US academics who know Andrew Yang (楊念祖), who recently resigned as minister of national defense in the wake of plagiarism allegations after only six days in the job, all say that he is a good man. Richard Fisher, the China expert who wrote the article that Yang allegedly plagiarized, said Yang’s resignation was rash. However, even more reckless is the man who put him in the post: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Ma’s recklessness was foolish. To appoint an expert on China, specializing in People’s Liberation Army (PLA) strategy, and with insufficient political experience or professional training to a ministerial position responsible for a huge military machine — with its particular culture and function, and its pointed emphasis on being “fully qualified” to do the job — is the height of folly.
Taiwanese experts on China who speak English often have a reputation that exceeds their achievements. They can get information written in Chinese not easily found by Westerners, therefore, these experts are of value to US think tanks. Yang, who Ma has used before, is a prime example.
Who would imagine that a person with Yang’s language skills and knowledge of China would need to plagiarize pieces of a Chinese language magazine’s translation of an article?
Fisher’s research covered Chinese military affairs. His articles are well-known among pro-Taiwan academics. That Yang would copy Fisher’s articles shows that he lacks integrity and honesty.
The US secretary of defense is, by law, a civilian. They are selected from major political figures. The current US secretary of state is John Kerry, a Democrat appointed by US President Barack Obama.
There have been defense secretaries from the academic world, such as William Perry, who was in the position when the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis started. He had a science background as well as extensive business experience and had previously served as served as US deputy secretary of defense and US under secretary of defense for Research and Engineering.
The only US secretary of defense considered an expert of a US adversary was Robert Gates, appointed by former US president George W. Bush. He was CIA-trained and specialized in the Soviet Union. He was known for his professionalism and management skills and, having been appointed director of the CIA by former US president George H.W. Bush, had experience running a government institution.
Yang relied on his connections with the Military Intelligence Bureau (軍情局). He had written papers on the Chinese communists. When he was confoundingly appointed minister of national defense by Ma, the administration did not perform a miracle, instead they treated Taiwan’s national security as a game.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Paul Cooper