Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's One Trick Pony

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Friday July 11, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

While his cabinet continues making mistake after mistake in governing Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou appears to be the proverbial one trick pony and have only one thing on his mind. Elected on his promises that he would send Taiwan's economy soaring, Ma's only solution and hope is to continue to keep repeating his mantra, "run to China." Life however, is not that simple.

When he was running for the presidency, Ma ignored the plight of the world's economy and focused only on the fact that Taiwan's growth did not match China's inflated numbers. Ma's simple answer of course was to blame it all on the out-going Chen Shui-bian. Things would be different once he was elected. He would lead Taiwan to the Economic Promised Land and China was his solution. Now that he is president and Taiwan's economy is worse, Ma's answer is, "it's a global problem, but we still need to go to China."

Life as was said is not that simple and perhaps the only thing that is constant however is change. Ma should have had some sense of that when, in hopes of progress, he had filled his cabinet with yesterday's so-called experts. Unfortunately yesterday's solutions do not necessarily fit today's problems. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) which has always controlled Taiwan's Legislative Yuan, had not held the presidency for the last eight years and in those eight years a lot had happened. Both Taiwan and the world had changed a lot. This should have been his first awakening.

The KMT had always touted itself that it knew how to handle the economy. It was the reputed "A team" as far as Taiwan and the world was concerned. So enter then Ma's specialists of eight years ago. Yiin Chii-ming, the KMT Minister of Economic Affairs boasted that now that they were in, the TAIEX, which had reached 9,309 when the KMT took office on May 20 would soon be breaking the 20,000 mark. Not so, at last count the TAIEX was 7,051 and heading south.

Not to worry, there were still the tourists from China to solve the problem and Ma rushed headlong to that solution. Taiwan was supposed to get 3000 a day, but China has only allowed 1000 a day. And for July 18, so far, no one has applied to come. So, thus far, the only visible result from Ma's action of opening Taiwan to Chinese tourists on July 4th is that they have been jumping ship and disappearing at the rate of one a day. But Ma, the one trick pony, is not discouraged; he keeps insisting the only real solution is "run to China."

Yesterday's answers don't always fit today's problems. Taiwan has been one of the major investors in China, but focusing on more investment does not appear to be the panacea that Ma hopes for. The rest of the world has already begun to discover the many pitfalls of dealing with China, its laws and copyright violations. This is more than the fact that China keeps producing tainted products toys, tooth paste, pet food etc. and more than the fact that China (Taiwan's western neighbor) is leading the world in pollution. Unfortunately for Taiwan, the wind patterns blow east. Still the one trick pony keeps saying "run to China," for it is not Taiwan's reputation that he is most concerned about but his own. Will China be Ma's savior? It may be too early to tell, but never has a fly been more easily enticed into the spider's parlor. Ma does not seem to have a Plan B.