The Republic of China is going through a rapid political transformation that will be no less dramatic in its consequences than the current transformation of Europe. Though this process may seem somewhat perplexing to some abroad, my countrymen and I know exactly what we are doing and where we are going.

Democratization characterizes our present endeavor; reunification with mainland China is most certainly our future aim. These two goals are not unrelated.On May 1, the "Period of National Mobilization for the Suppression of Communist Rebellion" was officially terminated, allowing us to deal with mainland affairs on a more pragmatic basis.

The "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion," originally passed in 1948, also were abolished, thus paving the way for further democratization in my country.

As a result of constitutional changes first proposed at a meeting last July of the National Affairs Conference - a roundtable of all political forces in the Republic of China - voters will be able to directly elect a new National Assembly by the end of the year and a new Legislative Yuan (Congress) by 1993.

We also have adopted "Guidelines for National Unification" which affirm our determination to reunify China.

The "mobilization period" began in the late 1940s in response to military threats from the Chinese Communists that endangered the survival of the Republic. For more than four decades, emergency measures instituted during the mobilization period have contributed significantly to our stability and security.

We are increasingly convinced that we must not seek the reunification of our country through a military solution. We believe that freedom, democracy and prosperity have become our most valuable and powerful assets. We must earn the support and recognition of our compatriots on the mainland by showing what we can achieve in Taiwan in economic and political terms.

Besides more smoothly facilitating the process of constitutional reform, termination of the mobilization period on May 1, 1991, also demonstrates our sincere desire to improve relations with mainland authorities.

In October 1990, five months after my inauguration, "Guidelines for National Unification" were adopted to express our hope that, from this point on, both sides of the Taiwan Straits will uphold the principles of peace, reason, parity and reciprocity; that both will work to create an environment conducive to congenial interaction. In such an environment, we can all strive for reconstruction of a reunified China characterized by freedom, democracy and equitable distribution to wealth.

I would like to see China reunified at the earliest possible opportunity, but I will not give up my insistence on guaranteeing the welfare of the entire Chinese people, nor will I ever sacrifice the security of the Taiwanese.

I must reiterate that reunification cannot be separated from our commitment to democracy and from our concern for the welfare of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. This is clearly stated in the "Guidelines for National Unification," which says: "The unification of China should be for the welfare of all its people and not be subject to partisan conflict."

It is imperative that the Mainland authorities appreciate that what divides the Mainland and Taiwan is really not the Taiwan Straits. It is the gap between what we can each offer to our people with our two opposing sets of economic and political institutions.

It is exactly for this reason that we are currently embarking on further economic progress with the "National Development Six-Year Plan" and further democratization with constitutional reform. We are building a prosperous democracy - not just for the Taiwan area itself, but for the whole of China. We are building a democracy for unification. That is my presidential commitment.

1991 New Perspectives Quarterly

Distributed by L.A. Times Syndicate