President Tsai Ing-wen wished everyone a happy new year via video on February 15, Lunar New Year's Eve, as the people of Taiwan gathered with their families to celebrate.
The following is a translation of the president's address:
Hello! Today is Lunar New Year's Eve. As families throughout Taiwan reunite, I want to wish all of my countrymen peace, good health, and success in the new year.
I'm here in the Rainbow Room at the Presidential Office Building, and behind me is a painting entitled "Heaven Bless Hualien."
This painting, by the artist Lin Hsing-yueh (林惺嶽), has been admired by many visitors to the Presidential Office.
Mr. Lin told me that one day, while passing through the East Rift Valley in Hualien County, he saw this landscape, and was so moved that he decided to stay and paint it.
On February 6, an earthquake struck our beautiful Hualien, leaving its people dismayed at the severity of the disaster and loss of human life.
So I want to say a few words to our friends in Hualien: Rest assured that come what may, all of Taiwan will stand by you.
Taiwan lies in a geologic fault zone, so we should be more aware of potential risks than other countries. In addition to promoting recovery and reconstruction in the disaster area, the government will continue to check dangerous buildings throughout the country, and speed up the renovation process.
The government can't prevent earthquakes. But it can set up rigorous disaster preparedness systems to minimize earthquake losses. This work has already begun.
I've been to Hualien twice since the earthquake, and watched our armed forces fully mobilize for the relief efforts. I've seen search and rescue teams from every Taiwan county and city selflessly risk their lives to save people trapped in the rubble. And I've also seen the love and solidarity of Taiwan society.
Guesthouse operators have provided earthquake victims with shelter. Private firms volunteered to erect steel beams to prop up tottering buildings. A group of young people who couldn't be part of our search and rescue efforts made breakfast for relief workers. So in the midst of this disaster, we helped each other, and showed each other the beauty of our humanity.
That's inspiring for us all: This is our Taiwan. Because we're united, no disaster can defeat us. I hope the people of Taiwan will never forget the spirit of friendship that helped us through this adversity.
I also want to urge my fellow citizens not to forget the concern and condolences we received from the international community following the quake. And what we've received from others today, we'll repay many times over one day. This is what true friendship means to Taiwanese.
In the recent earthquake, nine tourists from mainland China perished. As I've said before, when it comes to humanitarian aid, there's no gap between the two sides of the strait. We did everything we possibly could. We share the grief of the victims' families, and hope that in the new year, their wounds will begin to heal, and they'll find a measure of peace.
The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. We have very similar traditional customs that run from New Year's Eve and New Year's Day through the Lantern Festival. People-to-people contacts and media reports also help bridge the gap. So here, I want to wish our friends in the mainland China and ethnic Chinese around the world a happy Lunar New Year.
We have a renewed confidence from Taiwan's economic performance over the past year. Our economic growth rate exceeded expectations, exports were the second highest in history, and the unemployment rate dropped to a 17-year low. The Taiwan Stock Exchange also closed above 10,000 points on the final day of trading before the Chinese New Year for just the second time in history.
More important, the government and people of Taiwan are working together to change our economic structure. We're implementing our "5+2 industrial innovation program" to accelerate industrial transformation and upgrading. And the Forward-Looking Infrastructure Development Program implemented this year will strengthen domestic infrastructure, while expanding domestic demand and investment.
By boosting industrial competitiveness and economic momentum, along with the government's concrete measures to increase pay levels, we can overcome the wage stagnation of the past and revive our economy. That will help hard-working Taiwanese share the fruits of economic growth, give us greater determination, and enhance our strengths so we can adapt to external economic changes and risks. I'm confident about Taiwan's future.
In closing, I especially want to thank all of our friends who are manning their posts during the holidays, working for Taiwan. Tomorrow is the beginning of a new year, so once again, Happy New Year to one and all, and may my fellow citizens all enjoy blessings and success throughout the coming year.