Tue, Nov 27, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Listening to citizens gives a way forward

By Chuang Sheng-rong 莊勝榮

The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) election losses might not have been completely unexpected for most people, but their extent probably was.

In just a few months, someone with no roots in Kaohsiung managed to build momentum and win the city’s mayoral election — was this really because he is such an incredible guy? It all came down to the central government’s failures — manna from heaven, so to speak.

The party was also given a drubbing in Taichung. Was it all really a matter of the local government having done such a bad job or the opponent being such a fantastically strong challenger?

No, it was none of that: It was a direct reaction to the central government’s poor performance.

This is not the kind of talk that top officials, and especially the president, want to hear, nor would they ever admit to it being true. They would flatly reject the idea, claiming that the elections had nothing to do with the central government.

Taiwan is geographically small — little distance separates the central government from the various levels of local government — but even if the US and large European nations were twice or three times as big and had considerably bigger populations, the same thing would hold true: The national government’s performance has a direct effect on local elections.

If the national government performs badly, the ruling party will be in for a difficult time in local elections. This is Politics 101 — a party that does not grasp this might as well go home.

Last year, people said that “reform” might be a pretty word, but that there was a logical order to things and reforms should not be implemented in a batch, all at the same time.

Did anyone in the government listen? No. The government pushed through the “one mandatory day off, one flexible rest day” work week reform, same-sex marriage and pension reform without stopping to think.

A politically savvy leader might have been satisfied with the party asset and judicial reforms and left the other reforms, which would likely have a greater effect on the elections, for their second term. Had that been the case, Taiwan probably would not be faced with the current ugly situation.

This is not a case of 20/20 hindsight. Ask any five people and they would all say that it was too hasty to push through all five reforms at the same time — no one runs a nation that way, that no one deals with reform that way.

Implementing reforms that way only has a negative effect on reform momentum.

National leaders worldwide — including in the US and China — all suffer from the same disease: They are obstinate, self-opinionated, arrogant, convinced of their own excellence and think that honest advice is jarring on the ear. Anyone who wants to succeed must avoid these shortcomings.

Reform is not easy, but changing a leader’s thinking and character is even more difficult. Only giving up preconceived notions will lead to new possibilities — only listening to honest advice will lead to a road forward. Without this approach, mistakes will be repeated and defeat will be certain. This is honest advice — I wonder if anyone is listening.

Chuang Sheng-rong is a lawyer.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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