Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Please, time for a new cabinet

I love this spot.

Looking at the past few months, sometimes it feels like the Tsai Administration made a list of its major constituencies shortly after the election in order to make sure it offended them all.

The latest gaffe, minor but annoying, involved the head of the EPA getting busted eating shark fin soup. Totally needless. All the DPP cabinet problems seem to share that basic trait of needlessness.

Last time it was Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san who took a swipe at gay marriage. "Has there ever been a cultural institution or social phenomenon for same sex marriage? Without a doubt there has not."

Chiu's remarks were both ignorant and ill considered. When westerners first began arriving in China the prevalence, deep cultural roots, and rich cultural traditions of gay sex were widely remarked on by western observers, and not kindly. Gay marriage was present in many different ways -- according to researcher Bret Hinsch, in Fujian there was a tradition of male gay marriage, while in Guangdong, there was a lesbian marriage tradition under which the two women could adopt a child and leave their property to it.

It goes without saying that Fujian and Guangdong were areas of origin for many Han settlers in Taiwan.

Chiu's remarks also echoed the anti-gay rhetoric of KMT one-party rule, under which gayness was an unChinese offense against public morals, which the KMT attempted to portray as based on a heterosexual, Confucian, family-centered order. No DPP politician should ever be summoning the ghosts of KMT authoritarianism.

Someone in the Administration needs to be keeping people in line: when Chiu was asked about gay marriage, irrespective of his own position, he should have made polite noises. He's an experienced politician and should have known better. Even Tsai's devoutly Catholic Vice President Chen Jien-jen knew enough to do that when confronted with the question. Young voters hungry for change helped propel Tsai into power, and they are strongly supportive of gay marriage.

Another case in point: in recent elections, the nation's indigenous peoples have been slowly shifting away from their traditional support of the KMT. Tsai's landmark apology to the aborigines seemed like a step in the right direction, but the follow through has been poor.

Last August, after meeting with Truku people about the Asia Cement plant on Truku land in Hualien, President Tsai directed that the laws calling for aboriginal consent to development on aboriginal lands be enforced by the Council of Indigenous peoples. This would make it difficult for the plant to obtain an extension of its mining lease, leading to its likely closure.

Despite direct orders from the top, two ministers in the Ministry of Economic Affairs did an end run around the law and granted the plant an extension to 2037 this week. The move, of apparent dubious legality, is also politically inept. It should not be tolerated by the Tsai Administration.

The Administration needs to remove the heads of a few chickens to ensure that future monkeys behave. It also needs to start at the top.

In May the current Cabinet will have been in office a year. It will have addressed at least some of the messes left behind by the Ma Administration, but on the whole it has been lackluster. The current cabinet, with its service to powerful firms and distance from the people, is far too reminiscent of the Ma cabinets. Premier Lin Chuan needs replaced by someone who is more openly committed to the DPP and its pro-Taiwan views. Current Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu, whose name is often mooted, would be perfect. The remainder of the cabinet should follow Lin Chuan into oblivion.

President Tsai will never be more powerful than she is now. Aside from the restructuring of Taipower, what are the major accomplishments the Tsai Administration can show its respective constituencies? Gay marriage should have been decisively dealt with months ago, yet here we are still talking about it. The termination of Asia Cement's corporate colonization of the Truku people would have been a concrete example to show the nation's aboriginal peoples that the Administration is making meaningful progress on aboriginal rights. As of this writing aboriginal protesters are occupying Ketagalen Blvd over land issues.

The next election is eighteen months away, and a politically sensible and responsive cabinet is a must. Recall that the crushing DPP victory in 2016 was possible only because many KMT voters stayed home and younger voters came out for the DPP. At present, there is nothing to indicate that all those KMT voters will remain in their homes, especially if the Party leadership can manage to put a politician with some basic political sense at the helm. The KMT's long-term prospects may be dim, but there is no reason that a rebound isn't possible in the short term. And voters like to give ruling parties a warning.

A dramatic gesture like tossing out the cabinet would be a good start on the 2018 elections. Sacking the two offending ministers from the Ministry of Economic Affairs would make a nice apology to the Truku people, but it needs to be followed up by a termination of the lease and an end to its mining operations.

Out with the old, please. Because the DPP is going to suffer if the current cabinet is still office for the 2018 elections, even if the export conomy, riding six straight months of growth, maintains. Young people are immensely dissatisfied with their salaries and living conditions, as recent polls show. They will likely send the DPP a message.

It won't be a message of pleased happiness.
Daily Links:

  • On Facebook: It appears that a ship loaded with nuke waste showed up at Lanyu's Longmen Port to add to the pile on Orchid Island, apparently without local knowledge. It left without unloading after being confronted.
  • Tsai: Taiwan trying to get kidnapped activist home from China. The activist's wife said that the broker she used to talk to Chinese authorities told her the detention was by mistake. Cole has said it is local authorities acting without orders from Beijing.
  • The National Development Council approves plan to extend the railway to Hengchun in Pingtung, near Kenting. That's excellent news, been waiting for this for years. It will be interesting to see how they get it down that narrow coastal shelf. 
  • Tone-deaf, the KMT calls for prosecutors to appeal the not-guilty verdicts given the Sunflowers for the 2014 occupation of the legislature. Young people will surely be attracted to join the KMT now...
  • The KMT's National Women's League offers to donate US$500 million in assets to the Health Ministry. That's US dollars..... obviously it paid to be KMT.
  • Uber is returning.
  • Taiwan health ministry to set up office to combat low fertility. I've got an idea: the world is full of people -- import some. It's called immigration. 
  • Latest Global Taiwan Brief

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


an angry taiwanese said...

If not, time KMT evils to return to their old host body.

Guy said...

Great post. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

It seems Tsai's every move in a positive direction is countered by underlings with competing allegiances to wealthy, powerful industries. The Christian lobby has been checking her gay marriage advocacy, which should be countered in a simple deferral to equal rights. The Taipower move in the link below looks like the former monopoly is stirring up trouble in the wake of energy policies that do not cater to big infrastructure, big concrete, big logistics, big graft generating projects. She needs to come out swinging and make a little noise. Her analytic style may be deemed too "soft" and that she can be forced to make deep concessions on important issues.

Anonymous said...

"Despite direct orders from the top, two ministers in the Ministry of Economic Affairs did an end run around the law and granted the plant an extension to 2037 this week."

Say one thing, do another, and then put the blame on the ministers. Realpolitik.

Gay marriage in such a socially conservative country as Taiwan is never going to be a prority for any goverment (DPP or not)

If the questions above, plus the EPA head getting busted having shark soup, are the biggest reasons to question Tsai first year in office; it would seem she´s not doing that bad.

Thanks for your blogging.

Greetings from Spain