As the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) changed its regulations to make it mandatory for a KMT president to double as party chairman, the question of whether President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should serve as KMT chairman has once again become the nation’s hottest political topic.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question. Different answers can be made by assuming different decisionmaking modes.
With a vertical approach, there are three reasons for Ma to serve in both roles.
First, a well-supported successor to the president has yet to appear. A rash decision to elect a new party chairman would not help party unity.
Second, by doubling as party chairman, Ma is able to avoid becoming a lame-duck president and being further attacked by political rivals.
Third, some of Ma’s supporters believe that the real challenges are posed by KMT political heavyweights, who focus on him like tigers eyeing their prey. By serving as party chairman, he is able to consolidate his leadership, while the ruling party assists the government in its operations.
With a horizontal approach, there are three reasons for Ma to choose not to double as KMT chairman.
First, during the rest of his second term Ma can focus on the implementation of major policies and perform his duties well, which would help his legacy.
Second, Ma could cast off the restrictions imposed on him by the KMT to create more favorable conditions for the nation’s development without being burdened by the party.
Third, by not serving as KMT chairman, Ma could diversify political risk and cultivate a successor within the party.
Vertical thinking attempts to build consistency — requiring a logical, step by step plan, while horizontal thinking attempts to build inconsistency — requiring the creation of opportunities, thinking outside of the box and some luck.
A vertical thinking approach when everything is going smoothly and a horizontal approach when things get tough might be the best plan, because a giant leap may be necessary.
The KMT should consider this seriously because whether Ma should serve as president and party chairman is a big decision. The result will affect his historical status and the party’s future.
Kuo Chen-hero is an adjunct professor in the School of Business at Soochow University.
Translated by Eddy Chang