The incoming administration announced its choice for secretary-general of the National Security Council this week: former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Su Chi (蘇起). Although the appointment did not come as a surprise, it was no less disappointing.
After accepting the position, Su told a press conference that he would serve the administration as a key source of unbiased facts and counsel for major policy decisions. He also said he would lead the council to act "decently and professionally." But there is reason to doubt that Su, with his penchant for distorting the truth, will live up to his promises.
When president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and premier-designate Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) began announcing their Cabinet lineup, critics voiced concern that too many old faces would be returning to power. In response, the Ma camp argued that its choices would bring experienced and capable figures to the fore who were necessary to expedite Ma's electoral platform. Indeed, Ma hopes to see through significant change concerning cross-strait exchanges within two months of taking office.
There is no denying that Su has a lot of experience. In addition to his time as a legislator, he has held a number of Cabinet positions. He has directed the Government Information Office, chaired the Mainland Affairs Council and the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission and served as deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office. But it is questionable whether Su's track record as a public servant could be considered an asset in a democratic government.
Far from respecting the responsibilities entrusted to him over the years, Su has made a series of questionable accusations that have not lent him an aura of professional integrity.
Last October he claimed that President Chen Shui-bian (é™³æ°´æ‰) had secretly instructed the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology to build a nuclear bomb and attempted to get assistance from nuclear experts abroad. When pressed for evidence, however, he later conceded he had none and that he made the claims based on "inference." Other unsubstantiated assertions by Su include a statement that Chen would flee to the US and seek asylum to avoid prosecution on corruption charges.
In 2000, just before the KMT handed over the reins to the Democratic Progressive Party, Su invented the term "1992 consensus," claiming that an agreement had been reached with Beijing eight years earlier in Hong Kong. In 2006, Su was forced to admit that not only had he cooked up the concept, but also that he did not inform then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) that he had invented the term until later, despite being a key member of Lee's administration.
In this context, it is amusing that Ma and Liu would consider Su a trustworthy adviser.
A key pillar of Ma's election platform was a promise to rid the government of corruption and to promote honesty and transparency. That Ma would recruit Su despite his tricky pedigree reflects poorly on the incoming Cabinet.
The "strengths" Su will likely bring to Ma's administration -- making unsubstantiated claims with the goal of manipulating public opinion -- are hardly suited to developing the nation's democracy, nor are they the kind of skill Ma should be rewarding.