Friday, June 23, 2006

Hypothesis--feel free to knock it down or to build on it

James Soong is using the recall frame not only to attack President Chen (and maybe bring him down), but also to muddy Ma Ying-jeou's image.

This idea came to me the other day while listening to James Soong talking on the TV about fighting corruption. Remember, Soong, who is the founder of the KMT splinter People First Party, iniated the recall a few weeks ago. At the time, Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the KMT, and Taipei city mayor, seemed to be against the move. He kept saying the time was not yet ripe to attempt a recall, which showed that he was either staying above the fray or playing it safe or both. However, very quickly he began to bolster his rhetoric with more barbed attacks against the president. He still said he was opposed to the recall, but he would say: "The scandal involving the president's son-in-law was only the tip of the iceberg."

Then, Soong staged the first protest. It was the weekend, I believe one week after Soong's first statement. Supporters of the recall flooded the area in front of the Presidential Residence, demanding that Chen step down. I remember angry statements against Ma, as well.

By Monday, Ma had already changed his position; he was supporting the recall. One of my colleagues--a Canadian--immediately yelled out: "He keeps changing his position!" Suddenly, Ma was a flip-flopper.

My thought was that he was caught off guard by the protest and was pressured into accepting the recall.

Before this, I had heard many times that Ma would likely be the next president. He seemed to have a generally good image, and had recently traveled to the States to meet with high-ranking U.S. officials, while Chen, the democratically-elected president was prevented from even landing in Alaska.

Ma often appeared on television and on billboards, smiling.

Something happened after that Monday when he accepted the recall. Either he realized, or his advisor warned him, that he was being out-flanked by Soong. Where before he was smiling, suddenly he was snarling. He was determined to appear meaner and more determined than Soong. I think this might have been a fatal decision, but who knows.

Anyway, he appears like a flip-flopper or even downright mean, while Soong comes across as the determined leader of a movement of people trying to rid Taiwan of corrupt politicians. I am not saying that he will succeed and that Ma will fail. It is too early to say who will come out ahead in all of this, or if a DPP candidate will emerge victorious in the end. For all we know, Chen will step down and Annette Lu will become president.

I am simply trying to sink my teeth into Soong's motives, and everyone knows he desires to become president. Could a man like Soong be satisfied with Ma's ascendency?

For more on Soong, see his Wikipedia page.

The image I get of him is a man with roots in the KMT hierarchy (his father was a Chiang Kai-shek loyalist general from Hunan), highly educated both in Taiwan and the States, undemocratic (at least in his past), covetous of the highest office in Taiwan. He is also a bit of a paradox, in the sense that he has been the politician most closely-aligned with Beijing, and yet: "Despite his Mainlander background, Soong proved to be a popular politician among all ethnic groups on Taiwan, in part because he was one of the first KMT politicians to attempt to use the Taiwanese language in political and formal occasions, despite speaking it rather poorly."


Anonymous Battlepanda said...

I actually blogged about this tangentially here.

Basically, it would be much better for the pan-blues to let Chen's unpopularity continue to drag the DPP down. But James Soong senses an opportunity to differentiate himself from Ma by coming out strongly for a recall (and thus making Ma look soft on Chen). So far it's been a good gambit.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Wulingren said...

Having been unable to sleep now approaching 2:00 AM, and without my glasses on, a thought has crossed my mind. I think Soong's initial move was intended to differentiate himself from Ma. There was a line which Ma had not yet crossed, which he was dragged across. Ever since, trying to play Soong's game, and hoping to appear tougher than Soong. I'm not really sure that's a thought, since I can't really see the screen.

2:05 AM  

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