To Transform a Nation, Replace Its Structure
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 17, 2011
Summary: The general election is over. Next on the agenda is a cabinet reshuffle. During President Ma's second four year term, he will not be burdened by the need to run for re-election. He can fulfill his ideals without the need for second-guessing. He can promote his agenda for the next four years. For example, he can promote the Golden Decade he described earlier, during press conferences. Over the past four years his actions could be described as "righting wrongs." Over the next four years, we hope he will be able to fulfill his promise to help Taiwan "experience a rebirth."
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The general election is over. Next on the agenda is a cabinet reshuffle.
During President Ma's second four year term, he will not be burdened by the need to run for re-election. He can fulfill his ideals without the need for second-guessing. He can promote his agenda for the next four years. For example, he can promote the Golden Decade he described earlier, during press conferences. Over the past four years his actions could be described as "righting wrongs." Over the next four years, we hope he will be able to fulfill his promise to help Taiwan "experience a rebirth."
Actually, upon closer examination, Taiwan does not have four years to experience a rebirth and transformation. It only has two. It is now 2012, only two years away from the 2014 five cities mayoral elections. When that time comes, realpolitik will force compromises that interfere with policy. Therefore the Ma administration has only two years, starting now, in which to get things done. These two years will determine Ma Ying-jeou's place in history. He must adopt drastic measures. He must be vigorous and resolute. Otherwise the opportunity will be lost forever.
If you ask President Ma what his most significant achievements over the past four years were, his is likely to say: One. Opening up cross-Strait trade and promoting cross-Strait peace. Two. Eliminating corruption. But these two achievements were mainly the result of proper attitude rather than extradordinary ability. The president insisted on making peace. Tensions between the two sides relaxed. As long as the president avoids recruiting people who love money and are out for the money. his own example will ensure that his administration remains clean.
During the campaign, President Ma was most severely criticized for failing to recruit the right people and for lacking resolve. Truly enabling Taiwan to experience a rebirth will require a very different way of doing things. Merely having the right attitude and having determination will not be enough. Over the next two years, the Republic of China needs a premier and a cabinet with the ability and the vision to implement Ma's vision. When people say revitailzation requires talent, this is what they mean.
Now however, important cabinet ministries lack the creativity, innovativeness, and courage to help Taiwan experience a rebirth. Many Executive Yuan cabinet members are drawn from the Taipei City Government. All they know is how to follow orders handed down by the central government. They are incapable of creating a new framework for the central government. Everywhere one looks, one sees fiscal policy, educational policy, monetary policy, accounting and statistics, and environmental protection being dealt with by local bureaucrats with little understanding of the larger issues. This is the main reason Taiwan failed to experience a rebirth over the past four years. The cabinet also includes people recommended party and government elders. It includes people hand-picked by the president himself. But with few exceptions, they have been unremarkable. This phenomenon of course, is a reflection upon President Ma's own choice of subordinates and his own vision.
KMT rulers have perpetuated the myth that the KMT is "rich in human talent." But considered coolly, those the KMT can promote to the cabinet level were all nurtured by the party 20 to 30 years ago. At the time Taiwan had an authoritarian system. South Korea was not a threat. Mainland China was waking from its slumber. Externally, Taiwan had no powerful neighbors. Internally, Taiwan had an authoritarian government. Naturally the talent it nurtured 20 years ago was more authoritarian and less progressive in character. Anyone who betrayed an inclination for reform, such as Justice Minister Ma Ying-jeou, was discouraged. Ma's fate was to be pushed aside by Lee Teng-hui. Any political party 100 years old is certain to include sycophants and yes-men. Therefore President Ma must acknowledge that the assumption that the KMT is rich in talent is in fact a myth. It is nothing more than incest.
If President Ma really wants to recruit those members of the political opposition most worthy of consideration, he should do what Tsai Ing-wen talked about the week before the election, engage in "cross-party recruitment." When Chen Shui-bian was elected Taipei Mayor, and again when he was elected president, he recruited many people not from the DPP. These people of ability included Sheng-Cheng Hu, Ho Chen, Lin Chuan-hsien, and Chen Chien-jen. Despite minority rule, despite presidential corruption, these recruits performed their duties quite well. Outside observers gave it fairly high praise. If President Ma wants to make a significant change over the next two years, the first thing he must do is break the KMT's past pattern of recruitment. He must recruit people of ability regardless of party affiliation.
Over the past four years, President Ma's hands have been tied with regards recruiting. This of course has undermined his ability to lead. When his cabinet members lack vision, when they lack administrative ability, he is the one who must take the heat. He is the one forced to make erroneous decisions outside his expertise. When the cabinet is unable to propose bold reforms, how can he rise above mere number crunching and text editing? As a result, many people concluded that President Ma failed to implement any fundamental reforms during his first term, apart from cross-Strait affairs and clean government.
A president is supposed to rise above partisanship. As Gong Zizhen observed, he or she must be able to recruit talent without regard for red tape. President Ma may lament that talent is hard to find. But if we break down the barriers, Taiwan is an island rich with talent. The only question is how such people can be persuaded to serve. The answer to that will depend on Ma's determination and courage. Taiwan's "rebirth" will require structural changes in personnel. As Gong Zizhen suggested, society and the nation must undergo a shake out. Too bad that on the occasion of President Ma's re-election, Gong Zizhen did not say "I advise the President to order a shake out, and to recruit talent without regard for red tape."
2012.01.17 02:56 am