As opinion polls have the two leading presidential candidates neck-and-neck, some big business leaders have came out in strong support of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). There is an old Chinese saying that people cannot win against government officials and this is especially true where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) are involved.
I don’t know what benefits these businesspeople stand to gain by supporting Ma, but at least they will not be offending him. However, have they considered what would happen if Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) wins the election?
The thing is that they know Tsai would not seek revenge if she is elected. Ma, however, is different. When Next Magazine recently ran a story saying Evergreen Group chairman Chang Yung-fa (張榮發) couldn’t be bothered about Ma, Chang rushed to express his support for Ma to avoid getting into trouble.
If we look at the dodgy information Ma and King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), executive director of Ma’s re-election campaign office, have used to attack and discredit Tsai, one can understand the actions of businesspeople with huge investments in China, because if the KMT and the CCP wanted to hurt their businesses, they could do so easily. It is therefore little wonder that not a single big business leader has been willing to show support for Tsai.
Another way of building support for Ma is to scare small investors by saying that if Tsai were elected, the stock market would drop to 5,800 points. However, if we look back we see that the index was at its high point of 9,309 on May 20, 2008, Ma’s first day in office. However, half a year later, on Nov. 21, it had reached its lowest level at 3,955 points.
Ma’s subordinates did not caution small investors to invest carefully, but instead played up the health of Taiwan’s stock market fundamentals and the outstanding state of the Chinese economy while encouraging retail investors. At the same time, four major funds — labor insurance, labor pensions, civil-servant pensions and postal savings — have been lending shares to foreign investors to allow them to short the market, thus killing off small retail investors. Had this not been the case, the KMT would never have been able to earn dividends of NT$2.9 billion (US$95.6 million) last year despite the bad state of the market.
Perhaps those pro-Ma business leaders say they support him because of his pro-China policies. However, a comparison of the stock prices of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co after Ma came into office show that it is Hon Hai’s share price that has taken a drubbing. This could be thanks to TSMC chairman and chief executive Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) “business is business” attitude and the fact that he has made his neutral stance well known, as well as his morals and conscience when it comes to business.
Taiwan is often plagued by specious rumors and an inability to tell fact from fiction. The current Yu Chang Biologics Co controversy is just one example. Tsai was trying to do something good, but because the company’s shares rose while the stock market has dropped on Ma’s watch, she is now the target of “score settling.”
It is not strange for the CCP to do such things, but when these things happen in Taiwan, a democracy, it places the spotlight on the attitudes and moral character of those currently in power. For Taiwanese businesspeople to have to worry about things like this is a stain on Taiwan’s human rights record. The nation needs another change in political power to prevent our democracy from being distorted and to allow it to develop normally.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Drew Cameron
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