Two weeks ago, several retired generals got together in a touching show of support for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) ahead of January’s presidential election. On the morning of Sept. 2, Ma attended an event to mark Armed Forces Day and National Defense Day, and to celebrate the centennial of the founding of the Republic of China (ROC). He was joined by dozens of retired generals.
The next morning, the president of the Central Military Institute Alumni Association’s (CMIAA) general committee and former army commander-in-chief General Chen Chen-hsiang (陳鎮湘) held another event at the Armed Forces Officers’ Club on behalf of the heads of Taiwan’s five biggest veterans organizations.
The purpose of the second event was to drum up support for Ma’s re-election bid, and it was attended by about 25 retired generals and more than 600 people representing the military associations.
Ma was there to address the throng, and to personally hand out campaign flags to the heads of the veterans associations of various counties and cities around Taiwan. Forty-seven associations and organizations were involved, including the Veterans Association of the ROC. In addition, support groups are to be set up as branch associations in 17 cities and counties around the country to rally behind Ma’s campaign.
After watching events over the past week, it has become obvious that many media -commentators have neglected a couple of key points.
First, the Armed Forces Day event was organized by the Ministry of National Defense. How is the ministry directly associated with these retired generals?
It is difficult not to be suspicious of their use of this event to express their opinions in this way, especially in this politically sensitive period in the run-up to the presidential election.
Second, it is unusual for the head of the CMIAA to be able to mobilize all of these veterans organizations on such a huge scale. Who paid for it all?
It would be fine if it were financed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) funds, donations by private businesses and industry, or the retired generals themselves.
However, if any financial support or subsidy was forthcoming from the government, this would be a different matter entirely. It would be going against the principles of administrative neutrality and non-intervention by the military in elections.
Perhaps the KMT is enlisting the retired generals to lend their weight to mobilizing military subordinates. This kind of tactic has served the KMT well in past elections. However, this doesn’t appear to be the most effective way to run campaigns. During their time in the service, military personnel may well feel obliged to toe the line for the sake of their careers, but once they are discharged, they can do as they please. Most military personnel have their own ideas and perspectives.
Asking retired generals to show their support for Ma shows little more than their individual voting intentions as members of the KMT. They cannot speak for anyone else. If the Vocational Assistance Commission for Retired Servicemen were to publicize the respective proportion of retired generals to decommissioned officers or servicemen, we would know for sure who was being taken more seriously.
What have the local KMT branches done for discharged officers and soldiers? It is not enough to simply play the retired-generals card every time an election is on the horizon. As far as future presidential candidates are concerned, retired military personnel, officers and enlisted men alike will care more about whether a given candidate had implemented the political promises they had made concerning matters of national defense, the progress of current national defense policy reform and the plans they have for the future.
Ma would have nothing to worry about if he had a good track record on national defense reform and had done something about the problems faced by the military in Taiwan.
A certain political commentator, himself ex-military, expressed doubts over how effective these events were, saying that despite the large number of retired generals who support Ma, what would really be effective would be to showcase widespread support by mid-level officers.
If the KMT had any sense at all, it would refrain from inviting retired generals to these exclusive events. If the KMT is after drumming up support, it would be better off inviting retired officers to events organized by the party at the county or city level, or even holding one big national shindig for all decommissioned servicemen and women. This would also remove the personal element.
If Ma fails in his re-election bid, it will not be the fault of the loyal generals.
On the other hand, if he does get his second term, then they will be shown to be loyal servants to their lord. Frankly, all of this talk about supporting Ma is just spin.
Who knows how many of the ordinary decommissioned servicemen and women will actually support Ma at the ballot box? Deep down, the rosy glow this spin tries to portray is an attempt to gloss over a deep-seated concern, as the party is anxious not to see these decommissioned men and women turn instead to potential presidential candidate People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜). If they do, it might scupper Ma’s chances.
Wang Jyh-perng is an associate research fellow at the Association for Managing Defense and Strategies.
Translated by Paul Cooper
Ideas matter. They especially matter in world affairs. And in communist countries, it is communist ideas, not supreme leaders’ personality traits, that matter most. That is the reality in the People’s Republic of China. All Chinese communist leaders — from Mao Zedong (毛澤東) through Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), from Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) through to Xi Jinping (習近平) — have always held two key ideas to be sacred and self-evident: first, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is infallible, and second, that the Marxist-Leninist socialist system of governance is superior to every alternative. The ideological consistency by all CCP leaders,
In the past 30 years, globalization has given way to an international division of labor, with developing countries focusing on export manufacturing, while developed countries in Europe and the US concentrate on internationalizing service industries to drive economic growth. The competitive advantages of these countries can readily be seen in the global financial market. For example, Taiwan has attracted a lot of global interest with its technology industry. The US is the home of leading digital service companies, such as Meta Platforms (Facebook), Alphabet (Google) and Microsoft. The country holds a virtual oligopoly of the global market for consumer digital
The US on Friday hosted the second Global COVID-19 Summit, with at least 98 countries, including Taiwan, and regional alliances such as the G7, the G20, the African Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) attending. Washington is also leading a proposal to revise one of the most important documents in global health security — the International Health Regulations (IHR) — which are to be discussed during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA) that starts on Sunday. These two actions highlight the US’ strategic move to dominate the global health agenda and return to the core of governance, with the WHA
Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on Saturday expounded on her concept of replacing “unification” with China with “integration.” Lu does not she think the idea would be welcomed in its current form; rather, she wants to elicit discussion on a third way to break the current unification/independence impasse, especially given heightened concerns over China attacking Taiwan in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She has apparently formulated her ideas around the number “three.” First, she envisions cross-strait relations developing in three stages: having Beijing lay to rest the idea of unification of “one China” (一個中國); next replacing this with