SERVICES PACT: INTERVIEW: ‘True blue’ Liu says the nation’s biggest problem is Ma

In an interview with the ‘Liberty Times’ (the sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’), retired lieutenant general James Liu told reporter Tzou Jiing-wen that Taiwanese may be able to accept unfavorable government policies and shrinking incomes, but if cross-strait affairs are not handled properly, Taiwanese would not be able to make a living anymore, and the main problem with the nation’s governance lies with President Ma Ying-jeou

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 - Page 3

Liberty Times (LT): The government’s failure to communicate with the tertiary [service] sector before signing the cross-strait service trade agreement has caused a great deal of discontent among affected industries. In your opinion, what are the main problems with the government?

James Liu (劉湘濱): I want to start with a core problem. For a very long time, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been severely criticized over many issues, but no matter the criticism, Ma always replies with: “Thanks for the suggestions.” However, Ma’s response of “unacceptable” to [former speaker of the defunct Taiwan Provincial Assembly] Kao Yu-jen’s (高育仁) criticism of him as being “selfish” departed from his stock response. Why? Because, in a nutshell, Kao’s criticism hit the bullseye.

Whether it is cross-strait or domestic policies, the crux of the problem comes down to Ma’s selfishness. It is due to his selfishness that the nation has become what it is today.

[The incident involving] Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) is a very good example. [Lee passed a note reminding Ma that the media were filming him dozing off while presiding over a flood-prevention meeting on May 20. Lee’s casual signature on the note prompted accusations of a lack of workplace professionalism.] What’s the relationship between Lee and Ma? Is it a business relationship or is it more personal? That Lee would write such a note to Ma in such a public setting suggests the interaction between Lee and Ma is more personal than a pure business relationship.

From this incident we can boldly presume Ma is surrounded by people with whom he shares no business relationship. This means their interactions are purely on a personal and private level, and as long as they are able to maintain a good private relationship, it really doesn’t matter whether they are successful in actual governmental affairs.

There’s a reason why everyone calls the Ma administration the “Ma clique.” The usual sort he keeps around him are promoted not because of their professional capabilities. Under such circumstances, Ma becomes the core of the group and everyone listens to him.

By using only people he knows or likes, the Ma administration has no unified national strategy, no core concept to help them guide the nation. In short, they do not have the capability to govern the nation.

Regarding the cross-strait service trade agreement, everyone asks why the Ma administration didn’t ask the tertiary sector for their opinions.

First off, Ma now feels nothing for the people; he never has unless there’s an election ongoing. As the leader of the nation, if he doesn’t make the needs of the public a priority, it’s going to cause a lot of problems.

Second, and this is the bigger problem, he’s too proud. This can be seen from one of his most oft-quoted phrases: “I have an administration that has the most, and the best, doctorates.”

It gives a sense that he is in charge of a team of highly educated individuals, so how can he be wrong? Why should he be asking you [the public] questions on how to run the government?

LT: Now that the contents of the service trade agreement are public, what are your thoughts on it?

Liu: The terms of the agreement severely impact Taiwan. On the surface, it might seem like we hold the upper hand — China agreed to open up 80 sectors while we “only” opened up 64. However, in truth, all 64 items that we have opened up to China will go down in flames because the government has no systemic measures to keep them safe.

The government proudly points to the fact that China opened up its markets to Taiwanese construction firms, but I would like to posit the question: Which Taiwanese construction firm is going to set up in China?

Comparing local and Chinese construction needs, the scale is out of proportion. Chinese firms have the home-field advantage in terms of manpower and territory, so what advantages would Taiwanese construction firms have in China?

This is yet another point proving why many people in Taiwan say that Ma’s policies are audible, but invisible.

The same principles apply to financial institutions. We constantly pat ourselves on the back claiming advanced management skills and innovative concepts, but the fact is that within a period of half a year, Chinese workers have learned everything from us, and will soon drive us off with businesses of their own. Ever wonder why there aren’t that many Taiwanese in the higher eschelons of the finance sector in China?

It seems that the government has not taken that lesson to heart, despite having so many Taiwanese companies and Taiwanese businesspeople working in China for many years.

The Ma administration doesn’t understand the corporate sector. They negotiate with the Chinese, but they only focus on the needs of specific corporations, corporations with ties to them, because they are selfish. They make sure these organizations make money because it benefits them as well.

Selfishness has caused Ma to focus on how history will remember him, instead of whether his actions are helpful to the nation. He is counting how many agreements and accords have been signed to soften the deadlock across the Strait; he is concerned with numbers.

All 18 previous cross-strait agreements and accords are only frameworks, and have no effect, but Ma doesn’t care; and if the 19th actually harms Taiwan? He still doesn’t care.

No industry in Taiwan can stand up to the magnitude of such level of liberalization, and it is up to the Legislative Yuan to attempt to stem the tide. If it fails, then we have the makings of some very serious problems.

LT: Although the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits agreed to move the issue of establishing representative offices on either side of the Strait to a future meeting, it does not assuage concerns on visitation rights or national sovereignty. The public is confused as to why the Ma administration is rushing the issue; do you think it is due to the same reasons as the previous question?

Liu: Absolutely. Both sides of the Strait are still hashing out the matter and yet the Ma administration is already pushing the Legislative Yuan to pass draft bills paving way for the establishment of cross-strait offices.

That he is trying to rush the legislation through the Legislative Yuan before the end of his term is clear evidence that he treats the issue as a personal accomplishment.

It is clear that the Chinese Communist Party would be more sensitive on the issue of national sovereignty, but it has not entirely swept the issue from the table. It shows some flexibility on many issues, but if the [Ma] government cannot even guarantee its people’s safety, or at least give them a sense of being safe, then it should not set up offices in China.

The biggest issue China-based Taiwanese businesspeople have is their personal safety, with the added insecurity that their government cannot back them up legally, especially as thousands of Taiwanese have been incarcerated [in China] without trial.

If the government cannot keep its people safe, cannot have its representatives reassure people and defend them using the law, it should not set up offices in China, because they would be essentially useless.

Boiling it down, the essential problem with the policy [on representative offices] is that it is driven by Ma’s selfishness. He is willing to sacrifice the rights of Taiwanese just to ensure his accomplishments. Worse, he feels he is entitled to the results of such sacrifices.

LT: Even if both sides eventually reach a consensus on visitation rights, how should we deal with concerns the Chinese office could gain as much influence as the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region?

Liu: [Generally speaking,] it is a positive step to establish embassies or consulates in each other’s sovereign territory, even if the governments involved are nations at war.

The problem, in this case, lies in the fact that the [Ma] government does not have the ability to govern its office.

There are going to be many after-effects if governments on both sides of the Strait set up offices in each other’s territory, and if the [Taiwanese government] takes one wrong step, it is very possible for the Chinese office in Taiwan to gain as much influence as the Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

LT: What can people do facing problems brought on by a president who seeks to collect personal accomplishments?

Liu: If Ma is trying to claim his personal glorified place in history, it is already too late, because many people have already helped define his reputation — which can be summed up with these words: “Incompetence, self-centered, dictatorial and tyrannical.”

Ma imposes his will as being the “will of the people” — that is dictatorial. He does not care for the suffering and hardships of the people and does not care for the life and death of the people: That is the mark of a tyrant.

If it were only the opposition parties who are denouncing him, then that is par for the course. The problem is that people who are condemning Ma are not just the opposition parties. I grew up by nursing on the milk of the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT]. I have the “royal bloodline” of the KMT and I am the standard-bearer of the KMT’s “true blue flag” (正藍旗).

Ma can only be considered to have joined the KMT’s power structure halfway through and is counted only as a “decorated banner” for the KMT’s true blue flag. If Ma wants to put labels on me, he would have a hard time making them stick.

I have the legitimate right to voice my criticism as I’ve observed four presidents from close up. The person I dislike the most was [former president] Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). However, the most incompetent is Ma. In many aspects, Ma’s abilities are far below Chen’s.

Since all the problems our nation faces today stem from Ma, there are only two ways to go about things.

One solution is to tolerate Ma for another three years. However, I’m afraid many people could not endure the situation for so long.

The second way is to recall the president. The problem we have now is the main opposition party is not taking up the fight vigorously enough. Why is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) so hesitant to initiate a recall campaign? Because it is afraid of the KMT’s punitive actions. The DPP has no guts to jump-start a recall campaign, as it doesn’t want to be wounded in the process.

LT: The DPP may be concerned that a motion to recall the president would not be passed given the make-up of the legislature.

Liu: But the DPP can initiate recall motions against KMT lawmakers first. If a serious effort can be made, it is now easier to get recall motions approved against individual legislators, than in the past.

LT: To be successful, a vote to recall a lawmaker must attract half of all eligible voters in a given constituency, and of the valid votes, those voting to approve the recall motion must also be more than half of valid votes cast. In other words, people who do not vote are considered as not approving the recall motion. This is quite a high threshold to overcome.

Liu: Public grievance is at a very high level. If this is still not the time to initiate a recall of Ma, then people will think the main opposition party is not doing its job.

Ma’s approval rate is below 20 percent — this indicates that nearly everyone is fed up. How did Ma vilify Chen in the past? Ma said that when a sitting president is so unpopular as to enjoy only an 18 percent approval rate, that person knows no shame if he does not resign. Now, Ma is at 13 percent, but he is still quite content to remain president.

Ma doesn’t care when his “6-3-3” campaign pledge [annual GDP growth of 6 percent, annual per capita income of US$30,000 and an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent] bounced.

He would not do so when asked to donate half of his salary [for failing to deliver his 6-3-3 campaign pledge], because it would harm his personal interests.

Since Ma came to office five years ago, the only people not affected are his close associates, the high officials of his inner circles who together have enjoyed prestige, affluence and political power. All of their salaries, including Ma’s, have not diminished at all.

If domestic affairs are handled badly, people might still endure it despite reductions in real income.

However, if cross-strait relations are handled badly, it cuts off the livelihood of all Taiwanese. If this comes to pass, no one can earn a living, or have any means to survive.

We absolutely cannot tolerate this happening.

Translated by staff writers Jake Chung and Jason Pan