Thursday, September 10, 2009

Doing the Cabinet Shuffle

The nation awaits the verdict on former President Chen Shui-bian, but today it greets Ma Ying-jeou's new cabinet, led by longtime Taiwanese KMT politico Wu Den-yih. The Taipei Times profiled him today. The scuttlebutt is that Wu, 61, is a transitional appointment....
“His lack of personal skills and confrontational personality will be obstacles for him, as he will need to work closely with the legislature and party members,” said Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a political commentator from National Tung Hua University.

Shih said Wu shared traits with outgoing premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), who also had a problematic relationship with the KMT-dominated legislature and often comes across as aloof, and said Wu would probably be a “transitional premier” chosen by Ma to help cultivate vice premier-designate Eric Chu (朱立倫) as his successor.
Chu is already being mentioned as Presidential material in a KMT starved of up and coming politicians. Ma is Chairman of the KMT, while Wu and Chu are ranking KMT members. Ma promised he would keep party and government separate, but the reality is that they are increasingly intertwined.

Wu is a Taiwanese from Nantou who is also the former mayor of Kaohsiung, beaten by Frank Hsieh in the 1998 election. Those of you who have been here since the 1990s may reflect on what Kaohsiung was like before Hsieh cleaned it up. Taiwan News delicately hints at some of the issues:
For example, both Wu and Chu will surely be more decisive in crisis management or disaster response than their technocratic predecessors, but will also deeply linked with local KMT and financial factions and are impregnated with the flavor of "money politics."


Moreover, the fact that Ma has been forced to accelerate the transition from old guard KMT technocrats to younger former mayors and legislators shows both a welcome turn to respect the public will but also exposes the KMT's worrying shortage of senior executive talent able to govern a democratic, pluralistic and globalized Taiwan.
An analysis piece on the cabinet reshuffle pointed out the conventional wisdom, that the major purpose of the reshuffle was to bring in people who can help Ma win in 2012.

The looming Cabinet reshuffle has helped boost President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) odds of winning re-election in 2012, the Center for Prediction Market at National Chengchi University said yesterday.

The center said the likelihood of Ma winning the next presidential election rose to 63.2 percent, an increase of 11.4 percentage points from its Aug. 20 forecast, which was the lowest point since the center began tracking the issue in April.
At this point Ma looks like a lock for 2012, with the DPP weak and no rising politician in either party to challenge him. The reshuffle keeps out politicians such as former chairman Wu Po-hsiung, who is in a powerful faction opposed to Ma. Su Chi, the powerful and influential head of the NSC, whom many see as pulling the strings of Ma's presidency, retained his position as head of the NSC.

The legislature is not likely to be any kinder to the new cabinet than the old:
KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) said the Executive Yuan should enhance communications with caucus members but it should not use the meetings to demand full support from KMT lawmakers, while fellow lawmaker Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) said there would be no “honeymoon period” for the new Cabinet.
I suspect that the increasing number of cabinet reshuffles under President Chen and now, looming in the Ma administration -- if this one is transitional, as everyone expects, then Ma will have had at least three premiers in 4 years -- is in part due to the system searching for an executive solution to the problem of our intransigent, useless legislature.

The CNA profiled new Defense Minister Kao today....

Since graduating from the Republic of China Military Academy (ROCMA) in 1968, Kao has held a variety of command and staff positions in his military career, including General of the 10th Army Corps, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the army, and Commanding General of the Combined Logistics Command.

Kao is also widely recognized for his efforts, including dispatching relief and assistance to victims, during the devastating 921 Earthquake which struck Taiwan in 1999 when he was the General of the 10th Army Corps.

After Typhoon Morakot last month brought the worst flooding and mudslides to Taiwan in 50 years, Kao was appointed as the leading deputy executive officer of the the Executive Yuan's Post-Disaster Reconstruction Commission.

Kao is one of the few military officers whose performance has been recognized by both the former and incumbent ruling parties.

Pan-Blue media organ TVBS says that only 40% found the appointment suitable, while the pro-KMT UDN has a poll on the Wu-Chu appointment that says:

The poll results indicate 41 percent of those surveyed endorse Wu as new premier, while 25 percent show no support for the arrangement.

As to the newly appointed vice premier, 53 percent of the respondents approved of Chu, with only 14 percent expressing dissatisfaction.

The survey also indicates a total of 60 percent of pan-blue followers support Wu’s appointment. However, only 35 percent of pan-green backers applauded Wu’s new position.

I wish them luck, and hope that the new cabinet will perform better than the old, for the sake of everyone on the island, Blue and Green.
Daily Links
Excerpt (no link): SCMP: Beijing wants KMT's help in making WWII films.
After years of playing the villain in mainland films and television dramas, Kuomintang soldiers are set to be portrayed as heroes who saved the nation from the imperial Japanese army and led China to the final victory. The mainland has approached Taiwan to jointly produce several films glorifying the heroic acts of KMT soldiers in China's epic struggle with Japanese invaders from 1937 to 1945, a Taiwanese newspaper has reported.

For most mainlanders growing up and watching films in which KMT soldiers are inevitably depicted as useless cowards or villains, a drastic change has been quietly taking place in mainland cinemas over the past few years. For decades, Beijing and the state-controlled film industry seldom mentioned the role played by KMT armies in the Sino-Japanese war. The focus instead was always on communist soldiers or guerilla fighters, despite them playing only a marginal role in the struggle. Now with warming ties across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing is eager to stress common roots.
NOTHING TO DO WITH TAIWAN: Census Bureau to announce major new findings on poverty and health insurance in the US today at 11 am East coast time. If you want to argue, there's the data....
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Thomas said...

Does anyone know more or less where Eric Chu stands on the relations with China question? I know he favors closer relations, but I don't know to what degree. I know little about him myself.

Michael Turton said...

He's the up and coming guy. I'll ask around.

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