Saturday, October 04, 2008

On the Domestic Front: Ma continues to win the hearts and minds

Freelance writer Cindy Tsui has a nifty piece in the Asia Times on Regional Administrator Ma Ying-jeou's slumping popularity, which reached an astonishing new low in the latest TVBS poll. Enjoy this comment from a political scientist....

"Personally, I'm surprised with his incapability; I thought he was more capable," said Shane Lee, a political science professor at southern Taiwan's Chang Jung Christian University.

The way Ma's administration handled the crisis over contaminated milk products imported from mainland China frustrated the public. It was seen as doing too little, too late and when it finally acted, consumers were confused.

Instead of banning imports, immediately checking stores for tainted products and reassuring the public about food safety, the administration instead simply raised the level of the harmful chemical melamine allowed to exist in products.

The health minister was eventually forced to step down. He accepted responsibility for the widespread public panic which caused huge economic losses. Pro-independence activists blamed the crisis on Ma's policy of closer ties with China. The administration, however, has recently demanded an apology from China and said it will seek compensation for economic losses.
I never thought Ma was particularly capable, as anyone who had followed his eight years of running Taipei could have conjectured. But I didn't think that the people behind Ma would set policy drift the way the KMT has. The article lays out some of the issues:

Part of the problem, said Lee, is that Ma seems to be rigidly sticking to the responsibilities of the president as spelled out in Taiwan's constitution. The island's charter says the president is responsible for foreign policy, cross-strait relations and national security issues. Ma has said the day-to-day governing of the country should be left to the Executive Yuan, or cabinet, something his predecessor Chen Shui-bian never did.

In practice, Ma's approach is proving bad for his image. After all, he is the highest-ranking elected official in Taiwan and people expect him to take charge, especially in times of crises.

The fact that his cabinet largely consists of academics who have not shown the temerity to handle crises, doesn't help, according to observers and local media.

"Some people point out that the KMT has been out of power for so long, so it's very rusty in governing," said Lee, who added that another problem was the old guard in the KMT is still very much in charge and continues to wield old ways of governance.
This article, along with the many others in the media, all suggest that it would be relatively easy for Ma to reverse the plunge --take charge, safeguard the nation's health and sovereignty, dismiss ineffective ministers. Ma must not know this -- so the administration presents a double mystery: why is it so incompetent? And why, with obvious and easily implemented solutions at hand, does it continue to pursue the Calvin Coolidge approach?

On the lighter side, a DPP legislator attacked the new health minister this week, jumping on him and choking him with his tie. Apparently the legislator had arranged a press conference at which the minister would be featured, and the minister had gone instead to a competing KMT event. Note to self: do not wear a tie to press conferences.....UPDATE: Corrections in the comments below, almost all details of this story in dispute.


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

There seems to be some dispute over whether DPP MPs have really attacked the minister. The DPP MPs have held a press conference to explain and came up with evidence that it wasn't any of them who attacked the minister. It was chaos due to the small space and the large number of people there. However if you see the 2 close shots, you will see that the person holding the minister's neck at the front was a KMT MP and the one from the back was a DoH Parliamentary Liaison. The journalist who kept screaming 'MP attacked the minister!' is the wife of the KMT whip, Lin, Yi-shih. She was suspected to stage an attack on herself to win sympathy votes for her husband before because the attacker was actually a KMT member and an associate with her husband's team. I'm not saying she must have done it but back in the old days, the KMT often sent their own people to create physical altercations in protests and then blamed them on the protesters.

Once a policeman beat up a college student in a protest without any provocation but claimed that the student was a mentally ill male who needed physical restraint. Because of stories like this, I usually take the KMT accounts with a pinch of salt.

Anonymous said...

Tim Maddog said...

The "choking him with his tie" thing is the pan-blue telling of this tale. The DPP had supposedly surrounded clown-of-clowns Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川) because he refused to let them question him about the melamine fiasco. Then Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators began pushing.

Images shown by the DPP in a press conference yesterday appear to show Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) (KMT) with his arm tightly around Yeh's neck, yet the pan-blue media is putting the blame on the DPP. This wouldn't be the first time the media has pushed a "violent DPP" meme.

KMT legislator Lin Yi-shih (林益世) was also on the side of the aggressors, and his wife, reporter Peng Ai-chia (彭愛佳) seems to have been among the first to start shouting to "Stop fighting!" Ai-ya!

This wouldn't be the first time that they've pulled the "crocodile tears" routine either.

Tim Maddog

Anonymous said...

The recognition of Chinese academic qualifications and admission of Chinese students to Taiwanese colleges have recently been the subject of heated debate.

Those who support liberalizing the system have not come up with clearly thought-out plans and have not carefully considered the potential impact of such policies. They have failed to persuade the public or to allay anxiety about the job market.

The government is in favor of liberalization, but, having failed to garner enough public support, it has put in place numerous restrictions that have crippled the policy to the point where it is likely to fail.

how is a situation about other forign students and their qualifications?

Anonymous said...

I remember meeting Ma at the appointment of Lung Ying Tai as chief of the Taipei Cultural Bureau. I watched as he shook hands with a friend of mine, handed her his card, turned away to find no one standing there, and then turned back to my friend and shook hands with her again and tried to hand her another card. He was clueless then and he's clueless now. I don't know how anyone could be surprised by this.

Tommy said...


Does this mean that you and your friend actually met Ma twice :-D You are doubly blessed

Anonymous said...

The thing about the assault on the Health Minister is that in some pictures specifically where he's being led outside after the assault supposedly occurred, it seems like the Minister is smiling.
Check it out or look at news coverage of the scenes and see if you think so too.

Anonymous said...

Implicitly, it all boils down to the Chinese exiles' realization that Taiwan remains at heart a Japanese territory. All what is wholesome on Taiwan harks back to its Japanese period. Can't you feel it?! Quit speaking Chinese! Speak KOKUGO! Listen , listen to me, baka yarou! KOKUGO (国語) is the key!

Taiwanese, you have the right to behave intolerant, racist against the boat people from war-torn China the USMG foisted on you and who have been lording it on you for 63 years.

Take a stand! On 10/25 join the demonstration on Ketagalan and make a bonfire out of those fake, useless... err, ROC passports. Burn! Burn them all to oblivion!

Anonymous said...

Follow up to the above.

Since the US’s de-recognition of the ROC, you, Taiwanese, are harboring a rebellion to the internationally recognized PRC. Taiwan, a den of Chinese terrorists? Not too smart a move.

Thirsty Ghosts said...

Today's China Times has a relevant article (10/5) as to why the Ma administration is allegedly so incompetent. The article -- more than one, actually -- details the isolation and loneliness of Ma's literal office. If accurate, the reports are consistent w/ the longstanding analysis that Ma is politically isolated. This, in my mind, accounts for a lot of the perceived incompetence -- that is, Ma apparently lacks access to professional counsel.

Anonymous said...

Agent Provocateurs? No way! This is the Chinese KMT that we're talking about. The KMT has never been known to pull off such a move...

Opposite Man.

Michael Turton said...

Max, I agree. And that stunt he pulled at the Confucius Temple only adds to the whole Aloof Emperor problem. I'm astounded at how fast Ma became unpopular.


Anonymous said...

Michael, why does it surprise you? Ma was the only figure in the KMT capable of leading them into a national election. He had the advantage of timing, but if it wasn't for that, he could not have won. Even the KMT were acting as though they were sure he could not win. It's quite possible that the KMT have no one else who could credibly run for president against the pageant of potential candidates the DPP now offer.

It's ironic that only a few months ago you had comments from readers that the DPP was dead. My guess is that now, even Chen Sui-Bian could beat him.

Anonymous said...

Chen could now beat Ma, Scott? How's the weather over there in that alternate reality? But I agree with you that the DPP is far from dead and that doomsaying to that effect was never very realistic.