The Fight for President Ma's Legacy
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 20, 2012
Summary: The current national security, foreign affairs, and cross-Strait personnel shuffles show President Ma's ambitions. He seeks new and ambitious diplomatic and cross-Strait relations. He is also seeking to ensure his historical legacy.
Full Text below:
The 19th of this month constitutes a milestone for the Ma Ying-jeou administration. The National Security Council has been subjected to a major reshuffle. The process has captured everyone's attention. The personnel changes focus on recruiting from the outside. But what concerns the public is economic survival. In this regard, the Ma administration must be aggressive in its thinking and planning.
The Ma administration's high level personnel changes have attracted widespread attention. King Pu-tsung, former Secretary-General of the Kuomintang and President Ma's Chief Adviser on International Affairs, has been made ROC representative to the US. Last September King Pu-tsung served as President Ma's alterego during his visit to the United States. Washington zeroed in on him as the best choice for the Ma administration's representative to the United States. But King has always valued his freedom. He hoped to withdraw from politics after this year's presidential election. He was reluctant to make any promises. Consider the US perspective. King served as ROC representative. He understands President Ma's thinking about the US, Japan, and cross-Strait policy. King would give the ROC greater peace of mind. The US looks forward to "Ambassador King" serving for the next three years. It looks forward to him promoting military procurements, the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) negotiations, and ROC participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The US looks forward to renewed Taipei/Washington relations. It would promote ROC economic liberalization. It would also reduce Taiwan's over-reliance on the Mainland economy and markets.
Jason Yuan, ROC Representative to the US, will head the National Security Council. In 2008, Yuan, a career diplomat, was appointed ROC Representative to the US. During the next four years, Taipei and Washington established mutual trust. Washington vetted Taipei as a member of the visa waiver program (VWP). During the last three months of last year, Washington dispatched three officials to Taipei. Last November, in Hawaii, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed that the ROC was an important "security and economic partner" of the US. Yuan has been in Washington for four years. He often receives phone calls from President Ma. This lends him an official imprimateur when meeting with U.S. officials or members of Congress. It enables him to accomplish the tasks entrusted to him by the administration. Onlookers hope that as Secretary General of the National Security Council he will communicate and coordinate with Ambassador King. One will be stationed at home. The other will be stationed abroad. Together they will help President Ma formulate a new and improved US policy. Together they will maximize our national interests and national security.
Foreign Minister Timothy Yang will take over as Secretary-General of the Office of the President. For him this constitutes a step up. It means President Ma will continue to draw on Timothy Yang's foreign policy expertise. Taipei and Beijing have enacted a diplomatic truce. ROC foreign aid and humanitarian aid policy will be better planned. The new Foreign Minister will be Deputy Foreign Minister David Lin. His diplomatic resume is complete. It includes Asia, Latin America, and Europe. He was Ambassador to Grenada, European Department Chief, Representative to Indonesia, International Organizations Department Chief, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. He boasts an international perspective and a wealth of practical experience. When he was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, he vigorously championed Taipei's accession to the World Health Assembly (WHA). He was considered the man behind the screen. When he was Representative to the EU, he successfully fought for and obtained visa-free treatment from the EU for ROC passport holders.
The new Mainland Affairs Council Chairman will be Wang Yu-chi, Spokesman for the Office of the President. He is the youngest Mainland Affairs Council Chairman ever. When he was on the National Security Council Advisory Committee, he was heavily involved in cross-Strait and diplomatic affairs. He has a good understanding of President Ma's cross-Strait policy and philosophy. But some worry that his credentials and contacts may be inadequate. This is cause for concern.
The new SEF chairman is expected to be KMT Secretary-General Lin Join-sane. He served as a Committee Member in the Taipei City Government, Kaohsiung City Government Secretary-General, Deputy Mayor, Deputy Chief of Operations and Political Affairs for the Ministry of the Interior, and Executive Yuan Secretary General. When he was Executive Yuan Secretary General and KMT Secretary General, he demonstrated an ability to broker deals. We look forward to him working with the Mainland Affairs Council.
Lai Shin-yuan, Chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, will be the Resident Representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Her job will not be limited to WTO Affairs. She will also promote improved relations with all countries, including substantive economic and trade relations. Does Lai have the character and leadership qualities required? Will she contribute to improved relations with the EU, which requires coordination and dialogue? That remains to be seen.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Security Council appointments demonstrate President Ma's commitment to the United States. During a video conference with a Washington think tank on May 12 last year he mentioned "three lines of defense." During this year's May 20 inauguration speech he proposed "three iron triangles." President Ma sees Taipei/Washington relations as one of the most important links for the Republic of China. He is well aware that without a U.S. security commitment we would have no cross-Strait economic dividend or peace dividend.
The current national security, foreign affairs, and cross-Strait personnel shuffles show President Ma's ambitions. He seeks new and ambitious diplomatic and cross-Strait relations. He is also seeking to ensure his historical legacy.