Sat, Oct 08, 2011 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Ma’s thinking stuck in feudal times

As everyone knows, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) head is full of all things “China” and “Chinese.” It is ironic the elected president of Taiwan should be so preoccupied with Chinese ideology and it would be hard to find such a leader in any other modern democracy. Recently, as part of his campaign for re-election in January, Ma has been making a big issue about “reading the classics,” and the Ministry of Education has acted accordingly by making the “Four Books” — The Analects, Mencius, Great Learning and Doctrine of the Mean — mandatory reading in the high-school curriculum. Ma’s penchant for delving into these ancient texts once again reveals his deep-rooted feudal mindset, but what is worse is he insists on making students follow his example. This point alone shows how undemocratic his thinking is.

There are plenty of classic works in the world and China itself has many other classic texts apart from the Four Books. However, Ma’s preference is for those books that were favored by Chinese emperors down the centuries — books that served the rulers’ purpose by helping control the minds of their subjects. Although the classics that Ma loves to recite are not without their reference value, they are riddled with the “three cardinal guides and five constant virtues” that formed the basis of Chinese feudal ethics. If readers are not careful, they will get infected with these outmoded ideas, and Ma himself has clearly caught the bug without being aware of it.

Ma’s trademark during the three years since he took office has been his headstrong style of government, which fits in very well with one of the dictums of the classics he keeps promoting, namely the Confucian saying that “the people may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be made to understand it.” In other words, all a ruler has to do is to make sure his subjects obediently do as they are told and there is no need to make people understand why. Isn’t that just what happened when Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA)? Ma has never been interested in letting people know the details of the ECFA, only in trumpeting its benefits. As long as people obediently support the government’s policy, that is okay in Ma’s view. This is just the kind of harm that can come from reading the Confucian classics if one is not careful.

That is not to say there are no good points to be learned from reading the classics. For example, Confucius (孔子) also said the superior man despises those who act as they wish and then make up reasons to justify their actions. It is a warning to the reader not to do one thing and say another, and not to use fancy phrases to cover up one’s misdeeds. Unfortunately, Ma has not learned the lesson in this case. On the contrary, he frequently resorts to verbal evasion.

While everyone knows he is in favor of eventual unification with China, he says there will be “no unification” while he is in charge. He obviously thinks there is only one China, yet he talks about “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.” Notably, he certainly has, or had, a US green card, but when someone found out about it he first denied it and then said his green card had expired. We are still waiting for him to show proof of the supposed expiration.

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