Su Chi's Advice May Grate on the Ears, But Reforms Must Not be Delayed
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 25, 2012
Summary: Three days after President Ma was inaugurated to his second term, former Secretary General of the National Security Council Su Chi published a critique of the government, including the legislature. Su Chi was one of President Ma's most important aides. His words may grate on the ears of many current administration officials and legislators. Needless to say it generated political waves. But if we calmly review what Su Chi actually said, we must admit he made a number of excellent points.
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Three days after President Ma was inaugurated to his second term, former Secretary General of the National Security Council Su Chi published a critique of the government, including the legislature. Su Chi was one of President Ma's most important aides. His words may grate on the ears of many current administration officials and legislators. Needless to say it generated political waves. But if we calmly review what Su Chi actually said, we must admit he made a number of excellent points.
Su Chi played an extraordinary role in Ma Ying-jeou's brain trust. He was a key member of the Ma administration, responsible for overall national strategy. He is a highly ranked formulator of KMT mainland policy. His experience dates back to the Lee Teng-hui era. He served with the KMT [陸工會], the Mainland Affairs Council, the Government Information Office, and the Office of the President. Most importantly, he was the man responsible for the term, "1992 consensus." His recommendations cannot be dismissed as the uninformed opinion of some outsider who does not understand the situation. The fact is, Su Chi understands better than anyone the workings of the Kuomintang government. If he says the Ma administration has problems, then it has problems.
Su Chi was Secretary General of the National Security Council during President Ma's first term. He was a key member of President Ma's brain trust on cross-Strait and foreign policy. He was a key policy maker on national security matters. After he resigned as National Security Council Secretary-General in 2010, he presided over Ma Ying-jeou's video conference at Harvard University, then organized a forum in Taipei. He helped the Ma administration establish a second channel for cross-strait dialogue. Su has long been at the center of power. He understands Ma Ying-jeou's way of doing things. He understands the ruling administration's approach to decision-making. In this regard, few people are his peer.
He is a seasoned veteran, deeply involved in government affairs. His friendship with President Ma is deep. Su Chi's criticisms cannot be dismissed as either ignorant or malicious. Were Su Chi's remarks fair? Did they smear the Legislative Yuan? Instead of asking such questions, we should examine what Su Chi actually said. Did he identify the underlying problems? After all, our concern is not with winning arguments. Our concern with uncovering problems, and mobilizing the government so solve them. We must not wait until the president is a lame-duck. By then it will be too late.
Su Chi's leveled four criticisms. One. The administration lacks expert political appointees. As a result many career civil servants have been appointed in their stead. This is why the current administration is "more conservative and less innovative" than the KMT was during the 1990s. Career civil servants lack the courage to defend administration policy. The result? For the past four years, the Ma administration has been a solo act, with no chorus to back him up. This means the administration lacked leadership. Political appointees lacked both the initiative and the ability to champion administration policy. Su Chi says President Ma must take the lead. He must inspire the entire government through his beliefs and his determination. He must inspire even the private sector. He must persuade or even compel officials to undertake reform, and strengthen Taiwan's democracy. On this point, President Ma himself must be willing to listen.
Two. The problems are systemic. Su Chi says many people blame President Ma. President Ma shares responsibility of course. But the biggest problem is systemic. Everyone is unhappy with the status quo. So they project their dissatisfaction onto President Ma. Su Chi says Taiwan's leaders are "squirrels in a cage." They run and run, only to find themselves in the same place. Su Chi says "If Taiwan's democracy is not strengthened, whichever person or party wins power will merely enter the cage and become the new squirrel." The ruling and opposition parties must subject the existing constitutional system and party system to fundamental review. They may even need to amend the constitution. These options should be discussed and evaluated.
Three. The Legislative Yuan is broken. Ruling and opposition political party consultations are back room deals. Su Chi said the Legislative Yuan mechanism for ruling and opposition party consultation "distorts the results of democratic elections, and is the darkest corner of our democratic system." Su Chi noted that our Legislative Yuan passes only about 160 bills a year. As a result, the nation is shackled by outdated laws and regulations. Adults are forced to wear children's shoes. Meanwhile career civil servants mechanically enforce outdated laws. This makes it difficult to deal with complex issues, and even more difficult to ensure national prosperity. The public considers the government less effective than it was before, and considers the Legislative Yuan the root of the problem. The problem may not be with cross-party consultation per se. It may be with unqualified legislators. But the result is inefficient legislative review, which turns party consultations into a necessary evil. This has long been the consensus. Legislators should not offer rebuttals. They should engage in soul searching.
Four. Government leaders offer not hope for the future. Su Chi spoke of his own youth. Taiwan was poor, closed, and subject to authoritarian rule. It was wracked by cross-strait tensions. It was ostracized by the international community. Yet young people were confident, brimming with hopes and dreams. They looked to the future with enthusiasm. By contrast, today's young people hold out little hope for the future. Society has no template. Society has lost its vitality. The prospect is depressing.
These are the problems President Ma must ponder. Veteran KMT officials agree. What sort of vision can we offer society for the future? This is the question the Ma administration must ask itself during its second term.