Bring Back the Five Presidential Leadership Lessons
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 15, 2012
Summary: Taiwan has a huge problem. The public has lost all confidence in itself. The most common complaints among the public are that the economy is bad, salaries are falling, the quality of life is low, and the wealth gap is widening. Young people have lost hope. But let us review history. Let us examine at the global picture. Is Taiwan's situation really that bad?
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Taiwan has a huge problem. The public has lost all confidence in itself. The most common complaints among the public are that the economy is bad, salaries are falling, the quality of life is low, and the wealth gap is widening. Young people have lost hope. The business community complains that the government is impotent. Each says we must be more self-reliant. But let us review history. Let us examine at the global picture. Is Taiwan's situation really that bad? In the 1970s the oil crisis struck. The government initiated its ten major infrastructure projects plan. It increased domestic demand and defused the crisis. It laid the foundation for the subsequent economic take-off. Now let us take an even closer look. Our current situation is less perilous than it was during the financial tsunami. So why is there so much pessimism today compared to then? Why does the public see no hope for the future?
Taiwan today is utterly lacking in ambition. It is filled with anxiety about the future. That is its biggest problem. In an era of uncertainty, society has lost its way. This is when it most needs government leadership the most.
The first task of leadership, is to take the helm. The President is the Head of State. He must act like a leader. He must suggest a direction for the ROC's development. He must offer a vision for the nation. He must create a broad public consensus. He must inspire a willingness to participate in a collective struggle. Only then can he bring the nation together, and lead it out of the wilderness. The biggest problem now is that the helmsman lacks a clear vision of how the nation should develop. This has resulted in policy flip-flopping, chaos, and public confusion. This editorial series is devoted to this core issue. We wish to remind the ruling administration that the key issue is the ability to man the helm Only then can one restore leadership. Only then can one offer new prospects for the ROC.
The second task of leadership, is to make decisions. A good decision-making model will solicit opinions, and carefully pick its battles. It will take into account conflicts of interest and social impacts. The decisions it implements will then be equitable. The Ma administration's policy formulation process is crude. Major decisions are often made by a handful of individuals. The government does not lack talent. It has access to some of the leading talents in their fields. But tiny cliques have saddled the president with a reputation for oligarchical rule by the few. Worse, its decisions are often bad. They are often out of touch with people at the grass-roots. This leads to powerful backlashes, policy reversals, and a steady erosion of the leadership's dignity and prestige. If this hermetic, cliquish, decision-making model is not jettisoned, the government's ability to lead will forever remain in doubt.
The third task of leadership is to execute policy. Major government decisions often have far-reaching repercussions. They involve many ministries. Therefore, policy implementation must be integrated. Only then can one get past officials preoccupied with defending their own turf. Only then can one avoid each of them going their own way, and each of them getting in each others' way. When implementing policy one will inevitably encounter problems and crises. Therefore, the ability to solve problems and deal with crises is another link in the chain. The Ma administration lacks the ability to execute policy. He has failed to exploit his star power. He has often lacked resolve. He retreats at the first sign of trouble. He wavers. This encourages ministry heads to see which way the wind is blowing before acting, to evade responsibility when difficulties arise, and to do nothing in face of crises. As a result the public loses respect. How can such an administration establish any credibility? How can its leadership skills not be challenged?
The fourth task of leadership is to use and cultivate people with talent. The public on Taiwan misses Chiang Ching-kuo. He was selfless in the way he promoted people. He was close with the local populace. But even more importantly, he nurtured people with talent to govern Taiwan. Many of them are still active in the political arena. They include President Ma. Many of them he mentored personally. Times have changed. But the principle remains the same. One must have the courage to employ talent from all quarters. One must use people from different political backgrounds to govern the nation. One must not cultivate talent only for the ruling party. One must nurture talent for the entire nation. One must exhibit broadmindedness and tolerance. If one does, then one will naturally be able to nurture leaders. The nation's long-term growth will then be assured.
The fifth task of leadership is to respect the framework. The constitutional framework of the Republic of China is a dual-leadership system. The president is elected. But the premier is appointed by the president. They have different responsibilities. According to the constitution, the president is responsible for major decisions crucial to the nation's development. The premier is responsible for unifying the various government ministries and implementing policy. As long as each operates in accordance with the framework, major conflicts are unlikely. If the premier is unable to execute major policy, the president can replace him. After all, the president is the elected official responsible for the success or failure of governance. Another core issue is the need to avoid the extralegal use of power. The Chen regime was corrupt. Chen Shui-bian of course must take full responsibility. But Wu Shu-cheng's extralegal decision-making, including personnel appointments, was also a problem. President Ma has been particularly careful to avoid outside interference in government affairs. The nation's institutions, its decision-making powers and responsibilities, must be able to withstand the most rigorous scrutiny. The head of state must demonstrate genuine leadership.
Taiwan remains a place of hope. Each year an increasing number of contestants in international design competitions wins awards. They inject youthful vitality into the cultural and creative field. Younger generation Taiwanese are returning home and taking up farming, They have given farming an entirely new image. Various cultural and leisure industries are on the rise. How can such vitality have no future? Taiwan remains vibrant. The younger generation overflows with creativity. The new generation has fighting spirit. As long as the government demonstrates sufficient leadership, Taiwan will find its way out of the wilderness. There is no doubt about it.