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).
[removed]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...
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.
英九救我？[Ma save me?]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:
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.
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....