Tue, Apr 05, 2011 - Page 8 News List

The hidden face of Taiwan politics

By Jerome Keating

On ideas, he has always supported the marketer’s policy of engaging China. He terms it the “Great Leap Westward.”

A marketer looks at China through simplistic sales eyes and thinks: “They have 1.3 billion people; engage them. If each one buys a toothbrush or whatever one is selling, think how rich we will all be.”

In the meantime of course, this will require many junkets, as well as wheelings and dealings to set it up. With Hsu, one has the impression that he really is not that concerned with the final outcome, the sales, etc. What is more important is that he is in on the process of wining, dining and setting it up.

From 1979 on, except for the nebulous role of fundraiser with little accountability, Hsu has really not had any recognizable jobs. True, he was DPP chairperson in 1992 and 1993, as well as from 1996 to 1998, but that position is also primarily a fundraising position for the party. In that position, the chairperson has little accountability and can sign off on much of the money.

A lot goes on behind the scenes in such situations and the man with the money can entice loyal generals to work for him. In his first term as DPP chair, Hsu is believed to have raised about NT$100 million, but like a true marketer, he managed to spend it in a variety of ways. He left under questionable circumstances, as CommonWealth Magazine was about to break a scandalous story.

At times, Hsu will take the image and role of a monk, but more often than not, he is found spending time in the finest hotels around the world courting supporters. When it comes down to the actual brass tacks of running a serious campaign for office, Hsu has tried several times for various levels on up to the presidency. Each time, he has failed miserably, garnering less than 5 percent of the vote.

How then can he keep running, especially when he has no track record demonstrating managerial and governing skills?

That is one of the hidden sides of Taiwanese politics. There are always vested interests that need their shills. Hsu has the past notoriety to attract attention and he will accommodate.

It is a safe bet that you will see his face a lot in the coming months.

Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.

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