|Then-vice minister Yang, left, with Citizen 1985|
It was shocking news last night when, a little after 9pm, Andrew Yang (楊念祖), who less than a week ago had been appointed defense minister amid a crisis surrounding the July 4 death of an army conscript, announced his resignation. The reason he gave for stepping down was that someone had discovered he had “plagiarized” material for a chapter in a book published in 2007. With an article on the matter expected to appear in Next Magazine the following day (today), Yang pre-empted and bowed out.
While I do not condone plagiarism — I personally know the American author of Yang’s chapter in Ready for the D-Day, who makes it sound like this was a ghostwriting agreement — Yang’s stepping down at this critical juncture is a sad turn of events and one that, in my view, could and should have been avoided. Why President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was so quick to approve the resignation over what, in a larger context, is a relatively trivial matter, boggles the mind.
Interestingly, Yang’s problems began on Aug. 1, when Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) raised the matter in an interpellation session. “You know this is out there, and I will leave it at that,” she told Yang at the time. Later, she added on her Facebook page that this was a “warning.”
It has since emerged that the individual who first came upon the information was DPP Taipei City chapter deputy executive Chu Cheng-chi (朱政騏). Chu, the son of a military family, is from the Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) faction within the DPP.
As I have pointed out before, Hsieh appears to have fallen hook, line and sinker for Chinese United Front work with his high-profile visits to China, which have all been orchestrated by Chinese intelligence. Even more interesting is the fact that Chu has been on every visit to China with Hsieh. At this point this is all speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Chu, or someone close to him, was given the information about Yang by a contact in China.
As I wrote in an editorial last week, Yang was the best man for the job, and he would have had a real shot at cleaning up the military and helping it rebuild its image. What better to ensure that the military continues to implode over the Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) scandal than to remove the one person who could have fixed it?
Given the likely resistance coming from conservative elements within the armed forces, it’s unsurprising that Ma would cave in so quickly. After all, every president in Taiwan since Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) has lived in fear of this powerful institution. Still, if Ma is serious about saving the armed forces from collapse, he would have fought for Yang.
I’m not sure what the DPP was hoping to achieve with this, or whether Kuan and Chu acted roguishly or with the consent of their party. Kuan has already said that this wasn’t the outcome she was hoping for. But as always, there almost certainly was an element of shortsighted self-promotion, mixed with a dogged determination to use absolutely anything to make the Ma administration look bad. In this case, however, the damage is far greater than yet another black eye for Ma; it strikes a direct blow at the nation’s ability to defend itself against China. (Photo by the author)