Aug 17

Can Ma Ying-jeou Weather the Storm?

Written by Steve on Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 11:30 pm
Filed under:-mini-posts, Environment, media, natural disaster, News, politics | Tags:, , , , ,
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From August 6-9, southern Taiwan was hit with the worst typhoon in 50 years. Per the Associated Press story:

“Morakot dumped more than 80 inches (two meters) of rain on the island last weekend and stranded thousands in villages in the mountainous south. A total of 15,400 villagers have been ferried to safety, and rescuers are working to save another 1,900 people. The storm destroyed the homes of 7,000 people and caused agricultural and property damage in excess of 50 billion New Taiwan dollars ($1.5 billion), Ma told the security conference.”

Since that time and with hundreds of victims still buried in the rubble of mudslides throughout mountain villages in Southern Taiwan, President Ma’s response has been inadequate at best, even among his own supporters.

“Criticism of Ma’s handling of the Morakot disaster is rising quickly — even within Ma’s own party and in media outlets normally friendly to the president. Much of the criticism focused on comments he made Thursday to Britain’s Independent Television News in which he appeared to blame Morakot victims for their own fate. “They were not fully prepared. If they were, they should have been evacuated much earlier,” Ma told an ITN reporter. “They didn’t realize how serious the disaster was.”

Taiwan’s normally pro-Ma China Times newspaper lambasted the president for the remarks, saying they were badly out of place. “It is not presidential to tell international media that the blame falls on people who would not evacuate in order to safeguard their own homes,” the newspaper said.

Ma also has come under fire for his handling of government efforts to save storm victims and help the island’s hard-hit south recover. “If we expect the people to do everything themselves, what do we need a government for?” chided lawmaker Lo Shu-lei of Ma’s ruling Nationalist Party. Ma “seems to be out of the loop and doesn’t understand the way the relief system works,” she said.

The criticism of Ma is reminiscent of the hostile reaction to former President George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — criticism that played a major role in turning public opinion against the U.S. leader.”

However, help is on the way. After initially turning down direct aid from the United States and Japan to assist in relief efforts, the KMT government has changed its mind and asked for that assistance. From Bloomberg:

“Four U.S. helicopters that can airlift earth-moving equipment may help with relief efforts as early as tomorrow in Taiwan, where hundreds of people are believed buried under mudslides caused by Typhoon Morakot.

A U.S. coordination team arrived in Taiwan today, with two CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and two SH-60 medium-lift models to be deployed, said Chris Kavanagh, a spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan, which represents U.S. interests on the island.

The first aircraft to arrive, a CH-53, was from the Naval squadron, which helped relief work after Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005. All four helicopters will be based on the USS Denver, which is usually stationed in Japan and is to be positioned off Taiwan’s southern coast to assist with the relief mission.”

My wife has talked to family members in Taiwan who were previous supporters of Ma during the election but are now furious over his handling of the disaster and remarks made to the public, and swear they will no longer support him. It’s common in Taiwan these days to refer to the storm as “Katrina” and not “Morakot”.

Do you think Ma’s current unpopularity on the island will affect the reconciliation between the Chinese and Taiwan governments? Will he have enough time to repair the damage before the next election, or will this crisis affect his popularity the way Hurricane Katrina affected George Bush’s?

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50 Responses to “Can Ma Ying-jeou Weather the Storm?”

  1. Charles Liu Says:

    I saw it on CTS news last night, when rescuers hazarded the environment to reach an elderly couple, they refused to leave and handed the rescuers a letter to be delivered to their children waiting below. There were a ton of stories like this. Only 9 people, out of over 100, from MayShan village left when helicopter reached them:


    There’re also reported confusion between local authorities over evacuation, authority over aboriginal tribal villages:


  2. Think Ming! Says:

    @ Charles, sounds like the disaster was caused by a bunch of Taike dummies then. Thank god the KMT is there to stop things getting even worse!

    @ Steve, what ‘reconciliation between the Taiwan and Chinese governments’? For as long as China points a gun at the head of Taiwan there is no ‘reconciliation’ – only submission to brute force. China’s several million dollar aid gesture to Taiwan? Not even a fraction of the cost of the numerous missiles China has deployed for the express purpose of murdering their Taiwanese ‘compatriots’.

  3. Steve Says:

    @ Think Ming! #2: Yes, I know there are a thousand missiles pointed at Taiwan and the Taiwanese people certainly want to see those missiles pointing somewhere else but if you talk to people living there most will tell you that tensions have eased with China quite a bit over the last year. It’d be disingenuous of me to suggest otherwise. People not living in Taiwan think the China issue is how the Taiwanese rate their leaders but it’s not. They rate them by domestic performance and Ma’s had problems in that area, hence the steady decline of his popularity. Even so, he was still reasonably popular until this latest crisis, where his poor handling of it has caused his numbers to crater.

    The point I was trying to make is not whether the “Three Links” were in trouble (they’re already a ‘done deal’ and popular with Taiwanese) but more about upcoming trade agreements, etc. Will the loss of popularity put some of those deals at risk? Has this situation substantially lowered Ma’s chances for re-election?

    The DPP seems to have a potential star in Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu. After the last election, they virtually ceased to be a national player and had moved to regional status but with recent events they have an opportunity to regain the trust of the public if they can offer something more substantial than endless criticisms of the current government. People don’t want to know what the other guy is doing wrong, they want to know what you’ll do that is right and will improve the present situation.

    Relations between the two entities calmed down when China stopped being so aggressive in its harassment of Taiwan and Hu replaced the harsh interference policies of Jiang with something more benign. I don’t think there’s any dispute that those changed policies have had some effect on the Taiwanese themselves. Trying to paint the issue as black/white ignores the actual opinions of the Taiwanese themselves.

  4. Raj Says:


    Why did the DPP cease to be a national player at the last election? Frank Hsieh got over 40% of the vote. I agree that it’s good to let people know what you will do differently rather than just criticise the government, but it’s an age-old political tactic that often produces results. that was the KMT’s tactic from 2000 to 2008 – it eventually got them elected. Unless you count Ma’s 6-3-3 promise, which was clearly pie in the sky. You’re not suggesting the DPP respond with something equally unfeasible are you?

    In regards to Chinese policy, remember that the Anti-Secession “Law” was enacted under Hu Jintao, not Jiang Zemin. That served to only increase tensions, not reduce them. Now other things have happened since then to make relations better, but they are still way behind what they could and should have been had that piece of legislation not need passed.

    Ma was not even “reasonably” popular to this crisis. Even last year opinion polls showed significant dissatisfaction with his administration. That’s his problem. He was already showing a long-term popularity problem because of what is seen as a lack of substance. People aren’t even sure if he’s in charge of cross-Strait policy, more that he’s a puppet for the KMT old guard who are really moving things ahead behind the scenes.

    It’s a shame that the KMT went for the youngish guy with good teeth, rather than someone with a brain and the will to act independently. Someone like Wang Jin-Pyng would have been far better.

  5. Steve Says:

    @ Raj: Why? Because the support he received was far more regional than what Chen had received in the past and after the election was over and Hsieh lost, the party seemed to disintegrate. Hsieh ran a terrible campaign. Right now, there isn’t any one leader to push the party in a new direction, though I personally feel Chen Chu might be a rising star.

    The KMT DID promise something, they promised economic prosperity. This was based on their economic performance prior to the 2000 election. However, a growing economy responds differently than a mature economy. This is a lesson that is difficult to learn. Japan didn’t make the adjustment well and so far, neither has the KMT. That golden aura has already worn off.

    You’re correct about the anti-secession law being passed under Hu and it certainly is not popular in Taiwan, but Hu has stayed clear of openly supporting one candidate over another and has given Taiwan more diplomatic space since then. Regardless of whether you believe this is a good or bad thing, it’s had a positive effect on the Taiwanese perception of China. The vast majority of Taiwanese do not want reunification or independence, they want to keep things the way they are. I believe the initial revulsion in Taiwan to the anti-secession law has become watered down simply based on time passing. No one thinks about it much anymore.

    A 17% victory in a presidential election is a landslide. Since then, I agree his popularity had slid but it hadn’t cratered like it has today. Personally, I agree he lacks substance. I was living in Taipei when he was mayor and all he did was pose for photo ops. The big projects finished in his administration were actually started by Chen Shui-bian when he was mayor. Chen was actually a very good mayor and the improvements he made to the city infrastructure were very noticeable when I came back to visit.

    The KMT voters went for Ma in the KMT chairmanship election (72% to 28%), who was far more popular within the party than Wang. To have nominated Wang would have been rule by fiat and not democratic.

  6. Steve Says:

    Ma’s newest quote:

    The military’s “job of course is to defend Taiwan, but now our enemy is not necessarily the people across the Taiwan Strait, but nature.”

    “The armed forces will have disaster prevention and rescue as their main job,” Ma said today after apologizing for his administration’s slow response to Typhoon Morakot, Taiwan’s deadliest storm in 50 years. “They have to change their strategy, tactics, their personnel arrangements, their budget and their equipment.”

    So Ma has not only declared war on nature but has changed the function of the military from winning battles to rescuing typhoon survivors. Watch as his poll numbers drop further.

  7. Charles Liu Says:

    Um Steve, Ma’s “now our enemy” seems to be in reference to aid from China. Will accepting 1000 mobile homes from Shenzheng and $350,000 donation from Chinese Red Cross cause his approval to drop?

    (Articles can go thru translator)

    IMHO only the synical partisans will focus on the “propaganda factor” of goodwill right now (and yet differentiate US aid as completely altruistic). But then again, “now is not the time” doesn’t seem to apply to China.

  8. A-gu Says:

    I don’t think this will be a fatal blow to either Ma or the KMT, nor their cross-strait policy drive, but this will make things considerably harder and may eventually begin a cycle of cabinet replacements, poor local election performances and other problems which start the KMT on a very bad spiral.

    2012 is now a toss up instead of what appeared to be a shoe in. And the KMT will suffer during local elections this December (though independents, not the DPP, may be primary beneficiaries).

  9. Raj Says:


    Every party offers economic prosperity – the KMT did nothing that no other political party ever does in terms of saying “things will get better”. There was no viable plan, just meaningless or impossible ideas.

    I doubt that you’ll find most Taiwanese believe China has really given it more diplomatic space. At most it has agreed to a temporary ceasefire. And the vast majority of Taiwanese currently do not want formal independence because they believe Taiwan is already independent. At some point they will have to choose, and they will not choose unification.

    Ma’s support has crumbled, but the point I was making was that he was already unpopular and couldn’t be considered even “reasonably” popular until recently. And I never said anything about the KMT ignoring the desires of its members. I indicated that they made a bad choice.

    By the way, in regards to the main question I agree with A-gu’s above comment.

  10. Steve Says:

    @ Charles #8: I might not have been clear enough in what I wrote since I wasn’t trying to imply anything about China but instead the primary role of any military force. As far as aid from China, I’m sure the Taiwanese appreciate it immensely, just as the Chinese in Sichuan appreciated Taiwan’s aid after the devastating earthquake. Helping each other in rough times is a GOOD thing!

    Will accepting aid cause his popularity to drop? Of course not. What is causing his popularity to drop like a stone is the way he’s handled the crisis within Taiwan. What is causing his popularity to drop was not accepting rescue aid from other countries. What is causing his popularity to drop was the sound bites he issued that were critical of the victims. What is causing his popularity to drop is his not using his military assets in a greater way shortly after the catastrophe occurred.

    No one is focusing on goodwill from China as a negative, at least in anything I’ve read. I don’t understand how you came to that conclusion so maybe I missed something. However, the issue with China is that if Ma loses enough popularity that then translates to losses at the polls, might it seriously jeopardize the ongoing negotiations with China regarding free trade, etc. because he won’t have the political capital to succeed? That was my main question to the group.

  11. Steve Says:

    @ A-gu #8: I have the same feelings you do, especially in regard to independents doing well. I also wonder about the long term survival of the DPP. On the other hand, I saw the Democrats come back from the dead to dominate the last American election, so stranger things have happened. As for eventual reunification, this post isn’t about that at all, it’s about how the handling of this typhoon affects Ma’s future ability to achieve his foreign policy goals. Thanks for sticking to the topic.

    @ Raj #9: Sure, every party offers economic prosperity but in this last election, the population felt the economy was under-performing and rightly or wrongly, Chen was the culprit. When the economy isn’t working well, people want change they can believe in. They looked back to the prosperity of the ’80s and ’90s and that’s what pushed the election to Ma. Ma was seen as progressive and energetic.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you had felt the KMT had ignored the desire of its members, I just wanted to point out that under their party rules, they had no other options. When they appointed candidates, they screwed that up as well, putting Lien Chan up twice for the presidency. Regardless, Ma is president and now in a fix. What will be the consequences? Vice Foreign Minister Andrew Hsia resigned today so there’s the first scapegoat.

  12. Raj Says:

    Steve, I know that the public thought the KMT could do something about the economy – I wasn’t disputing that. It’s that Ma and the KMT weren’t saying anything new and/or credible.

    So although an opposition should always make a credible plan for change, they often don’t but can still get elected on dissatisfaction with the incumbant party and the belief that “things can’t get worse so let’s give so-and-so a try”.

  13. Steve Says:

    @ Raj #12: I absolutely agree. I guess this shows that people in all countries are pretty much the same. In fact, their entire economic plan was “Vincent Siew is an economic savior and Ma is charismatic so elect us”.

    What do you think of Dr. Tsai Ing-wen? So far I’m not impressed but I’m not familiar enough with her to really form a strong opinion.

  14. Sonia Says:


    I don’t know too much about Taiwanese politics, but if you’re comparing the DPP with pre-2006 Democrats, then I’d say that the DPP is far from simply being “regional status”. Democrats’ performance in 2006 and then again in 2008 was hardly unexpected and a “come back from the dead”. I actually think the Donkey win has a lot more similarities with the KMT come-back. People were sick of one administration, so they moved on to another. As for how well the new one will do, it’s up to time to tell.

  15. Steve Says:

    @ Sonia: I was thinking more about right after the 2004 election when the Republicans controlled the Presidency, House and Senate, and believed they had formed a “permanent” majority. I wouldn’t compare it with the KMT comeback because the KMT was never out of power. They’ve always had a very strong majority in the legislature with the power to vote down all of Chen’s bills. The KMT only lost both presidential elections because they insisted on running Lien Chan in each of them. Have you ever watched him speak? After 1/2 hour, I’d confess to anything! (though he’s not quite as bad as GWB who I couldn’t listen to for more than 5 minutes without running out of the room screaming)

  16. Allen Says:

    It’s sad how much people would want to politicize things – including natural disasters.

    To get all worked up because of a statement that part of the reason for the high cost of the disaster is because many people did not heed evacuation calls – what is wrong with that? OK – PR could have been better … but are we such a superficial society as to focus on that in the context of the real human sufferings going on?

    Also – accepting foreign aid early would not have helped. The conditions on the ground hampered aid and rescues – not a lack of resources in Taiwan. In any disaster relief, the local agencies must get organized and see what they need instead of symbolically accepting all and any help from the world.

    The main focus going forward should be on how future relief efforts can be made more efficient and effective – and see if there is anything the government can do to make future evacuations more thorough … and to see if there is anything the government could have done avoid underestimating the potential damages and cost in human lives (as it seems to be have done in this case)…

    The only thing half decent I’ve seen on this site about Morakot is miaka9383 and Charle’s comments in the open thread – and of course our donation thread.

    Now how many of you have actually donated and/or helped out the victim besides just reading the tea leafs about 2012?

    (I ask because I have relatives living in Chang-hua – a place that was hard hit by the storm and that many here probably cannot point to on a map…)

  17. Sonia Says:


    I don’t think anyone’s arguing that politics should overshadow real human suffering, and I doubt that the only thing people are doing is “reading tea leaves”. Many of us are deeply concerned. But we can’t deny that political atmosphere will be altered by a natural disaster, and that response to natural disaster is reliant upon social factors, which includes politics. Katrina, the 512 Earthquake, Burma, these are all examples of how the human-constructed society/politics interacts with the events caused by the natural world. Just because there are some who may be interested in that interaction, I don’t think it’s fair to imply that these people somehow don’t care about real sufferers.

    Unfortunately words do get taken out of context, and too often, we are hyper-sensitive to issues, and our hyper-sensitivity distracts from solving problem, but that itself is an issue that needs to be resolved, isn’t it? I think what we’re discussing here isn’t that Ma has said so-and-so, but that people have already gotten worked up about him saying so-and-so, and how will that affect events, including how disaster relief will be handled.

    Maybe we should have another thread discussing proper relief-allocation, and what we can do to help in ways more than just lounging around and clicking the “donate” button. That would be a productive and relevant discussion for the moment.

    As for donations, I have given, and I’m sure the Association of Taiwanese Society and the Chinese Student Club at my school are each planning fundraisers as soon as school starts up. I sincerely hope and believe that many on this site have gone ahead and done what they can. 有钱出钱,有力出力。

    I feel terrible for all those stranded in the rubble. I hope your family is well and that their loss was recoverable. In light of the situation, perhaps I shouldn’t be so tough in my response, but I just genuinely hate it when everyone guesses at each others’ ill-intentions.

  18. Cass Says:

    I don’t think anyone thinks politics is more important than the human tragedy. However, the duty of the president (whether it’s the pres. of Taiwan, of the United States or of some smaller organization) is to lead. If you’re hanging out a wedding banquet schmoozing with people rather than trying to figure out what needs to be done, then you’ve got a problem. One of the things that people mention most about Rudy Guiliani was how he handled 9-11 while the mayor of New York. Sure, there’s plenty of criticism of him otherwise (both prior and after the terrorist attacks) but it’s safe to say that many Americans remember his leadership skills during that time.

    I’m not sure how much Morakot will affect the KMT in the future. According to my mom (though I don’t know if this has any basis of truth), the aborigines generally vote blue. Also, 3 years is a long way down the road. Will people (particularly those not in the regions devastated by Morakot) have forgotten by then?

    I think there is a difference between the Democrats and the DPP. Namely, the Democrats had a superstar candidate in Barack Obama. Someone who promised change but also had a cult-like personality and following. Will someone like that emerge for the DPP? Also, Ma will just be at the end of his first term – he could run again. Pres. Bush couldn’t run again (incumbents generally win re-election, unless they do something catastrophic). And finally, the United States has traditionally been a two-party system. Taiwan has only recently evolved into a two-color system (blue vs green).

  19. Allen Says:

    @Sonia #17, Cass #18,

    I agree with you both. I probably went out on a limb a little in #16 … I still stand by my view that many people (including those in Taiwan) are trying to politicize on an issue on the back of human misery.

    P.S. My relatives are ok (flooded houses, messed up crops, but otherwise ok).

  20. Falen Says:

    I quite frankly don’t care if MYJ has a Katrina-style scandal every single day until the end of this presidency, because unless DPP get its act together, he’ll get reelected.

    I don’t get the sense that the blame is being ascribe specifically for KMT. The consensus is that the government is so inept (especially rubbing salt onto the wound is the comparison with China’s reponse in Sichuan earthquake. Unspoken is the feeling that Chinese government is better than the government in Taiwan) that neither KMT or DPP, whoever is in power, would have done any better. The 30 year old helicopter that crashed was still a 29 year old helicopter when DPP ceded power to the KMT.

    People are angry with the government for going about the rescue effort with the usual bureaucratic manner, the “let’s look at the law to see who’s responsible for natural disasters handling”, “not my business”-types instead of jumping into the fray to actively coordinate and support the effort.

    Now, how I miss Lee Tang Hui and his forceful style, despite his policies.

  21. Steve Says:

    @ Allen: Actually, I would not have written this up if it was just the DPP criticizing him. I would expect that since it’s what opposition parties do. But in this instance, his own party members are criticizing him, KMT controlled media is criticizing him and we personally know people who supported and voted for Ma in the last election who are furious with him, and you know how furious Taiwanese can get. That’s what’s so surprising to me.

    When Wen Jiabao responded quickly to the Sichuan earthquake, he was roundly praised for his actions on this blog, and rightfully so. No one said he was milking a disaster for political gain. What he was doing was his job, and doing it as a leader should. His presence helped to comfort many people in their moment of need.

    CNN in Taiwan did an online poll and 82% of the respondents called for his resignation. Now of course online polls are not scientific, but 82% is enormously high and indicates he has a real problem with the public.

    Much is being made of the fact that DPP vice premier Yu Shyi-kun resigned office immediately nine years ago after the death of four construction workers who were swept away in a flash flood in the Pachang River after the then KMT-run Chiayi County government, the National Fire Administration and the Air Force failed to coordinate a rescue effort. Yet Ma has said that no evaluations of performance will be made before mid-September. Many are seeing a lack of accountability.

    As Sonia wrote, maybe later we can have a post covering relief allocation. I know in San Diego, the local Taiwanese American Association is having a fundraiser as they always do for events like this. They also had one for the Sichuan earthquake; the needs of the victims know no politics.

    The President of any country has a duty and responsibility to perform his job in times of crisis. When this does not happen, that leader will be held up to scrutiny. As Ma’s behavior might affect the political balance in Taiwan and from that its relationship with China, I felt it came under the purview of this blog.

    I’m glad to hear that your family members are all ok. I hope the damage to their homes and livelihood isn’t too extensive.

    @ Falen #20: The DPP held the presidency for eight years but never held power. From what I know, the Taiwan government doesn’t give a minority party president much power, and no power of the purse strings. I dont’ believe the DPP ever had the power to buy new helicopters. In fact, their military package was never approved by the KMT led legislature. Lee Tenghui was not only president but the leader of a party that held power at every level. Is my understanding correct or did I miss something?

    I agree with you that the DPP is a complete mess right now.

  22. Allen Says:

    @Steve #21,

    You wrote:

    The President of any country has a duty and responsibility to perform his job in times of crisis. When this does not happen, that leader will be held up to scrutiny. As Ma’s behavior might affect the political balance in Taiwan and from that its relationship with China, I felt it came under the purview of this blog.

    I’ll be the first to admit Ma has a few things to learn about PR. But judging whether he performed his “duty” based on his acts thus far – it’s called scapegoating. Whether Ma goes to a wedding, or a baseball game, or whatever has nothing to do with how the emergency rescue effort is going. Ma’s role for now is mostly symbolic. This is all I will say for now on this thread. It’s a dead end for me.

  23. A-gu Says:


    First, since this seems to matter to you, just so you know, I volunteered to help out in Linbian last weekend and probably will again this Saturday.

    Secondly, the problem with Ma’s handling has not just been “bad PR;” the problem has been an overly delayed response in deploying troops and nonsense excuses for that delay (heavy wind and rain, the main scapegoat, could account for, at most, 2-3 days of a much longer delay in boosting troop numbers in the field; Monday’s Talking Show was a real classic for running through the numbers). It has been the rejection of foreign equipment which the government has now acknowledged it badly needs, and which has arrived very quickly. It has been an unending series of callous or bizarrely out of place comments by the President that continued through yesterday’s press conferences.

    There’s not a single political talk show which has stopped short of ripping Ma or his administration a new one — for good reason. Also, you will note the topic of the post is not the President’s performance but whether he’ll make it through this political crisis that has results from what all agree has been at least perceived as a poor performance (and which, by most objective standards, was indeed very poor).


    As far as Tsai Ing-wen goes … I think she’s doing a fairly good job as party chair (not especially inspiring), She’s very flat at political rallies. She was an excellent Deputy Premier and head of the MAC. She makes a better bureaucrat and is more capable of taking care of the hard work on a day to day basis than she is or reigning in the older, more extreme elements in the DPP or getting the crowd riled up.

  24. Steve Says:

    @ Allen: Isn’t “symbolic” another word for “leadership”? Wasn’t Wen Jiabao’s trip to Sichuan symbolic? He didn’t rescue anyone, didn’t hand out food, etc. He was there to lead the country and be the face of the government at a disaster. Rudy Guiliani didn’t rescue anyone so wasn’t his presence also symbolic? In times of need, symbolism (leadership) matters. Attending weddings and baseball games during a national disaster is not leadership.

    I can’t buy into the “scapegoating” charge either. He’s the leader of the government; the buck stops with him. He claims one hand didn’t know what the other was doing (turning down foreign aid) but it’s his cabinet who he appointed and who work for him. So isn’t he scapegoating the members of his own cabinet? As A-gu wrote, not enough troops were in the field, not enough helicopters were being used when the weather permitted, and his comments tried to scapegoat the victims themselves. His own party has attacked him as much as the opposition. People who voted for him have turned against him. I think it’s a very big deal.

    @ A-gu: Thanks for your concise summary of the mood over there. Thanks again for your “take” on Tsai Ing-wen.

  25. Jim Shin Says:

    Ma Ying Jeou, supposedly the best qualified President in the history of Taiwan, has failed the ultimate leadership test in the way he mishandled the typhoon. He and his premier and national security secretary general should all step down.

    Why were rescue efforts delayed? Simple. The most heavily damaged area occured in DPP strong hold region of Taiwan. His original calculation was to blame the opposition party who holds Mayors and County Executive positions in those areas but his wishful thinking backfired big time.

    Ma Ying Jeou’s biggest achilles heel is also his cereberal personality and arrogance. He and his inner circle, like Su Chi and Premier Liu believed they are the smartest Taiwanese ever existed! Similar to DPP’s “New Generation / Hsin Tsao Liu faction.”

    Even after bowing to the nation to apologize & redeem himself, Ma Ying Jeou continues to make excuses for his lack of leadership. Continuity of Operation and Infrastructure Protection are not news to Taiwan’s leadership. They have been trained in the U.S. and by U.S. defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton annually on this, so the only blame rests on Ma Ying Jeou’s head for not acting like a Commander in Chief. What kind of Commander in Chief says he does not have to direct the worest disaster in Taiwan history and that he needs to step out of the way to not interfere? The training SOP didn’t tell him to hide in one of his bunkers. In fact, he is in charge. The buck stops with him unless he is incapacitated.

    It is appalling that Ma ying jeou is shifting blame to the Minister of Defense and other senior officials when he is the person who should take responsibility as he stated at the press conference. And when the people no longer has any confidence in his administration, he should step down.

  26. Charles Liu Says:

    Jimmy, to say that Ma let people die on purpose for political gain is pretty synical. Got any proof?

  27. Allen Says:

    @Steve #24,

    Symbolism and leadership are different concepts. Leadership include symbolic gestures – symbolic acts can be just that – having nothing to do with leadership. Are you acting dense or does this forum simply make people look like that sometimes?

    I’m sure you are familiar with the aftermath of Katrina. FEMA was disorganized, and leaders within FEMA were sacked – but the immediate focus was correct – on FEMA and on situations on the ground. Media featured storeis on FEMA (the disorganized efforts, the lack of communication and coordination, the lack of leadership within the agency, the under appreciation of the scale of the problem), how private citizens could help even as FEMA was anemic, stories of how people were trapped (e.g., on roof of flooded houses, on islands of land, etc.), stories of how people were coping (e.g., Superdome), the inevitable crime wave that arose, etc. etc. This is not what this thread or what many of the media has focused on. They go straight to politicizing the issue at the presidential level. If there is something personal the president has to do within the timeframe of the first few days of a disaster to make the rescue efforts work – there is something fundamentally wrong with the system. Focusing on the acts of Ma in the first few days with respect to the effectiveness of the rescue effort is a red herring – unless of course you want to ride the catastrophe for political gain …

    P.S. A gov’t report of what has gone wrong will be coming soon … I will chime in then. In the mean time, I don’t see the purpose of gossiping internal Taiwanese politics has to do with the purpose of this blog – which is to build bridges with the West. Once in a while … as side entertainment – maybe (I just don’t want to make this as the case, since real suffering exists) … but such post will not fly as a general rule. Unless … we want the world to see what internal Taiwanese politics is like … something I’ve tried to withhold from broader discussion here because to be frank – it’s kind of embarrassing.

  28. Raj Says:


    Politics affects everything in our lives. Funding for flood prevention is authorised by legislators. The people who run ministries as ministers or top civil servants get apppointed by political leaders. As Steve says, the buck stops somewhere and in this case it stops with Ma. That is the nature of politics.

    Of course even if you don’t agree, you have to admit that Ma has only himself and his own party to blame. When he turned up in the area he was surrounded by KMT candidates in campaigning vests. If he didn’t want this to be turned into a political event, he should have told them to take the vests off before they arrived. That he allowed them to be seen with him shows he was happy for them to try to make political capital out of it. That’s politicising the event.

    As the president, of course his input will be needed on important matters like whether foreign agencies and militaries could provide assistance. Do you really think that in China some bureaucrat would have decided what sort of aid other countries could have given? Moreover even if Ma’s input isn’t needed he still has power. If he says that the US can’t give direct aid, for example because he’s not sure whether to say yes or no to China, who is going to defy him?

  29. Allen Says:

    @Raj #28,

    I am not defending Ma per se. I am probably overly emotional here (as I am usually when we come to internal Taiwan politics), but my point is that people are trying to score political points on the backs of a natural disaster.

    I may agree with you that perhaps Ma in that incident surrounded by KMT campiagn vests (assuming it’s true) is politicizing the event. But if you say that, you might as well say also Ma taking credit for a job well done – or visiting the victims on the ground – is politicizing the event!

    Perhaps in this moment, all I ask for is more focus on how to move the relief efforts forward, how to help people on the ground, and wait for the gov’t report. Finger pointing at such early stage is inappropriate and counter productive. When we know more later, we should see how we can improve and reform Taiwan’s natural disaster response system. Is Taiwan so lacking in resources that we need to have a formal coordination agency with the mainland and the rest of the world that springs to life whenever a natural disaster strikes? How do we make sure we get the equipment we want? How do we make sure we get equipment that are not labeled in foreign languages that rescuers and victims on the ground do not know how to use?

    Unfortunately, some people are interested only in jumping the gun at this stage, especially going all to way to call for Ma’s head – that’s really taking politics before needs of citizens at this point – in my humble opinion… (see, e.g., http://tw.news.yahoo.com/article/url/d/a/090820/17/1pfhq.html )

  30. huaren Says:

    As of this moment, this is the reaction over at sina.com:

    Taiwan disaster relief

    Have you made a donation for the typhoon relief in Taiwan?
    option proportion
    1 No. 47.8%
    2 Not yet, but I will. 43.5%
    3 Yes. 8.7%


  31. huaren Says:

    Hi Allen,

    I share your sentiment. During the Sichuan earthquake, the “human rights” types were ready to pounce. Any effort on their part to drive donation to help the victims? I don’t think so. Drive to donate to their “cause?” Very much so.

  32. Sonia Says:

    @Jim Shin, Allen and Huaren

    While I agree that perhaps it’s a bit too early analyze and critique the response of the government, I think we’d all benefit from a little less accusation and a little more sympathy. I’m not naive enough to think that there aren’t people in this world who try to capitalize on the misfortunes of others, but I believe that for the most part, regardless of whether we all agree on the methods of improving the world, most of us have the hope of living in a “better” world. Just because others have different priorities doesn’t make them self-serving bigots on a pedestal. It just means we all come from different backgrounds with different perspectives and understanding.

    I honestly don’t see the issue of openly debating and criticizing each other’s beliefs and methods, but let’s not let constructive criticism deteriorate into a blame-fest.

    Allen, perhaps it was insensitive of us to talk about the political aftermath so quickly after a disaster. However, I do think that although the President rarely affects the nitty-gritty details of relief-work, he does greatly impact the direction and morale of the efforts, and public pressure does have certain effects on administrative actions.

    Jim Shin, it’s a big claim to make to say that the President should step down. It’s true that he may not be the most competent of all Presidents, but if we respect the rule of Law and the tenets of Democracy, as those are supposedly upheld in Taiwan, then we should do everything in due time and due procedure. We can’t rely on the honor/shame complex to ask a President to step down every time he does something someone doesn’t like. If you really think he should be impeached, then please go through the legal procedures of impeaching him, although I think that would do more to distract from actual relief work. Furthermore, it’s a dangerous thing to accuse people of so-and-so motives, because that rarely has any basis. The most you can do is claim that he was ineffective and then state speculations explicitly as speculations and not facts.

    Huaren, I don’t think you’re terribly extreme at all, but I do think that sometimes you tend to the opposite side of the same coin as Jim Shin. I agree that certain “human rights” activists appear suspicious, and not as righteous as they say they are. Furthermore, I often have a lot of beef with what they say. However, can we consider the possibility that their immediately negative reactions to the CCP or other authority figures are as instinctive and self-convinced as your assumptions that these “human rights” activists are self-serving? Sometimes I see so many similarities, good and bad, between opposing sides, and it saddens me that we are barred mutual understanding because of ideological prejudice.

    Also, “self-serving” is not necessarily an evil thing. We are all “self-serving” in that we want the world to work the way we believe is right and righteous, even if it’s not a way that immediately benefits us. And how do we decide what is right or righteous? By exposure to experience, self-interest, family, friends, acquaintances, books, education…essentially things around us. We are all “brainwashed” by our environment. We understand “injustice” as things that have hurt us, or people we know, “righteousness” as things that have benefited ourselves or people we know after we’ve experienced “injustice”, “oppression” as the “injustice” of taking away things we’ve always taken for granted, or of the crushing of “righteousness”. We first understand our own interests, then we begin to understand others’ interests. Thus any “cause”, any “method” has to be rooted in someone’s interest. Without “freedoms”, “religion” and “human rights” being in someone’s interest, what’s the point of fighting for them? So I think it’s a moot point to argue that the motives behind this-and-that is self-interest, because it’s obvious, and it’s really not that bad of a concept at its core.

    For example, when missionaries go to the developing world to perform charitable acts, they also bring with them the Word of God. When early communists were out on grassroots missions, they taught people to read, and to read those “glorious” words like “revolution” and “proletariat”. As an outside observer of both these cultures, I sometimes find both acts to be self-serving, and to be manipulating those idolizing and indebted to the missionaries (both kinds) to further some sort of personal cause.

    But that’s certainly not how a Christian or a Communist would understand it. In their eyes, they are doing the ultimate good deed, and it’s imperative that it must be done. We can argue with their methods and with their idea of good, but I don’t think that we can argue that they have “evil motives”, or that they aren’t doing things out of the goodness of their hearts.

    I’m sorry to be so harsh on everyone, but I just think that we need to be more considerate and respectful when we talk about others, especially others’ motives, even of people who aren’t reading and writing in these threads. Especially for those who want more tolerance, and those who want less media bias, and those who want more democracy, etc, it’s important to do to others as you would have them do to you.

  33. huaren Says:

    Hi Sonia, #32,

    Maybe your are right about this “ideological prejudice.” For example, your example referring to the CCP – are you referring to the CCP under Mao or the CCP of China today? I can see people in the USA able to distinguish between the Bush administration vs. the Obama administration. Is it prejudice to not be able to make that distinction when it comes to the government of China? If so, why? If not, then what is it? (I am not sure, Sonia, if you personally do or do not make this distinction and I don’t mean to imply.)

    I think what you say in general makes sense. I would argue your points are various considerations when we interact with our world.

    On the other hand, if a “human rights” person acts like a racist and have every intention to want to wreck havoc in a society, well, then, I think its common sense to call that person for who he is, despite him saying he has good intentions. This is another consideration.

    Even if he has “goodness of hearts” – that does not give him a free pass to incite racial division in a society.

  34. Steve Says:

    @ Allen #27: Don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player! 🙂

    Allen, I know you can get emotional about Taiwan politics but you’re blaming the messenger rather than the message. I’m not trying to “play politics” with this issue. The issue is what it is. The anger towards Ma in Taiwan at this time is shared by every political party including his own and every media source. People there think he blew it.

    To be frank, we’re sitting over here 7,000 miles away from the event. Our opinion really doesn’t matter, what matters is the opinion of people in Taiwan. They’ve expressed those opinions. Should they be blaming Ma? “Should” doesn’t matter, what matters is that Ma IS being blamed, and blamed by his own people. That’s why it’s not politicizing an event, but criticizing presidential performance.

    If you read again what I wrote, I didn’t personally criticize Ma or make any judgment as to his performance; I reported what was being said about him in Taiwan. I made a special emphasis to talk about what his OWN party was saying about him. For instance, having all the Democrats support Obama’s health care plan while all the Republicans are against it is politicizing. If all the Democrats were also against it, that would not be politicizing it anymore because they’d be turning against their own party. When that happens, you have to look deeper than “politicizing”.

    Whether we like it or not, the damage is already done. My question was what the long term consequences of that damage would be. I still think that’s a fair question and appreciate the replies we received from out Taiwanese participants. They’re there, so that gives them far more credence on this issue than people who are not, including me.

    Why is discussing internal Taiwan politics “gossiping”? Internal Taiwan politics has a direct bearing on mainland Chinese politics and relations between China and the west. We talk all the time about Tibet and Xinjiang, but Taiwan is off limits? That doesn’t make any sense to me. How does discussing Tibet and Xinjiang “build bridges with the west” but discussing Taiwan does not?

    “Unfortunately, some people are interested only in jumping the gun at this stage, especially going all to way to call for Ma’s head – that’s really taking politics before needs of citizens at this point – in my humble opinion…”

    “Some people” are actually many people in Taiwan, including many from his own party. That’s not jumping the gun, that’s reality. People are calling for his head because they believe Ma took politics before the needs of citizens in Taiwan. Personally, I don’t think Ma should resign but I’m also not living in Taiwan so it’s not really my affair. I’m not analyzing or critiquing the responses of the government, that’s for the people of Taiwan to decide. I’m trying to figure out how this will affect Ma’s administration in so doing, the future of China/Taiwan relations.

    How did the “human rights types” get into this discussion? That part went right over my head. I was just commenting on what the Taiwanese media was reporting.

  35. Sonia Says:


    When I was talking about CCP, I was talking about the generalizations that certain anit-CCP folks like to make. It doesn’t matter who or what or what era, as long as it’s got to do with CCP, there are folks who “hate it”.

    On the other hand, when I was talking about early Communists “missionaries”, I was talking about early Soviet, Chinese, Bolshevik, Menshevik, non-affiliated-Marxist, etc. activists who took it upon themselves to spread the Word of Marx (or Mao, or Lenin, or Engel and what-have-you) at a grassroot level, much like Christian missionaries, (Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc…) spread the Word of God.

    Regarding calling people out, I think that if you perceive racist behavior, then it’s fine to call people out. It’s fine to call people out on behavior, illegal actions, fraud, and speech, etc. Especially if a person is a public figure, then his/her public (*not* private, unless illegal) actions are up for public scrutiny. But I don’t think we can make blanket assumptions of people’s intentions, especially if we don’t know them personally. Sure, we can speculate a bit based on behavior and speech, but we should state them explicitly as speculations, and I don’t think that we should be too easily convinced of any speculations.

    For example, it’s ok to argue that the Western media has a bit of bias, and to give evidence of biased reporting. And it’s ok for the opposite side to say “oh you’re being selective, here are some evidence that there’s even-reporting”. But I think that if WM is accused of being part of a conspiracy to “bring China down”, then there better be some hardcore evidence. Similarly, if others accuse Anti-CNN.com of being backed by the CCP, and accuse every angry Chinese blogger of being paid by the government, then I’ll need to see some convincing money transactions for each and every single WM-bashing netizen out there.

    So it’s one thing to say that “human rights” activists are inefficient and ineffective, that their organizations exhibit some corruption, that certain activists have said rather uninformed, or politically-incorrect things, or that the Falun Gong organized some pretty silly and insulting rallies after the earthquake, etc…. We can say that someone has wrecked or is wrecking havoc. But it’s a completely different thing to say that someone intends to wreck havoc.

    @ Steve

    I think “human rights” got here somehow because we started comparing the reactions of certain activists to the CCP after the earthquake to the reactions of Taiwanese politics-sphere to Ma after the typhoon. Amongst many Mainlanders, there’s a feeling, especially immediately after the earthquake, that relief efforts was one of the few things the government has done reasonably and unarguably well, and yet someone still has to criticize the CCP and China. It’s not even about whether the criticism is valid or not, but that certain individuals are more obsessed with finding fault with the CCP in any possible way (because it’s impossible for them to accept that the CCP is capable of doing any good), than they are concerned about the actual lives lost and suffering from the aftermath of the disaster. It’s that there are people out there more interested in bringing down political rivals due to personal vengeance, than in realistic and practical ways to improve the lives of others, as they claim to be doing. Thus there may be similarities drawn between criticism of Ma so soon after the typhoon and criticism of the CCP after the earthquake.

    However, I think that the similarities stops there. For the most part, CCP was lauded for its immediate rescue efforts…which Ma and his administration has not been lauded for. The criticism of the CCP grew much later, when some private investigations into building construction began to take place. But I still think that for the most part, the CCP, whether its because of a job well done or because of China’s different political structure, has retained the respect of handling the disaster well, and while criticism is a bother, it hasn’t become a huge political threat. For Ma however, if Steve’s sources are to be trusted, he is suffering very much from criticism, and not just from a handful of political rivals, but from the majority of the public. Thus regardless of the intentions of his rivals, whether anybody is self-serving or trouble-brewers or demonizing anyone else in tabloids or whatever, Ma’s unpopularity is already, like Steve said, a political reality. And now, he needs to rectify himself not just to uncooperative “conspirators” but also to his constituents, to whom he bears ultimate responsibility as the President of Taiwan.

  36. huaren Says:

    Hi Steve, #34,

    “How did the “human rights types” get into this discussion? ”

    Sonia explained it in her address to you in her comment #35, first paragraph. I didn’t mean to sidetrack your thread. I wanted to share that “sentiment” with Allen – that was all.

    Hi Sonia, #35

    I think you got the gist of what I wanted to say in my original comment in your first paragraph in #35 to Steve. I have much to learn from you in writing more clearly.

    Your point about not making blanket statements, and I think that’s very reasonable. Was I making a blanket statement?

    I should have elaborated more – during the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake, I saw no demonstration by many of the so called “human rights” activists in the West to help the victims.

    Why is that the case when they proclaim the very reason for their existence is to help look after the wellbeing of the Chinese citizens?

  37. Steve Says:

    @ Sonia #35: Thanks for the explanation. I hope I didn’t come off as critical, just curious. Now I follow what you’re saying and also agree with you. I can’t understand how anyone could criticize the Chinese government after the quake. I thought they did an excellent job and so did the Sichuanese people. The army was highly praised for the hard work they did to help the victims, and Wen also received praise for his presence, empathy and sympathy.

    Maybe it has something to do with various media “talking heads” seeing all issues as black and white and all entities as good and evil? To them the world is binary, all zeros and ones, either with us or against us and anyone against us is evil, which to me is a very immature and unrealistic outlook on life. Unfortunately, this attitude requiring an absence of thinking is becoming more popular as time goes on.

    The rest of your comments were up to your usual high standards. 😛

    @ huaren: You didn’t sidetrack anything. I was just in my normal “confused” state. 😉

    I think your next point is very well made. Helping people isn’t an abstract concept, it’s all about doing actual good deeds. It’s one reason I have so much respect for the Tzu Chi Foundation. More of the money given to them ends up helping people than just about any other charity organization. I was glad miaka mentioned them previously.

  38. Allen Says:

    As if to confirm my thesis there are people who want to politicize issues on the back of common people’s misery, we now get this:


    Associated Press

    TAIPEI, Taiwan — A group of Taiwan officials said Wednesday the Dalai Lama has accepted an invitation to visit this month, presenting the island’s China-friendly president with an embarrassing political dilemma.

    A joint statement by leaders from seven municipalities recently hit by deadly Typhoon Morakot said the Tibetan spiritual leader planned to be in Taiwan from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4 and would visit storm victims.

    The invitation is sensitive for China on two fronts. China says the Dalai Lama is working to undermine its authority in Tibet. China also claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, though they split amid civil war in 1949.

    The invitation from the leaders — all from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party — comes as President Ma Ying-jeou faces criticism that he botched the government’s response to the island’s deadliest storm in 50 years. The National Fire Agency says more than 670 are dead or missing.

    Ma spokesman Wang Yu-chi declined to say whether Taiwan would allow the Dalai Lama to visit. Analysts said such a politically sensitive visit was unlikely, though the Dalai Lama has made three visits to the island over the past 12 years.

    “We have jointly invited Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan on August 31, to make a speech and bestow blessings on Taiwan and the (typhoon) victims,” the leaders’ statement said. “The Dalai Lama has said he’s very happy to come.”

    The Dalai Lama has accepted the invitation “in principle,” said Tenzin Takhla, his spokesman in Dharmsala, India, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

    He will not travel until the organizers have official approval for the visit, Takhla said, because “he doesn’t want to cause any inconvenience for the Taiwanese government.”

    In China, the Taiwan Affairs Office, which handles Taiwan-related questions, was closed Wednesday evening. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no immediate response.

    Last December, Mr. Ma nixed plans for a Dalai Lama visit in what was largely seen as a move to placate Beijing. Improving relations between China and Taiwan is the signature issue of Mr. Ma’s presidency.

    One criticism against Mr. Ma since the typhoon is that his government delayed accepting foreign assistance to help deal with the disaster, out of fear of angering China.

    Political scientist George Tsai of Taipei’s Chinese Culture University said the Dalai Lama announcement has put Mr. Ma in a bind.

    “If the central government allows Dalai Lama to visit, relations with China will be damaged, but if not, the public will think the central government lacks humanitarian concern (for victims),” Mr. Tsai said.

    He said the China consideration would probably win out, making the visit very unlikely.

    Andrew Yang of Taipei’s Council of Advanced Political Studies agreed.

    “I don’t think the Ma administration will let Dalai Lama come, as Ma has already rejected the possibility of such a visit,” he said. “The DPP municipal chiefs are just trying to lash out at Ma when his approval ratings are down.”

    I heard people were complaining that Ma was wrong initially to reject “foreign” disaster aid. I suppose we’ll be hearing from people who complain that Ma will be wrong to reject foreign spiritual aid as well…

    Hope people can see through how people (i.e. DPP leaders) politicize / manipulate disaster relief related issues for political ends…

  39. Steve Says:

    @ Allen: I also doubt the Dalai Lama will be allowed in the country nor should he, since the Taiwanese people are not Tibetan Buddhists. From what the article said, I’d place more blame on the local officials than on the DL himself since he said he would not come unless the national government approved. I have been keeping track of the articles coming out of all the Taiwan major dailies and after the initial few days, things are back to normal on BOTH sides with total and complete politicizing for gain, each side lashing out at the other.

    Neither party has much credibility at this point and my feeling is that the general public is pretty disgusted with both local and national governments.

    BTW, I thought the AP article you posted was pretty fair.

  40. Allen Says:

    @Steve #39,

    You wrote:

    From what the article said, I’d place more blame on the local officials than on the DL himself since he said he would not come unless the national government approved.

    If I had hinted anything bad at the Dalai Lama, I did not mean to. I am blaming any politicking to local officials. Perhaps some Dalai Lama supporters might even agree with me that some local officials are trying to play Dalai Lama as a pawn in the local officials’ games against Ma and CCP.

    You also wrote:

    BTW, I thought the AP article you posted was pretty fair.

    Is that a plug for AP or me??? 😉

    I suppose it’s AP since all I did was cut and paste! 🙂

  41. Jason Says:

    Ma approve DL to come to Taiwan.

  42. Allen Says:

    @Jason #41,


    Now here is an interesting idea. If CCP doesn’t condemn the Dalai Lama, and the Dalai Lama discusses the warming relation across the Taiwan strait in positive terms … and begin reaching to Chinese people of all ethnicity … maybe we can make something out of nothing here…

  43. Steve Says:

    @ Allen #40: No, you didn’t hint in any way about the Dalai Lama, it was just a general comment per the article. I guess the plug was for both the article and that your posting of it. I noticed it was from the AP, the same news organization that I used for the initial article.

    I have to admit that I’m surprised Ma approved the Dalai Lama’s visit. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes, not only per what the DL says when in Taiwan, but also China’s reaction to the visit and whether Ma meets with him while he’s in the south visiting the stricken towns. I don’t think the DL should discuss relations between China and Taiwan; I don’t think he should talk about politics at all. His reason for being there is humanitarian and spiritual so I think it’d be in everyone’s best interest to keep it on those terms.

  44. Allen Says:

    @Steve #43,

    On second thought … maybe you are right. Maybe the Dalai Lama should not mention anything about cross strait relations…

    Still, since there is no getting around the Dalai Lama being a political figure now, I wonder if there is anything he can do in Taiwan that gestures to the CCP and reaches out to Chinese like me that he is serious about reconciliation…

  45. Allen Says:

    @Steve #43,

    You wrote:

    I guess the plug was for both the article and that your posting of it. I noticed it was from the AP, the same news organization that I used for the initial article.

    I guess there are two points I want to make.

    1. AP is not monolithically good or bad. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad. The same can probably be said about Western press … although since last year’s Western press was so uniformly bad… that image of bad Western press still lurks around in my mind…

    2. Now with a few days of time to reflect, I want to take a brief time to revisit why I had such a problem with this thread initially. The problem was not this thread per se, but this thread taken in context of prevailing Taiwan politics. You innocently wanted to discuss a phenomenon – everyone in Taiwan was unhappy with how Ma was handling the relief efforts. For me, it didn’t make any sense to focus discontent on the top. It’s a red herring. Yes – it’s true many KMT people were upset at Ma. He was giving the DPP an excuse to make noise. But for me, as a third party observer who is attuned to the issues, the more urgent thing (surely) had to be what we could do to speed up the relief efforts. There will be a time and place for discussing Ma later. Don’t play political games at this time. Even if every Taiwanese were engaged in this type of politicking (offense or defense), I’d still have been upset about an article focusing on such politicking. A red herring is a red herring – even when the entire populace is duped in not noticing the red herring. [Glad I got that off my chest. It doesn’t justify anything, but hopefully it explains why I was upset…]

  46. Jason Says:

    @Allen, Steve

    I’m not surprised and this situation is eerie similar when Ma was running the presidential election when the opposition party challenge Ma about the 5-12 Tibet Crisis.

    And Ma, a pro-China agenda threaten to quit the Olympics if Chinese govt doesn’t stop the crackdown which shocked the opposition party and the media.

    My mom freaked out about when Ma said it and I told her to calm down. It’s politics and I have strong inkling that Ma talked to the Chinese government about it beforehand.

    And I have an inkling about this situation is similar to Ma’s tirade on Tibet Protest 2008.

  47. Steve Says:

    Here’s the latest on China’s reaction to the announcement per Reuters:

    China denounces proposed Dalai Lama visit to Taiwan
    By Ralph Jennings and Lucy Hornby
    Thursday, August 27, 2009; 8:41 AM

    TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) – China promptly denounced a proposed trip to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama on Thursday, saying any such visit by a man Beijing brands a separatist threatened to “sabotage” improving relations.

    Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, approved the visit by the Nobel Peace laureate to comfort victims of a deadly typhoon at a time of burgeoning trade and investment between the rivals.

    “No matter under what form or identity Dalai uses to enter Taiwan, we resolutely oppose this,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Bureau said in a statement carried by Xinhua news agency.

    “Some of the people in the Democratic Progressive Party use the disaster rescue excuse to invite Dalai to Taiwan to sabotage the hard-earned positive situation of cross-straits relations.”

    Beijing brands the India-based Tibetan luminary as a separatist and condemns his trips abroad.

    An aide to the Dalai Lama in the Indian town of Dharamsala said the spiritual leader had been keen to visit Taiwan.

    “As of now, we are planning a visit to Taiwan and the dates are still being worked out,” Tenzin Taklha said. “We want to make it very clear that the Dalai Lama is visiting Taiwan to express condolences to victims and lead prayers.”

    China is considered unlikely to retaliate by choking off growing economic ties between the long-time political rivals.

    By blaming the opposition DPP and not Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou or the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT), Beijing may have indicated it does not wish to escalate the issue.

    “Beijing will be a little uncomfortable, but if they understand how severe the disaster is they will show some respect to Taiwan’s people,” KMT Secretary-General Wu Den-yih said.

    About 650 people are feared dead after Typhoon Morakot, the island’s worst typhoon in 50 years, soaked Taiwan from August 7-9.

    China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

    But Beijing is also aware any strong moves against the Dalai Lama could play into the hands of Taiwanese opponents of President Ma, who has sought to ease tensions with Beijing.


    The Taiwan president’s office, under fire for perceptions the response to Typhoon Morakot was too slow, and national security officials met for five hours late on Wednesday and decided to permit a visit, the Government Information Office said.

    Admitting the Dalai Lama lets Ma give the impression that Ma is not driven solely concerned with ties with Beijing, said Hsu Yung-ming, a political science professor at Soochow University.

    “He doesn’t want people to think he cares only about China, that he also cares about Taiwan,” Hsu said.

    Taiwan, home to a large exiled Tibetan community and millions of Buddhists, allowed visits by the Dalai Lama in 1997 and 2001.

    Ma last year quashed hopes for a new visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader, saying the timing was wrong. Taiwan Buddhist groups criticized that decision.

    Since taking office in 2008, Ma’s administration has avoided action that could anger Beijing as he pursues trade ties.

    “We’ve … decided to let the Dalai Lama visit as he is coming here to pray for the dead victims, as well as the survivors,” Ma told reporters while visiting typhoon survivors.

    The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule over Tibet.

    (Additional reporting by Bappa Majumdar in New Delhi, Chris Buckley, Benjamin Kang Lim, Yu Le and Lucy Hornby in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie)

    I think the key point here is that China places the blame entirely on the DPP and not on Ma’s government, in which case they are also politicizing the issue. So it seems things are back to normal where the KMT, DPP & CCP are all politicizing the disaster while people still suffer. Why am I not surprised?

    Allen, I believe the initial reaction wasn’t political as much as it was a genuine reaction to a poorly handled government effort. After a few days, things went back to typical politics but in those first few days the nation expressed real anger towards the government. Though Ma might not like it, the people believe the buck actually DOES stop at his desk and not at the desks of cabinet members or local leaders. I can understand where you were coming from since you were seeing it from the viewpoint of the people trapped in mountain villages and felt that aid to them should have been the prime focus. But it seems the people were frustrated by the government’s poor handling of the crisis, felt frustrated and expressed that frustration. This was especially true in the actual villages themselves.

    I would not call the anger expressed at Ma a red herring. A red herring would be introducing topic that isn’t relevant to the original topic and then having the original topic abandoned. First of all, the anger at Ma was completely relevant to the original topic of aid to the victims. Secondly, the focus on aid wasn’t abandoned at all but continued to remain the focus.

    @ Jason: Ma has been known to try and make everyone happy. It seems he’s doing it again, trying to create some sort of middle road where he stays on good terms with China while appeasing the southern elements in his own country. It might be one reason his own party members get frustrated with him. If local DPP members inviting the DL is considered “playing politics”, then having Ma approve the invite is also “playing politics”. Looks like things are back to normal.

  48. Allen Says:

    Does anyone know if the Dalai Lama is entering Taiwan using his Entry Permit of Mainland Residents to the Taiwan Area or a VISA of some other country?

  49. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen (#48): Since I’m interested in immigration questions in general, I did some research on this. Dalai Lama is not an Indian citizen for political reasons, but obviously he’s also not a citizen of the PRC any longer. The government-in-exile issues something called a “green book” to Tibetans:


    It says that the Indian government can use this book to provide a legal travel document that Tibetans can then use. I would guess it’s more tricky for Tibetans using these to go to Western countries (for example) and especially US with its strict immigration laws, but then there’s this about resettling Tibetan refugees in the US:


    So in short, he probably uses an Indian travel document with an attached Taiwanese visa (whatever kind that might be). Since he’s not formally head of state, he probably won’t be granted any sort of diplomatic immunity.

  50. Steve Says:

    Per this morning’s NY Times article:

    Prime Minister of Taiwan Quits Over Typhoon Response

    Published: September 7, 2009

    BEIJING — The prime minister of Taiwan resigned Monday because of the government’s widely criticized response to a deadly typhoon and said that his successor would replace the entire cabinet this week.

    The announcement at a news conference by Liu Chao-shiuan, the prime minister, came as a surprise, even though the government had come under intense pressure for what many Taiwanese called its inept handling of Typhoon Morakot. The storm slammed into Taiwan in early August and left at least 700 people dead or missing after three days of heavy rain set off huge mudslides. Mr. Liu’s resignation is the most serious political fallout yet from the typhoon.

    Popular support for President Ma Ying-jeou, who was elected by a wide margin in the spring of 2008 on a platform of rejuvenating the economy and improving ties with mainland China, has plummeted in the aftermath of the disaster. Mr. Ma reluctantly allowed the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetans who is accused of being a separatist by mainland China, to visit Taiwan last week to give succor to typhoon victims. Some analysts said it was a sign of Mr. Ma’s desperation.

    Mr. Ma, who has the power to appoint the prime minister, chose Wu Den-yih as the replacement for Mr. Liu. Since 2007, Mr. Wu has been general secretary of the Kuomintang, the party to which Mr. Ma belongs and that ruled Taiwan for decades after retreating here in 1949 after its loss to the Communists in the Chinese civil war. Mr. Wu was appointed as mayor of Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan, from 1990 to 1994, and he served as mayor again for four more years after being elected.

    At the news conference on Monday, Mr. Liu said he had first offered Mr. Ma his resignation in mid-August. Mr. Ma had asked him to stay, he said, but Mr. Liu had “firmly made up my mind.” The two men had a conversation on Sunday night at the house of Mr. Liu’s mother, Mr. Liu said.

    “I believe because so many people died, someone must take responsibility,” he said.

    The prime minister appoints the entire cabinet, which has eight ministries established under the Constitution and many newer commissions. The current cabinet will resign together on Thursday, Mr. Liu said.

    Critics of the government say President Ma and other leaders should have evacuated residents in vulnerable areas before the typhoon hit and accepted foreign aid earlier, among other things. Mr. Ma had said he might reshuffle some members of his cabinet, but there had been no hint that the prime minister and entire cabinet would resign.

    Bruce Jacobs, a scholar of Taiwan at Monash University in Australia, said he was surprised to hear of the change, but that Mr. Liu deserved to be held accountable for the “disastrous” government response to Typhoon Morakot.

    “I think generally people will be pleased because there’s a change, but whether they’ll be pleased with Wu Den-yih, I don’t know,” Mr. Jacobs said.

    He added that Mr. Wu was a somewhat disappointing choice because he is not known as someone who presses anticorruption efforts within the Kuomintang, which has conservative factions that critics accuse of being corrupt and anti-democratic. But a reform-minded party member, Eric Chu, has been appointed the vice prime minister, Mr. Jacobs said.

    Mr. Wu is a native Taiwanese and speaks the Taiwanese dialect fluently, which could give him an advantage over Mr. Liu in trying to quell anger in the aftermath of the typhoon. Some of the worst hit areas were in southern Taiwan, dominated by native Taiwanese, who lived on the island well before the Chinese fleeing the civil war settled there.

    This is certainly an unexpected development since very few thought the resignations would reach this high in the government.

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