President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) latest appointment of close aides to head cross-strait affairs, foreign affairs and national security sectors demonstrates his ambitions to implement his cross-strait and US policies efficiently, while the list reveals the lack of talent in the government, especially among Ma’s small clique of aides, analysts said.
In the latest personnel reshuffle in the Ma administration, unveiled on Wednesday, Ma’s top aide, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) takes over as the nation’s representative to the US despite being an outsider to the foreign service system.
Another close aide, National Security Council adviser Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦), will take over as Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairman.
KMT Secretary-General Lin Join-sane (林中森), who also has little experience handling cross-strait relations, was also announced as the replacement for Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), who stepped down on Wednesday after tendering his resignation in May.
The appointment of his top aides to lead cross-strait and foreign affairs reflects Ma’s intention to exercise full control in these two areas and implement his policies efficiently via trusted aides during his second term, said Tamkang University political science professor Alexander Huang (黃介正), who served as a council deputy chairman in the former Democratic Progressive Party administration.
“Ma wants to strengthen bilateral relations with the US and maintain cross-strait stability during his second and final term, and he wants people who can deliver his messages precisely and be granted full authority to execute his policies. Previous experience in those fields is not his main concern,” Huang said.
The personnel reshuffle in foreign affairs, cross-strait affairs and national security began in May after Chiang tendered his resignation to Ma, insisting that he should retire from the position after completing eight rounds of cross-strait negotiations and signing the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) and National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-chen (胡為真) have also offered to resign on several occasions.
King dismissed concerns about his lack of experience in foreign affairs, saying said he would “precisely implement President Ma’s US policies and communicate with the US at top levels without any interference.” Wang, who also seems to be inexperienced compared with his Chinese counterpart, Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Wang Yi (王毅), also said his goal was to implement Ma’s cross-strait policies precisely.
Huang said both the US and China should have no problem with the Ma administration’s selection of King and Wang Yu-chi as top officials in handling US and China affairs, as the government has laid plans for US-Taiwan relations and cross-strait developments, including trade negotiations with the US under the Trade Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and follow-up cross-strait talks to the ECFA.
“I don’t think the appointment will have a great impact on current cross-strait development or US-Taiwan relations. Whoever takes over the positions will not change the challenges the government faces in these fields, and its goal of deepening relations with the US and China remains the same,” he said.
Soochow University political scientist Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said rather than political implications, the appointments reflect more on Ma’s strategic placement of his clique of trusted aides in major positions to continue his influence after completing his second term.
“The reshuffle came as a surprise because it is beyond imagination that those inexperienced appointees would take over such important positions. On the other hand, such an arrangement is no surprise, as it is an old habit of Ma’s to only use his an extremely small circle of aides,” he said.
Hsu said the appointment of Wang Yu-chi and Lin, both inexperienced and little known in cross-strait circles, also suggests that Ma will place more importance on US-Taiwan -relations in the second term.
National Tung Hwa University political analyst Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said the appointment of King aims to build more trust with the US, while the government could be preparing for political negotiations with China as Ma’s pro-China stance will not change.
“Without the pressure of seeking another term, Ma is seeking to establish his personal reputation in history. The list explains that he will speed up implementation of his policies regardless of criticism,” he said.
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