Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) has plenty of time to relax these days, having stepped down in May after serving as vice president throughout President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) first term in office. Only now does he seem to have noticed the hardship that people in Taiwan have been going through. Following this belated realization, Siew recently said that there is a pervasive sense of powerlessness, bitterness, anxiety and unease in Taiwanese society.
Taiwan has lost its sense of direction and the reasons are many. The Ma administration has been unable to come up with any policy other than total reliance on China. Taiwan’s economic development has dropped from top to bottom among the four “Asian Tiger” economies. Unemployment is high, life is difficult and the young generation sees no future.
Taiwanese people feel that their glory has been badly tarnished. All these maladies arose during Siew’s four-year term as Ma’s “spare tire,” so why has he kept quiet about them until now?
Ma hailed Siew as the designer of the economy, but he stumbled almost as soon as he got out of the starting blocks. Having fallen ill while in office, Siew was sidelined and spent the remainder of his term recuperating. Now he is taking potshots at Ma, but he only talks about the problems and does not dare to name their causes. Instead, he says that we should give Ma a bit more time.
Ma has been in office for less than five years, but the Ma virus has already made Taiwan weak and disheartened. Surely this sickness should not be allowed to go on spreading.
Ma syndrome is a combination of third-rate bureaucrats and political hacks. The only thing they are really good at is picking the right cliches to curry favor with Ma, who likes to show off. He can hardly say anything without quoting from ancient philosophers such as Confucius (孔子), Mencius (孟子) and Lao Tzu (老子).
When it comes to the economy, instead of doing what they are paid to do, officials in the administration prefer to flatter Ma by talking in florid terms more suitable for reminiscing about days of yore.
Ma’s government is a confused and failed regime. Everyone in it, from top to bottom, only knows how to play with words and recite arcane Chinese phrases to hoodwink the public. Unable to come up with comprehensive policies founded on modern thinking, all they have to offer is otherworldly and impractical quotations from ancient writers and philosophers.
The bureaucrats of today are even more dull-witted than those of the late Qing Dynasty, who believed in retaining the essence of Chinese learning while making good use of Western knowledge.
Members of the Ma administration are the embodiment of bamboo — sharp-tongued, thick-skinned and hollow inside.
Siew helped Ma out by wrapping him up in a presentable package and coming up with “Taiwan-friendly” slogans, such as saying that Taiwan’s future must be decided by its 23 million inhabitants.
Siew cannot hide from his responsibility for fooling people into voting for Ma through this kind of fawning endorsement. However, as the US saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
Why are so many Taiwanese happy to be fooled again and again?
James Wang is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg