Power And Dollar

What is the next Taiwan surprise?

Taiwan is in the news lately.  First off the election, then a great win and now a missile parts mis-shipment by Defense Department:



(And the recipient had to call back “what is this?”)

(Pay helicopter batteries and get nose-cone fuses for nuclear warheads. Not a bad deal!)


What is next?  Taiwan’s president faces the reality and finds out he cannot deliver?  Taiwan’s president Ma has nicknamed “Mr. Clean” and “Mr. Teflon” since he has no scandal attached him and no accusation against him ever sticks.  He was a well liked mayor of Taipei. 

How will he fail?  He got close to 60% of the votes!

Well, that is the start: He now has to face high expectation.  And high expectation is not easy to match with high results.  

It is said Taiwan, the island of 23 million, has 7,000 political appointments made by the president.  Now, no wonder it was so easy for president Chen to get into financial scandals.  Gasoline is sold by government owned monopoly.  So is cigarette, alcohol, lottery ticket and even sugar.  Boards of the banks got a seat for the president’s appointee since the government has a substantial portion of the stocks.  Now how tempting is it for any president? Or his appointee?  Will this newest president be able to stand against the temptations of his own but also his appointees?  How will anyone manage the ethical conducts of his own 7,000 appointees?

Remember this following line from Bush after 2004 presidential election?

“I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.” 

It means the politician is able to accomplish objectives without fear of losing votes.  If the initiative means well, then it is to offer something to the opposite.  Of course, it could also mean initiatives that would be unpopular (say increasing taxes for Social Security or Medicare).  This is the situation Taiwan now has.  President Ma has a lot of capital.  He may be mean well, but would it be unpopular?

President Ma got 60% of the votes and he advocates a closer tie with Mainland China and his party is the pro-unification party.  Great.  His every move in relations to Mainland can be viewed as a betrayal by the pro-independence voters and possibly by the voters who want to keep the status quo.  There will be no easy way out of this corner.  The best person to calm the separatist sentiment is a president of the DPP affiliation.  In order to pacify the completely opposite side, he needs a name to join his camp.  President Ma promises to invite talents of all affiliation to join his camp.  But who from DPP has the talent in this Mainland-Taiwan relationship management?  Tsai is unlikely to join since she still wants to pursue further in her political career.  If Ma cannot find a respectable name to stand with him for Mainland relationship management, he can forever be haunted for this traitor status.  

Taiwan has to deal with another Mainland China dilemma.  If a closer tie with Mainland translates to more manufacturing migrating to Mainland, what will Taiwan be able to offer?  What is the plan for industrial upgrade?  If Taiwan is to become the bridge to China, similar to UK for the continental Europe when marketing itself to US, then Taiwan is to compete against Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai.  What advantage does Taiwan have?  Easy access to capital? HK got it.  IPO centre?  HK got it.  Shipping? All these 3 cities are great shipping centres.  Language advantage?  HK and Singapore both speak English better than Taiwan.  Judicial independence?  HK and Singapore are better.  Political stability? 

Taiwan has a lot of work to do.  Where is Taiwan going?  President Ma has a very strong sense of historical responsibility.  Is he accomplishing his ideals or delivering his voters wishes?  Or his voters simply wanted to get rid of DPP without a clear goal in mind?


March 26, 2008 - Posted by | China, chinese, Current Affairs, Current Events, election, opinion, politics, Taiwan, Thoughts, wordpress-political-blogs, 台灣, 中國


  1. […] Continue Reading […]

    Pingback by What is the next Taiwan surprise? | March 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. […] Cam McNeeley wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptRemember this following line from Bush after 2004 presidential election? “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.” It means the politician is able to accomplish objectives … […]

    Pingback by What is the next Taiwan surprise? | March 26, 2008 | Reply

  3. I thought this post put forth some really interesting points. The world is hopefully watching and for what it’s worth..Good Luck Taiwan.

    Comment by in2thefray | March 26, 2008 | Reply

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