Taiwan's President, The Little Man that is There!

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Friday November 07, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

After a stormy five day sojourn in the country of Taiwan, Chen Yunlin is on his way back to China. Now that he is gone, it is time for Taiwanese to see their primping president for the little man that he really is. What should have been a routine visit by a low level person from China to ink prearranged agreements turned into a near riot and cost Taiwanese citizens millions of dollars in wasted resources as well as the experience of police brutality not seen since the days of the Kaohsiung Incident. This is not because of legitimate anger and protests of concerned citizens, but because of the inept mishandling and callous indifference of the whole situation by Taiwan's sometime president, Ma Ying-jeou. .

Let there be no question about it, the fault of the past five days lies squarely on the shoulders of Ma Ying-jeou. So caught up was Ma in the fact that his image was suffering and that his approval ratings had dropped to an all time low of 23 per cent, that he could only see that he needed something "historic" to prop up his failed China policy. So caught up was he in wanting to claim to have done something "historic" to present to the big governments in the USA and China and gain their paternalistic approval that he became oblivious to the feelings and concerns of his own country.

Unfortunately despite all Ma's pre-arranged hype, Chen Yunlin's coming to Taiwan was nothing historic. The agreements that would be inked with the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) were agreements that had been begun and fashioned in the preceding years by Chen Shui-bian's administration. Further, higher level people from Taiwan had also visited China; the only thing that could be claimed to be historic was that it was the first time that an arrogant low level official from China deigned to visit the nation of Taiwan and be wined and dined by his party's previous enemies. If that is historic, it is only historic for little minds of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and not for Taiwan.

With this background, even a dunce could have seen the storm that was gathering. The people of Taiwan are not against trade with China; Taiwan is one of the biggest if not the biggest investor and trader with China. What Taiwanese are against is trade at the cost of their sovereignty. After fighting for decades for democracy, they had legitimate concerns about whether they would be sold out from the loose, cavalier and speedy way Ma was handling the meeting. In this matter, Ma Ying-jeou has had no credibility or trust among Taiwanese. In the past two months there had already been three increasingly larger protests against Ma with the final march on October 25th attended by some 600,000 people in the pan-blue capital of Taiwan.

If Ma had given clear, concrete assurances to the people before Chen's visit, they could have handled the arrogance of the representative from China. However, instead of reassuring the people that he would never sell out Taiwan, instead of giving clear signals to China and the Taiwanese that he is the President of a sovereign country, this little man Ma hid in the presidential palace and conjured up legal Constitutional conundrums to state why any explanations by him were unnecessary.

It was therefore no surprise then when Chen Yunlin came that the protests became a reality and increased day by day. At this crucial point, instead of going to the people to show that their fears were unfounded, Ma's solution was to sequester Chen in the Grand Hotel and turn it into a fortress surrounded by police. When Chen left the hotel to be wined and dined by the KMT throughout the city, Ma's only solution again was to increase the police support. When the people voiced open disapproval, instead of meeting them, Ma approved orders to attack.

Throughout the five days, where was Ma? When Ma should have been in the streets convincing the people of his sincerity, he was nowhere to be seen. Instead of sincerity, the people saw arrogance. Despite being all the people's representative, Ma felt he did not have to explain himself to the people.

More and more in Taiwan, this is the growing contention. Not only is Ma seen as incompetent, but he is also seen as arrogant. It is bad for a country to have an ignorant president; it is bad for a country to have an inept president; and certainly it is also bad for a country to have an arrogant president. But if a country has an ignorant, inept and an arrogant president then it is in deep trouble. This increasingly appears to be the case in Taiwan.

If there are any Taiwan watchers in the United States or Europe who have doubts about the ineptness of Ma Ying-jeou and how he is increasingly seen by the people of Taiwan, they have only to examine the following. It took George Bush from six to eight years in office to convince the majority of Americans of his lack of leadership and ineptitude; Ma Ying-jeou has been able to do the same for Taiwan in only four months.