Anyone still wondering about the causes of the failures of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration need look no further than Ma’s New Year’s address on Tuesday. The aim ostensibly was to lay out a roadmap for the government’s goals for this year and beyond, but Ma’s playing fast and loose with facts and almost complete disconnect with reality showed why the nation is lurching toward oblivion.
Ma outlined four challenges facing the nation: transforming industrial structure; joining regional free-trade blocs; promoting the type of research and development that meets industry needs; and reforming national pension systems. He then identified obstacles to change and the four steps the government must take to overcome these impediments.
While those challenges exist, Ma was often wrong about what created them and the remedies needed. For example, he called for an end to “meaningless confrontation” and efforts to stir up resentment among different groups, urging “an end to internecine strife.” However, the root of much of the strife has been, and continues to be, the intractability of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and its inability to integrate opposing points of view. The Mainlanders that have dominated the nation’s political life for so long always see themselves as victims when anyone talks about historical injustices and blame others for “stirring up resentments” when others seek to rectify those injustices.
That could be because the average KMT mandarin only associates with other mandarins. How else to explain Ma’s statement in his speech that “the people of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are all ethnic Chinese. We are all descended from the legendary emperors Yan and Huang.”
The more than 500,000 Aborigines in Taiwan certainly do not view themselves as Han Chinese, nor do members of China’s 55 recognized ethnic minority groups. This “we Chinese” view has shaped Ma’s pro-Beijing cross-strait policies, much to the detriment of the nation and people he was elected to lead.
His remark that the “further institutionalization of cross-strait ties fosters deeper understanding between our people and consolidates cross-strait peace” completely ignores the fact that the “understanding” has all been one-sided. Beijing has shown no inclination to learn about the interests and desires of Taiwanese, ascribing any deviation from the KMT’s pro-China rhetoric and groveling to a minority of “pro-independence troublemakers.”
When Ma was talking about efforts to entice overseas Taiwanese businesses back to Taiwan, he said: “Under no circumstances should the environment be sacrificed while seeking these ends.” Yet just two-and-a half months ago, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) said the government would review the role of the Environmental Protection Administration in environmental impact assessments (EIAs) of industrial development projects, an announcement made shortly after Environmental Protection Administration Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) suggested responsibility for EIAs be given to the whatever ministry regulates the respective industry. That suggests a willingness to sacrifice environmental protection in the name of national development. Did Ma not get the memo?
Ma said Taiwan’s ability to sign free-trade pacts, would be key to expanding the economy, ignoring Beijing’s actions to stop nations inking such pacts.
He also breezed over the role of his party in erecting national pension systems designed to benefit retired civil servants, military personnel and public school teachers at the expense of others to blame inadequate funding for the problems facing those pensions now.
“It is clear to me that the government is the key to restoring confidence. My administration must set clearly defined policies, stick to its positions and act decisively,” Ma said.
The trouble is that Ma’s inability to act decisively and his government’s preference for policies that ignore the will and the rights of the people has cost him the trust of the public. No amount of speechmaking can rectify that.