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November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

NOVEMBER 5, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 44

Ma Ying-jeou Cheryl Sheridan for Asiaweek
Ma Ying-jeou
Born 1950

Chen Shui-bian
Born 1951
Last December, Chen Shui-bian lost his bid to be re-elected mayor of Taipei - the second-highest elected position in Taiwan. That did not deter his thousands of supporters. After hearing about his defeat at the hands of Ma Ying-jeou, Chen walked out of his campaign headquarters to meet the wellwishers. The crowd was ecstatic. Brushing back their tears, they blew horns and shrieked: "Hello President!"

The question of whether Chen would succeed Lee Teng-hui was never far from the minds of pollsters and pundits as Chen and Ma battled it out. Despite his defeat, Chen, 48, remains fully in contention as the presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In the opinion polls Chen repeatedly beats former premier Lien Chan, who will run for the governing Kuomintang (KMT).

A new breed of politicians and activists are ready to break the shackles of the past, here listed by country:

The People Power Century
Combining idealism and pragmatic political instincts, these leaders are repudiating politics-as-usual

Hong Kong Leung Chun-ying

India Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Chandrababu Naidu

Indonesia Andi Mallarangeng, Munir, and Emmy Hafild

Japan Noda Seiko, Shii Kazuo and Watanabe Yoshimi

Malaysia Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Lim Guan Eng

Philippines Manuel Roxas II and Michael Defensor

Singapore Teo Chee Hean and George Yeo

South Korea Choo Mi Ae, Kim Min Seok and Nam Kyung Pil

Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian

Thailand Chaturon Chaisang and Abhisit Vejjajiva

Business & Finance
Journeying Beyond the Crisis
Born amidst unparalleled prosperity and tempered by adversity, a new generation of business leaders is poised to take the region to new levels of success in banking, commerce and industry

A warm but diminutive man, Chen is an unlikely focal point for such a large populist force. The son of a poor family from southern Taiwan, Chen was a star pupil at law school but an ill-starred lawyer during the years of martial law in the 1980s. Chen was jailed for defending a group of pro-democracy activists. His wife was injured in a road accident widely believed to have been a hit-and-run attack on Chen's life. He is usually to be found guiding her wheelchair. It is no surprise that when Chen entered politics, he sided against the KMT and went into opposition.

When he was elected mayor of Taipei in 1994, Chen's colloquial speech and can-do attitude made an instant impact. He eased traffic congestion, solved the problem of garbage disposal, dressed up as Superman - and called President Lee crazy and senile. But Chen never intended to stop at Taipei. For him, the memory of Taiwan's militarist past cannot be erased until the opposition takes power. "The KMT is not the same as the nation," he says, claiming that an entrenched government has produced inefficiency, apathy and corruption.

Chen Shui-bian Cheryl Sheridan for Asiaweek

Chen is preparing for his moment. He knows if he wants to be elected "I must act like a president." The DPP's China policy has been softened from a strong pro-independence stance to the point that it is almost indistinguishable from the muscle-flexing position of the KMT. Chen's pet project of constitutional reform now has concrete proposals behind it to cut the bloated ranks of parliament from 559 MPs to 120. Next time he is greeted as the president, Chen plans it to be for real.

The man who replaced Chen as Taipei mayor could hardly be more different. Hong Kong-born Ma Ying-jeou looks like a movie star and talks like the Harvard-trained Wall Street lawyer he once was. To millions in Taiwan he'll always be "Mr. Clean." Ma, 49, is the man who cracked down on organized crime as justice minister in 1993 - and found himself toppled by those in his own party less than happy with his level of success. Soon after, Ma quit politics, bolstering his spotless image. When the scandal-plagued KMT became desperate to topple the popular Chen - for whom the Taipei mayorship was a too-obvious stepping stone to the presidency - Ma was the obvious choice. The KMT literally begged him to leave academia and return to politics. He did, and in a remarkable election Ma turned Chen's 70% popularity rating around to win by almost 80,000 votes.

Ma is more than just a pretty face with a clean record. As a top policymaker under Lee Teng-hui, Ma was a key architect of Taiwan's "one China, two equal political entities" policy. The mayor also has an agenda for national change. "The problem now is not with the quantity but the quality of our democracy," he says. Ma wants a review of the electoral system, which he says helps extremists, hampering party politics.

For all his achievements, keen jogger Ma may have to cool his heels for a few more years before making a serious run at higher office. Ma is the victim of his own success: the only man the KMT has who can keep Taipei from the DPP. But when the time is right, he certainly has connections - he is close to both presidential frontrunner James Soong and official KMT candidate Lien. There is even talk of Ma becoming premier. Assuming, of course, that the KMT can beat Chen into second place again.

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home


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