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Former Taiwanese President Speaks Out for Improved China-Taiwan Relations

Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou
Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou leaves the podium to take questions from the audience. Ma gave a talk at the Harvard Law School this afternoon to an audience eager to hear about his experiences as the leader of Taiwan and how his time as a Harvard Law student impacted him.
Former President of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou discussed his experience in public service and reaffirmed Taiwan’s commitment to improving relations with mainland China at a lecture at the Law School's Austin Hall on Monday.

Throughout, Ma commented on the complexity of the diplomatic situation between China and Taiwan and both nations’ intent to maintain friendly relations. The talk, which was co-sponsored by the East Asian Legal Studies program and Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, brought more than one hundred attendees.

“When I took office on May 20th, 2008, in my inaugural address, I made it very clear in terms of our foreign policy that I want to maintain the status quo of no reunification, no independence, no use of force under the framework of the Republic of China Constitution,” Ma said.

In 2015, Ma met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, marking the first meeting between leaders from the two nations since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

He went on to further elaborate on his administration’s stance on China.

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“We will not support the idea of independent Taiwan because there is no such need of independence,” he said. “Have you ever heard any country that claims independence twice? We already were an independent country back in 1912. If we do it again, where do we get independence from?”

When asked to comment on the future of the China-Taiwan relationship, Ma responded that he hopes for peaceful “cross-strait relations” and pointed to efforts he made while in office to foster exchange between Chinese and Taiwanese students.

In response to a question from an audience member, Ma mentioned the conditions necessary for the reunification of China and Taiwan.

“The people of Mainland and the people of Taiwan should both agree on reunification, particularly the people of Taiwan,” Ma said. “We have lived in a democratic society for so long. We elect our own president, we elect the members of our parliament, and we run our own business.”

The talk was followed by a question and answer session, during which Ma recounted his time at the Law School, where he recieved a degree in 1981.

“I didn’t know when I attended Harvard Law School I could become the President,” he said. “I studied law here, just like I studied law back in Taiwan. I wanted to make my country based on the rule of law.”

“The reason I spent so much time and energy to attract more students to come to Taiwan is so that young people of the two sides can make friends at early stages in their lives,” he said. “When these students are in a position to make decisions, they will think about their friends in Taiwan.”

Michael S. Zaisser, an associate at the East Asian Legal Studies Program, said due to the event’s “fantastic turnout,” many attendees had to be turned away because of the lecture hall's limited capacity.

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