Taiwan's Ma picks military, finance, China chiefs

  • World
  • Monday, 28 Apr 2008

MYT 8:31:30 PM

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President-elect Ma Ying-jeou's incoming administration on Monday named two veteran administrators as finance and defence ministers, favouring experience over younger talent for the new cabinet.

But a third appointment, former minor party legislator Lai Hsing-yuan as Taiwan's top China policy maker, sparked controversy because Lai is seen as close to former President Lee Teng-hui, who angered Beijing with his tough independence stance.

Taiwan's President-elect Ma Ying-jeou speaks during a news conference in Taipei in this April 14, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Nicky Loh/Files)

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan as its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and pledged to bring the island under its rule, by force if necessary.

Premier-designate Liu Chao-shiuan named Lee Sush-der as finance minister and Chen Chao-min to head the defence ministry.

Lee Sush-der is currently secretary of the Taipei city government, with previous experience in the finance ministry, while Chen was a senior official in the air force.

Liu also named former Taiwan Stock Exchange Chairman Gordon Chen as head of the Financial Supervisory Commission, which is formulating policy that will allow Taiwan's financial sector to invest in the fast-growing China market.

Analysts said the appointments, following an earlier round last week, represent a continuation of giving top positions to people with long government and regulatory experience.

Ma, of the China-friendly Nationalist Party (KMT), has pushed for building Taiwan's economy by improving trade ties with China since his landslide election win on March 22.

"I think most people are little bit surprised that the KMT could not find new people," said Shane Lee, political science professor at Chang Jung University. "So people may start wondering why didn't the KMT train any new leaders in the past eight years."

The appointment of Lai, a former legislator of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) party, as chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council has stirred controversy because of her background.

"Her ability is very strong, but her point of view is questionable as she changes a lot," said Hsu Yung-ming, a political science professor at Soochow University. "Is she supporting Ma's policies or Lee Teng-hui's policies?"

The TSU, backed by former President Lee, favours formal independence from China. Lee Teng-hui upset China in the 1990s by advocating a state-to-state relationship instead of unification.

Ma said he picked Lai for her economic background and experience in helping to negotiate Taiwan's entry to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"She won't decide policy," KMT Vice-Chairman Chiang Pin-kung told Reuters. "She will carry out the president's policies."

The names announced on Monday round out all of Ma's major cabinet appointments.

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