Monday, April 28, 2008

new cabinet

"Old wine in new bottles" has generally been the reaction to the new Cabinet who will take up their posts when President-elect Ma Ying-jeou takes office in May.

Many are in their 70s...former ministers, or deputy ministers, including many old KMT party hands. A surprise given that there had been so much talk about the "new kmt" and how the party had turned around from its past; and was open to new directions and ideas.

But one surprise announcement today: the appoinmtent of Lai Shin-yuan, former legislator of the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union, who will head the Mainland Affairs Council - the cabinet level body responsible for policy towards China.

Mr Ma had been elected partly on promises to create a better relationship with the island’s political foe, China.

Lai Shin-yuan’s appointment as chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council has surprised many analysts. Its being interpreted as a sign that Mr Ma wants to appease critics who fear he might compromise the island’s sovereignty in dealing with China.

The two sides are talking of pushing ahead with closer economic cooperation, including direct flights and easing many business restrictions.

The TSU favours Taiwanese independence. Lai Shin Yuan has not backed formal independence herself, though she has been a strong advocate of the need to strengthen Taiwan’s identity.

After news of her appointment, she told reporters that she supported the policy of Mr Ma in maintaining the current status quo in cross strait politics – neither seeking unification nor pushing for formal independence. She said that stand was consistent with mainstream thinking..

Ms Lai once served as an advisor to the Taiwan’s National Security council under President Chen Shui-Bian's administration in 2000, and played an important role in Taiwan’s negotiations to enter the World Trade organisation. She will take up her post after Mr Ma is sworn into office in May.

Beijing won't be happy..and it could make them question Mr Ma's sincerity in wanting a better relationship, even thinking about putting the brakes on some the expected economic breakthroughs. An interesting development for sure.
A useful link from Taiwan news with pictures of new Cabinet members to take office in May

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