Representative to the US King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), top aide to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), is to take over as the secretary-general of the National Security Council. The latest appointment — after King’s previous return to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in 2009 to serve as the party’s secretary-general — is a part of a strategy for November’s local elections and preparation for cross-strait political talks.
As the most trusted Ma aide, King is always the last resort for Ma whenever his administration or the KMT faces challenges. King broke his promise of not joining the KMT or the Cabinet upon returning from the US and taking over as the KMT secretary-general in 2009 after the party suffered a significant setback in local government elections.
This time, the prospects for the KMT’s performance in the November seven-in-one elections are low amid low approval ratings for the Ma administration. Public grudges over the slow economy and other government policies could also influence the party’s performance in the 2016 presidential election.
As Ma and the KMT face another crisis in the upcoming elections, it is no surprise that King will return to Taiwan and work closely with Ma again. While the overall election strategies have been decided for the pan-blue camp, King’s return carries a symbolic significance as Ma seeks to boost the party’s morale and prepare for the election battle.
King’s other objective as the new top official in the National Security Council will be cross-strait affairs. Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) are to meet in Nanjing, China, on Tuesday, and the high-profile meeting between top officials from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will be the first step toward cross-strait political talks.
As the top national security official, King will assist Ma with his cross-strait policy priorities, including the legislative review of the cross-strait service trade agreement, amending the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例) and negotiating follow-up cross-strait agreements. He will also have to attempt to carry out Ma’s goal of speeding up the nation’s participation in regional economic integration and promoting regional peace.
For the Ma administration, the Wang-Zhang meeting and the cross-strait negotiations are part of preparations for a meeting between Ma and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
Carrying out this ultimate goal for Ma as he seeks to define his legacy during his second term is a top priority for King.
The appointment also led to a personnel reshuffle in the Cabinet, with Fair Trade Commission Vice Chairman Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) taking over as the Cabinet spokesman and Representative to the UK Shen Lyu-hsun (沈呂巡) filling King’s post as the representative to the US.
Amid the Ma administration’s poor performance and a split KMT on an unresolved rift between Ma and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) over Wang’s alleged improper lobbying, King faces greater challenges this time trying to save Ma’s reputation and carry out his mission.