United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 11, 2016
Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen's personnel appointments appear to be more prudent than Ma Ying-jeou's. For that she deserves applause. But can the new government perform as people expect? When public discontent rises, the Tsai government's caution may not be appreciated. Can Tsai Ing-wen overcome these three obstacles? That depends on whether she can rise to the challenge. She must set aside trivial matters. She must move out of narrow circles. She must rise to a commanding height. She must overcome excessive caution. Only then can she find the right direction, and advance at the proper pace.
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After nearly three months in office, the Tsai government is still "preparing”. Key positions remain unfilled. Personnel shuffles remain indeterminate. Appointments of government heads continue to meet resistance. Representative to Singapore Chiang Chun-nan was recently arrested for drunk driving. The subsequent public uproar forced him to resign, even before he assumed his duties as envoy. This marks the untimely end of the Tsai government's honeymoon period.
Chiang Chun-nan was sworn in as Representative to Singapore on the second of the month. The very same evening, he was arrested for drunk driving. He held out for nearly a week before finally announcing his resignation. Both he and the Presidential Office misjudged the situation. They assumed the incident would blow over. They failed to anticipate the backlash that followed. Many citizens groups demanded Chiang Chun-nan's resignation. They included those who consider drunk driving a crime. They included green camp members who are concerned about the Tsai government's image. They included younger folk who refuse to tolerate double standards. These forces toppled Chiang Chun-nan, and gave President Tsai a piece of their mind.
The same was true of Tsai's appointments for president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan. President Tsai nominated Hsieh Wen-ting and Lin Ching-fang because they were a “sure thing”. Tsai assumed their qualifications would enable her to promote judicial reform. Who knew the legal profession and academia would oppose them? Hsieh Wen-ting, who served many years as a prosecutor, was accused of having an "authoritarian background". Lin Ching-fang was accused of plagiarizing her thesis. Whether the allegations are true remains to be seen. But wave after wave of opposition show that Tsai's appointments do not meet with legal profession approval. They also show that Tsai's high-minded "judicial reform" has already failed the test of reality, and left her deeply embarrassed.
On the same day that Chiang Chun-nan resigned, the Presidential Office announced that Ma government era Minister of Economic Affairs Teng Chen-chung would be appointed Executive Yuan Political Affairs Representative. Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Tseng Hou-jen would take over as Secretary General of the National Security Council. These appointments are worth noting. First, Teng Chen-chung was originally supposed to be appointed Representative to Indonesia. But before he assumed office, he was named Minister without Portfolio. Clearly personnel appointments in the Tsai government can change at the drop of a hat. Second, Teng Chen-chung's appointment as Political Affairs Officer, shows that Tsai intends to use the MAC Vice Chairman appointment to improve cross-Strait relations. But why was the Political Affairs Officer appointment announced by the Presidential Office? That seems unusual. Third, the appointments of Tseng Hou-jen and Yao Jen-tuo swapped their job descriptions. This improved the Presidential Office's ability to communicate. But it also revealed poor judgment by the National Security Council on foreign affairs and international relations. Switching the two around will probably not help either internal or external strategy.
As the above shows, Tsai Ing-wen's personnel appointments face three huge obstacles. These three obstacles will prevent the Tsai government from achieving anything of worth. The first obstacle is President Tsai's lack of vision and courage. Tsai Ing-wen's appointments are unique. She sometimes attempts to transcend blue and green. But she is limited by her experience in office and in the opposition. She is overly cautious. She invariably plays it safe. She is afraid to do anything groundbreaking.
The second obstacle is DPP and Taiwan independence political constraints. Ideological and personal constraints keep President Tsai a hostage of the green camp. This includes appointments and promotions for diplomatic envoys, officials of China Airlines, China Petroleum, and other SOEs. All reek of political patronage. All force people to hold their noses.
The third obstacle is a political atmosphere filled with hatred. The new government has not led society in the right direction. It persists in fomenting blue vs. green confrontation. Public discontent is rising, and seeking an outlet. Under the circumstances political appointees will wind up taking the blame. Just like Chiang Chun-nan, Hsieh Wen-ting, and others, they will be smeared. With so much mud being slung, those willing to join the government and take up public service, will be an endangered species.
Tsai Ing-wen's personnel appointments appear to be more prudent than Ma Ying-jeou's. For that she deserves applause. But can the new government perform as people expect? When public discontent rises, the Tsai government's caution may not be appreciated. Can Tsai Ing-wen overcome these three obstacles? That depends on whether she can rise to the challenge. She must set aside trivial matters. She must move out of narrow circles. She must rise to a commanding height. She must overcome excessive caution. Only then can she find the right direction, and advance at the proper pace.
2016-08-11 03:20 聯合報 聯合報社論