May 21, 2004

Taiwan: New Cabinet takes Shape after Inauguration

Premier Yu Shyi-kun remains in his post as Cabinet head, around two-third of the previous Cabinet remain on the administrative team
The new Cabinet was sworn in May 20 shortly after President Chen Shui-bian was inaugurated for a second four-year term. Premier Yu Shyi-kun remains in his post as Cabinet head.

Around two-thirds of the previous Cabinet remain on the administrative team, but almost a quarter of those that remain have been transferred to different positions within the Cabinet. The new Cabinet boasts eight female members, including Taiwan's first female vice premier, Yeh Chu-lan.

Yeh served as legislator from 1990 to 2000. She was appointed minister of transportation and communications when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won power in the 2000 elections. In 2002, the 55-year-old was named chairwoman of the Council for Hakka Affairs (CHA). She won considerable praise for her performance preserving Hakka culture and language, and is generally considered the motivating force behind last year's launch of the world's first 24-hour Hakka cable TV channel.

"Yeh's appointment will make many women and people of Hakka ethnicity very happy," predicted Lee Yuan-chen, a long-time women's rights activist. According to Lee, during Yeh's 10 years as a legislator, she has worked hard to enshrine equal status for women in Taiwan's Civil Code.

Yeh was reported as saying she would do her utmost to help Premier Yu carry out the Cabinet's national development projects. "As our nation's first female vice premier, I'll do my best to live up to public expectations. I cannot afford to disappoint them," she said.

Former head of the National Palace Museum (NPM), Tu Cheng-sheng, agreed to take up the post of education minister only after some cajoling from Yu. Taiwan's current course of education reform has been harshly criticized by teachers, students and parents, and the position is widely regarded by political insiders as a thankless job. Half a dozen education ministers have rotated through the post in the past few years after holding office for only a year or two each.

Tu, 60, has a master's degree in history from National Taiwan University. He was director of the Institute of History and Philology of the Academia Sinica from 1995 to 2000, and has served as NPM director for the entirety of Chen's first term in office. "A nation's competitiveness takes root in education and it takes much time and effort. I think I need to do a lot of homework to prepare for the challenge," said Tu shortly after accepting the appointment as head of the Ministry of Education.

Replacing Lin Yi-fu as minister of economic affairs is 53-year-old insider Ho Mei-yueh, who started with the ministry as a technical specialist at the Industrial Development Bureau in 1975. In 1994, she was promoted to deputy director-general of the bureau. She then served as a counselor to the Executive Yuan in 1997, and became vice chairperson of the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) in 2000.

The CEPD chairmanship goes to Hu Sheng-cheng, a veteran economist. Hu earned a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Rochester in 1970 and taught economics at Purdue University for 28 years. He returned to Taiwan to work for Academia Sinica in 1996 and joined the DPP administration in 2001 as a minister without portfolio.

Former Chief of the General Staff Lee Jye succeeds Tang Yiau-ming who, citing reasons of health, offered to resign from the position of defense minister shortly after the presidential elections. Lee was commander in chief of the ROC Navy before becoming chief of the general staff in 2001. His appointment as head of the Ministry of National Defense came as no surprise, as it is a tradition for the chief of the general staff to be promoted to defense minister.

The new Chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Joseph Wu comes directly from the Office of the President where he has served as deputy secretary-general since February 2002. The 50-year-old political scientist received a doctorate from Ohio State University and was a research fellow with the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University for several years.

After news of his appointment was confirmed, Wu told reporters that he would follow the guidelines laid down by his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen, who insisted on stepping down from her post as MAC chairwoman.

The new MAC head also expressed his willingness to serve as a messenger between the ROC president and Chinese leader Hu Jintao, adding that his duty is to convey Taipei's good will toward Beijing. "Concerning cross-strait relations, what I hope for is a breakthrough, rather than passive conservatism," he said.

Several DPP legislators have been recruited into the new Cabinet, including Chen Chi-mai, a former spokesman for the DPP legislative caucus, who has been named Cabinet spokesman. Chen, 40, received a master's degree from National Taiwan University and used to practice medicine at Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital.

The new Cabinet spokesman said he would do his best to match his predecessor's performance. "I'll be articulate regarding what I can say while remaining tight-lipped on what should not be discussed," said Chen, who doubles as minister without portfolio in charge of reviewing health-related bills.

Another lawmaker-turned-official is Luo Wen-jia, 38, who took up the post of CHA chairmanship after Yeh Chu-lan was promoted to vice premier. Former Cabinet spokesman Lin Chia-lung replaced Huang Hwei-chen as minister of the Government Information Office (GIO)--the agency that publishes this paper.

Arthur Iap, 52, succeeded Liu Shih-fang as Cabinet secretary-general. Iap obtained a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University and another in comparative jurisprudence from New York University. He held office as GIO head in 2002 and assumed the position of minister without portfolio in 2003.

Among those remaining in their posts are Minister of Foreign Affairs Chen Tan-sun, Minister of the Interior Su Jia-chyuan, Minister of Finance Lin Chuan, Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san, Health Minister Chen Chien-jen and Chairwoman of the Council of Labor Affairs Chen Chu.

Source: Taiwan Journal