When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) appointed the 43-year-old Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) to head the Mainland Affairs Council, there wasan uproar. It was not a matter of his age, but of his experience, or lack thereof. Wang is a rookie, with no experience in foreign relations and no experience in dealing with China. One could even make the case that he lacks any practical political experience whatsoever. And yet now he has been propelled, in a single bound, into a key position in China relations. It’s difficult to know where to start in describing such a decision.
Is it possible there were no other candidates? Of course there were. And Wang was just one of three surprise appointments, the others being King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), named as Taiwan’s representative to the US, and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Secretary-General Lin Join-sane (林中森), who is to take over at the Straits Exchange Foundation.
They are, to a man, amateurs in the position they are being offered, and yet these positions put them right in the thick of the all-important foreign relations with the US and China. Even pan-blue camp legislators are at a loss for words. This kind of political inbreeding is the sort of thing that only someone like Ma is capable of.
But what, exactly, is Ma up to? In terms of political relationships, it is not really all that complicated. People speak of Ma and King belonging to an exclusive club, and there certainly is something in that. This spate of nominations has less to do with Ma than it has to do with King; it was King who was at the heart of it all, allocating power where he wants it. To put it bluntly, King orchestrated these promotions, making sure that he was the central player within it.
Wang is but a foot soldier, but he is under King, not Ma. King is calling the shots here. King has said that Wang has the same political thinking on cross-strait affairs as Ma, but it is more accurate to say that Wang and King have the same ideas. This is the only way to explain how Wang, despite his lack of credentials for the job, has been chosen.
Turning to Lin, he has always been a bit of a yes man. While he was originally one of Vice President Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) men, and by all accounts he has been operating at high levels for some time, the main thing is that he is not associated with other senior KMT members involved in cross-strait relations, such as former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) and former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), so King can use him with no concerns over where his loyalties may lie.
It is doubtful whether former foundation vice chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) will be overjoyed at Lin’s appointment. In his resignation letter, foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) strongly recommended Kao as his successor, citing Kao’s experience, ability and judgement, saying that he was not only qualified to take over at the foundation, but would also be a good candidate for next council chairman.
Consequently, these appointments would have left Kao not only feeling aggrieved, but also rather humiliated.
Why did Ma have to go for Lin? Why is it that he would rather see Kao humiliated? The media have pointed out that it is because he is relatively new to the game. But hold on — isn’t that generally considered to be a shortcoming in a politician? Since when did that become a strength? Surely not because King will find it easier to control him? Or maybe it is that. And whoever controls King controls what all of the new appointees do in their roles.