Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 8 News List

How Chen charms and courts brass in military

By Lin Chin-hsing 林進興

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) recently proposed a "preventive referendum" (防衛性公投) to be held on the day of next year's presidential election. According to a Dec. 14 United Daily News report, many high-level military officials do not support this idea. Officials from the Ministry of National Defense immediately held a press conference to clarify the matter on the same day.

It is difficult to tell whether Taiwan's top military officials support President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) or not. But Chen has certainly devoted considerable effort to win these officials over.

Since Chen entered office on May 20, 2000, he has approved a large number of military promotions -- 10 generals or admirals, 59 lieutenant generals or vice admirals, and as many as 247 major generals or rear admirals. More than 60 of these have retired in recent years, but the number of military officials promoted to senior positions is still over 250 -- which accounts for 62.5 percent of the nation's 400-plus high-level military brass.

If we include promotions of military officials scheduled for the end of this year, more than 20 are expected to be promoted to the ranks of lieutenant-general or vice-admiral, while almost 50 are expected to be promoted to major general or rear admiral, breaking Chen's own record for the number of top military officials to be promoted in a single round.

After this round of promotions, the number of top military officials promoted by Chen will account for more than three-quarters of the total number of officials.

Although the majority of top brass have been promoted by Chen, it does not necessarily mean that all of these officials support him. But Chen always hosts promotion ceremonies in person, and has his photos taken with these officials and their family members. From my own observations, after visiting the offices and homes of many of these officials, around four in 10 publicly display their photos with the president in their offices, and as many as six in 10 display the photos at home.

These statistics are not based on a thorough investigation, and they cannot represent the precise number of military brass who are grateful to Chen. But one thing is certain: Chen has gone to considerable lengths to win their hearts.

Some officials from areas currently under green-camp control said that on the day they were promoted, DPP city and county heads personally called their parents in their hometowns to congratulate them. These local government figures even sent customary red posters featuring their signatures to their parents.

Some officials said that it was almost impossible for their aging parents not to support Chen because of this. Chen has also made them feel that they have stood out among their fellows in their hometowns, which is more precious than securing a gift of great value.

The civilian world ought not sensationalize opposition to the president by certain top military officials.

Lin Chin-hsing is a legislator who belongs to the DPP.


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