President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) relationship with King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) would land him in hot water if he were the leader of an established democracy such as, say, the UK. Ma’s top lieutenant morphed into a quasi-president on his trip to the US to drum up support for the actual president’s re-election bid.
King spoke on cross-strait ties, made policy pronouncements, met US officials and sparred with Ma’s main election rival, Democratic Progressive Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who just so happened to be on a trip there herself to cultivate ties with those same US officials.
From the outside world’s perspective, it is hard to tell who is the president — Ma or King — and who is running for re-election.
While Taiwanese voters are in the midst of being discombobulated by this Ma/King two-headed hydra, the UK public has been made painfully aware of an unorthodox relationship between British Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox and his close friend Adam Werritty, who has attended official meetings with Fox and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as other dignitaries at other times and locations.
Werritty was not elected to any office, was not appointed by any elected officials, and therefore holds no official position in the government. Yet because of his close relationship to Fox, Werritty has described himself as an adviser to the secretary of state on business cards.
This dubious relationship has prompted a political crisis in the UK, with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office ordering an expedited inquiry into whether Fox has compromised national security by allowing Werritty to join in such sensitive matters as the peace process between the Sri Lankan government and the former Tamil Tiger rebels.
Fox is in danger of losing his job over the scandal.
Now compare the relationship of Fox and Werritty to that of Ma and King, who holds no official office after he resigned his position as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) secretary-general to run Ma’s re-election campaign.
King was not elected, not appointed and has no party position other than being a member. He has been Ma’s bulldog/cheerleader throughout every one of Ma’s election bids, from his Taipei mayoral campaign to his first attempt at the KMT chairmanship and the 2008 presidential campaign. Because of his role and his sharp attacks, he is known as “King, the Knife.”
Does King’s role as Ma’s top election lieutenant, however, qualify him to make statements on Ma’s behalf that could compromise national security?
When King was in the US, he floated the possibility of Ma visiting China if the president wins a second term. If that came to pass, it would be the biggest change in the Republic of China’s (ROC) national security status since it fled China. Because the question of Taiwan’s status is the most likely source of armed conflict between the US and China, a Ma trip to China would be of enormous significance for Taiwan, the region and the world. It is not something to be announced flippantly and especially not from the lips of an unelected, unappointed and unofficial Ma aide.
There would likely be calls for Ma’s impeachment if he were the leader of a country like Germany or Japan.
This kind of politicking on the president’s behalf would not go down very well in the UK, France, the US, the Philippines or any other country where leaders must respect their office and protect national sovereignty.