The Past few weeks have been like a Neocon’s comeback convention in Taipei with visits from celebrated warmongers, including former US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld and former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz. It’s very easy to talk trash about these guys, but when you’re as isolated as Taiwan is, you need all the friends you can get — even if they are evil.
A few friends of mine mix in higher circles and one of them had the displeasure of dining with the Wolf while he was visiting — he even survived to tell the tale. Wolfowitz apparently told my buddy over burgers that Washington policy wonks couldn’t understand why President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is so unpopular, what with increased cross-strait stability and stable economic growth during his four years in office.
This got me thinking.
One reason that immediately sprang to mind is that many of us who are proud Taiwanese are fed up of hearing Ma drone on about his beloved China, China, China.
Another factor is that not many of us have actually prospered from the benefits that Ma’s headlong tilt strait-side have supposedly brought us. Unless you are a hotelier, tour operator, tour bus company or seller of certain types of local produce, the influx of Chicom tourists has had absolutely zero effect on our lives — while Ma’s flagship Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement has only benefited big business.
These factors have surely contributed to Ma’s lack of popularity, but by far and away the biggest factor in Ma’s dismal opinion poll ratings is Ma himself.
While the economy may be strong, Ma the man is most definitely weak. He may have the housewife vote sewn up, but only because they feel he is one of them. Sometimes I get the feeling that if Ma were suddenly taken ill one day and first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) had to step in for him on official duties, no one would even notice the difference.
How are people expected to take him seriously when on practically every public appearance he continues to spout complete and utter nonsense? Only last week Ma said that one of the biggest achievements of his presidency has been to reduce the price of rice wine. He even went as far to say that he would be proud to be known as the “Rice Wine President.” Actually, it could be an appropriate name for him, as it often seems like one would need to down half a bottle of the stuff to understand what the hell he is talking about.
Most of what Ma says is such claptrap I’m beginning to think his strategists and speechwriters are a bunch of gossiping housewives gathered round a table thinking up policy ideas as they wrap dumplings.
A perfect example of this came up last week when Ma presented his latest — yes, you guessed it — China-related policy: the peace accord.
What started off as a peace treaty quickly became an agreement. Then it accumulated a referendum before quickly changing into an accord as Ma and his camp furiously backpedaled.
He has now tacked on so many preconditions and prerequisites, including the 10 guarantees — one framework, two prerequisites, three principles and four assurances — that it sounds more like a recipe than a policy.
We Taiwanese may be an easygoing bunch, but we like a strong leader. Whatever your opinion of the two Chiangs (兩蔣), Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), they were strong men. Once they made up their minds, they didn’t change it and didn’t take shit from anyone. In this respect Ma is not fit to shine their boots.
Maybe if Mr Wolfowitz and his cohorts kept a closer eye on Taiwan matters this simple fact would be apparent. But I guess listening to the opinions of ordinary people is not one of Mr Wolfowitz’s strong points.
Joe Doufu is a Taipei-based satirist.
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