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Thursday, June 11, 2009


What's all the fuss about?

The Taipei Times is reporting that KMT chairman Wu Po-hsiung is bowing out to let Ma run for party chairmanship, though rumors have been flying that Wu was less than happy with Ma's decision to run and even questioned why he wanted the office.

Taiwan Echo has already covered Ma Ying-jeou's complete reversal on this matter, as before the election he promised not to ever run for party chair while president. But I am reminded that this is not the first time we've seen this debate play out.

Former president Chen Shui-bian promised too, before his first term, to avoid all political party activities including taking the chairmanship; that decision was reversed on July 14, 2002. At that time, the green media was sympathetic to the DPP that this move would help the party govern better and consolidate policy. The DPP even altered its rules at that time to ensure the president would be an automatic party chairman during times the DPP had executive power. Chen left the post after the failure to secure a pan-green majority in the 2004 Legislative Yuan election.

Just as the green media supported Chen's decision to become party chair in 2002 and is now spreading ominous warnings about Ma will bring back the party-state (just check out Liberty Times editorials from earlier this week), you would not be surprised to learn that blue media today is 100% supportive of Ma's decision to take over the party chairmanship, while in 2002 they attacked Chen's reversal as "a new path a-kin to the Chinese Communist Party," an inability to separate party and government and a move toward dictatorship. (the links above, by the way, show the double standards used by blue papers then and now; unfortunately it is tougher to find comparable archives online from green-leaning papers from July 2002).

Knowing the media is too infatuated with their own party identity to give us a reasonable analysis of this issue, what are we to make of it? Does having a president who is also his party's chairman help or hurt the country? Does it help or hurt his party? Does it even matter?

I myself am theoretically in that last camp, and believe the president has tremendous influence even when he is not head of his party. At the same time, in a "hard party" based on the Leninist organizational model like the KMT, I can see why President Ma would want to control the chairmanship to give him power to suppress or diffuse dissent from within his own ranks -- and I can see why that is so scary to so many of us that don't trust the KMT.

But at the end of the day, I still feel this uproar is much ado about nothing. I don't see Ma's taking this office as consequential to party or domestic affairs.

The real different will be that in the future, Ma Ying-jeou and not Wu Po-hsiung will meet with CCP leader Hu Jintao. That will probably not actually change any of the practical outcomes of KMT-CCP discussions, but it will provide a different level of symbolism for those meetings.

Cross-posted to That's Impossible!

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At 5:56 PM, Blogger Richard said...

Your last comment is what I think many are thinking about. Meeting of the presidents on each side would be of great significance, likely to be portrayed as the first meetings between the president of China and Taiwan in so-and-so many years, a historical event! Obviously it can be manipulated easily by the CCP into showing that Taiwan, not just the KMT, has submitted itself under the One China framework. Ma was voted in by the people of Taiwan, Ma meets Hu in the party to party talks, the world knows that China does not talk/negotiate unless it is under the One China framework, the world assumes Ma, concurrently serving as Taiwan's president, has put Taiwan back under the One China framework.

But, then again- that has sort of already happened with Ma agreeing to the 1992 consensus.

At 11:19 PM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

The fuss is about Ma becoming the chairman of a party which already has a legislative majority in a country where a pan-blue-controlled media acts as a court of judgment (even though this administration is already clearly manipulating the courts of law).

Furthermore, as chairman, Ma will have control of who his party nominates for future elections. This creates a situation where legislators will be out of a job next time around if they don't jump off a cliff fast enough when Ma says "jump."

While the blues and their media said that Chen Shui-bian would be a dictator, they were projecting. Nothing like that happened under Chen. The DPP didn't have a legislative majority then (nor do they now), and they never manipulated the courts (despite the KMT projecting about that, too).

Here's something from March 2002 about that situation which gives a bit more insight into the differences:
- - -
"The issue of allowing a DPP president to head the party didn't stem from President Chen Shui-bian's personal will, but was a trial balloon sent out by party factions after discussions," said Chen Sung-shan (陳淞山), a commissioner of the Civil Protection and Training Committee.
- - -

So back to your question:
- - -
Does having a president who is also his party's chairman help or hurt the country?
- - -

If we're talking about a party with an authoritarian past and which is presently turning the clocks back, it's fairly clear that such a move will hurt the country.

Anybody who has been watching the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for any length of time should be very worried.

As far as a possible meeting with Hu Jintao goes, this move gives Ma yet another excuse to not call himself "President."

It's a bad move on many levels. I just heard them saying on Talking Show (大話新聞) a few minutes ago that 58% of people surveyed (didn't hear whose survey it was) oppose Ma doubling as chairman. Maybe I heard wrong. Here's something from the Liberty Times (自由時報) that says it's a DPP survey which says that 59.1% oppose Ma doubling as chairman. (In case that link disappears, the same figure is also quoted in the deep-blue China Times Online [中時電子報].)

Tim Maddog

At 5:12 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

Simply put, it is just too much power in the hands of one person. Even if he doesn't abuse it, the potential is there, and that is a bad thing.

Why should the president run the party that has a 75 percent majority in the legislature? The violation of the concept of the separation of powers is clear.

Chen was never in a position of this power. The only thing that would be restraining Ma would be behind-the-scenes opposition from his political enemies in the KMT.

My question is this: Does Ma really have the finesse to use this power, and are his "enemies" willing to play along? If not, he could find himself in an unpredictable and unenviable position.

At 2:22 AM, Blogger Taiwan Echo said...

I often wonder how could people ever believe in those shits like "Although I have the title of president, I come here as a Mr."

It sounds like "even though I am married, I can fuck any one I want as long as I consider myself single when I do it."

With this hypocrisy, they can always claim legal when they violate any law, as long as they get themselves another title.


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