On Tuesday, Dec. 9, The Washington Post interviewed Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou in the Presidential Building in Taipei.
The Washington Post: Given the global downturn and the current financial crisis, how quickly will Taiwan see some of the benefits of closer economic ties with China, and given rising unemployment, do you feel any political pressure to move more slowly?
President Ma Ying-jeou: Actually, when we decided to inaugurate cross-strait direct flights beginning last July, the idea is to reduce the cost of firms doing business with mainland China. For instance, for ocean-going ships, they could save $5,000 to 10,000 just to get a stamp to show that they have anchored in a third place, and to reduce the travel time for around 5 million people who travel between Taiwan and the mainland. So that will be an immediate benefit. So by the time later this month when we have everyday charters, the savings will be much greater as a result.
The idea is not to encourage our people to invest on mainland China, because the investment climate over there isn’t as good as it was before. Actually in the last six months the investment as recorded by our government to mainland China was actually down 3 percent. So the idea is not to encourage investment over there but instead to make Taiwan’s own investment climate better, because it will become freer for companies to make decisions. If they want to go to the mainland, that’s fine, there’s no restriction, as they were before. So the idea is basically to make the environment freer.
So I think the economic downturn certainly is felt in Taiwan and on the mainland, but that wouldn’t give us any reason to go closer to the mainland, because actually what will help our economy the most is the expansion of domestic demand. There’s a general reduction of foreign demand because the American market is shrinking. That will not only affect Taiwan but also it will affect the mainland.
Actually, 40 percent of our exports went to the mainland last year. Some of that eventually found its way to the United States. This is a very typical triangular trade. So when the U.S. market began to fall, the mainland will be affected, and so will Taiwan. So I think the reduction of external need obviously can only be compensated by the increase of domestic demand. This is exactly why we launched a large program for our infrastructure construction and to distribute the consumer vouchers, which will be done on the 18th of January next year. We have already got the law passed, and the budget also passed yesterday.
So we are preparing on the one hand to increase domestic demand by conducting a series of infrastructure projects. In addition, we encourage our people to consume more, to spend more, so we give them $110 for each citizen, hoping that they will increase their consumption. In addition, we have a large employment project which will provide roughly 120,000 jobs from now until October 2009 and then to create another 220,000 jobs from the end of October 2009 to the year 2012. So altogether, 340,000 jobs from now till the end of my term, of course my first term.
Q: So no political pressure to move more slowly?
A: No, because basically the four agreements we signed with the mainland receive overwhelming support. The approval rate ranges from 60 percent to 85 percent by different polling agencies in Taiwan — some are governmental, some are not. So we are rather confident. If you look at the nature of those agreements, I think this is very natural. If the travel takes you less time, certainly you’ll like it. Before we are in office, the trip from Shanghai to Taipei, for instance, will take five to six hours, with a stopover in Hong Kong. And beginning in July we have [had] cross-strait direct flights on weekends, those are charter flights. So on those four days from Friday to Monday, there are not very many flights, but still the travel time was cut to two hours and 30 minutes. Beginning sometime next week, when we have everyday charters and direct flights — not just nonstop — and no detour to Hong Kong’s airspace, directly from Taipei to Shanghai, the travel time will be one hour and 22 minutes. I don’t think people will dislike that.
So this is quite natural. Last year they were roughly close to 5 million trips made between Taiwan and the mainland, so what we’ve been doing is responding to the need of reality. So this is pretty popular. We do have a small number of people who don’t like it, primarily for ideological reasons. They don’t want us to go closer to the mainland, but if that’s the economic reality and the majority of the people like it, there’s no reason that we should stop here. Even people like the chairman of Formosan Plastics, who just passed away two months ago, he believes we move too slowly. He thinks we should move faster, in order to get better access to the market and other resources of the mainland and use that as a basis for Taiwan’s development. So there are people who have different ideas in this country but by and large what we have been doing so far, it has received the general support of the people.
Q: If you still see Taiwan as a democratic model for China, how can Taiwan influence political developments on the mainland, given the various issues during this Olympic year? And is unification impossible if the Tiananmen massacre issue isn’t resolved?
A: First of all, there are a variety of ways to influence the mainland, but the essence of those ways is more contacts, more trade, more investment, more cultural educational exchange. The more contact we have, the more influence we will have, as well. Just to give you an example, elections. Elections in Taiwan happen almost every year. Beginning three years ago, we were very much surprised to find that every time, when the voting booths closed at 4 p.m. and the vote-counting process began, it was televised in Taiwan and very much viewed by people on the Chinese mainland. I remember even in local elections where the candidates were not even known to the mainland viewers, they watched with great interest. Three years ago, when we had three types of elections — county magistrate, elected city council and township leaders — it was televised live, and it was watched in major cities on the mainland. A few days later, I went on the Web site of the People’s Daily [newspaper], and I found interesting comments. People left comments saying: “Why can people in Taiwan simply go to a nearby school to cast their votes for local officials and we can’t? Are we second-class citizens?”
So if you look at those questions, you can see how powerful[ly] the existence of Taiwan and democracy in action would affect people’s thinking on the Chinese mainland. We don’t have to do any propaganda, there’s no need for that, because the media, including the Internet, have already carried the information and made a very sharp contrast. Another incident is that high officials were prosecuted, indicted, without regard to which political party they belong to. Now people are seeing that the former president is being indicted and even detained. I was indicted as well, last year, for corruption, but throughout the three levels of courts I was found innocent and acquitted. In other words, there’s no individual in this country who has the privilege of not being investigated — that has also a great impact on the mainland because that’s not quite the same case over there.
I think the way of life here, the institutions of elections, how our elected representatives behave and our freedom of expression in operation, people like myself are criticized everyday on TV, that wouldn’t happen in their country. So this is something that will have great impact on the Chinese mainland. Although they are not so fond of our slightly chaotic situation right here, but that’s what democracy is all about, you’ve got a pluralistic society, people do have different opinions, and some of them are not quite used to that. In any case, these TV programs, political commentary, were very much received by people on the mainland. Some of them know those programs better than I do.
Q: Other examples? And what about the Tiananmen issue?
A: From a historical perspective, that was the result of a wrong decision and also obviously the human rights and the liberty situation on the Chinese mainland has a lot to be desired. They are making some progress, but rather slow.
I always like to compare their handling of the Sichuan earthquake with the Tangshan earthquake back in 1976. I was watching the mainland, particularly the government, letting media report by and large without much interference. That was really a far cry from what it was back in 1976, where not only was everything, everything, closed and the whole area sealed off, but no aid was received. Actually, it was all rejected, even the aid from the United Nations. At the time, Taiwan tried to send supplies to the mainland through the high-altitude balloons it used to carry propaganda, but this time all food and clothing and other things. You’d be surprised, they sent their jets to shoot them down. That was 1976. So if you compare the two, after 30 years of their program of opening up and reform, we do see some progress, but the progress seems to be rather slow.
Q: On Tiananmen, you’re not going to say [whether unification is possible without resolution]?
A: As I said, it was the result of a wrong decision. We don’t know whether they will do anything about it, but obviously as society becomes more open, people will certainly long for more freedom, more decision-making, particularly with the emergence of a middle class, obviously that will have very important implications for society.
Q: How about your long-term vision about whether Taiwan will eventually be a sovereign member of an organization, Greater China but an organization like the E.U.? Or whether it will be more like Austria vis-à-vis Germany: same culture, separate sovereignty. Or, what can you say in the long term [about] what a cross-strait framework would look like?
A. At this stage, it is probably too early to predict anything. We have just started to improve relations with the mainland. There are a host of problems faced by us or by the mainland. We are lucky that both sides decided to shelve some of the more intractable issues and take up those that are more urgent and more related to the life of the people. But on other more fundamental problems which now are shelved, I think we should leave them there, because those problems cannot be solved at the moment. But they can be managed, managed to a point where they won’t explode. So it will take a rather long time before we can solve all this urgent problem, economic cooperation, cultural exchange, and gradually [move on] to issues like international space. The ultimate issue may not be able to be solved for many years.
Q: You’ve suggested a diplomatic truce, no more checkbook diplomacy, if China gives Taiwan more breathing space. How has China responded, and what concrete examples do you have that this truce is working? Some people say China is not providing enough in return.
A: The idea to have a diplomatic reconciliation is to really extend the kind of reconciliation across the Taiwan Strait to the international arena. In the last 60 years, mainland China and Taiwan are competing for recognition in the international community. Now they have 170 countries which recognize and have diplomatic relations with them. But we have only 23, down from, in the late 1960s, more than 60 countries that recognize the Republic of China here in Taiwan.
I think if we continue the very acute competition, in some cases even like a cutthroat confrontation, it would not only create more confrontation across the Taiwan Strait, which is obviously not quite compatible with the rapprochement between the two sides, but also the practice sometimes would lead to unethical ways of conducting diplomacy — like the so-called checkbook diplomacy, which will hurt the image of both sides. So our idea is we should stop contesting for winning over the recognition of the other side’s allies.
In other words, we maintain the status quo as far as the bilateral relations are concerned.
We haven’t really started negotiating this issue with the other side; we only announced our intention and our ideas. But even that has produced some concrete results. For instance, just beginning with small things, four years ago we nominated a trade law expert to the [World Trade Organization] to become a member of the countervailing measures panel, which is really a dispute-settlement mechanism. But he was rejected. He’s actually a top-notch trade lawyer in Taiwan. But four years later, this year, we nominated him again, and he was accepted, together with another trade law expert from mainland China. And actually, the two specialists talked to each other before they were both accepted by WTO authorities and became members of the countervailing panel, which is considered by many as a sign of goodwill.
On the other hand, last August when we send our team to the Olympic Games, the mainland side decided to call us Zhongguo Taibei, instead of Zhonghua Taibei. The differences attach different meanings in mainland China and Taiwan. We prefer Zhonghua Taibei, although the English version is the same — Chinese Taipei. They originally said they didn’t do anything wrong, because according to the agreement reached by both sides in Hong Kong in 1989, in all the occasions of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, Taiwan should be called Chinese Taipei, Zhonghua Taibei, but [on] our side of the IOC contacts there’s no such restriction, so they could call us Zhongguo Taibei. So the media of the mainland always called us Zhongguo Taibei — in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.
So this year they were going to do the same. But this year was different, because Beijing is where Chinese is spoken, so Zhongguo Taibei and Zhonghua Taibei do make a difference, and so we protested and demanded that Zhonghua Taibei be used instead of Zhongguo Taibei. They thought for a while and quietly asked their media to call us Zhonghua Taibei throughout the Olympics. I think that is also a sign of goodwill.
Of course, another one is [that] this time we were able to send a former vice president to the APEC [Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit in November] meeting in Lima, Peru, which was unprecedented, given the 17-year history of APEC. That was also a rarely seen sort of phenomenon, when Mr. Lian Zhan [spelled Lien Chan in Taiwan], who was a representative of myself, was able to chat, to attend conferences with world leaders. So when you see all these people taking pictures together, this was something we haven’t seen for maybe two or three decades, and that certainly gives people in Taiwan a sense of dignity. And this is a very important accomplishment as far as foreign policy is concerned.
On the other hand, we were able to acquire five types of military hardware from the United States. The Bush administration notified Congress in early October about this. Originally a lot of the opposition people thought this was killed, because I went too close to the mainland, so the U.S. would like to punish me. But obviously they were all wrong.
So we have three ostensibly incompatible things happening in two months. The procurement of weapons from the United States, which suddenly antagonized the mainland for a while, and then we have Chen Yunlin coming to Taiwan, signing four agreements with us and creating a situation which would structurally change the cross-strait relations. And then we are able to send Lian Zhan to APEC. All these three things happened within two months. It would not have been thought of, barely six months ago. So you can see that there are signs of goodwill from the mainland.
But on the other hand, we have also seen signs of diplomats trying to squeeze us out of international organizations, so this is a mixed picture. Certainly, we hope in the future we are able to see more goodwill and less ill will. But if we continue the current pace of cross[-strait] relations, we are relatively confident that this will be accomplished in the future. When more and more incidents combine to create an atmosphere of mutual trust, then I think a lot of things can happen. This is exactly what the people of Taiwan would like to have. On the one hand, without sacrificing our sovereignty or our dignity, we are able to make friends on the Chinese mainland, this is actually in the interest of all in Taiwan.
Our basic idea, as you know, is the three no’s. No unification talks. No pursuit of de jure independence of Taiwan. And no use of force. This is actually the reflection of the mainstream public opinion in Taiwan, so we will stick to that in dealing with the Chinese mainland.
Q: When do you expect Taiwan to be in the World Health Organization?
A: Of course, WHO['s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly] will be convened in May next year. We hope we could attend as an observer, but I think that requires a lot of efforts, a lot of negotiations and a lot of consultations. Fortunately, judging from the reactions from our friends, United States, Japan, European Union and Australia, New Zealand, they generally support our meaningful participation, quote unquote, in World Health Assembly next year.
When we made that proposal first, in last September, in the meetings before the General Assembly was convened in the United Nations, although the discussion was brief, but in the general debate quite a few countries rose to support our position. We’re not asking to be admitted to the WHO in the name of Taiwan, no, we’re not doing that, what we’re doing is calling upon the United Nations to examine the need for the 23 million people’s meaningful participation in the activities of the U.N. specialized agencies.
In other words, our demands are rather moderate and what we have been saying is this is not only a political issue, it’s also a human rights issue. I think the health of 23 million people should not be ignored. And we are very happy to see that some countries, including the United States, went so far as to put their support on the Web site of the United Nations, this was also unprecedented. We have received so many visitors from the United States and Japan and the European Union — they all support our participation.
As I said, we just want to attend the meeting, we’re not asking for anything more, we hope we could make it next May.
Q: For government to government talks next year, what are the obstacles? What kind of breakthroughs might we see in the near future?
For regular or what we call institutionalized negotiations, that will cover a different set of issues. For instance, we want to conclude a memorandum of understanding of financial services. Actually, preliminary talks have already been held, and there’s a relatively high degree of consensus, so we expect to see the kind of agreement being put into the third Jiang-Chen talks next year.
There’s also an urgent need to coordinate the police department[s] of [the] two sides to jointly combat cross-strait crimes, particularly telephone or Web fraud, another thing that has been quite rampant across the Taiwan Strait.
Another thing we want to talk about is the protection of investment across the Taiwan Strait and also the avoidance of double taxation and dispute settlements.
Sometimes you can’t really cover so many questions at the same time, so we will let the different departments of the governments deal with their counterparts on the issues they consider are urgent, and when their preliminary consultations have led to some concrete consensus, then we will wrap them up into a package to be finalized in the Jiang-Chen talks next year. That’s how we call institutionalized negotiations, but other political issues are more sensitive and probably have to be treated differently. But still, issues like the [World Health Assembly] will soon become a subject of negotiation, in the next couple of months.
Q: What about Taiwan’s proposed status in the WHO?
A: WHA first.
Q: Could Taiwan policy change under President Obama and what have you heard?
A: Judging from the three documents we have so far seen from the Obama camp, first when I was elected on March 22, I got a letter from him. It was a well-written letter, because it not only praised our democracy but also vowed to restore mutual trust between the two sides. I think candidate Obama already put the finger on this very important question. Rebuilding mutual trust is a very critical job of mine in relation to the United States, because mutual trust was lost in the last eight years.
And another letter came when I was inaugurated, congratulating me, and then we’ve seen the democratic platform for the president. Again, they attach a lot of importance to Taiwan’s road. So I don’t see any possibility of any major change in policy. As you know, as you watch the campaign process, the issue of Taiwan is almost unseen in the debate, and we were assured by many of our friends from the United States that no news is good news.
Actually, as you know, the American policy toward mainland China and Taiwan [has] actually gone through seven presidents without change, and next year, 2009, will mark the 30th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, which has provided a very solid foundation for the two sides, so I expect to see the continuation of the policy. Maybe conducted in a different style, but the essence will be the same.
Q: Will closer China ties for Taiwan lead in the long term to fewer arms purchases from Washington?
A: No I don’t think so. I think we certainly would like to see closer ties with Washington and Beijing and also between Beijing and Taipei, and Taipei and Washington. I think triangular relations could actually benefit from the improvement of bilateral relations. This is why at the end of last July, when President Bush was interviewed in the White House, I’m very pleased with the state of relations between mainland China and Taiwan. I think that shows the administration generally would like to see the status quo continue.
When we were able to reduce tension in this part of the world, I think no country will be unhappy about that, particularly the United States, when they are very much troubled by Iraq, Iran and even the Korean Peninsula. Now the flashpoint in [the] Taiwan Strait has almost been defused, and this is something that everybody would like to see. I have received quite a lot of foreign visitors, almost everyone praised what we have done.
Q: Were Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie’s remarks [reported Monday, calling for an end to such sales] then just boilerplate?
A: I think they understand that what we are getting in arms from the United States are for defensive purposes, and it is necessary for Taiwan’s defense, and the two sides have exercised restraint over the Taiwan Strait in the last decades, and they understand. Of course, as a matter of policy they will continue to do that.
Q: If Taiwanese are increasingly feeling less and less “Chinese,” and thousands are protesting the KMT [or ruling Nationalist Party] getting too close to China, how will you unify the populace or bring around opponents or nativists so that you can politically accomplish your agenda?
A: Of course there are some people in Taiwan who still attach importance to the birthplace of a person or where their parents come from, but as I said, this is only a small portion of the population.
Take my case for example. My parents came from Hunan, mainland China, and I was born in Hong Kong, I wasn’t even born here. I was actually conceived here before my parents went to Hong Kong. But still I was elected with 58.5 percent of the votes. And why people decided to choose someone like me? That reflects that Taiwanese democracy is getting more mature. They look at the candidate’s quality instead of their birthplace. No matter whether you call yourself Chinese, Taiwanese or half-Chinese, half Taiwanese, doesn’t matter. In other words, what they want is a clean government, is a dynamic economy and a harmonious society and peaceful cross-strait relations. This is what they want. That is why they won’t attach as much importance to your provincial origin as a decisive factor in a choice of candidates. I think this is good.
Of course, we have made a lot of efforts to win this support. I spend a lot of time in the countryside, talking to farmers. Last year I spent almost a year traveling, staying in some cases for more than two weeks in a given county to understand people’s problems. I gradually found that there are five qualities of Taiwanese people, upright, friendly, very industrious and also very forward-looking, very pragmatic, and those qualities become the basis of consensus in Taiwan. On one hand, they don’t want to be reunited with the Chinese mainland at the moment. But they don’t want to go for de jure independence either. In other words, they care that we are the Republic of Taiwan, they want to maintain the status quo, keep the options open, but at the same time develop a close relationship with the mainland. They’re very, very pragmatic, they’re great businessmen, they create a lot of business opportunities here and on the Chinese mainland.
So I think this is what Taiwan, why Taiwan is so competitive in many things. And I think as a president of this country, I certainly want to keep all these good qualities and to develop Taiwan into not just a prosperous but also a very respectable country. That is why I keep saying I want to become a peacemaker, not a troublemaker. By doing what I have done ,people understand this is what Taiwan is heading for.
Some people take some issues to the streets. Well, this happens all the time in Taiwan, because this is such a free country. When I was mayor of Taipei, for instance, in one occasion we have half a million people demonstrating against [the] then-president, President Chen Shui-bian, for corruption. Certainly, as a matter of conviction, I support all anti-corruption efforts, but on the other hand, I have to keep order in a democratic society. If they violate the law, I also have to enforce the law.
For those who don’t like me and want to criticize me and apply for permission to demonstrate [at] my office, the City Hall, I say fine. The police gave them the permission, so they set up a tent over there on the sidewalk and play audiotapes which I can hear for three days. I let them do it. Why? Because I’m a strong believer of freedom of expression. I disagree with every point they make, but I let them speak, this is the fundamental idea of a democratic society and I as mayor have practiced that. I made Taipei city the freest place to have demonstrations, you could do that for 24 hours a day. That’s exactly what the red shirt army did two years ago. Only by doing that will people understand what freedom of expression is.
I keep telling them that. Listen, freedom of expression, including the freedom to have assemblies and parades, is not to demonstrate your force, it’s to let people understand your view and as a result [they] will be influenced by you. You are not here to intimidate people, that’s not the right way. So through those processes, as a lawyer, as someone who very much respects and abides by the constitution, I want to give people the correct information about what a liberal democracy really means.
I think we’re doing a great job in this area. I’m sure you’re an ethnic Chinese, you understand that in a traditional Chinese society, those ideas are not permitted. But now here in Taiwan, they are.
Q: The recent protests turned so violent, people on the mainland and elsewhere looked at that and said it was crazy –
A: That’s really regrettable. We do have a small proportion of people who sometimes go beyond the limits of law. For instance, the tight security when Chen Yunlin came here was actually prompted by two incidents before that. The vice president of ARATS came here a week before Chen Yunlin did, but he was actually jostled down to the floor and hurt although it was not seriously. And the second time, just a day before Chen Yunlin came, some [Democratic Progressive Party, an opposition party] members of Taipei City Council even announced that they will give cash awards to people who throw eggs at Chen Yunlin and depending on the place they hit, they will give different cash rewards.
So that has made the police nervous, so as a result the security was very tight. But still when the police had clashes with the people, altogether 172 police were injured compared to less than 30 demonstrators. But when the police in some cases hit the wrong guy, the interior minister and the police commissioner went to the home of that person, apologized and promised to take care of their medical bills — actually, they did it twice. So by and large, I think the police were able to maintain order. But there are individual cases where people were hurt as a result of the over-use of force. That is something that could be reviewed and corrected, but by and large I think the people of Taiwan are basically freedom-loving and peaceful. The violence demonstrated during Chen Yunlin’s visit should be considered the exception rather than the rule.
Q: To outsiders or to critics, how can a democratic legal system hold someone for up to four months without charge?
A: Pretrial detention is not unusual. Beginning in 1984, the United States started to have pretrial detention for some criminals who committed a felony or had a possibility to escape or the possibility to destroy evidence or have other potential problems. They could be subjected to pretrial detention, so this was not only used [for] DPP members.
A second misunderstanding is why in the last couple of months, people investigated or indicted were all DPP members. This was not the case. Just yesterday, a KMT legislator was indicted and was sentenced to 15 years for corruption. In the last eight years, not including yesterday’s case, there were altogether 57 cases. Twenty-three are KMT, 19 DPP, 10 independent and five PFP, People First Party. So for the 23 KMT, either cabinet ministers, legislators or county or city magistrates or mayors — so there are actually more KMT than DPP. But the DPP members who are indicted or investigated, most of them fall in the last year or so. Why, because they were in power for eight years. When you investigate a corruption case, certainly they will concentrate on people in power.
Actually, I was indicted, as well, a year ago, as I told you. And I’m not a DPP member. But I was acquitted. Second, the former president, his case was actually indicted two years ago, but he was not indicted because he’s protected by the constitutional immunity, so his case was started again during the inauguration, May 20th, when he stepped down as president. The prosecutor general who is investigating him was actually nominated by him two years ago. So it will be very difficult to say this is a persecution on the part of the KMT. I [have been] in power for slightly more than six months, so we haven’t done anything regarding those old criminal cases. These were all started prior to our inauguration.
Also, as a lawyer and as a person who very much respects the constitution and the separation of power[s], I never interfere in any judicial cases, and I told the director of the investigation bureau, which is the counterpart of the FBI, and also the police commissioner that if you find anything, any evidence of crime relating to either myself or members of my family, please don’t let me know. Go tell the prosecutor. I’m not supposed to know things like that. You report to me only on information intelligence regarding national security not criminalities.
I’m sure if you follow the news events in Taiwan, you will know that the former chief of the investigation bureau leaked information of money laundering to the president, and after that they have laundered money as a result, so the director of the investigation bureau was indicted and in the trial by the district court, was sentenced for 10 years. He actually retired in July, two months after I was inaugurated.
So as a matter of practice, they came here to report to me once a month, so I met him twice before he retired, so I didn’t really expect that he would do things like that — he gathered criminal information about the president and actually he leaked to the president. That is why I asked the investigative bureau: Never tell me anything like that. And I’m very confident there won’t be such things.
When I was inaugurated my wife actually got early retirement because she didn’t want to do anything that might have a conflict of interest. She also asked her brother to quit his job because his company has some business dealings with state-run corporations here. I also asked my elder sister to quit her job, so I always joke that in my family, while I am employed, three people lost their jobs. I just want to get rid of these potential conflict of interests.
My concept of a good president, first of all, [he] has to lead a clean government, and I attach a lot of importance to that. Once in a while I will remind the cabinet ministers to be clean is very important. In an economic downturn, people are rather unhappy with the economy, but if they have a corrupt president or a corrupt cabinet, they will probably choose something very drastic. So I keep telling them that at least you have to remain clean. So this is what my administration will practice for a long time to come.
Q: Is there anything I’ve failed to ask you, especially as it relates to the current economy?
A: I think the economy, the corruption investigations, actually these days fill the media. But it’s very difficult to change the economic reality when we are so much affected by your financial tsunami. Fortunately we were able to keep the banking system sound. As you know, we were the first country in Asia to announce that all the bank deposits were protected, with no limits. That was made in early October, actually [made] everybody feel much relieved, and ever since then our banking system became quite stable.
We don’t have any bankruptcies, even one banking holding company acquired the subsidiary of ING, the Dutch insurance company. That was pretty interesting. We are now actually taking the advice of [Paul] Krugman, the Nobel [economics] laureate, that we should get fiscal, so a large infrastructure project, the distribution of consumer vouchers and a large plan to provide up to 340,000 jobs in a period of four years, so we hope by the massive infusion of resources we could make the downturn shorter.
Hopefully we will see some signs of revitalization in the later part of next year. But that requires a lot of efforts and also a lot of luck.