Ma Ying-jeou and King Pu-tsung: The Last Hurrah
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
February 12, 2014
Summary: Intentionally or unintentionally, King Pu-tsung has acquired an image as
a "rescue expert." Ma Ying-jeou is regarded as the beneficiary of his
rescue efforts. King Pu-tsung is regarded as Ma's rescuer. This is an
honor for King, and an embarrassment for Ma. The public has concerns. King Pu-tsung is returning home and becoming
part of the government. Perhaps he can help return the media spotlight
to the president. King Pu-tsung has a shiny resume and a new title. But
will this be enough to pull off a miracle during their last hurrah?
Full text below:
Intentionally or unintentionally, King Pu-tsung has acquired an image as a "rescue expert." Ma Ying-jeou is regarded as the beneficiary of his rescue efforts. King Pu-tsung is regarded as Ma's rescuer. This is an honor for King, and an embarrassment for Ma.
King Pu-tsung said he "would not join the cabinet, would not become part of the government." When Ma Ying-jeou became president, King's first position was KMT Secretary-General. He did not join the cabinet. He did not become part of the government. But he steered the government and the cabinet for one year and one month. As KMT Secretary-General, his appointment as ROC representative to the US was considered a lateral move. It was described as "outside the cabinet," He remained at his post for only five months. King Pu-tsung is now returning home to become part of the government, as Secretary General of the National Security Council.
When King Pu -tsung said he "would not join the cabinet, would not become part of the government " he probably meant it. But serving as KMT Secretary-General, ROC Representative to the US, and Secretary General of the National Security Council may have given him a taste for office. They may have rationalized his vow "not to join the cabinet, not to become part of the government." As a result, King Pu-tsung has filled out his resume rather nicely. But what now?
King Pu-tsung will become Secretary General of the NSC. A variety of explanations have be offered for this. Explanation 1. It is all for the sake of the election, right? King Pu-tsung has denied such speculation. He said, "2012 was my last election campaign." The KMT is not optimistic about the 2014 seven in one elections. In 2016 Ma Ying-jeou will not be running. Therefore King Pu-tsung's declaration that he will not take part in the campaign may be true. Explanation 2. It us all for the sake of the TPP and RCEP, right? As a political prospect, this could provide a "shot in the arm." But in an actual campaign, the clash of interests it would provoke might well outweigh several trade in services agreements. Explanation 3. Might it be for the sake of the Ma Xi meeting? This is unlikely, since the prospect of a Ma Xi meeting could evaporate before autumn.
In any case, King Pu-tsung will serve as Secretary General of the NSC. He probably wants to join President Ma in his "last hurrah." The first challenge is 2016. The KMT cannot afford to lose. Ma Ying-jeou will not be the 2016 presidential candidate. But if the KMT loses the 2016 presidential election, Ma's legacy will lose its base of support. King Pu-tsung might not direct the KMT's campaign during the seven in one elections and the 2016 general election. But Ma Ying-jeou has an unshirkable duty to ensure Kuomintang victories in both. Therefore King Pu-tsung must disavow any part in the seven in one elections and the 2016 general election. In fact of course, he remains joined to them at the hip.
Let us back up a moment. Suppose Ma fails to meet the first challenge? In other words, suppose the KMT loses the 2016 general election? The second challenge is to preserve Ma Ying-jeou's legacy. Above all, Ma must do two things. One. He must leave behind an irreversible policy framework pertaining to national identity and cross-strait relations. In fact, as long as the policy is correct, it will be irreversible. Therefore the Ma Xi meeting is the goal. Two. He must leave behind an irreversible policy framework for free trade and globalization. If Taiwan forsakes liberalization, politically and economically it will not survive, Therefore the TPP and RCEP are the goals. This is Ma's last-ditch battle. King Pu-tsung cannot remain on the sidelines.
From this perspective let us look at President Ma Ying-jeou's last hurrah. The seven in one elections are far from assured. Warning sirens have sounded on the 2016 general election. The TPP and RCEP face a bumpy road ahead. The Ma Xi meeting depends on others.
The expression "the affairs of the nation are relentless" is not widely used. But it has become an accurate description of today's reality. King Pu-tsung is returning home and becoming part of the government. His action highlights the government's dilemma. It magnifies Ma's helplessness. It exaggerates King Pu-tsung's personal worth and ability. Ma Ying-jeou's difficulties did not arise overnight. They cannot be reversed during the two years left in his term. Today's dilemma is the result of internal and external political and economic structural factors. There are no quick fixes. Today's plight is not necessarily the result of any major errors on the part of Ma Ying-jeou. Rather it is the result of the public's stereotyped and difficult to change impressions of him. Ma Ying-jeou and King Pu-tsung made ideal campaign partners. Today they face the 2016 general election. Ma Ying-jeou may not be the candidate, but he must not lose. This is a campaign that Ma and King have never before waged. This is a campaign that definitely cannot be won with a few King style campaign ads.
This is Ma Ying-jeou's last-ditch battle. If the perception is that only King Pu-tsung can save the day, that is not a positive message. The two men must overcome the first challenge. They must not allow themselves to be satirized as the "King Ma System." King must no longer serve as Ma's "avatar." As an aide, he must play a complementary role. He must not use Ma's authority to polish his own halo. Ma Ying-jeou finds himself in a crisis of authority. King must help Ma recoup his political support. He must change public indifference and antipathy toward President Ma into empathy and goodwill. Today's dilemma and chaos makes it impossible to attend to all the details. All one can do is make a dent in the larger framework. Therefore the concern of his last hurrah must be the TPP, RCEP, cross-strait policy and national identity.
The public has concerns. King Pu-tsung is returning home and becoming part of the government. Perhaps he can help return the media spotlight to the president. King Pu-tsung has a shiny resume and a new title. But will this be enough to pull off a miracle during their last hurrah?
2014.02.12 02:29 am