Thursday, January 16, 2014

The President's Brain Trust Cannot Consist of Only of "Friends of Ma."

The President's Brain Trust Cannot Consist of Only of "Friends of Ma."
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
A Translation
January 17, 2014

Summary: Who comprises the President's brain trust? That is a serious question. One must consider the nation's framework. Individuals of talent must engage in long-term thinking. If one relies solely on the "Friends of Ma," the risks to the nation are simply too great.

Full text below:

King Pu-tsung was recently called home by the Legislative Yuan Foreign Policy and Defense Policy Committee. He was ordered to report and answer questions. The legislators' questions included questions about the Huang Shi-ming case. They asked King Pu-tsung whether he would consider becoming Secretary General of the National Security Committee or Deputy Premier. They assumed he knew the answers to all sorts of questions. This brought to the fore two anomalies. One. The ROC Representative to the US was ordered to return home and answer questions on utterly irrelevant matters. Legislators clearly exceeded their authority. They interfered with the nation's diplomacy. Two. King Pu-tsung continues to be perceived as President Ma's "closest crony." Everything must go through him. The administration continues to have blind spots and remains unable to make full use of talented individuals.

One month ago rumors flew. US EPA Chief Gina McCarthy would visit Taiwan. It would be the first time a US cabinet member visited Taiwan in over a decade, and would be highly significant. It would also be a feather in King Pu-tsung's cap. But the visit was aborted as soon as it became public knowledge. There is no evidence to suggest that Beijing protested or blocked the visit. The visit can now be recorded in the "Chronicle of Events that Never Happened." Why? Because someone leaked the information prematurely, and Washington was unhappy. When U.S. officials visit Taiwan, this is something the media is likely to uncover. Sudden developments such as this underscore the lack of trust between Washington and Taipei. This is a matter of concern. This is also a sign that our national security strategy is in trouble.

When President Ma took office, he made a special effort to ease cross-strait relations. He reversed Taiwan's "troublemaker" image -- an image created by Chen Shui-bian during his administration. He is proud of these achievements. But in recent years, the regional situation has changed. The Mainland has begun to stress the "Chinese Dream." Cross-strait interactions are now at the deep end of the pool. New tensions have arisen, and a new relationship between Washington and Tokyo has formed. Washington and Tokyo are demanding that Taipei fulfill its regional security obligations. Their demands are getting louder. President Ma clings to his "East China Sea Peace Initiative." If he thinks it constitutes an ace in the hole, he has misjudged the situation. Current Secretary-General Yuan Chien-sheng cites it, just as Su Chi did when Ma first took office. Representative to the United States King Pu-tsung cites it also. President Ma has long been pro-Washington. It has become his only card he knows how to play.

National security should not reflect the president's individual whims alone. Ma no longer has the full support of his brain trust. In advanced nations such responsibilities are assigned to its most experienced strategists. The ROC clearly lacks such talent. Its national security system lacks the brain power. This is also true for cross-strait relations. When Kao Koong-lian stepped down, continuity problems appeared. When veteran cross-strait negotiator Kao Koong-lian resigned, the SEF was left with Lin Chung-sheng. Lin was elderly and inexperienced in cross-strait affairs. The MAC was left with Wang Yu-chi, who was required to meet immediately with Zhang Zhijun from the Mainland side. Wang Yu-chi was a former presidential spokesman. That was his sole qualification. At most he could precisely execute Ma Ying-jeou's cross-strait policies. He could contribute little in the way of original thinking.

In other words, the administration lacked individuals of talent, in everything from national security to cross-strait relations. Their thinking was limited. The best they could do was carry out President Ma's wishes. But decisions such as these are complex and have far-reaching repercussions. Knowing this, how can any of us feel at ease?

President Ma's brain trust is miniscule. It has been mocked as "Yo-Yo Ma," a pun on the famed cellist's name, meaning "Friends of Ma." Ma's personal preferences often determine the shape and manner of his decision-making. He often chases his own tail and cannot come up with anything new. For example, on New Years Day, the president proclaimed that Vice President Vincent Siew would return to head up economic revitalization. It was a surprise, but it was not terribly convincing. When Vincent Siew was Vice President, he was seldom consulted about anything. When Ma ran for a second term, Siew was replaced with Wu Den-yih. Wu Den-yih is running for president in 2016. Time is not on his side. Instead, Vincent Siew has suddenly resurfaced. Is "economic revitalization" his sole mission? Even Sean Chen, lauded as "the best economic cabinet member in two decades," was unceremoniously forced out of office. Who today can fill the role of economic advisor to the President? What kind of person will he or she be? That is a major question. Vincent Siew has made a comeback. He is a respected official. But his return merely underscores the Ma government's lack of talent.

According to Wikipedia, a United States Presidential Advisor's role is clear, and his or her resources are abundant. The advisor's role may be either administraive or merely advisory. A senior advisor my have others under his or her command. There are many kinds of advisors. They may grow into an army. The ROC Constitution provides for senior policy advisors and national policy advisors. But does the president seek out their opinions? Or are they merely decoration? Were they merely being paid off?

President Ma has been in office nearly six years. His performance has been poor. Is he hoping to turn things around? If he looks around, all he sess are King Pu-tsung, Vincent Siew, and a handful of others. If this is not a crisis, what is a crisis? If his policies are wrong, and his first rank officials are blasted, can second rank officials remedy the situation, or provide it with warnings? The president cannot stand on the front lines and fight every battle by himself. Besides, if national security depends entirely on a president's personal whims, that is hazardous to the nation.

Who comprises the President's brain trust? That is a serious question. One must consider the nation's framework. Individuals of talent must engage in long-term thinking. If one relies solely on the "Friends of Ma," the risks to the nation are simply too great.

2014.01.17 02:35 am







一般民眾上維基百科查一下「美國總統顧問」(United States Presidential Advisors),不但功能性分類清晰,編制龐大,且具有行政職的、諮詢頭銜的、資深幕僚之下再統領次級幕僚群的……,分門別類,堪稱「軍容壯大」。中華民國在憲政設計上,亦有資政、國策顧問等濟濟之士;但總統究竟何時徵詢過他們的高見?或只是把他們擺在那裡裝飾、酬庸之用?



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