Monday, January 05, 2009

China Post Rips Ma Administration

Anti-Ma Ying-jeou graffiti on a wooden footbridge on the trails in Ta-ken Scenic Area.

Several of the local media people have been telling me how the pro-KMT media seems to have rediscovered its role as public watchdog and improved immeasurably now that the Ma Administration is in power. Sure enough, here's the pro-KMT China Post absolutely ripping the Ma Administration on Sunday for being worse than the Chen Administration, which it famously detests (alas, no recovery of journalistic smarts will ever overcome its irrational hatred of Chen).

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Among the most interesting and significant findings were: (1) 67 percent of the respondents to the survey complained about the lack of the administrative ability of officials, an increase of 3 percent over last year. 57 percent questioned the administrative efficiency of the government, an increase of 4 percent, which was the highest percentage revealed by similar surveys in 15 years. (2) The survey also found that with the visit to Taiwan by Chen Yunlin, chairman of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), as well as the realization of “three direct links,” 62 percent of those queried believed cross-strait relations were warming up. However, the intriguing thing was that despite the perceived improvement of cross-strait relations, 61 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as “Taiwanese,” a rise of 11 percent over that of 2006, while those who considered themselves “Chinese” decreased from 1.7 percent to 1.3 percent.

Let's examine the first point of the survey results mentioned above. It was indeed surprising to know that the administration under the leadership of Ma Ying-jeou, a politician well-known for his intelligence and integrity, was believed by the majority of locals to be less competent and less efficient than the notoriously corrupt Chen Shui-bian regime, which it had ousted in a landslide victory. There's little doubt the Ma faithful would lose no time in pointing out that the serious global economic and financial recession was the major culprit for the poor performance of the current government.
It's difficult to know how credible the surveys are here, but it is more interesting to note that the Post uses the survey simply as a starting point for a riff on how awful the current administration is. But any of us who didn't vote for Ma could have told the Post that his intelligence is overrated -- sometimes he appears to lack any political maturity whatsoever. The Liberty Times blog covered one of his usual remarks the other day...
英九救我?[Ma save me?]

...
最近馬英九又開了自殺的人一個玩笑,他建議將生命線一九九五專線號碼取諧音「英九救我」,比較容易記住。
Basically, in reference to the suicides that are occurring because of the economy, Ma made a play on words on his name, which is "9" (jeou), and the suicide hotline number, 1995, saying it was easier to remember because it is like saying "Ma save me." Ha ha. Ma says stuff like this quite often, but it never makes it into the international media, so outsiders are completely unaware of it (remember when he said during the election that the Greens were going to have him blown up with a suicide bomber?). Suicide is an especially nasty subject for Ma, since the KMT has repeatedly claimed that rising suicide rates in the Chen Administration killed more people than the KMT government during the martial law era, thus making the Chen Administration worse. The Post continued:

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However, it must be noted that in making their evaluation, the people of Taiwan must have already taken the effect of the worsening world economic situation into consideration, which was largely beyond Ma's control. In fact, many of the problems facing Ma and his team now are the results of their own making. For example, it is generally acknowledged that most of the officials are too slow to react to fast-changing domestic and international developments. For another, the serious gaffes made continuously by high-ranking officials could only decimate public confidence in the government again and again in its ability to rule the country, so much so that it may prove fatal to its credibility.


Anti-Ma Ying-jeou graffiti on a wooden footbridge on the trails in Ta-ken Scenic Area.
Indeed, it should jerk the nerves of everyone in Taiwan nowadays when high officials are obliged to make public statements, because no one knows for sure what will burst out of their big mouths. This is a weird phenomenon as most of them are old-hands in politics. It is earnestly hoped that impressive improvement will come soon when the Cabinet completes the first stage of a reshuffle by the Chinese Lunar New Year, according to news reports.

Next, let's take a close look at the cross-strait relations. Here lies the key to the success of the Ma administration in managing the nation's economy. This is so important to President Ma because it is at least something over which he can exercise certain control. In fact, the Taiwanese people have felt the welcome thaw in Taipei-Beijing ties. But, public opinion also shows that in anticipation of better relationship with the mainland, Taiwanese simultaneously harbor more and more misgivings about the possibility that their national interest may also be harmed.

In identifying themselves as “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese,” locals intended to send a clear message to Beijing that Taiwan is a de facto state separate from the People's Republic of China (PRC), and that they are deeply concerned about premature “unification” against their will.

A forum jointly sponsored by the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has just ended with Beijing promising to help Taiwan's economy with billions of dollars. However, both the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the semi-official Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF), based in Taipei, are calling for “cooling down” the issue. At the same time, scholars and experts in Taiwan caution against relying too much on the PRC.

Hence, while the Ma administration badly needs better cross-strait relationships to help alleviate Taiwan's economic woes to boost its sagging popularity, it must also take note of the deep suspicion of locals about Chinese Communist motives. If not, all the goodwill on the part of Beijing may become counterproductive, dealing a serious blow to the mainland policy of the Ma administration and casting a long shadow over the future of Taiwan.

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Hard-hitting stuff. There's bit quite a bit of this in the pro-KMT China Times, the Chinese-language cousin of the China Post, since the Ma Administration came in. One of the effects of the local media, with its insane number of 24-7 news channels that trumpet every bit of news from the farthest reaches of the Taiwan, and its relentless focus on the silliest and most trivial local issues, is that it is constructing a Taiwan identity at a rate Chen Shui-bian could only have dreamed of. Editorials like this are the result: the Post has to remain relevant to the identities it is busy constructing.

UPDATE: One aspect of this article I should have highlighted: Ma's initial cabinet appointments are largely of mainlanders. One rumor making the rounds is that in the upcoming reshuffle, they will be replaced by a gaggle of savvy Taiwanese who got him elected. Whatever the case, articles like this lay the groundwork for acceptance of cabinet change among readers, especially foreign readers. Especially since the KMT blasted Chen Shui-bian, deservedly, for repeated cabinet reshuffles....

16 comments:

Richard said...

Very interesting... any idea where this is coming from? Are they actually starting to be less-biased? Or is there some underlying reason for coming out against Ma like they did? .. Although these days it does seem like even the KMT party isn't too found of Ma, and only China is happy that Ma is just sitting there, really not doing much of anything other than saying a few empty words every so often defending his actions.

Anonymous said...

Man, if you haven't seen the Tsai Ying-wen interview on SET, it's really good. Intellectually, she's the real deal, though I would ask:

1) Is she politically savvy enough?
2) The left doesn't agree on anything except that the right is wrong. While Taiwan uniquely also has the issue of independence that unites the left here, what happens say when workers rights clashes with economic development? (They aren't always in conflict but you're kidding yourself if you don't think they ever do). What happens when the environmentalists clash against grassroot locals (Hualien vs environmentalists) also Lo-sheng vs citizens of Taipei County that want MRT?

Certain things in Frank Hsieh's platform I thought were really big in terms of consensus building (the six Singapores economic plan would lead to healthy competition and more even economic development). Can Tsai bring more back into the core DPP platform? Or is the DPP going to go to the extreme left, a party of activists and no one else?

A lot of people are pissed off at the KMT, as they should and have every right to be. But the DPP has a long way before it starts giving them hope.

Anonymous said...

This is a better link to Tsai Ying-wen's interview on SET.

reeb said...

Sorry, this a bit off topic from your original PRChinaPost article, but I think interesting enough to share(snagged from another forum):

I had a discussion with a military family this Sunday in Shanghai. China is prepared for the Feb 9th. return of 100 million + unemployed peasants to the cities after the Chinese lunar new year holidays. These ex-farmers no longer have farmland and are now without jobs. The recent mass closures of Chinese factories have left more than 200 million Chinese workers without jobs.

Chinese state enterprises who still own stocks will sell all of them starting this coming Monday, for what's left on their portfolio for fear of these papers becoming worthless. Lang Xian Pin, the prominent Chinese economist, who exposed the ex-Shanghai party secretary's corruption scandal said the danger of major uprising in China is very real. The People Liberation Army should be prepared for the Feb 9th.

Keep in mind, the Chinese lunar new year crowd on Shanghai Nanjing road is 2 million strong. PLA's active military personnel are less than 2 million, that includes office staff. Get the picture? It's no match for a 100 million angry mob.


Also add: Asia needs to fully wake up to the scale of the West's economic crisis

Feiren said...

I think what's really happening here is that the blue media has lapsed comfortably back into their privileged role as authorized critics of the regime.

Notice that Ma is generally not blamed, but his administration.

Dixteel said...

anon has some interesting questions which I thought about as well.

I watched the interview as well. She might appear to be moderate, but I can see she has some guts, to be able to answer some sharp questions and face critisms from 4 people, and also call ins. I noticed though that a lot of Taiwanese seem to always place a huge load on DPP's shoulder, expect them to do a lot, and criticize them sharply when they can't stop what Ma is doing. They seem to froget that DPP only has 27 seats in Legislature and is still quite weak right now.

I guess the current consesus is that what Ma is doing causes great harm and danger to Taiwan, and the priority is to somehow stop Ma.

As for left and right issues, I think right now in Taiwan maybe there is no clear division of left and right. Traditionally people think KMT is more to the right and DPP is more to the left but I don't think that is the case. But indeed perhaps DPP is now moving toward left, then what Taiwan really requires now is perhaps a real pro-Taiwan right wing party to replace KMT, which seems to always put China interests in front of Taiwan. Like I said before, maybe we really need a RPP (Republican Progressive Party). I am pretty sure there are a lot of pro-Taiwan people who are leaning more to the right on economic issues, such as business owners, stock holders, middle age men (in the west quite a lot of them are right leaning)...etc. Hack, even in the US, it's usually the Republican politician who supports Taiwan more.

It's very hard for one party to supports both left and right population at the same time because of conflicts of interests, thus usually you have 2 political parties supporting them. The problem is perhaps those pro-Taiwan right wing people have no political party to choose from, therefore they don't even bother to vote or pay attention to politics. And with lousy performance of KMT, a RPP might even get a lot of traditional KMT voters to switch side.

It has been shown during elections that DPP by itself can't win over KMT. When they won usually it's because of circumstances. And even when they won, they can't truely get rid of the KMT cancer in the governmental system (look how fast the system reverse backward after KMT took power). With 2 strong pro-Taiwan party, maybe they can...

Of course DPP and RPP have to be smart during election. For example, they should have an "election" among themselves and elect only 1 presidential candidate to compete with KMT, so they won't have divided votes. IE, have some sort of alliance until they get rid of KMT influence for sure.

But those are just my thoughts...I am not an expert in politics so I have no idea if that will actually work.

Some of Frank Hsieh's proposals during election I thought was really good, and DPP or other organization could really consider and develop those ideas further. But I guess they are not the focal point or priority right now...

steve said...

Does this signify blue press resistance to the kmt taking Taiwan too far down the singapore route?

cfimages said...

A little OT, but something that Anonymous says about left and right.

Can Taiwan be divided into left/right like most other countries? I don't see those issues as so cut and dried here - I wouldn't necessarily say that DPP is left and KMT is right. The DPP do plenty of things that that would be considered "right" and the KMT have their fair share of classic "left".

Just curious about how others see it.

Anonymous said...

cfimages,

What Taiwan is really lacking as far as "left" goes, is any real form of strong pro labor and environment platform from the "left". If we look at it in terms of Conservative vs. Progressive... the DPP had been the progressive party and the KMT conservative and resistant to change. Now you see the opposite. The DPP is trying to hold onto the gains of the past 20 years while the KMT is pushing in a new direction.

Both KMT and DPP have similar views on the role of government and big business. The hope of a labor party died in the 80's when the government sided with business during the period of constant strikes. Workers were easily replaced.

The KMT also was responsible or ushering in the age of nationalized medicine.

So... it is a mixed bag in Taiwan.

I think for politics in Taiwan to move forward, the issue of national, de jure sovereignty needs to be addressed once and for all. Only then can the wedge issue be removed and the representatives concern themselves with labor and environmental issues.

Carlos said...

I generally agree with Dixteel on the state of right and left in Taiwan. Just one thing though - it's the "Progressive" in DPP that implies leftism. A right-wing pro-Taiwan party is more likely to be described as a Democratic Conservative Party. Wasn't the TSU supposed to play that role? Why have they fallen so far down?

As it was in 2000, I suspect the divisions in the pan-blue side are based on personality cults and the competition between the KMT's various leading figures. There's probably also a debate about how close they want to get to China... they don't all hate Taiwan more than they hate the PRC. (I'd ask my girlfriend but those debates always end ugly.)

Feiren said...

Most observers of Taiwanese politics would agree that the kind of left-right split over the role of government in society and moral values that we see in the US simply does not exist in Taiwan. In the US, both Democrats and Republicans agree on their commitment to the US as a nation but disagree on how to govern it and what kind of society it should be.

In contrast, Taiwanese politics is divided over the question of what country Taiwan is. There is a great deal of consensus over how it should be governed--the government should 'take care' of the people, government plays a crucial role in fostering the business environment, and everyone shares the same basic commitment to family values.

Thomas said...

Dixteel, I kind of think that your idea, while it sounds promising on paper, would not work in reality... at least in the short and medium terms. The problem is that the DPP and RPP would have to consistently sacrifice some of their own power for the sake of the common good. And this typically does not work well. Communism, for example, hasn't been discarded for nothing.

Remember that, despite being close to each other on the independence issue, the DPP and the TSU have had problems nominating one candidate for local elections in the past. This would be no easier for two political parties that shared the independence issue but were located on opposite ends of the economic spectrum.

I think that the real problem is that the KMT's historical indoctrination of the local populace and the persistance of the independence/status quo issue have created a society where a greater polarisation has developed over China/Taiwan consciousness than over traditional social issues. And by forcibly creating a further division within the green camp over something as polarising as left/right social issues, you would only be watering down the green resistance in the face of the KMT, which would not suffer any divisions.

Perhaps, combined, both green parties would sap KMT strength in the long term, but the short-term effect could be a catastrophic inability to speak with a common voice in opposition to the KMT. And a strong common voice is sorely needed right now.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any big surprise in the CP editorial. It just seems to be criticizing Ma for not doing nearly as good a job of managing public opinion while president as he did during his election campaign. His failure in this regard is endangering all of Lien Chan's good work and the whole unificationist program. That's how I read the editorial -- especailly because Lien doesn't get mentioned.

Taiwanese friends tell me there may also be a lot of people in Taiwan who return to work after Chinese New Year only to find factory gates locked and steel office doors pulled down -- bosses up and gone, with the long holiday having given them a way to close without having to deal with angry workers.

Anonymous said...

I'm the first anon--

While the Christian white conservative vs everyone else values divide doesn't exist in Taiwan, there certainly is left and right on many other issues:

1) Taxation
2) Minimum wage laws, labor laws
3) Environment vs development (here I would say the DPP is center right and the KMT is center righter with some green washing mixed in)
4) General "fairness" versus overall societal growth issues such as even regional dev versus dumping ever more investment into Taipei, investing in a set of strong internationally competitive universities vs Taida, Tsinghua, Chiaoda and some money thrown at Cheng-kung to shut everyone up.

People disagree very strongly on these issues within the Green camp. I don't think a lack of an abortion + stem cell issue means there is no left and right in Taiwan.

Dixteel said...

You are most likely right Thomas, you can't expect people or group to be unselfish all the time. Certainly I don't see this happening in the short term neither.

I used to have some hope for TSU but it looks like they are just another idole worshipping party (the idle being ex-President Lee). And for some reason they officially declared they are moving toward mid-left political position a while ago. It's also worth to note some of their members have became turn coat after KMT took power (ex. current Mainland Affair Head), and those people are actually more KMT than other KMT. They have some good members but I think a lot of them already left the party. So in my opinion TSU is very weak and their stance is even weaker.

The problem I see is the difficulty for DPP to strongly support everyone at the same time, due conflicts of interests and priorities. For example, when the pay attention to group A, group B will feel they got betrayed or ignored etc. I think that's also one of the reason why it felt like there is such a huge load and dissatisfaction on DPP...because they just can't please everyone.

Also, attacking KMT from both left and right at the same time might have advantages. Take the huge benefits of government employees for example. The DPP, attacking the issue from the left, can use lack of social justice, and unfair benefits to particular group using tax payers' money, those money should be used to help the poor etc. While the RPP, attacking the issue from the right, can use the idea that the government should be small and efficient, not over bloated and over paid like that, those money should be spend more on the national defense etc. With arguments from both side at the same time you can draw much more supports from the population on 1 issue.

Even on the China issue, the same left-rightt attack can work as well. For example, investment on China, a Taiwanese Obama would say, think of Taiwanese workers first. A Taiwanese McCain would say, invest in the enemy? Are you god damn stupid?

But yea, I guess the creation of RPP is probably not the priority and not feasible right now...

Dennis said...

imo, Ma should be dealt with for treason. a CCP at heart gradually selling Taiwan off, but he calls it warming towards china. there's a real possibility, big or small, that there might not be a next presidential election.