Independent legislator Yen Ching-piao has agreed to help the government with its efforts to convince the public of the necessity of its planned signing of an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China and outline the negative impact on Taiwan if the pact is not signed.The China Post leaves out Yen's illustrious career as a hardened criminal, revolving between public office and a private cell. Yen, who came up through the KMT following the gravel firm owner to county councilor to legislator career path, eventually had to leave and join the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU), a sort of catch-all party for local faction politicians. He's independent of the KMT in the sense that the Byelorussian SSR was independent of the USSR. It boogles the imagination to understand what language Yen is expected to use that will suddenly swing everyone over to support of ECFA.
Yen agreed to take up the role as an ECFA spokesman following a meeting with Economic Affairs Minister Shih Yen-shiang, Bureau of Foreign Trade Director-General Huang Chih-peng and Industrial Development Bureau Director General Woody T.J. Duh yesterday.
Yen proclaimed that he accepted the job not for the sake of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) “but for Taiwan's future generations.”
Yen will appear in TV commercials designed to sell the proposed economic deal with China to the mass population in a bid to defuse the negative campaign mounted by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party that accuses the government of President Ma Ying-jeou of attempting to sell out Taiwan via the ECFA.
Yen will use straightforward language that will enable citizens to understand why the deal is so important to Taiwan, Huang said.
More important, though, is the role that the China Post briefly mentions at the end of the article:
But he also serves as chairman of the board of trustees of Chenlang-gong (Wave-Suppressing Palace) at Tajia, Taiwan's most popular temple dedicated to Matsu, the Goddess of the Seas.It's Yen who presides over the annual Matsu pilgrimage, one of the largest religious processions in the world. The connections between local factions, religion, and cross-strait relations suddenly loom...readers may recall that Yen associate Cheng Ming-kun, head of the Taiwan Matsu Association, was in Beijing in July meeting Chen Yunlin, the PRC negotiator who then came to Taichung in December. Chen Yunlin returned the favor by visiting the Chenlan (Matsu) Temple in Dajia during his trip to Taiwan (my post). None of this interplay between the CCP and "local factions" made the international media (goes without saying!) but an obvious inference is that Yen's control of Matsu, a goddess venerated on both sides of the Strait, may well be used in promoting ECFA, and more generally, cross-strait closeness. Religion is deeply intertwined with politics in Taiwan....
...I'm sure the alert reader can work out who the likely beneficiaries of cross-strait closeness are, as far as organized crime is concerned. Sooner or later the dawning realization is going to sweep across Taiwan's local faction politicians that they are going to be muscled out of the shiny new China future by their big bad counterparts from across the Strait. Local KMT politicians are already publicly complaining that the new closeness to China isn't bringing their districts the money that was promised....KMT internal tensions can only grow over time.
The Taipei Times also identified another issue with Yen: the subtle class-based slam of Taiwanese as low class, betel-nut chewing goobers. To wit:
Yen, a convicted criminal with a large grassroots support base, is known for his affability, and there’s no doubt he would speak the language of the “ordinary person” while chewing betel nut and mingling with the public.As the Taipei Times notes in its editorial, the problem is not that the government hasn't communicated well with the public, but that no one knows what ECFA is. Without substance, communication is basically useless. Although I have to admit that the use of a convicted criminal as a spokesman for ECFA contains a deep, unintentional truth about the nature of the agreement....
Underneath the praise heaped on him by government officials, however, is a disturbing message: If you support an ECFA, you will graduate from “local” to “high-class.”
It appears the government has continued with the illusion that people opposed to an ECFA are those with little education or low social status.
This disturbing attitude brings back the unpleasant memory of two comic strip characters that the ministry created last year that were both offensive and derogatory.
This government just never learns. Or could it be that it is so arrogant that it is unaware its actions fuel perceptions of social superiority?
Many will recall the furor over the comic strip introduced in July to promote an ECFA. The cartoon featured two stereotypical characters, Yi-ge (一哥), a middle-aged ethnic Taiwanese man who speaks “Taiwanese Mandarin” and opposes the ECFA, and Fa-sao (發嫂), a sharp-minded Hakka career woman with a dashing educational background who supports the deal.
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