'Ma the bumbler' Economist report causes storm in Taiwan

An article in British magazine The Economist branding Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou "a bumbler" has set off a media storm on the island, causing even the opposition to give a rare show of support for him.

The report, published in the weekly's November 17 edition, detailed Taiwan's economic woes, ranging from stagnant salaries to a pension system threatened by bankruptcy, stating the island seemed to agree Ma was "an ineffectual bumbler".

"How can a 'bumbler' get a doctorate from Harvard?" said Wang Chien-shien, president of the Control Yuan, a branch of Taiwan's government in charge of monitoring the others, according to the Taipei-based daily China Times Sunday.

Ma, who received his doctorate in juridical sciences at Harvard in the early 1980s, was the target of a "biased" report, Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ford was quoted as saying by the Central News Agency.

Diplomatically isolated Taiwan is highly conscious of its image abroad, with the local press often reporting at length if the island is mentioned in international media, even if it is as part of the weather forecast.

The Economist's characterisation of Ma was a top news item in major Taiwanese papers on Sunday and a hot topic on the talk show circuit over the weekend.

Even the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came out in a rare show of support.

"At this time, the entire nation, including the DPP, should work together to help the government," DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang was quoted as saying by The China Post newspaper.

Su linked this remark to his party's wish for a national conference aimed at addressing the island's economic problems.

A foreign ministry spokesman told AFP Sunday that the island's representative office in London would contact The Economist to provide the Taiwanese government's side of the story.

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