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Monday, November 17, 2008

President Ma? 馬總統、總統嗎?

Taiwan's President, The Little Man that is There!

Friday November 07, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Always on the run, read the revised (752 words) version at

After a stormy five day sojourn in the country of Taiwan, Chen Yunlin is on his way back to China. Now that he is gone, it is time for Taiwanese to see their primping president for the little man that he really is. What should have been a routine visit by a low level person from China to ink prearranged agreements turned into a near riot and cost Taiwanese citizens millions of dollars in wasted resources as well as the experience of police brutality not seen since the days of the Kaohsiung Incident. This is not because of legitimate anger and protests of concerned citizens, but because of the inept mishandling and callous indifference of the whole situation by Taiwan's sometime president, Ma Ying-jeou.

Let there be no question about it, the fault of the past five days lies squarely on the shoulders of Ma Ying-jeou. So caught up was Ma in the fact that his image was suffering and that his approval ratings had dropped to an all time low of 23 per cent, that he could only see that he needed something "historic" to prop up his failed China policy. So caught up was he in wanting to claim to have done something "historic" to present to the big governments in the USA and China and gain their paternalistic approval that he became oblivious to the feelings and concerns of his own country.

Unfortunately despite all Ma's pre-arranged hype, Chen Yunlin's coming to Taiwan was nothing historic. The agreements that would be inked with the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) were agreements that had been begun and fashioned in the preceding years by Chen Shui-bian's administration. Further, higher level people from Taiwan had also visited China; the only thing that could be claimed to be historic was that it was the first time that an arrogant low level official from China deigned to visit the nation of Taiwan and be wined and dined by his party's previous enemies. If that is historic, it is only historic for little minds of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and not for Taiwan.

With this background, even a dunce could have seen the storm that was gathering. The people of Taiwan are not against trade with China; Taiwan is one of the biggest if not the biggest investor and trader with China. What Taiwanese are against is trade at the cost of their sovereignty. After fighting for decades for democracy, they had legitimate concerns about whether they would be sold out from the loose, cavalier and speedy way Ma was handling the meeting. In this matter, Ma Ying-jeou has had no credibility or trust among Taiwanese. In the past two months there had already been three increasingly larger protests against Ma with the final march on October 25th attended by some 600,000 people in the pan-blue capital of Taiwan.

If Ma had given clear, concrete assurances to the people before Chen's visit, they could have handled the arrogance of the representative from China. However, instead of reassuring the people that he would never sell out Taiwan, instead of giving clear signals to China and the Taiwanese that he is the President of a sovereign country, this little man Ma hid in the presidential palace and conjured up legal Constitutional conundrums to state why any explanations by him were unnecessary.

It was therefore no surprise then when Chen Yunlin came that the protests became a reality and increased day by day. At this crucial point, instead of going to the people to show that their fears were unfounded, Ma's solution was to sequester Chen in the Grand Hotel and turn it into a fortress surrounded by police. When Chen left the hotel to be wined and dined by the KMT throughout the city, Ma's only solution again was to increase the police support. When the people voiced open disapproval, instead of meeting them, Ma approved orders to attack.

Throughout the five days, where was Ma? When Ma should have been in the streets convincing the people of his sincerity, he was nowhere to be seen. Instead of sincerity, the people saw arrogance. Despite being all the people's representative, Ma felt he did not have to explain himself to the people.

More and more in Taiwan, this is the growing contention. Not only is Ma seen as incompetent, but he is also seen as arrogant. It is bad for a country to have an ignorant president; it is bad for a country to have an inept president; and certainly it is also bad for a country to have an arrogant president. But if a country has an ignorant, inept and an arrogant president then it is in deep trouble. This increasingly appears to be the case in Taiwan.

If there are any Taiwan watchers in the United States or Europe who have doubts about the ineptness of Ma Ying-jeou and how he is increasingly seen by the people of Taiwan, they have only to examine the following. It took George Bush from six to eight years in office to convince the majority of Americans of his lack of leadership and ineptitude; Ma Ying-jeou has been able to do the same for Taiwan in only four months.

Retransmitted with permission from the author, see his whole collection at


原著 / Dr. Jerome Keating 翻譯 / 藍唯文 劉怡君


不用懷疑,馬英九就是這五天風暴的罪魁禍首。他形象受損,滿意度也下滑到歷史新低的 23%,使他不得不塑造一些 「歷史意義」來救他失敗的中國政策。他也急著想用這樣的行動來向大家長似的美國與中國贏取認同,以至於輕忽自己國家人民的心聲。


在這樣的背景下,任何傻瓜都能預料到風暴的來臨。台灣人並不反對與中國有貿易來往;畢竟,台灣是中國的最大投資與貿易國家之一。台灣人反對的,是犧牲國家主權來進行雙邊貿易。在幾十年民主奮鬥的薰陶下,台灣人有正當的理由從馬英九傲慢輕率的處理會面方式中,懷疑他有賣國的動機。在這件事上,他所言不實,沒有得到台灣人的信任。過去兩個月裡,就有三次越來越大型的抗馬活動,到十月二十五日六十萬人走上街頭,在泛籃首府 — 台北 — 的遊行,最為盛大。






Chinese translation by藍唯文 University of Texas at Arlington 語言係博士班學生;劉怡君 Texas A&M University 研究生, and is retransmitted from《極光》電子報 , 由〈台灣教授協會〉和〈北美洲台灣人教授協會〉共同出刊,討論有關台灣政經、教育、人文等議題。

Brief about the author:
Jerome F. Keating is an educator, trainer, consultant and writer who currently lives in Taipei Taiwan.
His co-authored book, Island in the Stream, a Quick Case Study of Taiwan's Complex History is now in its 4th edition (2008). A second work, Taiwan the Struggles of a Democracy was published in 2006; it has a Chinese translation. A third book Taiwan the Search for Identity came out in early 2008 and is in a bi-lingual format.
Keating speaks regularly to Taiwanese groups in the United States and participates in conferences. In October 2007, he visited seven European capitals, Brussels, Paris, Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and London with four other scholars. They met with members of parliaments, think-tanks, university professors and students and discussed the need of the twenty-three million people of Taiwan to have space and recognition in the world.

For a more complete bio, refer to


Christos said...

I read this article some days ago in Taipei Times. It is pretty accurate. This is also the feeling i got watching the news during those days here in Taipei. Taiwanese people that trusted President Ma, must be disappointed.

discover.greece said...

Me too I read it from Taipeitimes first, but I'd like to retransmitted the author's original op-ed (un-edited and more detailed piece without the newspaper's word count restriction) together with its Chinese translation, so people with less fluency in English can also appreciate the op-ed. From time to time I will select good articles into our blog collection.

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