The “autumn” in the proverb “an eventful autumn” really means “period,” so why is the word autumn used rather than spring or summer? This has to do with the fact that Chinese emperors chose to gather their armies and go to war in the autumn, after the harvest was over, and that is why autumn came to signify a time of political upheaval. For this year, autumn has passed and winter is upon us. Many things remain unresolved, and an eventful winter lies ahead.
Why is the national government so unstable? The main reason is personnel related. One good example of this is Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai’s (龍應台) statement that “ministry after ministry is going up in flames.”
With past governments, regardless of achievements or evaluations, each ministry, and in particular the routine operations of the civil service, were stable. For a long time, there have been few changes to the government system, so why is there such chaos now? The main variable is clearly personnel related.
Take the Gambia’s severing of diplomatic ties as an example. When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is in charge of foreign policy, called a national security meeting on Nov. 17, it was attended by Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), National Security Council Secretary-General Jason Yuan (袁健生), Presidential Office Secretary-General Timothy Yang (楊進添) and Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂). What impression does this group of people leave?
Add to the list Lung, Minister Without Portfolio Tsai Yu-ling (蔡玉玲), Minister of Justice Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪), and Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), the prosecutor-general who stands accused of leaking information, Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔), who came up with the expression “golden cross” to describe the point at which GDP growth rises over 4 percent and the jobless rate drops below 4 percent, and Minister of Environmental Protection Stephen Shen (沈世宏), who recently criticized environmental organizations. They all come from the same mold: They are all little Ma Ying-jeous.
Ma likes to quote the Chinese classics, which makes one wonder if he has read his father’s stories about Qing generals Zeng Guofan (曾國藩) and Zuo Zongtang (左宗棠). Zuo was an important general in the Hunan army in the 19th century. He sent a memorial to the Tongzhi (同治) Emperor in which he suggested that the emperor order all officials with the power to appoint staff to learn from Zeng.
Zuo’s view has frequently been praised by later generations. Mao Zedong (毛澤東) said that “among recent people, I only admire Zeng Guofan,” and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) said that “every politician should read his [Zeng’s] writings.”
How did Zeng choose people for appointments? He said there were four ways of doing so: Choose from a wide and diverse range of people to be able to enrich policy, and avoid arbitrariness and dead angles in decision making; be cautious and think three times before you appoint someone. In one of his works, he said that people should “be able to see through a person before appointing them,” train them constantly, and let them grow so they can meet the needs of the organization and maintain discipline regardless of closeness of relationship, and be fair when issuing rewards and punishments. This is clearly the kind of fairness and justice required to build loyalty.