Political system a ‘sort of liquid muck’

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 - Page 3

Taiwan’s political system was described at a Washington conference on Tuesday as a sort of “liquid muck.”

Former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan Richard Bush used the analogy as he described President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) ongoing problems.

Bush said that he had been searching for an image to capture the nature of the nation’s political system.

“The one that comes to mind is quicksand,” he said.

Now director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, Bush was a member of a panel at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that was analyzing Ma’s videoconference to the US earlier in the week.

“Many of us will remember, from watching Western movies and serials, the episodes where the hero is dragged down by this liquid muck,” he said.

Unless something happens, Bush said, the hero is pulled under and asphyxiated.

“Taiwan’s political system is a lot like that, or at least its relationship with its president is a lot like that,” Bush said.

He said there were pressures on the president coming from every direction — the president’s own party, the opposition party, the legislature and incessant media coverage.

“It is hard to maintain focus, to maintain direction and strategy,” Bush said.

This was why, he said, the videoconference was “very important.”

He said that Ma’s speech acted as a reminder to the president and to his constituency about “where we were, where we intend to go and how we are doing.”

Bush admitted that his analogy was derogatory and went on to praise Taiwan’s democracy as a “stabilizing force.”

He said it acted as a break on initiatives that “suggest independence” and also as a break on “mindless and rapid movement” toward unification with China.

He said that the nation’s democracy set the boundaries within which any Taiwanese leader must work.