Friday, August 14, 2009

President Ma Lambasted in Major International Media

Last year Taiwan's able President Ma Ying-jeou... -- Jerome Cohen, Ma's mentor, in Asian Wall Street journal two weeks ago.

What a difference a flood makes. From able to flounder faster than you can say "flood relief." The foreign media is actually reporting negative things about President Ma, darling of the US Establishment. It is only about 18 months behind our local media.

The NYTimes had two pieces on the typhoon and President this week. The first one focused directly on public anger and consists almost entirely of negative commentary from the local public on Ma. Stunning.

The second piece contains some more positive comments -- "Harvard educated" is in there, safeguarding Ma's class status. An excerpt:
The early criticism, expressed by anguished family members and broadcast on national television, has emboldened members of Taiwan’s vocal political opposition, who have dispensed with any reluctance to exploit the challenges facing Mr. Ma.

Sisy Wen-hsien Chen, a politician who is also a television commentator, lobbed the ultimate insult by suggesting that Mr. Ma’s post-disaster performance had paled in comparison with that of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of Taiwan’s rival, China, during the Sichuan earthquake last year.

....

Harvard-educated, debonair and prone to wonkish utterances, Mr. Ma is not exactly known as a great communicator. His wooden qualities have been thrown into stark relief in recent days as he has tried to console storm victims.
A key point not made here: Sisy Chen, the TV commentator, is a KMT supporter; she switched sides almost a decade ago. The juxtaposition of her comments after the paragraph about the opposition giving up all restraint in going after Ma makes it appear she belongs to the Greens. She does not.

Note also that the explanation for the problems offered by the NYT is that Ma is a "poor communicator" (who somehow manages to be "debonair" even though he is "wooden" UPDATE: "debonair" has now been removed from this article). Anyone looking at the mess of the Makong Gondola, the Neihu Subway line mess, the lack of significant progress in Taipei during eight years of Ma's tenure, the threats to the bureaucracy when he was running for the presidency, the lawsuit against the prosecutor in his corruption case, the undisputed fact that he had downloaded government funds into his own accounts in ways widely considered illegal until he did them, the accusations that Taiwanese are brainwashed by the Japanese, his acting like an emperor in the incident at the Confucius Temple last year, and many other things, might well posit some other reason for his distance from his people.

This paragraph of the NYTimes piece, though, is wonderful:
On Thursday, the Taiwanese cabinet reversed an earlier decision and said it would accept foreign aid, including the heavy-lift helicopters needed to bring bulldozers deep into the mountains. Compounding critics’ cynicism, the Foreign Ministry asserted that the decision to turn down foreign help was actually a typographical error in documents it had sent abroad.
Gotta love the Administration. A "typo." In fact, as I heard more than 32 countries had offered aid to Taiwan. The change of heart was probably due to the fact that China had offered aid and the government had responded positively, as reported by Taiwan News on Thursday. Couldn't turn down the US but accept China. That would be a little too obvious.

WSJ also chimed in with an article on public anger at the Ma Administration. It notes at the end:
Separately, Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom Co. said three of its undersea cables were damaged by undersea landslides caused by the typhoon, disrupting connections throughout Asia. It estimated companies would have 50% of their voice service and 60% of their Internet service restored by the end of Wednesday.
Couple of observations. First, recall that as soon as Ma entered office, the stock market tanked, and a couple of months later, the economic crisis hit. And what has been the major criticism of the Ma Administration throughout the long economic crisis? He hasn't done anything and the government is floundering. This isn't a new behavior; the major difference is that this crisis isn't unfolding over six months, but over six days, so the floundering and indifference is rather more noticeable. But we are not witnessing something new here, folks.

Also, did anyone catch the hidden ethnic card the KMT played in its criticism of the Pingtung County government, saying it hadn't warned Chiadong and Linbian in Pingtung before the typhoon hit? As the Taipei Times reported, first the Administration directed anger at Pingtung but oh-so-coyly declined to name the neglected townships, then the pro-KMT China Times reported that they were Chiadong and Linbian. Those areas are both famous for their Hakka populations -- Chiadong has the last extant five-hall Hakka house in Taiwan. In other words, the hidden ethnic subtext of that little playlet was: Look, Hakkas, the DPP (Hoklo) government of Pingtung has screwed you again -- vote KMT to avoid that!

Many comparisons to Bush after Katrina wiped out New Orleans. It remains to be seen whether Ma's party will take a hit in the polls after this mess, though.

UPDATE: AP has an excellent article on the beating Ma is taking from within his own party and from the pro-KMT media. Ma's comments to a UK news outlet in which he appeared to say that it was the victims own fault were mentioned:

"They were not fully prepared. If they were, they should have been evacuated much earlier," Ma told an ITN reporter. "They didn't realize how serious the disaster was."

Taiwan's normally pro-Ma China Times newspaper lambasted the president for the remarks, saying they were badly out of place.

"It is not presidential to tell international media that the blame falls on people who would not evacuate in order to safeguard their own homes," the newspaper said.

UPDATE 2: Meanwhile AFP -- shock, shock -- plays down the idea that Ma is being criticized for poor leadership, restricting its remarks to:
Ma's administration has been criticised for being too slow to recognise the magnitude of the crisis in which mudslides cut off hundreds of villages, leaving them only accessible by air.
Note that Ma himself is not portrayed as an incompetent, as the other pieces zoom in on his behavior in fine detail. AFP leaves out any of the details, while referring to criticism of the "Ma administration."
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34 comments:

Richard said...

All we need is one of these to top off the Katrina-Morakot comparisons:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIUzLpO1kxI

Sorry, just had to. :) On a more serious note, I collected some various donation terminals for Typhoon Morakot on my blog. What I find interesting (perhaps I didn't look hard enough), is that the KMT has not set up any donation boxes for the victims?

STOP Ma said...

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Hmm... maybe the western media is actually starting to report the truth about the situation in Taiwan because...erm...they are actually reporting FROM Taiwan.
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Robert Scott Kelly said...

The one question that has to be answered is, did Ma hesitate to call on foreign aid because he thought it would dis-please China. As I thought of this it occured to me that Ma has already during his young presidency put the lives of Taiwanese at risk to avoid offending Beijing. But when? Oh right, during the melamine scandal last fall.

It will remain to be seen how this plays out politically but I can say that I know of number of blue voters up in Taipei who say they have seen through Ma finally and will spoil their ballots next time if they can't bring themselves to vote green.

Oh, and great work down south Michael.

dennis said...

sorry this is unrelated to this particular blog post. Nevertheless, Taipei Times has an article http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2009/08/14/2003451095
"Li Fei (李非), deputy director of the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University, said China’s policy of pushing cross-strait economic exchanges has three benefits... Finally, it will push forward peaceful unification through economic integration."

Anonymous said...

*writing in notepad* Andrew Jacobs is a hack. So his evidence for the vocal opposition "exploiting" Ma's weakness is Sissy Chen? Does he know how to write? What planet does he live on? Sissy Chen is deep blue and has been for a long time. Yes, she used to be DPP but she has long supported Ma Ying-jeou and says derisive things about Taiwanese and Taiwanese culture all the time...

Can Edward Wong write please? He studied Mandarin in Taipei very recently and must be more knowledgeable.

Anonymous said...

Ah, crap, just noticed that someone Taiwanese is cited as a contributor at the bottom. Now I know where all the hackishness is coming from. So a reporter, can't read UDN/Liberty Times or watch Mandarin-language TV (available free over Youtube, don't even have to pretend you're in Taiwan), and has to rely on a slanted Taiwanese source... great... that's the quality everyone expects from the New York Times. What the heck, Edward Wong speaks and reads Chinese, why not put him on it?

Anonymous said...

Michael, have you seen this? THEY THEY THEY!!!! Ma is just a neutral third party observer? WT_?!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4P-QkRPRU0

How about some RESPONSIBILITY? You are the freakin president!

hairy, just big and hairy said...

just a quaestion but how much money have Mexico spend to Taiwan?

Anonymous said...

Warning: Strong language toward president Ma and his gang. If you are not comfortable with the offensive language, please skip the post (just like CNN did!)

As much as I don’t like criticizing others (meaning the KMT government in this case), we are witnessing the most impotent leader (TW president Ma)! I’ve never seen anything like this!! Ma is either playing dumb or brain dead – you don’t go to the disaster area and telling the reporter that “they” should leave the area.

Here is the conversation between Ma and a CNN reporter:

Reporter: Should Taiwan not have been more prepared for this weather of coming?

Ma: No, this area, this is the first time in many years.
That is why, they are, they were not fully prepared.
If they were, they should have been evacuated much earlier.
Just because they stay in where they live and, but you see,
they didn't learn, they didn't realize how serious this disaster was.

Watch the youtube video for the interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0hD61xpuFU
(Note: the clip started in Chinese but the interview started right around 1 min play time, so be patient)

Give me a break! “They?” Why not said “We” instead? Does this mean that the southern part of the island should declare the independent? (However, it does feel that way when it comes to the turtle speed of rescue by government). Many of you do not read in Chinese but I can tell you that this guy and his lapdogs are trying to find a scapegoat right after the disaster. First, “they” (KMT government) the weather forecast guys not predicting the total of rainfall accurately. What was the TW government wanted weather guys to do? Drink up all the excessive rainfall? Tell me CNN has accurately predicted that amount of rain. It dumped almost 9 feet of the rain in 3 days!! It is a nature disaster (don’t started with me with that global warming stuff BTW).

As of today, he still trying to save his face by not giving an executive order to deploy all resources (army, money, equipments, and so on) because “they” wanted to cover his wrong judgment not giving the executive order right after of the disaster. Mr. Su, head of News agency, is at least 10 times smarter than him (too bad that he is not that good looking – TW citizens, wakeup, you don’t elect a pretty boy for a president, get it?!) but too bad that he is one of the lapdogs.

During the TW president election, his campaign slogan was “yes, we are ready!” To me this was damn ear-sore! (like “Change” campaign slogan by you know who). What a bunch of mandarin!!

Anonymous said...

Ma and the KMT are getting very-well deserved criticism. The gloating from the green side is sad to see though.

Kev said...

光陰的故事 taiwanesedrama-storyoftime.blogspot.com

Watch all the episodes!!!

Anonymous said...

The dead bodies are not all recovered, yet low life scum bags like you are already gleefully scoring political points from Taiwan's tragedy. Every time you crticize Ma, you are saying that our military or our rescue workers have not working their ass off from day one. One solider's internet comment seems to easily erase all of the rescue work that has began on day one under the worst possible conidition. Even though the soldier's and rescue workers' behind the scene hard work made it to the blood-thirsty TV, it doens't meant that lots of work have started and have been on going. It seems slow, because it's not a movie, and it's not like the TV heros. Rescue works is damgerous and a slow process in the mountains.

I have been pleasantly surprised by DPP's restraint in exploiting this tragedy.

But, Mr. T., you... you have sunken to a new low.

Anonymous said...

I think the key point is that when foreign media outlets actually have reporters on the ground in Taiwan they do a much better job. Most of the major international media organizations have reporters in the south of Taiwan now. When they are reporting from Beijing, Tokyo or Washington they are out of touch with reality and prone to distortion.

Anonymous said...

"Just because they stay in where they live and, but you see,
they didn't learn, they didn't realize how serious this disaster was."

Ahh! Ma being paternalistic again. It reminds me of when he was going to teach the Aborigines to live in the city and play be the city's rules.

Anonymous said...

I am curious how Ma would have reacted if this had been in China. Would he have quickly mobilized aid?

Michael Turton said...

Every time you crticize Ma, you are saying that our military or our rescue workers have not working their ass off from day one.

Ma is being crucified by his own people, who don't need any help from me. Do you think that when people in the south criticize the President, they are criticizing the military and rescue workers, or does that happen only when this blogger criticizes? Or what?

This piece reflects on and comments on the foreign media coverage, which has, over the years, been far too fawning toward our President. It is good to see the foreign media showing, through local comments, what we know already about our out of touch, imperious, aloof, inept leader: he doesn't appear to give a shit about the people of Taiwan, and he appears to lack any and all competence.

Meanwhile the actual people of Taiwan, whom I worked with this week, are kicking ass down south. Thank all gods the people of Taiwan are better than their leaders.

Hope you get out and work or donate money, anon.

Michael

Anonymous said...

"The gloating from the green side is sad to see though."

I can't say in absolute terms there hasn't been gloating, especially seen almost all the counties and cities affected are Green, and even if the cynical calculus you say is true, by the same logic, they cannot gloat because they too will not be able to completely escape the anger of their constituents.

But anon, additionally, the most visible greens are from these places. These are the places where they grew up or where they live now or who they represent. I haven't seen any gloating myself, but the most visible things I see are yes, anger and pleading. They kept begging for Ma to declare a state of emergency, to mobilize the military in search, rescue, and dropping of aid. I don't know why they have to beg for it, but no time to gloat when you are begging for help.

Anonymous said...

"what we know already about our out of touch, imperious, aloof, inept leader: he doesn't appear to give a shit about the people of Taiwan, and he appears to lack any and all competence."

Who cares what pretty boy Ma looked like when he visited the disater sites. Do you want him to bow down and wail like some out of control losers to show he cared?

What pissed me off the most is that in your pursuit to paint the above picutre of Ma, you have purposely neglected the work the Taiwanese military and the Taiwanese rescue workers had started from Day ONE. You have purposedly ignore the sacrafice and death of rescue workers and army.

Ma is just a face as the president, the real work has been done day in and day out by the army and rescue workers. In order to paint Ma as what you want, you ignore the THOUSANDS of people that Taiwanese army and rescue workers have steadily and "slowly" been evacuating. Yes, slowly, for good reasons. It's not Hollywood moveis, so people were not all evacuated from all these scattered villages as fast as the blood-thirsty media like. However, everyone is doing their best, including the God-damned government workers you despise so much.

Who cares what pretty boy Ma looks like and says. Give the hardworking Taiwanese armies and resecues workers credit when credit is due. They have done a GREAT job.

Or you just can't acknowledge that the Taiwanese army and resecue workers have done a great job to the best of their ability, because it would otherwise conflict with your preconception that "Ma appears to lack any and all competence.."

With regards of where you have been or what you have done to help, I have only seen pictures of lightly affected areas and beautiful scenary on a nice day trip. Were you trying to show that the damage was not as devastating as the media is showing? lol... Why don't you go fly some resucue planes and go cross some raging rivers in the mountains.

Thomas said...

In terms of the political fallout, if it is true that local elections are decided more based on personal acquaintences (guanxi) than on party loyalty, the typhoon itself may not affect the showing of the parties in those elections.

Yet there is another aspect to the political fallout that I haven't seen mentioned on any blog yet. What about Ma's efforts to consolidate his authority within the KMT?

Remember that articles by the TT and the CP about two weeks ago that reported on the possibility of KMT factional infighting? Those problems are still there.

Ma is just about to take up the chairmanship, and there are clearly some in the KMT who are not too fond of him, whether it be because Ma is not good for their financial interests or because of Ma's political stances (less likely). Without a doubt, both he and his cabinet have f@#ked up royally in many ways, and Ma has lost a lot of face. Meanwhile, the KMT Old Guard has been pretty quiet.

So how will this affect Ma's consolidation of power. Will it make rogue candidates and unhappy KMT legislators feel better about defying the wishes of their chairman? And when Ma needs someone in a pinch, will he command the loyalty that he would like?

Michael Turton said...

What pissed me off the most is that in your pursuit to paint the above picutre of Ma, you have purposely neglected the work the Taiwanese military and the Taiwanese rescue workers had started from Day ONE. You have purposedly ignore the sacrafice and death of rescue workers and army.

Ah, so you mean that when people in disaster areas criticized Ma, they purposely neglected the work the Taiwanese military and the Taiwanese rescue workers had started from Day ONE.

That's good to know.

As for ignoring rescue workers, you really are an idiot. I mean really, no wonder you post anonymously.

Michael

Anonymous said...

"Ma is just a face as the president, the real work has been done day in and day out by the army and rescue workers."


Ma has one more thing... he had power. How he chooses to use, or not use that power is a major issue.

Michael Turton said...

Thomas, excellent questions. Perhaps the local KMTers are watching, and drawing conclusions. After all, they must know that in the KMT, they will never be more than local politicians, and yet you know many must dream of greater things.

Michael

les said...

So Ma-tong has apparently apologized. Today he was out hugging old ladies and (from the TV news clips) keeping his mouth shut.
Does anyone else feel like the country is being run by his handlers, PR consultants and spin-doctors?

Greg said...

Hey, thanks for providing more info for folks like me, living in Taiwan but not yet being able to understand Chinese fluently...

It shows that I don't understand Taiwan just yet, because for me it wasn't ever a question before the last election, that Ma is a terrible choice and if he wins, it will all end up in tears one way or the other. I cannot comprehend how so many people voted for him...

Seeing his reaction after the typhoon I hope much more people realize what goes on...

vin said...

Anon:

I hope you're living in Taiwan and are able to avail yourself of the fine medical system here. Organic brain disease is always a challenge for medical professionals, but they would do their best to help.

Robert R. said...

Every time you crticize Ma, you are saying that our military or our rescue workers have not working their ass off from day one.

These people that are working their asses off aren't doing it for the sake of Ma. They're doing it for Taiwan and the people affected by this disaster.
Frankly, we're lucky that these people have done what they've done in spite of Ma's inaction. Kudos to them. And Michael has already covered some of their work in other posts.

What pissed me off the most is that in your pursuit to paint the above picture of Ma, you have purposely neglected the work the Taiwanese military and the Taiwanese rescue workers had started from Day ONE.
I'm assuming by "above picture," you mean Ma giving credit for the rescue work already done? Not quite clear. That's a picture Ma's trying to paint for himself by going out as he is. He'll try to take credit for the work that has been done, and try to shift the blame on what hasn't been done to others.

Anonymous said...

"Ah, so you mean that when people in disaster areas criticized Ma, they purposely neglected the work the Taiwanese military and the Taiwanese rescue workers had started from Day ONE."

Of course. Who is out there flying the helicopters? Who is out there recusing their lives crossing raging rivers day in and day out. Have you heard praises of those heros? Every media is out blood for a "slow" government. Most silent affected people were grateful and understanding, but the TVs don't show them, because the cameras love the emotion, yelling, wailing, impatient screamers. Of course, those affected people thing the government is slow, because by the standard, the government has to get everyone out in one day or two days regardless of the weather conditions, regardless of the dangerous mudslide hidden dangers. They only care about themselves. To the selfish people, if the army and rescue workers don't get them out in an hour, the "government" is slow.

Why haven't you written, or talked about how many people have been evacuated so far? Rescuing vicitms from the most remote regions will of couse take much longer, because the army and workers can't even land helicopters there. What do you, Turton, have to hide by NOT saying how much have been done by Taiwan's heors and how many people have been evactuated from so many scattered regions and wide spread areas? Sing some praises of Taiwan's heros who have been ignored so far, because everyone is so eager to pin "incompetence" on pretty boy Ma.

Anonymous said...

"I have been pleasantly surprised by DPP's restraint in exploiting this tragedy."

You are right Mr Anon. This is not time for political parties to fight. Its time to work hand-in-hand KMT and DPP to overcome this tragedy."

Readin said...

Anon wrote: "Ma and the KMT are getting very-well deserved criticism. The gloating from the green side is sad to see though."

Isn't there a saying in politics about staying out of the say when your opponent is destroying himself?

Readin said...

Anon wrote: Every time you crticize Ma, you are saying that our military or our rescue workers have not working their ass off from day one.

and later wrote

the THOUSANDS of people that Taiwanese army and rescue workers have steadily and "slowly" been evacuating. Yes, slowly, for good reasons. It's not Hollywood moveis, so people were not all evacuated from all these scattered villages as fast as the blood-thirsty media like. However, everyone is doing their best

I did hear a report that some rescuers weren't mobilized immediately (not their fault but their bosses fault). However I'll assume you are correct that they were all mobilized immediately, and I do believe they are nearly all committed people who have been working their hardest.

You know, one of the things Ma has been criticized for is refusing foreign aid from places like Japan and the United States. Japan is only a few hours away by plane. Since the rescuers are already are doing their best but their best has to be slow - wouldn't additional help have been useful in reaching the people that were being left behind while the Taiwanese rescuers were already working as hard as they possible could and could work no harder?

Sean Su said...

Ma is already shifting blame by saying he will hold them accountable and punish them. Sadly I don't think he means that he will hang himself.

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/08/16/taiwan.president.typhoon/index.html

Readin said...

After my last comment, I ran across this CNN video Of a rescue. I was amazed and impressed by the hard work the rescuers were putting forth and the risks they were willing to take to help others. But also saw that additional trained rescuers from, for example, nearby Japan would have been very helpful. The civilians were doing a lot of the work while the guys out there in uniform were clearly giving it their all - more help would have made the situation safer for everyone.

Michael Turton said...


Why haven't you written, or talked about how many people have been evacuated so far? Rescuing vicitms from the most remote regions will of couse take much longer, because the army and workers can't even land helicopters there. What do you, Turton, have to hide by NOT saying how much have been done by Taiwan's heors and how many people have been evactuated from so many scattered regions and wide spread areas? Sing some praises of Taiwan's heros who have been ignored so far, because everyone is so eager to pin "incompetence" on pretty boy Ma.


You know, you have serious mental problems. Get help.

Anonymous said...

Crackhead anon, Taiwan LOVES a good hero story, and stories like the group of four that has rescued many people off mountains is being played over and over again. It is now day 9. It is only now that American military helicopters have been allowed to come and participate in the rescue effort. But while we need to recognize these heros, as long as the central government is dilly-dallying, we will continue to kick and scream and write and complain until the lives of everyone in disaster areas are safe.

P.S. Katrina-Morakot aren't comparable in terms of scale. Basically a third of Taiwan was underwater or covered by mud. The impact on Taiwan is way greater proportionally.