Mon, Jun 18, 2012 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Ma’s ‘Teflon’ style the root of his problems

With the commencement of President Ma Ying-jeou’s second term, former National Security Bureau director-general Ting Yu-chou, in a recent interview with staff reporter Tzou Jiing-wen of the ‘Liberty Times’ (sister paper of the ‘Taipei Times’), offered some suggestions concerning Ma’s style of leadership, his choice of personnel and his policies. This is part one of a two-part interview.

Former National Security Bureau director-general Ting Yu-chou gestures on Aug. 21, 2009.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times.

Liberty Times (LT): What are your expectations of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) performance in his second term?

Ting Yu-chou (丁渝洲): When Ma won with a high share of the vote in 2008, it meant he came into office with a lot of public support. After he came into office, he had enormous political assets and resources of the state and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had a majority in the Legislative Yuan.

All of this meant that Ma was in a position to push his policies through, and it would not be exaggerating to say that he had everything one needed to become a great politician.

Four years later, the public support that once raised him to the pinnacle of politics has dropped him down hard, and what is even more worrying is that even amid public discontent, I don’t see government employees reflecting on what they have done wrong or trying to correct their course.

To make matters worse, the head of state is himself not reflecting on his actions and carrying on as he did before, and with his current style of leadership and attitude toward his personnel, it is hard to be optimistic about the next four years.

The common view the public holds of Ma is mainly that he behaves like a “non-stick pan,” that he is complacent and that he loves himself more than he loves the people. More concretely, Ma’s actions during his time as president could probably be summed up in one sentence: “Being self-centered is the highest principle of how to treat others.”

Unfortunately, this sort of principle is the greatest obstacle to becoming a great leader, because in troubled times and when faced with great obstacles, a leader with such ideas tends to be reluctant to make decisions out of concern of harming his image.

If at this time a leader could disregard the small stain on his reputation and instead place society first, placing the happiness of the people and the well-being of the nation first, then even if the results of the policy pushed did not meet the expectations of the people, they would still understand. If the policy succeeded, then that would give the president a place in history.

No one is perfect and everyone has their flaws. This holds especially true for those who have a high position and have been in that position a long time, because they can no longer see their own flaws and do not wish to hear things contrary to their wishes.

This is the reason why those in high places should constantly reflect upon their actions and face themselves honestly, because only then will they be willing to change.

George Bernard Shaw once said: “The best reformers the world has ever seen are those who commence on themselves.” Whether Ma is willing to change himself is the greatest battle he faces.

LT: There are some who say that it is Ma’s leadership that is problematic. What are your views on this?

Ting: Great leaders are usually driven by their own strongly felt convictions and the belief that what they do is for the greater good, and it is this deep-seated belief that they use to encourage the people who work for them, uniting them as one and working towards realizing their vision

Quintessentially, whether a leader is good or bad can be determined by one factor — their commitment. If they lead by force of commitment to their ideals and use their wits and knowledge to produce policies leading the people toward that vision, the people would be moved and have hope and faith.

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