Promote the General Welfare:
Jiang Cabinet Need Not March to the DPP's Drums
United Daily News editorial
Taipei, Taiwan, ROC
February 18, 2013
Summary: The Jiang Yi-huah cabinet assumed office today. Jiang is the youngest premier in the last half century. He has barely more than five years of political experience. Can he successfully oversee the ruling administration? Can he survive the diplomatic crisis? Can he help President Ma restore his tarnished reputation? These wait to be seen.
Full Text below:
The Jiang Yi-huah cabinet assumed office today. Jiang is the youngest premier in the last half century. He has barely more than five years of political experience. Can he successfully oversee the ruling administration? Can he survive the diplomatic crisis? Can he help President Ma restore his tarnished reputation? These wait to be seen.
How well will the Jiang Cabinet perform? Opinions are polarized. Some consider Jiang Yi-huah an unknown quantity, therefore they feel little empathy for him. Others consider his cabinet a breath of fresh air, therefore they have high hopes. Therefore, depending upon their expectations, people will judge the Jiang Cabinet according to very different standards. One standard will be low, the other will be high. First consider the low standard. The hope is that the new cabinet will at least stabilize the situation, and prevent Taiwan's economy from deteriorating further. Now consider the high standard. The hope is that the ruling and opposition parties will interact in a new manner that generates forward momentum, and that this will transform the political rot into something entirely new.
In other words, at worst people will see it as a failed political experiment. After all, premiers are changed annually. If this one is replaced, he will not be missed. At best, perhaps this accidental premier's new thinking and new policies will eliminate the stench surrounding Taiwan's politics. Perhaps he can break the deadlock and blaze a new trail for the ruling and opposition parties. In any case, Jiang Yi-huah has no intention of applying low standards to himself. He must apply high standards to himself, and consider the larger political picture. Only then will his political journey have positive significance. He speaks of "modern intellectuals imbued with the Confucian spirit." This is the only way to implement his goal of accession to the WTO.
Jiang is a political novice. The good thing about being a novice, is that one is not mired within the old framework and norms. One's decisions can be based on broader concerns. As for lack of experience, one can always overcome that by recruiting people with talent from all walks of life. On this point, Jiang Yi-huah must assume responsibility. The Sean Chen cabinet was troubled by internal dissent. Whether the premier was long on administrative experience was clearly not the main issue. It had a far bigger problem. The government was unable to set the policy agenda. It was constantly tripped up by the opposition DPP, and even by comrades within his own party. The result was a loss of control. This was the main reason it lost public support.
The Chen cabinet taught the Jiang cabinet an important lesson. The government must seize the initiative. It must never march to the beat of its opponents' drums. If it does so, it will find itself in a defensive posture, and unable to get anything done. Consider the issues currently on the table. Opposition to nuclear energy is one of the key planks in the Green Camp's platform. This can be interspersed with issues such as pension reform, U.S. pork imports, impeaching the president, and the luxury tax. Meanwhile, the only examples the ruling party can counter with, are the Free Trade Zone Pilot Program and the cross-Strait representative offices. These political cards are relatively weak. Therefore the Jiang Cabinet must do more. It must help people understand the government's intentions. Only then can the new cabinet show off its new thinking.
Promoting the General Welfare is one of the government's basic duties. There is nothing mysterious about it. When society encounters difficulties, when people are in need, the government must attempt to provide resources, establish a framework, change the system, and remove obstacles. This is the function of government. Is the Jiang Cabinet watching over society? Does it care for people? Have its members achieved anything of value? If so, it need not fear DPP obstructionism. It will have no trouble rehabilitating its public image.
The Jiang cabinet must be able to get things done. President Ma must change his role. Over the past year, President Ma has presided over both the KMT and the ROC central government. He failed to exercise effective leadership over the KMT legislative caucus. As a result, the cabinet encountered obstructionism. Today, a new cabinet has assumed office. President Ma may wish to relinquish some control over administrative matters, and assert greater control over the party. He can make up for lost control over the government with increased control over the party. This will enable to administration to operate more smoothly as a whole. The president may even wish to humble himself. He may even wish to transcend partisanship by inviting rival political party heads or civic leaders to discuss matters of state. This would ensure media coverage, address opposition DPP and civic group discontent, and help consolidate a public consensus.
For the Blue camp, Jiang Yi-huah rejoined the party less than six months ago. He is someone whom many are unfamiliar with, and do not understand. For the Green camp, many middle-aged DPP leaders know him from their time as students. This is a strange relationship, one that reflects President Ma's outside the box thinking. It requires a leap of faith regarding a 60s generation succession. If the Jiang cabinet can get its act together, Taiwan's politics can experience a wave of innovation. This would do more than merely promote reform within the Blue camp. It might even sweep the Green camp Formosa Incident generation lawyers into the dustbin of history. The question is whether Jiang Yi-huah can shoulder this burden.
Pragmatically speaking, what people want to see is not the ritual of a new premier taking office. What they want to see is the change this new cabinet team can make. Its demeanor may be elegant or awkward. But the Jiang Cabinet must find its own way. If it marches to the beat of its opponents' drums, it will only lose its way.
2013.02.18 03:12 am