Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Chairman Ma -- ow!

President Ma visited Hawaii this week and spoke at the University of Hawaii.....
Speaking at the University of Hawaii, Ma said there was no urgent need for a sit-down meeting with Hu at the moment because inking the hotly contested trade pact with Beijing was the most important step in improving cross-strait relations.

It has been widely speculated that Ma, who is the sole candidate in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairmanship race, intends to become KMT chairman so that he can meet Hu in China in his capacity as party leader, rather than as president.

During his address, the president also said that no talks on a peace treaty would take place unless Beijing first agreed to remove the 1,500 missiles pointed at Taiwan.


American Institute in Taiwan Director Raymond Burghardt also touted Ma’s “diplomatic truce” policy — an unspoken understanding with China that both sides would not attempt to lure away each other’s allies with big financial packages — and said that US-Taiwan relations had greatly improved since he took office in May last year.
Here's a common theme with Ma dating back to his first overseas trips as the touted Presidential contender a few years ago -- when he is out of the country, he talks about the missiles aimed at Taiwan, and how there will be no negotiations on a peace treaty without their removal. Now the US Establishment is also quizzing China aloud on why they haven't been removed.

Naturally, the pro-KMT United Daily News report carried no hint that anyone had protested his appearance in Hawaii.

This excerpt also points to another recent political move by Ma: becoming Chairman of the KMT. Ma above downplays the link to China policy -- the potential for a meeting with Hu Jin-tao -- and the recent analysis in the Taipei Times focused on Ma's weak domestic position:
Although he and KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) were equally tight-lipped about his intention, Ma said during a TV interview earlier last month that it would be easier for him to push policies through if he were the party chairman. After speculation mounted over a power struggle between the two, Ma and Wu decided to hold a joint press conference to explain the issue days earlier than they had planned.
Ma and and the current Chairman, Wu are from rival right-wing factions within the KMT. The article notes that being Chairman would give Ma more authority over the legislature, and would give him the right to nominate candidates at all levels -- and this with the whole legislative map being redrawn to reduce the number of administrative districts by one-third. By the end of next year, Ma's people could be in power everywhere. Antonio Chiang, the former advisor to President and current editor of Apple Daily, contrarily observed....
“Let him have it. He will discover that he cannot do more things simply because he has more power. Instead he will invite more trouble. It’s a great opportunity to test his ability,” he said.

The legislature would not be as easy to manage as Ma might think, Chiang added, because legislators have their own interests in mind.

Chiang said he would like to think that Ma’s goal was to reform the century-old party, an ambitious task not even former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and Lee dared to take on.

Ma’s biggest problem is that he was never closely connected with the party and his election victories were secured by distancing himself from the KMT, Chiang said.
Huang Jei-hsuan had another hard-hitting letter in the Taipei Times the other day, comparing Ma's fostering of Taiwan's dependence on China to a drug dealer's fostering of addiction in his customers. Ma's current plan, manifested in the blizzard of regulations, apparently involves integrating Taiwan with China so deeply that no escape is possible.

Antonio Chiang's comments on the legislature recall to mind the previous issues generated by Ma's promotion of his own people, the so-called "Ma troop", over the "southern legislators", a sort of code phrase for Taiwanese KMT politicians, largely from southern Taiwan, who appear to look to KMT Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, a fellow Taiwanese, for leadership. Wang was once Ma's rival within the KMT, a favorite of the elites who dislike Ma Ying-jeou, but since Ma's election he has more or less dropped off the political map. Any attempt by Ma to replace such legislators with his own people will probably result in great friction, and Ma, busy annexing the island to China, isn't going to bother. Hence I think all this talk about better control of the legislature is really irrelevant -- the legislature can do whatever it wants as long as it doesn't interfere in the process of hitching Taiwan to China, which is what Ma really wants. Nor is it giving the slightest hint that it wants to subject the KMT's China policy to democratic oversight.

The interesting question is what Ma wants all this power for. To wrest control of China policy from the Old Guard that currently controls it and change its direction? Ma's commitment to annexation implies that he can't change direction without coming under fire from both Beijing and Washington; hence, the direction of China policy can't change. Is it merely to put his name rather than Lien Chan's on the Anschluss? Most likely it is aimed at the 2012 elections, as one observer noted -- not only does he get to push his own people forward, but he also gains better control over the party factions, and perhaps by advancing his own people, ensures his widened influence after he inevitably steps down.

Finally, as the TT article notes, Ma is breaking the promise not to become Chair, and more importantly, not to reintegrate the government and party. In addition to his personal goals, Ma's grab for the Chairmanship may also represent an instance of the Party-State reflexes that still appear to govern the KMT's relationship with the government.

Daily Links:
Ma's Honolulu Visit
Special: Excellent Taiwan News editorial on KMT Administration's treatment of allies.

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!


Readin said...

I'm curious about Michael Turton's opinion on Ma's move toward party chairmanship given Turton's earlier speculations posted on his blog that Ma is simply a tool of the KMT old-boys elite.

In one party authoritarian states, which seem to be the target status for Taiwan under the current KMT, the party chairman is for most practical purposes the dictator. A person occupying the seats of both party Chairman and President is very powerful. It is hard to imagine that the puppet-masters would risk giving Ma both of these positions at the same time.

Is the chairmanship something Ma is cleverly taking for himself to expand his power, or is it something that the real power-brokers of the KMT are giving him in order to further their own purposes?

Islander said...

Michael- glad to see you're back at blogging!

Anonymous said...

wait! they let him in?!!!! they let this ocupant bastard who pretend to be the president of a country wich is not acsepted by Usa themselfes?! since when let this royal univercity random dossers from fantasy land? what the next? Peter Pan and Kandalf the Wise?

Michael Turton said...

Readin --

Don't think he was a "tool". I believe I said he was a facade hoisted in front of them. Now the facade is wanting to become real.


Michael Turton said...

What I want to know is WHY the Ma the tool wasn't content to be a tool. Is it mere faction fighting? What does he want to do with his new power?

Anonymous said...

What's the problem with Ma being KMT chairman? I'm generally curious because in most democracies, the party chairman (of the party with most votes) and the head of gov are the same person. UK, Germany, France, Australia etc, all generally follow this. If anything, Ma being both president and chairman would seem to bring the KMT more into line with western democratic practice.

Dixteel said...

Could it be the Nobel Peace Price?

Dixteel said...


There are a lot of problems.

For one thing, the political system in those country and in Taiwan are different. Just because it's democratic system does not mean they all operate the same way. For example, UK has parlimentary system.

The political situation is also very different. KMT is one of the richest political party in the world. Even the UK (or even the US) parties are not that rich. Also, we have to be realistic, a lot of government officials are KMT members etc due to the past KMT authoritarian rule in Taiwan. These situation makes one who at the is both the president and chairman of KMT exceedingly powerful. There will be no balance in the system as most of the power is concentrate on one person. At this point, can you still call it democracy? The situation in Taiwan is quite unique. You cannot find it in UK, France, Australia etc.

Another very important thing is Ma simply broke his promise during election. Before he said he is not going to be chairman. And now he is running for it...in an election...with no other candidate lol. Only KMT and CCP can accomplish such feat.

Anonymous said...

@What's the problem with Ma being KMT chairman?---

what is a KMT again?

Anonymous said...

@Could it be the Nobel Peace Price?--

Nobel was a famous dude who produced weapons and axplosives. now bet what kind of joke it is when someone will ask him to be the candidate for Nobels prise. wich one will he chouse? 9 mm or 7,56 mm?