Blindness to One's Own Moral Defects is the Most Dangerous Blindness of All
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 15, 2011
Summary: We lack awareness about many things in life. But politicians, especially those aspiring to high office, must be aware of them. DPP chairman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen's life has undergone many changes in recent years. As vice premier, she never imagined Su Tseng-chang resigning as DPP Chairman after losing the 2008 presidential primary. She never imagined herself taking his place as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party. Upon resigning as vice premier, she never imagined herself entering the biotech industry. As the chairman of a biotech company, she never imagined herself becoming chairman of the DPP. Before the five cities mayoral elections she never imagined becoming the Democratic Progressive Party's 2012 presidential candidate. But is all this enough to excuse her glaring conflicts of interest?
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We lack awareness about many things in life. But politicians, especially those aspiring to high office, must be aware of them. DPP chairman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen's life has undergone many changes in recent years. As vice premier, she never imagined Su Tseng-chang resigning as DPP Chairman after losing the 2008 presidential primary. She never imagined herself taking his place as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party. Upon resigning as vice premier, she never imagined herself entering the biotech industry. As the chairman of a biotech company, she never imagined herself becoming chairman of the DPP. Before the five cities mayoral elections she never imagined becoming the Democratic Progressive Party's 2012 presidential candidate. But is all this enough to excuse her glaring conflicts of interest?
The Chen administration aggressively promoted the Chang Yu Technology Company toward the end of its reign. The goal of the project was laudible. After all, Taiwan's high-tech industry owed its success largely to a single bright spot -- semiconductors. According to a declassified document posted by WikiLeaks.Taiwan, in 2007 Tsai Ing-wen told the AIT that after she stepped down as vice premier she planned to aggressively promote biotechnology, She smugly claimed that she was the author of the Biotech Drug Industry Regulations which had just passed a third reading in the Legislative Yuan under Wang Jin-pyng.
Industrial development on Taiwan is indeed dependent upon government support. Sun Yun-suan and Li Kuo-ting did indeed ask Morris Chang to head TSMC, and to give UMC a helping hand. But neither assumed the role of chairman. Neither owned even a single share of stock. Chao Yao-tung promoted the steel industry and later served as chairman of the board of China Steel. But he too never owned a single share of company stock. .
By contrast, Tsai Ing-wen has invited prosecution by her involvement in the biotech industry. She followed up by obtaining capital from the National Development Fund. She wsa closely involved from beginning to end. At times she was even in charge. Perhaps she never imagined that one day she would be running for president. She should never have invested her family's money in a government project. That amounts to a fundamental conflict of interest she should have avoided.
Tsai Ing-wen failed to avoid this conflict of interests. Worse, on March 18, 2008, three days before the presidential election, she arranged the transfer of one billion dollars from the National Development Fund to her family's TaiMao biotechnology venture capital firm. The Council for Economic Development and Planning eventually approved a transfer of 875 million NTD. The sum far exceeded the 20 million USD (approximately 600 million NTD) that the National Development Fund earmarked for the Yu Chang Technology Company. Alas, the sum was too large, and the timing too sensitive. As a result the civil servants in charge were reluctant to recklessly transfer the funds. Tsai Ing-wen ought to be grateful to these civil servants, Otherwise, she would be mired in an even more controversy today.
CEPD Chairman Ho Mei-yueh characterized the Tsai family investment as "angel capital." The sum was small, merely 20 million NTD. But investors in the Chang Yu Technology Company included large corporations such as Uni-President and Yuen Foong Yu. It is not hard to find a couple of companies at random wiling to invest 10 million NTD. So why go running to the Tsai family? When Tsai Ing-wen was elected DPP Chairman in 2009, all shares were distributed. Twenty million NTD invested for less than one year returned over 19 million NTD, a staggering profit. By contrast the government lost 4.5 billion NTD on the Chang Yu Technology Company. What can one say, except that Tsai Ing-wen seems to have a lock on both the government and the business world. She could even get the Ruentex Industries to acquire her shares, getting her out of trouble and enabling her to profit from the deal.
The extreme complexity of the Yu Chang Technology Company scandal left the current chairman of the Council for Economic Planning Christina Liu confused. For example, there are two TaiMao companies. The first, TaiMao Protein, changed its name to the Yu Chang Technology Company. Tsai Ing-wen's family also set up another company, named TaiMao Biotechnology. The two companies have the same personnel. Both are funded by the National Development Fund. The first sum transferred to the Yu Chang Technology Company was 20 million NTD. Later this was increased to 50 million NTD, then 100 million NTD. How much did the government eventually provide? Even Christina Liu has not had enough time to investigate thoroughly. The Yu Chang Technology Company and TaiMao were able to obtain funding, again and again. Again, what can one say, except that Tsai Ing-wen appears to have a lock on both the government and the business world. She could compelt the National Development Fund to approve funding. No wonder biotech tycoons all want Tsai Ing-wen as their chairman.
The Chen adminstration had two large investment projects toward the end of its regime. The first was the Taiwan Goals company, established when Chiou I-jen was vice premier. It was supposed to turn arms procurement over to the private sector. On Chiu I-jen's recommendation DPP elders took charge. Wu Nai-jen, chairman of the Stock Exchange was appointed Taiwan Goals chairman of the board. The story behind the scandal is incredible. The public has reacted violently and demanded its cancellation. Chang Ho Yu and Chi-Huey Wong fully endorsed and supported the Yu Chang Technology Company. It may be impossible to successfully prosecute this case. But it proves that the Chen administration behaved with unforgivable recklessness before and after the transfer of power.
The government wants to nurture a fledgling industry. No one objects. But the Ma administration is also vigorously promoting the biotechnology industry. Would any political appointee in the Ma administration dare invest family money in a newly established biotech company? Would they dare appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars from the National Development Fund? Would they dare have themselves appointed chairman of the board? Clean government is not a slogan to be parroted at election rallies. It requires conviction. Tsai Ing-wen complains she is the victim of political mud-slinging. This demonstrates that when it comes to political ethics and social perception, she is tone deaf. She blasts the 18% preferential interest rate for civil servants, even as she continues applying for it and depositing it in her personal account. Blindness to one's own weaknesses and moral defects, is the most dangerous blindess of all.