A New Cabinet, A New Political Climate: Just Do It!
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 1, 2012
Summary: There is no honeymoon period for a second term president, let alone a trial period. President Ma Ying-jeou's second term cabinet has a new lineup. It includes old veterans and new hires. It includes many outspoken individuals. It deserves our affirmation. The most important aspect of the newly formed cabinet however, is not whether it includes new faces. The important point is whether it can make a fresh start and more effectively implement administration policy. This will depend on whether cabinet members have the determination, initiative, and willingness to do what needs to be done. Only then can President Ma leave behind a legacy.
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There is no honeymoon period for a second term president, let alone a trial period. President Ma Ying-jeou's second term cabinet has a new lineup. It includes old veterans and new hires. It includes many outspoken individuals. It deserves our affirmation. The most important aspect of the newly formed cabinet however, is not whether it includes new faces. The important point is whether it can make a fresh start and more effectively implement administration policy. This will depend on whether cabinet members have the determination, initiative, and willingness to do what needs to be done. Only then can President Ma leave behind a legacy.
When the cabinet reshuffle was first announced, Ma's choice financial and economic cabinet members was subject to considerable criticism. The reason was simple. With the exception of Academia Sinica member Kuan Chung-min, the cabinet was filled with old faces. But as cabinet member Sean Chen pointed out, given the European debt crisis, they could hardly risk naming an all new captain and an all new crew. The good thing about old faces is that they put people at ease. A ball team cannot consist entirely of Wang Chien-mings. Political appointees each have their own roles, their own duties. Only then can they work as a team. Only then will their fighting ability be optimal. Do not underestimate the importance of political appointees. Things do no get done by themselves. People get things done. Some people twiddle their thumbs. Others spontaneously seek out things that need to be done. Kuan Chung-min may be able to give the financial and economic cabinet the shot in the arm that it needs.
The list of new cabinet members includes many eye-catching names. It includes Chang Shan-cheng, who was lured back to Taiwan from Google. During his early years he was the National Science Council's Chief of Science and Technology. Following the 2000 change in ruling parties, he left public office and went into the private sector. He is experienced in both industry and government. The new list of cabinet members includes Chairman of the National Science Council and Academia Sinica member Chu Ching-yi. He and Chang were both Division Chiefs in Human Resources. They are good friends and interact well with each other. They should be able to upgrade the Ministry of Science and Technology and pioneer new horizons for Taiwan's technology industry.
Ma has also recruited Lung Ying-tai, from the University of Hong Kong. He has persuaded her to return to Taiwan to serve as Chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs. She has written extensively. She is a heavy weight in humanist circles. She is outspoken to those in power. She is unafraid to admonish them, and has never been one to mince words. Years ago Ma persuaded her to return to Taiwan from Germany, where she was serving as Chief of the Bureau of Culture. She gave the Ma administration considerable face. Ma Ying-jeou has once again convinced her to serve his administration. Morale within the CCA has been low since last year's "Dreamer" controversy. The task will be arduous. But her appointment has raised public expectations for the soon to be upgraded Ministry of Culture.
Central University President Chiang Wei-ning is a dark horse who will serve as Minister of Education. He spoke frankly, saying he will have to do at least a week's worth of homework. The administration is about to promote its program of 12 year compulsory education. This includes "admissions without entrance exams," and "admissions on the basis of special merit" to be finalized in April, prior to May 20. Chiang must quickly familiarize himself with the situation, and make his decision before the deadline. This is an enormous challenge. But for the fleet of foot and swift to act, creative and effective Chiang Wei-ning, this should be no problem.
Former DPP Kaohsiung County Chief Yang Chiu-hsing has accepted a cabinet appointment. When interviewed he said he would pay special attention to Taiwan's agricultural systems, especially in southern Taiwan. He believes the KMT needs to do more in southern Taiwan. His thinking may make up for certain deficiencies in the KMT government. He and the new COA chairman Chen Pao-chi can complement each other.
When men and women of ability are willing to serve in the government, it means the government is one people can trust. But being an official on Taiwan is not easy. Above the political appointee is the President and the Premier. Below the political appointee is public opinion, Alongside the political appointee are one hundred fierce legislators. One either sits while being lectured, or stands while being scolded. Political appointees find it difficult to survive. As a result scholars and industrialists consider a political appointment risky business. Ma has presented a cabinet rich in new ideas. Clearly President Ma's people skills are appreciated, That is why so many people are willing to set aside their comfortable lives in academia or industry for an opportunity to show what they can do.
Having crossed the Rubicon, all Ma can do is continue advancing. The new cabinet has yet to take office, but it must face the European debt crisis, Taiwan's economy is about to flash blue, signaling a crisis. The larger environment is extremely unfavorable for the new cabinet. But the Ma administration is not under re-election pressure. No elections are schedule for the next two years, It should be able to quietly get things done. It should be free from excessive political interference.
Political appointees come and go, When they step down, their departure is handled discreetly. But once they have agreed to serve, they must be fully prepared psychologically, They must be determined to succeed and not accept failure. They must be determined to achieve results and to not surrender. The Ma administration's first term achievements were ridiculed as "wu gan," or "undetectable." The reason was that some officials were afraid or reluctant to defend the administration's policies. Yin Chi-ming has been reappointed Minister of Economic Affairs, probably because he vigorously defended ECFA during the reelection campaign.
Political appointees must of course do more than defend administration policies during election campaigns. They must assume final responsibility for their own policies. They must not reflexively kowtow to legislators. They must not reflexively run from the media. When offered suggestions or constructive criticism, they should respectfully listen. When attacked irrationally, they should step forward and say "no." If they do their jobs well, the public will applaud them. If they do their jobs poorly, they should quietly pack up and leave, They should not feel aggrieved. The Ma administration is not President Ma's personal adminstration. A government must assume responsibility for its political appointees. The president cannot sit at home year after year "reflecting upon his mistakes."