Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Political Winds Blow


Roaring water in the Dachia River the day after the typhoon left.

In addition to leaving death and destruction in its wake, the typhoon appears to have left a trail of ugly politics as well.

To date, the big loser appears to be President Ma. The President, whose origins in the KMT security state and whose apparent indecision, short temper, self-centeredness, and indifference to the fate of his own people is never seen in foreign press depictions, took a beating this time so bad that even the South China Morning Post, usually a KMT cheerleader, was moved to write about it today:
The worst flooding to hit Taiwan in half a century has put the government of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou to the test - and so far it is struggling badly.

Television footage of complaints from bereaved families and an embarrassed Mr Ma trying to comfort the son of a flood victim were broadcast almost continuously yesterday, reflecting public disappointment over the performance of the Ma administration.

A man, who won a promise from Mr Ma to help him locate his missing father, yesterday had to hire a bulldozer with his own money to try to see if his father had been buried by a mudslide in the eastern county of Taitung.

"We found my father's car buried by thick mud and rocks and we asked the neighbourhood chief to help dig, but he simply told us it was out of his power to command the public works department to do the job. What kind of help was that?" Lee Yu-ying said.

Mr Lee and his mother broke through a police cordon to demand Mr Ma's help during his inspection tour of the hard-hit county on Monday.

A number of areas, including a hot spring resort, were damaged by flash floods and mudslides. Television footage showed an embarrassed Mr Ma telling Mr Lee: "Now you can see me", after Mr Lee said it taken a huge effort to get close to him.

The daughter of a flood victim in the southern county of Kaohsiung said: "My father is still trapped there. They told us they would send a helicopter to save him, but there is nothing. My father is still waiting."

An apparent lack of concern from Mr Ma sparked online anger.

Netizen Huang Shu-tsun asked if Mr Ma realised that the government was responsible for the grief families were experiencing.

The media also reported that Mr Ma went to a wedding when the typhoon was tipped to hit Taiwan. The media also said a local leader of Mr Ma's Kuomintang hosted a banquet in Kaohsiung on Monday evening to drum up support for the KMT election of central committee members on August 22 as Hsiaolin village was reported to have been buried by landslides.
In the exchange between Ma and the local villager Ma was nastier than the SCMP indicates here. The man in question had implored Ma, saying that they had all voted for him (Aargh! What did they expect would happen when he was elected?) and that it was difficult to see him. Ma answered both sarcastically and testily: "You're seeing me now, aren't you?" This incident sparked angry letters and editorials in the local Chinese and English media, as well as an excellent post yesterday from J Michael Cole, who observed, along with many others, that Ma had simply echoed the unseemly, arrogant behavior of KMT bigwig Lien Chan after the 9/21 earthquake, as if the KMT had learned nothing.

Ma also had a bout of foot-in-mouth disease visiting Taimali on the east coast the day before, where he a told man whose father was missing that Ma empathized, because he'd lost his dad too -- as if Ma's father dying at a comfortable old age was the same as waking up one morning and finding out that Dad has disappeared in a flash flood. I do give Ma credit for a clumsy attempt to empathize with hoi polloi.


Water pours through the sluice gates of the Shihgang Dam in Taichung county.

The Taipei Times editorially observed:
Ma’s visit to areas ravaged by the storm was intended to instill confidence that the government is aware of the extent of the devastation and will not abandon communities to their fate. But Ma was visibly irritated and impatient with villagers who spoke to him. Grief-stricken residents were likely left feeling the president was as distant as ever, even when at arm’s length. Rather than consolation, Ma communicated aloofness.

Nor were his comments on the roles of central and local governments appropriate or helpful. Ma said on Monday that local governments bore full responsibility for the relief effort, while the central government would help only if local authorities could not handle the situation. In this way, the government would ensure that it used funds “reasonably and efficiently,” he said.

While excessive government spending has been a hot topic in past weeks, a disaster in which hundreds of people are feared missing is hardly the occasion to talk about governmental division of labor.

If Ma learned any lessons from the extensive flooding in the south last year, he did not learn them well. The president came under fire last summer for not visiting areas devastated by torrential rains in June. At the time, the Presidential Office brushed off the criticism, saying Ma would not visit “out of respect for the Constitution” because “disaster relief and visits fall under the authority of the Executive Yuan.”

This time there was no mention of “honoring” the Constitution. Ma was quick to head to the front lines of the disaster, but did such a poor job of displaying sympathy that he made Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (???) look like a man of the people for his cameo performance after the Sichuan quake.
What Ma really communicated, in refusing to declare a state of emergency, and in putting the blame and the onus on local governments, was he does not consider the people of Taiwan his own people. Local commentators were quick to point out that after the great quake in Szechuan, Ma had organized 50 phone hotlines for donations (and a good thing too). For Taiwan's disaster? "Apply to your local government."This is the same mind that considers an extended political campaign in the south a "long stay" and quotes Tang poetry when visiting farmers there. Aloof is a word that fails to properly represent the gulf between the island's President, born in Shenzhen, and its people, especially those in the south.

In addition to Ma's attitude, he also sparked criticism by bringing with him local political candidates when he toured the affected areas, a markedly cynical move. The KMT, to its credit, instituted an immediate ban on political rallies, and expelled a politician from Jiaxian, a hard hit area, for holding a campaign activity in Kaohsiung.


Landslides and washouts knock out a road north of Shihgang.

The blame game actually started right away as the Taipei Times reported two days ago. The Ma Administration immediately said that Pingtung County had been notified but potentially affected areas were not evacuated, and further criticized the Weather Bureau for its inaccurate forecasts -- thus sending the message that everyone was to blame but Ma's central government.

The cruel politics of putting the blame on local governments should not be overlooked. As I noted a while back, the county governments in the south are broke, in particular Chiayi, Tainan, and Pingtung. They cannot afford typhoon relief, and might very well fail. If so, Ma will blame them -- if they succeed, you know that the Administration will claim it was because of the strong central government support. Note that the Ma Administration has also turned down aid from Japan and the US.

The reason for the cynical politics is probably that the KMT took a hit for the arrogance and indifference of its leaders, and the perceived incompetence of its response, after the 1999 quake, that cost it in the 2000 elections six months later. It seems that rather than get all proactive and get out there and make things go, Ma is attempting to insulate the Administration from the (probably inevitable) fallout from when the relief efforts are perceived to be inadequate, while hurting the (DPP-run) county governments. The public is quite likely to see through this; it tends to hold its central government leaders responsible for big messes like this one.


Meanwhile the volunteer response has been overwhelming, as have donations. We are privileged to live on a great island full of warm friendly people, who are ever so much bigger than their leaders.
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36 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope we all remember that one repercussion of the great KMT sweep to power in the wake of the last round of elections was that local governments in the south that had seen increased funding under the DPP in an attempt to equalize the amount of government expenditures, were "punished" under the KMT and funds were redirected to more "loyal" areas. These local governments do not have the funds to finance relief efforts without outside help.

I fear the KMT will attempt to remedy this situation the way it always does... to blame the typhoon disaster on the corruption of Chen Shui-bian and his DPP cohorts in an effort to focus attention away from its gross negligence, incompetence, arrogance and petty selfishness.

notsure said...

Ma (brownie), you're doing a heck of a job.

Anonymous said...

Ma is disgusting. Last time there were big floods, he let someone kneel in front of him begging for help. This time a son whose father is missing begs for his help, saying it was so hard to meet him and he says "can't you see me now?" in a whiny voice (the translation doesn't capture the whine). These people go to extreme measures to humiliate themselves to show their sincerity and their desperation; Ma doesn't understand Taiwanese culture AT ALL. If this had happened to his hated nemesis Chen Shui-bian, he would have picked the mother off her knees right away; when the son came saying begging for help, he would have said "sorry they didn't let you meet me more easily, what can we do for you?".

The idea that politicians do things only for elections and popularity and this is somehow bad needs to be reevaluated in Taiwan. It's times like this, that you WANT to see the politicians showboating and falling over themselves to get things done and help people. Absolutely not someone detached and "that's just the way it is" like Ma Ying-jeou. Absolutely disgusting!

Arthur Dent said...

Great post Mike with some scathing insights. Thanks.

Carlos said...

It's made the NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/world/asia/13taiwan.html?_r=1

Much of the problem is just poor PR management - declaring a state of emergency would've been worth it for the morale boost even if it's true that it wouldn't have had any practical effect. It's strange that Ma would screw up an opportunity like this one, in which he doesn't actually have to do any work, just look concerned and authoritative.

Michael Turton said...

Carlos, I agree. What did they have to lose by declaring a state of emergency? It's soooo indicative of how they think.

Richard said...

Is this just what Taiwanese needed to get people to them to wake up to the reality that Ma is not all that he's cracked up to be? The question is, will that translate into the elections.

BTW, good call on the mistake by Ma Ying Jeou to gladly China's eggroll after the Sichuan quake, and half-assedly trying to help out the Taiwanese in the south. I'm sure he'll try to think of some cheap way to remedy this situation, but IMO the damage has been done.

Readin said...

Nice video. For those of us unfamiliar with the area, it would be nice to see it again a week or two from now side-by-side with a video made a week or two after the typhoon so we could see the difference between normal flow and the typhoon flow.

Tom Carroll said...

Maybe the question is "What are they trying to hide?" Refusing outside aid and not declaring an emergency keeps things in the family and under control too.

Craig Ferguson (@cfimages) said...

There's nothing surprising at all in the Ma administrations response. Govt's and leaders almost always fail at this type of thing, blame gets thrown around and nothing gets done. The sad thing is, the next time there's a natural disaster, it'll be repeated in almost the same way.

STOP Ma said...

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notsure,

Indeed! This brings back sad memories of George W. Bush campaigning and playing the guitar / eating McCain's birthday cake while the people of New Orleans were drowning.

Is this a big enough wake-up call for you, Taiwan? Sadly, it may not be.
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Thomas said...

Craig, governments may not always handle disasters in the most efficient way because governments are inefficient by nature. But the public's perception of a leader's response can have a huge effect on that leader's popularity and alter the public's perception of how the government is handling the disaster. Contrast the bump in popularity that "Grandpa Wen" received from going to Sichuan with Ma's visits to the South. Wen cried (or at least gave that impression), went around with worried looks on his face, talked and played with children, and generally looked like he cared. And the Chinese appreciated the central government for it, despite decrying the construction of the tofu schools.

What about Ma? Well, while he may be technically correct that he and his administration are not responsible for the scale of the damage, his effort to insulate his government has seriously backfired, if the blue-leaning TVBS is anything to go by.

In an opinion poll by cable news network TVBS, 47 per cent of respondents said they were disappointed by Ma's performance in dealing with the disaster. Only 26 per cent found his performance satisfactory.

Ouch! These numbers are far off of the typical splits between North and South or Blue and Green. That 26 percent sounds a lot like it is a strongly blue core only.

On a different note, did anyone see the footage of Ma and friends touring Pingtung. They were all wearing hats with TAIWAN in large letters on them. To me, this says that he knows that he has developed a little image problem.

But it potentially belies an even larger problem: Ma may actually think that by slapping on a TAIWAN label whenever he pleases, he can actually make locals believe he cares. The hats resembled an election gimmick. But election gimmicks only work when the electorate is not focused on the issue at hand.

The fact that Ma has not realized the folly of the hats is pretty shocking. Taiwan has a president whose messages are gimmicks.

ECFA isolation scaremongering? Gimmick! Warming ties? Gimmick! Defense of the Diaoyutais at the expense of ties with Japan? Gimmick! Taiwan hats and electioneering trips disguised as disaster support? Gimmick! When will this man do something that actually benefits Taiwan?

Ennui said...

Michael: This is the best criticism I've read on the incompetence and irresponsibilities of Ma's regime. Would you like to submit what you've written to major newspapers in the US like New York Times? BTW, New York Times has an article out today http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/world/asia/13taiwan.html?_r=1&hpw

But since you are a local person, your view is more insightful. I think American readers will appreciate your view.

Frankly, I think Ma is worse than G. W. Bush, who already sets a high standard for a bad leader. But the whole incident shows that Ma is worse than Bush because he behaves like an emperor without any compassion. I am not saying Bush has compassion, but Ma's attitude toward the victims is disgustingly nasty.

Thanks again for all your brilliant political analysis.

Dixteel said...

I am not sure...but it just seems Ma's government did not mobilize more assets the government has (especially the military) to help the rescue operation...at the same time, he also does not accept direct foreign help (except donation,...but AIT for example is donating to Red Cross, not the government)

Especially comparing to 921 Earth Quake...this seems really underwhelming. It is just weird that the reaction seems slow and insufficient...

apple said...

What effect will this have on the year-end local elections? None. The areas under DPP government will remain so. The KMT has an iron-grip on Taitung County.

This may have undermined some of the support that Ma built up during his long stay program in the south, but he still has more than two years to distribute loads of cash for reconstruction projects to rebuild his popularity and support.

SY said...

Totally agree that people are amazing. That's the heart warming side of this disaster.

On the other hand, I am amazed at the incompetency/mean-spiritedness of the Ma regime. Even today (8/13), the totally useless "Center for Disaster Response" (of the central government) is officially posting "107 dead, 61 missing". All reports indicate that one village in Pingtung alone has hundreds of people missing, likely buried under the massive landslde.

With their count of only "61 missing" in the whole country, how can they accurately asses the resources they need for the search and rescue efforts?

The thing that I find bizarre is Ma's rather cold refusal to accept the offers of search and rescue assistance from the US and Japan.

Another odd thing that I've observed is that the most hard hit are the aboriginal communities, which typically vote for KMT and have KMT representatives. Yet, their plights are being ignored to an unbelievable degree. Don't know exactly what that means.

As well, the military has provided about 6,000 man-days of soldiers to help construct the performance stage in Taipei for the Deaflympics (don't know where the budgeted monies for the construction have gone). This is unrelated to the disaster.

In comparison, the military had by end day 8/11 accumulated just 9,121 men-times for the rescue and recovery efforts since the typhone hit on 8/8. The first 24 hours? 740 men-times; the first 48 hours? 2,137 men-times. ("Man-time" = "人次", an odd method of quantification. One man-time = one man contributing one run of task or one shift of work.)

Apparently, a soldier stationed in south Taiwan left a message at a Yahoo message board saying that his troop has all the heavy-duty search and rescue equipment and he and his pals are all ready and eager to go but they have been told to sit tight and wait for the march order.

I cannot get rid of the smell of a premeditated murder in the air.

Anonymous said...

REFLECTIONS ON ALOOF EMPERORS

The Roman emperor, Tiberius, exiled himself to the island of Capri, where he remained for the 11 remaining years of his reign.

It was said that those who brought him bad news were hurled from the cliffs. This was especially the case of astrologers who made wrong predictions (about the weather, perhaps?)

(From the NYT: A Ma spokeseman said: "If no corrective measures are taken we will impeach them, impeach them and impeach them until they do what we want them to do,”)

Roy Berman said...

I'm utterly baffled by Ma's refusal of aid from Japan and the US. Before that he was already looking a bit like Bush in the wake of Katrina, but to also copy what may have been Bush's most widely criticized move-the refusal of disaster relief and medical aid from Cuba and Venezuela-is truly unbelievable. In fact, it's also clearly more absurd than Bush's similar refusal. After all, the fact that Cuba and Venezuela are enemy countries at least provides a thin veneer of logic, but why refuse aid from Japan and the US, perhaps the two countries that have had the strongest (if officially informal) ties with Taiwan over the years?

Anonymous said...

It won't matter. Who will remember all of this in 2012, assuming things run smooth in 2012 for the KMT...

Right, nobody... life can be pretty depressing

Robert R. said...

(From the NYT: A Ma spokeseman said: "If no corrective measures are taken we will impeach them, impeach them and impeach them until they do what we want them to do,”)

That quote is from Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien.

I saw on CNN this afternoon (World News Asia) that Taiwan had asked for some specific items from other countries such as heavy-lift helicopters, but I don't find it on their website now. Little confused.

Anonymous said...

News reports are now stating that Taiwan is asking for help from foreign countries. But it's still ridiculously late.

I wonder, too, how much all of this will be remembered by the voters in 2012. I don't think McCain lost to Obama because of Katrina.

Anonymous said...

Here's a CNN video of Ma faulting the flood victims for 'not being aware of how serious the disaster was'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMXV6avDHnQ

Michael is right. His total disdain for the people of Taiwan is impossible to cover up.

Richard said...

Looks like Ma & MOFA decided too much damage would be done without allowing aid from other countries to come in. Of course Ma denies any wrongdoing, saying they have always supported foreign aid. How much longer are the people in Taiwan going to put up with his lies?

Readin said...

I'm amazed at the comparisons to Bush during Katrina. Such comparisons would excuse Ma's behavior in ways that aren't deserved.

To begin with, the U.S. is at least in theory a collection of states whose national government is extremely limited in its powers (we can talk about the massive violations of those limits another time) and Bush's political party has respecting those limits as part of its philosophy. For Bush to defer to local authorities made both philosophical and constitutional sense. Taiwan is not constitutionally constructed in this manner.

Further, the local authorities dealing with Katrina were far more powerful than the local authorities dealing with Morakot. The governors of Louisiana and Mississippi both had militaries to call on (National Guard troops) and command. Are the leaders of Pingtung and Chiayi able to independently call out troops?

Bush did not prevent outside search and rescue. While he may not have accepted assistance from Cuba and Venezuela, such assistance wasn't needed. He did allow assistance from Virginia and other states. The U.S. is large enough to provide a lot of assistance without having to look to other countries. Taiwan, on the other hand, is small compared to the scale of the disaster. Timely assistance from Japan and even from America (much further away) could save lives.

The problems from Katrina were caused largely by local incompetence and local behavior rather than by national leaders. Louisiana had a lot of problems, but next-door Mississippi which was similarly hit had fewer problems.

Large scale disasters hit the U.S. regularly because it is such a large place and there are plenty of locations to be hit. Having the president running around for every one of them would be problematic. That's why we have FEMA and other agencies. The disaster has to be pretty large to get the president to drop everything. It wasn't at all clear at first that New Orleans was going to be that big of a problem. It would have weathered the storm mostly ok had it not been for the shoddy local construction of the dikes. By the time the scale of the disaster was clear, Bush was already being blamed for being late. Disasters of this magnitude rarely hit Taiwan. It was clearly of a level that demands presidential attention.

d.mestiz said...

"We don't feel pride in the President anymore. When he loses the confidence and respect of the people, there is no way for him to lead the country."

Ma Ying-jeou

vin said...

"I don't think McCain lost to Obama because of Katrina."

Agree, but McCain wasn't running for re-election.

Hans said...

"Meanwhile the volunteer response has been overwhelming, as have donations. We are privileged to live on a great island full of warm friendly people, who are ever so much bigger than their leaders."

I have very little expectation for the central government to start with and yet their incapability and insensible attitude were simple too outrageous to ignore. Thank you for leaving this ultimate line until the end. It lights up that candle of hope that we've always had and never cease to amaze us on this island.

Robert R. said...

I wonder, too, how much all of this will be remembered by the voters in 2012. I don't think McCain lost to Obama because of Katrina.

Part of a good campaign on the DPP's part needs to make sure that this is remembered. Especially since Ma will be running for re-election. McCain had little connection to the Katrina recovery.

STOP Ma said...

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I know this is a bit off-topic, Michael -- but I just HAVE to respond to Readin's revisonist history with respect to the Bush administration and the criminal neglect with Katrina.

As I recall, there was a lack of support from the National Guard due to the illegal and disastrous invasion of Iraq. If you recall, National Guard troops were deployed to Iraq and, as a result, were not able to help out during the Katrina disaster. This was a major problem which was made even worse by using unaccountable private contractors in Louisiana to provide the security role -- something that was duplicated in Iraq. This looming disaster, I may add, was dismissed by the Bush administration -- even after being warned days in advance that this mother of all storms was about to reap devastation upon New Orleans. Bush and his criminal administration -- like commercial planes being used for terrorism -- lied repeatedly that no one could have predicted that the levies would be compromised. Yes, the local and state governments have to share a lot of the blame, but Bush and the federal government were completely unprepared and unqualified for this disaster and were doing little to help the situation after the fact.

As I recall during a congressional hearing, Michael Chertoff was sleeping quite comfortably after being warned from surveillance teams that the levies were being breached. It was Bush-appointed Chertoff (and not so much Michael Brown) that should have taken much of the flak for the lack of support from the federal government. Still, Bush-appointed horse judge made FEMA chief was not so innocent himself even though he turned out to be the fall guy. I remember Michael Chertoff not even being aware that the Superdome was being used as a shelter for thousands -- days after the elderly were dying on the street outside of the building due to lack of clean water.

You're telling me that the federal government could not have helped these people sooner? Give me a freakin' break!!! What the hell was the local government supposed to do with their first-responders under-water to rescue these people?!

It wasn't at all clear at first that New Orleans was going to be that big of a problem. It would have weathered the storm mostly ok had it not been for the shoddy local construction of the dikes. By the time the scale of the disaster was clear, Bush was already being blamed for being late.

This is a completely false. The National Hurricane Center (I forget the acronym) predicted the devastating effects of Katrina almost a week in advance. Scientists, engineers and everyone in Washington knew bloody well the odds were not good for New Orleans surviving a direct impact from anything more than a Cat 3 storm. The dikes were, incidentally, years behind in their FEDERAL upgrading after an act passed in Washington in...1965.

Bush caught off-guard, my arse. He had the same attitude as Condoleeza Rice shoe shopping and watching Spamalot in NYC during those tragic days of American history where a city was practically lost under the guidance of a incompetent war criminal.
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Anonymous said...

"To begin with, the U.S. is at least in theory a collection of states whose national government is extremely limited in its powers (we can talk about the massive violations of those limits another time) and Bush's political party has respecting those limits as part of its philosophy. For Bush to defer to local authorities made both philosophical and constitutional sense. Taiwan is not constitutionally constructed in this manner."

Wow...blah..blah...blah... the most powerful nation on earth couldn't do squad for a confined area, New Orleans, for days, and you manage to find all these blah..blah..blah excuse for Bush. Yet, you don't have the humanity to understand how much stress Taiwanese government is under with such a wide spread disaster areas and damage in the most difficult mountainous terrains.

Have you ever visited those mountainous regions in Taiwan? The drive is difficult even in paved road in good days. Mudslide is dangerous, and it was even more dangerous for the rescue workers and army during the storm. The only way in was helicopters or airplane. It was low visibility and foggy and extremely difficult to fly. In the first few days, the rescue teams flew when the rain was clear in the morning and had to stay out in the afternoon when it was foggy. Three pilots and workers did die from flying in such a difficult condition. Even now, days after the rain has stopped, the condition of the rushing rivers, dammed lakes (堰塞湖) and mud slide are still extremely dangerous for the rescue workers to go into the affected areas.

Stop criticizing. If you, arm chair generals, are so good, why don't you risk YOUR life trying to walk the rushing rivers and broken roads in the mountains, to rescue the affected.


天災救難專家尼克麥當勞指出,「卡翠納颶風發生在全世界救災設備理應是最好的國家,而相較於鄰國,台灣也算是有較好的設備,但面對如此重大天災,台灣還是顯得相當吃力。」

至於目前在災區的國際紅十字會,解釋了現在救援的困難度,國際紅十字會派崔克福勒表示,「我認為要說救援太慢是很不公平的說法,現在光踩在地上都很困難,因為土壤相當不穩,有救難直升機已經墜機了,有很多地區都還非常非常難以進入。」

Anonymous said...

Man, anon, I wouldn't find any excuses for Bush, but your challenge WAS taken up by several soldiers, including a group of 18, and a group of two (brothers I believe). None of them could wait any longer for formal orders and they asked for vacation time, got it, and formed rescue groups ALL ON THEIR OWN. The two brothers were successful in rescuing hundred or so members of their village. The group of 18, I haven't followed up with, but even if they haven't found anybody, you can see how useless the government is asking when the soldiers are chomping at the bit to help and are never given orders to.

Anonymous said...

"Have you ever visited those mountainous regions in Taiwan? The drive is difficult even in paved road in good days. Mudslide is dangerous, and it was even more dangerous for the rescue workers and army during the storm. The only way in was helicopters or airplane."


That is why American all weather heavy lifting helicopters and all weather rader and optic systems would have been ideal rather than hoofing it or trying to use ancient hueys.

Carlos said...

If the military isn’t prepared to repair damaged roads and build temporary bridges under difficult conditions, it’s going to be pretty useless in times of war.

But I think the explanation is simpler than that. The central government probably just thought everybody was exaggerating and being overly dramatic about the extent of damage. This wasn’t like Katrina, which had people worried days before it hit – everyone thought it would be a big but more or less regular typhoon. So they took it rather casually, which made them look unconcerned and unsympathetic because everyone else was taking it seriously. Sometimes I get the feeling that Ma thinks he’s above the day-to-day administration of Taiwan.

Richard said...

Taipei Times:

Many impatient people decided to extend a helping hand.

About 80 volunteers mobilized by the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan took generators, gasoline, food and other necessities into three villages in Chiayi County’s Alishan Township (阿里山), where more than 6,000 are trapped.

“The volunteers drove the items in cars to the spot where the road is obstructed, and then continued the rest of the trip on foot,” said Hosi Yudaw, a member of the group said. “Since the government’s rescue teams aren’t doing anything to help Alishan residents, we must give them a hand.”


http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2009/08/15/2003451170

If normal citizens are brave enough to get in there... well you know where I'm going with this.

Anonymous said...

"That is why American all weather heavy lifting helicopters and all weather rader and optic systems would have been ideal rather than hoofing it or trying to use ancient hueys."

Right, and how do you supposed those American helicopters can get to Taiwan? Can it fly across the pacific oceans? They can't even fly from the nearest base Guam. Can one of Ameerican's carrier ship arrive Taiwan in one day, two day or three days? They couldn't even get to New Orleans in one day. So stop saying all these stupid things about getting the most needed equipment like helicopters from America. It can't be done. Idots.

It's more practical to have China send over the heavy lifting helicopters, but political opportunitiests like you and Turoton and DPP will jab about Ma surrendering to China by accepting their help of military equipments. That is why Ma still has not accepted help from China, because he knows how that accepting any help from China will be used by his opponents to attack him. Idots like you make democracy a lose lose proposal for Taiwan in disters like this.

Crystal said...

It's been a long time since I've followed Taiwan politics, and I just want to thank you Michael for the amazing work that you do with your blog.

I was amazed to read in the comments how many parallels were drawn between Taiwan and the US in their disaster response. All I can say is don't assume that you're dealing with two apples.

For example in C. Ferguson's response: "There's nothing surprising at all in the Ma administrations response. Govt's and leaders almost always fail at this type of thing, blame gets thrown around and nothing gets done."

His comment ignores the more complex issues involved in Taiwan's political situation and assumes that it's simply about disaster relief.

Personally, since I'm not in Taiwan, I'd like to know what the theories are about how much of Ma's actions were influenced by his desire to foster warmer relations with the PRC.