What Made Nan Fang Shuo Change? Ma's Lack of Core Values?

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Monday May 30, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

There are many ways that Ma Ying-jeou and his leadership style have been characterized in the past. Ma has been called the "Phony Pony," "Ma Ying-joke," "The Chameleon on a Wind Sock" etc.; the list goes on and on. A recent interview with political commentator Nan Fang Shuo, published in Mandarin in the "Liberty Times," and then in English in the "Taipei Times" ("Ma Shifts with the Political Winds: Nan Fang Shuo," May 29, 2011) adds to the list. Nan Fang Shuo addresses how Ma's logic is "to say no independence to the people wishing for unification, and saying no unification to the people wanting independence. This sort of taking advantage by playing word-games is not a government that takes responsibility."

At the heart of the interview is Ma's lack of leadership and core values (or perhaps his reluctance to reveal his true core values). The point made by Nan Fang Shuo is one we have emphasized repeatedly; Ma has floated on image and public relations hype. Some would like to make this more complex than it is, but for anyone who has followed Ma during his eight years as Mayor of Taipei and his current three plus years as President, and contrasted his words and promises with his performance, it all boils down to one simple thing. Are people able to "see through" Ma and his hype or not and why?

Nan Fang Shuo puts it succinctly. "Without core values, the Ma administration is in fact forever deceiving people on every side; deceiving Taiwanese, deceiving Beijing, deceiving every side. In the end, the lies will be seen through, and he won't be able to smooth things over on both sides. I think that the recent World Health Assembly (WHA) incident is Beijing's warning to Ma."

There is much more in the interview on ECFA and on Beijing and the KMT; of course we also wish that the ability of many Taiwanese to see through Ma comes sooner rather than later. We only wish that the interviewer could have gone on to ask exactly when did Nan Fang Shuo, a one-time supporter of Ma, finally see the light? What caused the change? What was his tipping point? In that way perhaps he could guide those who still are caught up in Ma's hype and image. He can point out the continuing and changing flow of unfulfilled promises that Ma with his lack of core values has no trouble making.