Thursday, February 23, 2006

BBC: A Dead Horse Beaten?

Jason at Wandering to Tamshui has the call on the latest version of the Man Called Horse (Ma Ying-jeou) getting smoked on the BBC.

KMT Chairman Ma ying-jeou sat down the other day for a BBC "Hardtalk" interview (RealPlaya required) that soon had me rolling on the ground in convulsions. Ever the fish out of water, Ma looks at times like he's either getting getting a fist colonoscopy while wondering which KMT PR flack he's going to fire for putting him on a show where the interviewer actually challenges the guest's bullshit (something Hizzoner most certainly does not lack.) Never one to allow policy debates to become dry, depressing affairs, I've come up with a drinking game to further enhance your viewing pleasure (as if that's possible).

Go and listen and judge for yourself, but it looks like Ma is so used to the fawning international and local Taiwan media that tough questions are out of his depth. Hopefully the Taipei Times will have a transcript today or tomorrow; if not, I'll try and create one. The Liberty Times has it in Chinese today (thursday).

Pixel by pixel, the image of Ma is slowing becoming clear: if Mayor and Chairman Ma keeps opening his mouth, and President Chen Shui-bian keeps a low profile, the good mayor of Taipei may well win the next two elections for the DPP. I suspect that at the moment Ma has acquired ascendancy over his handlers. Can this continue?

UPDATE: Ma Ying-jeou interview on BBC went better than I thought, I've decided.


Anonymous said...

His English isn't as good as I thought. Is he out of practice? His one word affirmations at the beginning looked pretty fish out of water, but he warmed up as it went on.

Although it was interesting to see Ma caught in some pretty bad contradictions, the deepest impression the interview left on me is thinking about what a bad spot Taiwan is in. No option really seems good, and currently the most popular political leader in Taiwan also has zero political vision--anything, as long as it's supported by public opinion is apparently his support for anything. Fault Chen Shui-bian for incompetence, lack of management skills, or whatever, but you can't say he doesn't have vision. The problem with being too response to public opinion in Taiwan's case is you'll just get carrotted and sticked to death. The only way out is imagination and audacity. Sometimes I wonder if what Taiwan needs is to build nuclear weapons, run a huge international public relations campaign, announce that they've been legally independent for the last 50 years, then open talks with China on entering some kind of loose confederation with them.

Anonymous said...

James, I agree with what you, although I don't agree with President Chen's vision of an independent Taiwan based on Taiwanese nationalism. Independence simply isn't the roadmap out of the current quandary because of its contingence on bringing China into war against the U.S. and Japan.

All of those things you've mentioned were tried in the past. Whether most like it or not, the ROC secured Taiwan's freedom from the PRC. Much money was spent by the government on international public relations. Those public relations foundations and connections were based on the old KMT regime ties with overseas Chinese and the now defunct China Lobby. I'm not sure if FAPA and others will have it any easier. Chiang Ching-kuo did maintain a nuclear program, but that ran counter to U.S. interests and it was shut-down.

What Taiwan needs is a roadmap. I think what sustained Taiwan through its most uncertain times in the past were clear govt policies which focused on public infrastructure projects and in promoting leading industries. The greatest uncertainty now is how Taiwan deals with the PRC, and answering that with Taiwanese nationalism isn't going to bring about any miracles.

Jason said...

Upon further viewing of the interview, a couple of other things stood out for me:

1) The odd choice of the word "knottiest." I thought he was saying "naughtiest" for the rest of the interview.

2) As today's Taipei Times editorial mentioned, Ma's "You don't understand Chinese or Taiwanese affairs" smacks of cultural chauvinism. It's also the default answer pan-blue supporters almost always revert to whenever their ideology is challenged by foreigners who decide to pick the scab of "One China". Just sayin'.

3) I mean, really, who was the stiff who put Ma up to doing this show? Do you think he's still working for the KMT?

4) All joking aside, if you were a world leader with little to no knowledge about the mess in Taiwan, how do you think Ma's performance would have rated? Would you feel this guy is an up-and-comer, or would you percieve him as a spineless hack like the rest of us here? Was his performance as bad as we in the blogosphere perceive it? I wonder...

id_anomaly said...

Hi Michael, you don't know me but I'm a regular reader of your blog. I've attempted to transcribe Ma's interview on HARDtalk. So if your're interested, take my draft and fix the parts I couldn't make out... (not a native speaker and find it especially hard when people mumbles...)
part 1
part 2
part 3

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, Claire! That's so very kind of you! I'll see if I can get to it on Saturday!