Thu, Dec 25, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Watching and waiting for signs of leadership

By HoonTing 雲程

If we look at postwar Taiwan from the perspective of French historian Fernand Braudel, a leader of the Annales School, we can divine changes in the Taiwanese government’s administrative values — from security to economy, democracy and human rights — under former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Developments in national security, the economy, democracy and human rights over the past 63 years can be summed up using the phrase “protection of Taiwan” to describe the government’s stance in the postwar era.


From an administrative perspective, survival is the priority of any organization, and if that premise is abandoned, the organization will cease to exist.

In other words, Taiwan will perish if the authorities do not protect it; protecting Taiwan thus becomes a basic and non-negotiable standard.

Because administration is the result of efforts by the general public, it cannot be monopolized by a single authority or person.

Every government has stood on the shoulder of its predecessor without destroying the fruits of the labors of that predecessor.

Thus, in Taiwan’s development, the younger Chiang was able to boost the economy thanks to the security structures built by his father; Lee was able to promote democracy thanks to the younger Chiang’s efforts; and Chen was able to promote human rights thanks to Lee’s efforts.

In accordance with the domestic and international environment at the time, the governments of postwar Taiwan gradually reached a tacit agreement to protect the country that crossed party and ethnic lines.

But after coming to power, has President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government taken stock of the domestic and international environment and planned for and unveiled its values of governance?

Ma’s inaugural speech, entitled “Taiwan’s Renaissance,” and his pledges to rebuild Taiwan, safeguard the Constitution and improve the political atmosphere were either too vague or too general, not to mention that the “common Chinese heritage” of Taiwan and China that he emphasized can hardly be called a universal value.


In Ma’s speeches, only the values of “peace” and “opening” can be thought of as administrative. Unfortunately, his actions since then imply that he is overly optimistic about peace even as he ignores the logic of geopolitics.

In contrast to his policy of opening up to China, he has adopted a contractionary policy domestically. Within a very short time, Taiwan’s security, economy, democracy and human rights have gone into reverse gear, resulting in serious concern in the international community.

Take, for example, Ma’s hesitation over whether Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) should address him as “President,” “Mister” or even nin (您), the polite Chinese form of “you,” during their meeting.

Such hesitation reveals both a wish to curry favor and a wish to quickly push his policies through.

What are Ma’s administrative values?

Has he really thought about them and does he want to implement them?

The Taiwanese public and the international community are still watching, and waiting.

HoonTing is a Taiwan-based freelance writer.


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