third time.

In recent days I have visited Lincoln Memorial Hall, Jefferson Memorial Hall, Washington Monument, and Capitol Hill. I know I can understand it’s a great challenge for the United States to have democracy and freedom that people here enjoy now. And after generations of efforts, the achievement has a great impact on the whole world. This time I visit America, I find the United States is still a strong country full of dreams and hope.

In recent years, because of COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war, international communication was interrupted. Many industries were heavily damaged or forced to transform. National governance became even more difficult. And due to strong competition between China and the United States, international space for Taiwan to survive was squeezed. Yes, we have many, many problems to face. However, we need to find solutions, not only for Taiwanese or the immediate population on the island, but also for regional peace or even world peace.

I hope Taiwan is a pivotal area in the world, not the so-called the most dangerous area in the world, as mass media reported. More than half a century, Taiwan and the United States share the same view. So we are important to each other. We have common interests. I hope in the future we can have more support from the United States and deepen the cooperation between Taiwan and the United States.

I had better speak in Mandarin. (Laughter.)

(Continues through interpreter.) In terms of economic and trade, we will continue to strive to promote trade liberalization. The United States is Taiwan’s second-largest export market, and we hope that the United States will help Taiwan to participate in regional economic organizations, for a couple of reasons. First, currently ICT products in Taiwan enjoy tariff-free treatment with many countries in the world. That benefit has forced our Taiwanese industry to shift all the resources into industries such as semiconductor. And that has made us to put all the eggs in one basket. And if we allow that to continue for a long run, it’s going to create further imbalance of industries.

The second situation that we are confronting with is free tariff treatment through ECFA for Taiwanese products exported into mainland China. And a direct result is that Taiwanese economy was sucked into this dependency, overdependency, of mainland Chinese market. And in some sense we’re locked in this kind of situation.

Currently 40 percent of our export went to mainland Chinese market. And if we would allow this to continue, there will be more imbalance in our economy and we will continue to be sucked into this trap.

We will need to have better economic development in order to have enough financial resources to have better national defense. And with better national defense we would have more secure environment to ensure we maintain the stability that is needed in East Asia.

I agree with Secretary of State Blinken’s statement that he mentioned. In face of the intensifying U.S. and China relations, we should cooperate when we can and compete when possible and confront if we must. This is very much similar to my belief in my handling of the future cross-strait relations. And currently I believe what’s different between us is the political systems and people’s lifestyle.

But there are so many more other projects that we can still seek cooperation – for example, 2050 net-zero carbon emissions, digital transformation, green transportation, regional economy, et cetera. These are the responsibility that all mankind should share and should be – there shouldn’t be any barrier for us between them.

That’s why I advocate Taiwan should self-govern to secure peace across the Taiwan Strait. The two sides of Taiwan Strait must restart the dialogue mechanism as soon as possible to resolve differences and avoid conflicts and to work together to maintain peace and stability. Through further dialogues, we will be able to minimize possibility for misfire. And also we would need enough national defense power in order to secure that.

I am hoping, even though Taiwan is a very small country, that we are able to demonstrate our quality of our citizens and our civic services. I hope that will be the future direction and we made ourself a role model for mainland China, and that is why I carved out our election campaign for – when I run for the Taiwanese presidency to include two major pillars, inclusive society and national governance.

I believe it is very important that we have a unified situation within Taiwan. We cannot allow a very divided society in Taiwan because without a consensus from within it is not going to be possible for us to achieve anything we would like to see internationally, and I’ve also seen the importance of increasing our government administration’s efficiency. This is very important to help us to advance all of our agenda for our citizens.

So, internally, I advocate for a coalition government because in the past, if you look at the trajectory of politics in Taiwan, whichever major party took the office they seemed to exclude the other party from participating in the political arena as much as they can.

I don’t think that is a way to help us to forge mutual consensus within our country, and in order for us to move forward our agenda as a nation it is very important to ensure we build consensus first within our nation. And in terms of our outbound diplomatic policies, I always strive the importance of cross-strait peace and stability and to achieve that it is important that we have this communication ongoing to ensure we are able to stay engaged.

In facing the future challenges, we have to work hand in hand to ensure we achieve our common goals. And the freedom and democracy is always hard-fought, and there is no free lunch. And we have to make sure we work together to secure that.

Thank you for listening and I hope you have very good discussions after this.

Dr. Lin: Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Ko, for a very wide-ranging opening presentation – opening comments.

I maybe want to take a step back and look at, you know, what drove you to come to the United States this time. I know you’re coming to the end of a three-week trip to the United States so could you share with us your priorities for this trip? You mentioned that you had been to the United States a couple of times before but what makes this trip special for you?

Dr. Ko: Basically, this trip I would like to achieve three purposes.

First and foremost, to get to know the United States better, because the United States has been our most important ally and the most important country in the world. And it is also probably the only country that has the courage to provide arms sales to Taiwan so far. And that’s why, as a political leader in Taiwan, it is very important for us to get a better understanding of the United States.

Secondly, I would like to come here to seek American perspectives of Taiwan from this side because we ended up sometimes, by analyzing Taiwan’s situation from the island’s perspective, and I don’t think that will be sufficient. It is very important to get to know how Taiwan is perceived from the world outside.

Thirdly, I’m coming here to introduce TPP – Taiwan People’s Party – and myself. Currently, even though we have 20 percent support in Taiwan, I believe 99.9 percent of the American people do not have an understanding of who we are. So I hope to use this opportunity to introduce ourselves.

Dr. Lin: Great. Thank you.

On your last point of using this opportunity to both introduce yourself as well as your party, I’d like to ask a little bit about your background, particularly since you were the mayor of Taipei, which is not a small city. How does that inform your priorities as you look for the future of Taiwan?

Dr. Ko: Through my eight years of experience as mayor of Taipei, I’ve come to the conclusion that our people should be the main stakeholders. Ideology should never be our main goal or the subject matter in whatever we are doing, and also as a surgeon that testified how important to put people first.

The name of Taiwan People’s Party, in my view, is not just Taiwan People’s Party. It is – it also stands for Taiwan is pragmatic and professional.

(Continues in English.) I hope Taiwan is pragmatic and professional.

(Continues through interpreter.) And with the approach and measures we are taking that are pragmatic and professional, we hope to achieve our ultimate goal, to make Taiwan peaceful and prosperous place.

(Continues in English.) I hope Taiwan is peaceful and prosperous.

(Continues through interpreter.) And through that process, we have been very diligent in creating financial discipline. So when many other local governments saw deficits in their budgeting, when I served as Taipei mayor, we were able to pay off a lot of the debts.

We have also believed to make our government administration to be as open and as transparent possible, so we release all the meeting minutes in our city management so that would reduce any possibility for corruption. And for our younger generation, high housing prices has always been a pain point for them. That’s why we put in a lot of efforts to create social or public housing, to ensure they have a place to live when they are so young.

And if you look at the public schools in Taiwan, there are 236 of them. I feel a very important way to provide equality in access to education is to give them access to internet in modern days. So we have made optic fiber and wi-fi possible. Every classroom would have at least three ports to access. And we have also equipped all the classrooms with 85-inch touchpad screen. And through the screen and through the internet access, they will have access to online library of more than 400,000 books. I think in modern times part of the updated human rights should be the access to internet, because if you allow poor people to be denied from internet, that doesn’t help them to improve their competitiveness.

Also when I served as the Taipei mayor, if you look at my Cabinet, it already included members from different political parties. I always believed there shouldn’t be any ideology that created conflict. So I only looked at who are the right people to retain. And that’s why, through that eight years, I’ve already proved that the coalition government is possible.

Dr. Lin:

 I think what you mentioned in terms of coalition government, that’s something that the United States also is very keen on, being able to achieve – being able to work across different parties. With that, I do want to ask you a little bit about the Taiwan People’s Party. What caused you to found the party? And how is your party platform different from Taiwan’s other major political parties?

Dr. Ko:

 As I have explained earlier, TPP not only stands for Taiwan People’s Party, but also it’s an acronym for Taiwan is pragmatic and professional. I think the two words, pragmatism and professionalism, are the two unique strengths of our party, because we do not make decisions and we do not create our political agenda based on ideology. We believe politics should be realized in daily life of our people. And that’s why whenever we create or identify our political agenda and the direction of our policies, we believe we should always put our eye on long-term interest, the national interest, and major of our people’s interest over short-term interest, and minority, or the political party’s interest.

Another strength that we have in our party is that we have always believed in being rational, pragmatic, and scientific based in our decision-making process. The way – we promote to work in a way that we’re serious and diligent, and to take any steps possible to avoid corruption. We believe in the universal value, and we believe those universal values should be the Taiwan value, such as democracy, freedom, diversity, openness, sustainability. And all of those are being included in our two pillars, inclusive society and national governance. Many other governments from – created by other parties do not – were not able to look at the importance of increasing efficiency. And I believe that is what I am trying to achieve through our party.

Dr. Lin: So, Dr. Ko, you mentioned multiple times the importance of pragmatism in your party’s platform, as well as the importance of placing – focusing on Taiwan’s long-term interest as well as the interest of the Taiwan people. So when you look at that, and when you look at the challenges that Taiwan is facing, what do you see as the top perhaps one to three challenges that Taiwan faces that your party wants to prioritize as part of your either platform or your presidential campaign?

Dr. Ko: Actually, the challenges that we face are not just one or two. I can easily name three or five. Currently Taiwan is in a shortage of water, power, land, labor, talents, and even eggs, that many people probably would not think that’s possible. But looking at other problems in different levels of our society, our health-care system might have to go through a bankruptcy if we don’t manage it well. And in 10 years, on top of that, 40 universities or colleges will have to be closed down because we don’t have enough students to participate – to go to colleges anymore, and all these have shown that it is time for Taiwan to revamp its industry structure and at some point since we do not – we’re not blessed with a lot of resources it is a must for us to do – to go through industrial innovation to upgrade our industrial and economy.

There was another goal set by the current administration to close down all the nuclear power plants in Taiwan by 2025. Personally, I do not think that is a realistic goal because if you look at what is called for for our industrial upgrade in Taiwan you would need to have enough power to sustain that.

Closing down the nuclear power plants is not going to help us to achieve that goal and that’s why I believe in the – in median terms it is necessary for us to keep the nuclear power plants up and running up until we figure out a better plan and that can help us to buy time.

So the problems that we’re facing in Taiwan right now we have energy, we have the need to further our industrial innovation path and also to increase the government efficiency. But these are more of internal issues that I feel confident that we can handle well.

But in terms of support that we’ll need from the outside, we would need major countries like the United States to support our inclusion in the regional economic organizations because in order to resolve any of the other things that we’re facing further economic development is something we must have for the next phase.

Dr. Lin: Thank you.

And that – I think that’s a good transition to a topic that is probably of keen focus in D.C., which is what is your foreign policy platform, right? You mentioned getting Taiwan in more regional organizations, particularly on the economic side is – appears to be a key priority. But what about your broader foreign policy, particularly your policy towards China as well as the United States?

Dr. Ko: This is how I see it. In terms of our foreign policy, regardless of which political party is taking the office in Taiwan, our relations with the United States would not change. But if you look deeper between the differences between KMT and DPP, I feel KMT has always been on the submissive side when working with mainland China while DPP stop all the channels of communications with PRC.

I personally think there is always a possibility to find a space in between the two extremes when handling the cross-strait relations. If you look at KMT, they seem to be taking all the measures to be afraid or to avoid a war; whereas DPP, in its provocative terms, seems to create a momentum to seek war in many people’s eyes.

I would think it is better to be done in a way where we always prepare ourselves for potential war, but we should never be afraid when such a war is happening, while at the same time we shouldn’t do anything to try to provoke and seek the war.

Dr. Lin: So just to be a little bit more clear about what is this middle ground that you’re trying to carve out, so you’re saying on one hand you want to have more communications with China compared to the DPP, but on the other hand you also want to continue to significantly invest in Taiwan’s capabilities, including asymmetric capabilities. Is that a correct characterization of how you’re trying to balance and find this middle ground?

Dr. Ko: I think the best way to deal with – to identify that in-between area is again to adopt the principles of being rational, pragmatic and scientific in your decision-making. Never allow emotions to take over when you are making important decisions.

When I was Taipei mayor, we have successfully held eight times the Twin City Forum between Taipei and Shanghai. In 2017 we successfully held the Summer Universiade. And all these events and forums helped me to gain a lot of experiences in engaging and to keep the dialogue open with our counterparts in China. And that was a lot of experiences established for me to understand that you have to keep the dialogue open before you can identify any solution to the problem.

And as a minimum, the ongoing engagement in communication would create goodwill. And if not goodwill, at least it would minimize the possibility for misunderstanding. And when we are in any possibility for misunderstanding, sometimes you create opportunities for misfire. And that’s something we would like to avoid and would want to seek peace across Taiwan Strait and to avoid the threat. I think that’s first step we need to take.

Dr. Lin: In terms of communication with Beijing, are you and the TPP willing to accept what China has outlined as some of the preconditions for dialogue, for engagement, including acceptance of the 1992 consensus?

Dr. Ko: In reopening any dialogue, I always believe we have to start from where we can or areas that we can have a dialogue. If the 1992 consensus is a prerequisite, it is not going to lead us very far because the ’92 consensus in Taiwan, the whole image of it has already been smeared. People don’t like to hear about it. It doesn’t take you any further in any discussions.

I was a surgeon, so I’m going to use a medical scenario to describe my belief. If a patient is allergic to penicillin, why would you keep insisting prescribing penicillin, if it’s already going to create an allergic reaction? And that’s why ’92 consensus, if you stick to that as a term that you want to go by, instead of looking at the actual substance, I think it’s not going to help us to create a dialogue.

The major issue right now in any talks or engagement with China is that there weren’t clear-cut definitions of a lot of prerequisites that they spoke about – for example, one China policy or one country, two systems. If we don’t know what is already – what is included in their mind underneath those concepts, it is very difficult to strike a deal. It’s just like if you want me to buy something and I don’t know what I’m buying, the deal can hardly be struck.

Dr. Lin: Great. I want to focus now on more of the defense side. As you know, under the current Taiwan government there’s been quite a bit of investment in Taiwan’s own defense, as well as investment in Taiwan’s asymmetric capabilities. So as you look at the challenge or threat posed from China to Taiwan, on the defense and security side, what is your policy and what is your thinking about Taiwan’s defense? I think you mentioned earlier that Taiwan needs to be prepared to be able to fight a war. But does that mean you will continue to sustain, if not increase, the investment in Taiwan’s defense? Or are you going to further even increase that significantly? What is your specific view on the defense side?

Dr. Ko: When it comes to democracy and freedom, I believe there is no free lunch. There is always a price tag attached. The predominant policy and strategy that we have is deterrence. However, in order for deterrence to be effective, you have to establish enough national defense power. And I would still go back to my principles of pragmatism and professionalism when it comes to national defense and security issues. Recently, we’ve been changing the mandatory military service from four months to a year. However, I think the duration of the military service is not the focus, or it’s not the solution. Rather, you have to look at the substance of the training in the military – mandatory military services.

And that’s why it is very critical to examine your national defense dollars and expenditure. Do we have enough to cover the kind of training that is called for to prepare us for war? And we have to be honest about that. I don’t think – currently, the national defense budget is only less than 2 percent of Taiwanese GDP. I currently don’t think that’s enough to cover what we need.

And also, to expect Taiwan to confront China’s military threat unilaterally, it is not realistic either. That is why it is very important for us to participate in regional defense organizations or platforms, so that we have the capability in the asymmetric defense to help us to counter potential threat – not to be ready to fight a war, not to encourage war, but to make sure we are able to handle that threat.

And the – Russia’s invasion into Ukraine is a very appropriate example for us to draw lessons from. I think that taught us how important your preparation – mentality preparation is in fighting and to prolong the war. Right now we’ve seen the Ukraine war linger for more than a year, but they are still fighting. And that tells you how strong people’s will to fight against Russia is in Ukraine. I am not as optimistic when it comes to the mentality of Taiwanese people to stand up against a war like that, and that’s why I think that will be the area that we need to also focus.

Dr. Lin: Maybe I can take a step back and actually ask a related question that I probably should have asked earlier, which is: When we talk about the challenge that China poses to Taiwan, do you view the challenge as mainly military? Or is it across the board economic/societal? What is the main challenge that you view that Taiwan has to deal with, with respect to China?

Dr. Ko: China’s threat will come in two ways, as I see it: military and nonmilitary. In the military sense, it is very important to ensure that we are well-prepared. But in the nonmilitary sense, their threat can come in many forms such as through the media, propaganda, through their hired internet influencers that create a momentum online to be against us.

But again, as a doctor I would go back to the medical terms, if I may. You can never eliminate bacteria in the environment, but what you can do is to boost your immunity in your body. And that’s why when you bring that concept to the protect of democracy, freedom, and our own civilization or civic society, we just have to make sure we are able to do all those areas well enough so that they can no longer suppress us in all of those nonmilitary pockets.

In terms of city management, what I’ve learned through a more modern concept is to build resilient cities, and especially when we are confronted with very extreme weather conditions. In the past, when we were hit by a flood, what we thought about is to build more blockage, stop the flood from coming into the city, or we placed more pumps to take the water out. However, the new way of making a city more resilient is to build the city in a way so that it can absorb those excessive water or flood. And that is the same concept we should apply when managing a country, that we have to make our society more resilient, so we can withstand those extreme situations.

Dr. Lin: Great. Thank you. So I’m going to ask one final question before we open it up to Q&A from those in the room. So the final question relates to Taiwan’s broader foreign policy, and what you view as Taiwan’s appropriate role on the international stage. As you are aware, China recently took one of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, Honduras. There is discussion on what might happen with respect to Paraguay, right? So as you look at Taiwan’s role internationally, how do you envision Taiwan should operate? Should Taiwan be trying to defend its allies and partners, or is that something that is of lesser priority for you?

Dr. Ko: In a very pragmatic sense, our situation in foreign diplomacy would not change whether we add or remove one diplomatic tie. And there are many ways to engage in foreign diplomacy. You can establish foreign diplomacy through economic and trade activities, through city-to-city exchanges, and through the convention sense, through political ties. Of course, in terms of diplomacy through political ties, we have been suppressed by China constantly, so that our current countries with diplomatic ties with Taiwan have been reduced to 13.

But if you look at the pragmatic sense, Taiwanese passport is more accessible in everywhere around the world, compared to a passport from mainland China. So that tells you a lot. And that’s why I believe if I were elected our agenda would focus on areas we can engage in, all those areas that involves nonofficial foreign policies.

Dr. Lin: So I said that was the last question, but I just have one more question before we open it to Q&A because we are relatively good on time with respect to that.

So it seems like when you’re talking about how you envision Taiwan’s foreign policy, it seems like, in addition to the middle space between DPP and KMT, you also seem to be carving out some space between where China wants Taiwan to be and where you have said the United States might want Taiwan to be.

So when you think about prioritizing Taiwan’s relations with the United States and China, how do you think about that prioritization?

Dr. Ko: Through my experience, I feel that in DPP’s engagement with China, there were – there was already this premises or prerequisite of ’92 consensus from Beijing government to DPP. And Beijing government was very – maintained a very hard line on ’92 consensus, even though I believe they know DPP is not going to accept that. So their relations are not going to move forward.

But the reason there was such a premises of ’92 consensus is because probably PRC already know DPP is not going to have a good engagement or dialogue with them anyway. So ’92 consensus, in that sense, can be a very convenient excuse.

But once an impasse is created, it’s very difficult to go back. So my agenda, I believe we should never allow any possibility for an impasse like that to be created to begin with, to ensure that – and that’s why I believe in the continuous engagement with the other side so that it can create the goodwill, so it can reduce misunderstanding and to reduce risks thereof.

The five mutuals that I believe are within TPP is mutual – to get to know each other and to understand each other, to respect each other, to cooperate with each other, and the last point, which is most important in part after achievement of all the other four, is the mutual consideration and to put yourself in other size shoes.

Knowing that there will be difficulties in front of us we still need to find a balance between us and that will require extreme flexibilities on both sides with strong efforts to minimize hostility and the possibility for impasse.

Dr. Lin: So maybe I can clarify my previous question a little. Is your policy – general foreign policy to maintain equal distance between China on one hand and the United States on the other? What is your overall policy to the United States vis-à-vis China?

Dr. Ko: I would always believe it is a result of dynamic equilibrium. It depends on which side is stronger sometimes. But if you put that in the sense of cross-Taiwan Strait relations I would always say the distance cross-strait is always the same but people’s mind can always change. If PRC always try to create air threats by sending their airplanes, of course, people in Taiwan would be more inclined to be closer to the United States.

Dr. Lin: Great. Thank you.

I want to open up the floor now to questions from the audience. So, yeah, if you could – just need to line up there and read your question.

Q: Yes. My name is Tina Chang. I would like – (off mic).

I would like to ask Chairman Ko: You talked about seeking balance between the Chinese condition for cross-strait – resumption of cross-strait dialogue of the ’92 consensus and you’re trying to seek the balance of maintaining the status quo, although I didn’t hear you say the exact wording. But what do you think the balance point is? Did you find that perfect balance point? And also, will you think to have an alternative framework for resumption of cross-strait dialogue? Thank you.

Dr. Ko: I think the prospect of any nation should not be dependent on the goodwill of other nations. So that is a fundamental principle. That just tells us how important it is for us to strengthen ourselves. And if you don’t have enough skills, you shouldn’t play the game, as I see it. And currently, if we are perceived as a weak power, we would not even be qualified to identify or strike that balance. We will always be on the passive side. And that is why it is very important, first and foremost, for us to strengthen our capability in national defense, as I said, to make sure we are prepared so that we are not afraid of potential war. So increasing our strength and power is a prerequisite to be able to find that balancing point.

Secondly, we have to work very hard to reduce the hostility from the other side, and to increase some goodwill from the other side. If you look at the cross-strait relations 20 years back, people from mainland China were very fond of us, they even envy what we have achieved in Taiwan. But 20 years after, now, I feel there was a sentiment from no longer be fond of us, and also to even look down upon us. And if that is going to continue to be the case, I don’t think it is possible for us to find the balancing point.

Dr. Lin: I have one follow-up on your points here. So you mentioned the importance of finding a balance. You mentioned the importance of not relying on any external power for Taiwan’s defense. And you also mentioned the importance of decreasing China’s hostility against Taiwan, right? But as you look at Taiwan’s defense, as you mentioned earlier, so far the United States is one of the few countries, if not the only country, to sell arms to Taiwan, right? So right now U.S.-Taiwan defense relations are at the strongest point ever, right? But that – every time that defense relationship strengthens, China has an issue with it. So how do you balance that? Do you see that as potentially imposing, in your view, a limit on how much you want to strengthen defense relations with the United States?

Dr. Ko: So from TPP’s agenda, we’ve always said that we strive for Taiwan’s self-governance to secure peace cross-strait. While peace is very important, however, we should never forget self-governance is always more important, or takes priority, over that peace. Because self-governance should always be our bottom line. And we have to make sure the other side is aware of our bottom line. And if the bottom line is not going to be protected, that will be the unfortunate war to be happen.

Dr. Lin: Thank you.

Any more questions from the audience?

If there are no other questions from the audience – please.

Q: I’d like to know – I’d like to ask Chairman Ko, a lot of people say that for Taiwan’s presidential candidate, no matter which party, they have to come to the U.S. for, quote-unquote, interview. So how do you think your performance here – did you pass the interview? How is the U.S. side respond to your policy positions? Thanks.

Dr. Lin: Before you answer this question, I would ask, if there are any other questions, please line up over there so I know. Elsewise I don’t know if there are any questions here. Thank you.

Dr. Ko: I believe, regardless of which counterparty we’re talking about, the five mutuals or five each-other principles from TPP would always apply, whether it’s the engagement between Taiwan and U.S. or Taiwan and PRC, the five principles being to get to know each other, to understand each other, to respect each other, to cooperate with each other, and finally, to give consideration to each other.

And even right now – and I believe those five principles apply when it comes to our relations and discussions with the United States. The United States remain to be the strongest ally and the strongest nation in the world for Taiwan. So far, in terms of Taiwan’s national security and defense, the United States has been our greatest help.

And instead of calling my visit with them and meetings with them as interviews, I would rather to call them discussions with American counterparts and officials. We are not yet at a level of mutual consideration. However, I think we – through the discussions that I have this time, I have been reassured by the U.S. side they will continue to help Taiwan in defending ourselves and they will strongly support Taiwan without interfering our elections.

Dr. Lin: So I want to follow up on a point that you mentioned earlier – inclusive society, national governance. I wanted to extend that to what it might be if you were to come into power. If you were to become the president of Taiwan, does that mean in your Cabinet, in your ruling coalition that you would have not only experts or representatives from your party, but also potentially experts from the DPP or KMT? Would you be willing to use leading experts of figures from across a different aisle in your – in your government?

Dr. Ko: (In English.) Of course.

(Continues through interpreter.) Yeah. As a matter of fact, I have already achieved that during the eight years serving as mayor of Taipei.

Dr. Lin: And from your perspective, how would that change sort of the dynamics compared to what you currently see in Taiwan?

Dr. Ko: I think exactly through a potential coalition government we would be able to for the first time create this environment where people work together instead of to divide each other. And I believe the coalition is the only way forward to minimize the hostilities to each other.

If you look at my Cabinet members when I served as mayor of Taipei, the environmental protection agency in our Cabinet was headed by someone from the New Party. Our civil administration bureau was actually managed by a DPP member. Just like what I mentioned, as a doctor, as an ER doctor, you never asked which party the patient belongs to and also the specialist that you are going to recruit to help the patient. And that’s why I think it is important to look beyond the party lines.

Dr. Lin: And do you have a sense at that national level the DPP and KMT would be willing to work with you?

Dr. Ko: (In English.) No problem. Clearly.

(Continues through interpreter.) If you know Taiwan well, political parties only exist during the election years. Once election is over, there is not that much of party lines, actually.

Dr. Lin: OK.

So let me go back to one of the topics that I think would be useful to unpack a little bit more, which is again going back to how you envision Taiwan’s relationship with the United States. We talked a bit about the relationship on the security side, on the defense side, and you have also asked the United States, saying that it would be useful for the United States to help promote Taiwan or get Taiwan membership in regional organizations. What else – what else are you seeking from the United States?

Dr. Ko: I believe we have always had a very cordial relations with the United States, so we just need to keep the good things going. I don’t see any major challenges between the two sides, except earlier with the import of American pork to Taiwan. And I think that’s an issue that has already been resolved, so we just need to keep the current moment going.

Dr. Lin: And do you have a sense, aside from the United States, what are other countries that would be key priority partners for Taiwan?

Dr. Ko: (In English.) Japan.

Dr. Lin: Japan.

Dr. Ko: (In English.) Japan is still, how to say –

(Continues through interpreter.) I believe Japan remains the next largest country we have to work with, especially in Asia. And I also remember, during the presidency of late President Lee Teng-hui there was national security meetings that was taking place on a monthly basis with a rotating chairmanship between – among the United States, Japan, and Taiwan. However, when President Lee Teng-hui left the office, that meeting seems to disappear, didn’t get to continue. I believe it is very important to bring that kind of national security regular meeting back. And through the setup of the national security meeting back then, you would know already Japan was a very important part of it. So I think we can always call Japan our partner, or friend in that sense, to keep us in this national security issues and control.

And there is also another reason that support our partnership with Japan in a closer sense, because 98 percent of energy supply for Japan would have to come through Taiwan Strait. And that’s why they care about the peace across strait very much for their own interest. And in that sense, Taiwan is a very important stakeholder for their own – for Japanese energy security. And that’s why I think it’s easier for us to strike – to achieve some success in partnering with Japan.

Dr. Lin: Thank you. So I didn’t hear you mention either Europe or Southeast Asia, but I wanted to ask a little bit about Southeast Asia, because that has been a priority for the current administration in Taiwan, partially because to think about supply chain shifts and to decrease the reliance on China economically. As we look at this economic piece, is it a priority for you to decrease Taiwan’s economic reliance on China? Or is that again another balancing act that you need to think through a little bit, that you aren’t – that your policy isn’t to decrease Taiwan’s reliance on China for trade?

Dr. Ko: I believe the market should decide for themselves. And that’s why principle is always follow the market. And ever since the trade war between U.S. and China started, the supply chain has already started its own reorganization. The savvy businesses would have to find its own way, and government, as much as you attempt to do, you are ending up lagging behind. So the best thing the government can – any government can do, is to ask: What can I do for you, for businesses? And Taiwanese businesses has been very savvy already in finding out different outlets in Southeast Asia. What we can do from the government perspective is to help them to resolve problems and issues if they encounter any in that process. And business is always going to be ahead of government.

Dr. Lin: Great. Thank you. So, Dr. Ko, I think we are nearing the end of our session. But I wanted to ask you a final question. So what are your final stops in the United States? And since you mentioned the importance of Japan, will you also be visiting Japan at some point?

Dr. Ko: OK, I will stop by Houston. The last stop is Houston.

Dr. Lin: And you’ll also go to Japan, you said, or you’re not?

Dr. Ko: (In English.) If I have time. I have time. It’s possible.

(Continues through interpreter.) It’s possible. If I have time.

(Continues in English.) If I have time, I will visit Japan.

Dr. Lin: Well, Dr. Ko, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate this opportunity. And I think this is an excellent chance for you to describe yourself, your party, but also introduce you to the American public. So thank you, again.

Dr. Ko: Thank you for invitation.

Dr. Lin: Thank you.