Friday, April 14, 2006

Over at Jujuflop.....

.....David has two excellent analyses of Ma Ying-jeou, the arms sale, and the recent rejection of Chen Shui-bian's appointment for prosecutor-general:

In both cases, I would argue that the main issue is that Ma just doesn’t have full control over KMT legislators. Although it’s a tried-and-trusted technique to say positive things in interviews and then conveniently forget about them, I don’t think that is happening here. Ma’s US trip was much more difficult for not having anything positive to say about arms sales - instead of having a proposal to wave, he was left defending the indefensible. Equally, he didn’t have to advise the KMT Caucus to have an open vote this week - he could simply have left the decision up to the caucus without any advice if he wanted to wash his hands of the whole affair.
David reads this in a more conservative way than I did -- I read it as Ma saying to Americans what he wanted them to hear, and then coming home and it is business-as-usual, a common behavior for those with status in this society. However, I think Ma gave us a clue to his true attitude when he told his Americans, to their faces, that they were "gullible."

David's analysis of Ma's relationship with his own party gives us several different possibilities:

So, we are left with the probability that the man who over 70% of KMT members support, who is in the middle of a honeymoon period as KMT Chairman doesn’t have the will or the power to control his party. There are several possible reasons for this. Since I think it’s a combination of all of them, I’ll just list them here in no particular order:

  • He just isn’t a strong leader. It’s always been a criticism of Ma that he’s all style, and no substance - and he hasn’t (yet) done much to refute that as KMT Chairman.
  • ‘The ghost of chairmen past’. Ex-KMT Chairman (serial loser, and king of all things negative and bitter) Lien Chan is still a very influental figure in the KMT. He is not a fan of Ma (he even flouted party rules to show that he voted for Wang in the KMT election), and has always been keen on the ‘block everything’ approach to opposition politics.
  • The KMT legislators are the only ones with any real power in the KMT. Of course, that will change dramatically if (when) Ma wins the 2008 presidential election. Until then Ma has limited effective power over them. Most legislators were supporters of Wang Jin-pyng for KMT Chairman, and so have a fairly distant relationship with Ma.
  • The PFP effect. Until the PFP is safely dead and buried, Ma has to tread very carefully in his relationship both with the PFP, and with the raft of legislators who recently returned from the PFP back into the KMT’s welcoming arms. The PFP (and ex-PFP) legislators are generally much more militant than the KMT, and Ma seems to be doing everything he can to keep them happy.
  • General divisions within the KMT. As with just about any political party anywhere in the world, the KMT is far from being one big happy family. The most obvious issues is the continual frosty relationship between Ma and Wang Jin-pyng, but there are no doubt all sorts of other little power struggles going on under the surface.
David's thinking is damned clear......go take a look for yourself.


shavenpope said...

"However, I think Ma gave us a clue to his true attitude when he told his Americans, to their faces, that they were "gullible.""

As much as I hate to admit, I think he is right in this case. The positive reaction to his speeches there prove it.

David said...

Thanks for that.

I don't disagree that Ma was busy saying everything that the US wanted to hear - but I do think he wanted something on the table about arms to make his trip easier.

Even if any 'compromise deal' was for 1 water pistol and a rusty old rowing boat, he would have been able to claim that progress was being made, and he was a fan of (some) arms sales. As it was, the arms deal was the one thorn in his side for the visit - and that's only going to get worse with time.

Actually, I don't think he's far off the mark on the gullible quote (although it's terrible diplomacy for him to say so) - the Nelson report you blogged from a week ago was full of a massive naivite: "What? Ma hasn't solved all the cross-strait problems after all? Chen is still president then?"

One of my (many) pet peeves about Taiwan-US relations is that there just isn't enough communication at a high-level (whether KMT-US or DPP-US) - and it showed in the aftermath to Ma's visit, when it seems to have slowly dawned on US officials that maybe the situation is a bit complicated. I'm really glad that Ma made the trip, and would love for the leaders of both the KMT & DPP to be invited to the US at regular intervals - and who cares what China's reaction is.

James said...

The US may not understand Taiwan, and you might call that gullible--but that's not what Ma meant. Ma meant specifically that the US was gullible because they took "zhong1 zhi3--ceased function" as meaning the Unification Council was NOT abolished when in reality it was.

The reality was that it was the US that told Chen not to say he abolished it, and it was the US that said, do what you want but don't call it abolishment. It's quite similar to the idiotic "we acknowledge the PRC's one-China policy"... okay, so you acknowledge it and then...? It seems in this case, Ma is reading the situation completely wrong. He can say Chen is reneging on his promise, but he can't say and the other clown KMT legislators (John Chiang) can't say, that the US had the wool pulled over them. That's just not what happened in this case, regardless of whether State is normally gullible and easy to pull the wool over.