The two smiles of Chiou I-jen

By Dr. William Fang, Special to The China Post

Two photographs appearing prominently alongside each other on the front page of a major local newspaper on April 5 have attracted nationwide attention. The pictures had several points in common: the same one person displaying certain smiles that sent such a chill down the spine of normal people that few would forget them easily. This was no other person than Chiu I-jen, currently the vice premier, a trusted lieutenant of President Chen Shui-bien and a noted adroit strategist of the ruling Progressive Democratic Party (DPP). As one may recall, the first photo showed Chiou smiling mysteriously and cunningly when announcing President Chen was shot on the eve of the 2004 presidential polls, and in the second one, a smiling Chiou pledged to take full responsibility for the diplomacy fraud scandal involving the disappearance of NT$1 billion. Smiles, most of the time, are a good act, a goodwill gesture by expressing a feeling of happiness and satisfaction. Psychologists tell us that human beings are probably the only animal that can use smiles so dexterously as a way of demonstrating joy and friendliness. The most famous smile known to the world is the one worn by Mona Lisa, a painting by the reputed Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance, which conveys a sense of mystery, kindness and serenity.

However, smiles also have negative meanings. On certain occasion, they denote sarcasm, hypocrisy, slyness and conspiracy. Specifically, the kind of smiles on Chiou’s face may be decoded as displaying: 1. Self-confidence in that he believes no matter how serious his misbehavior is, he will not suffer any serious consequence, in terms of either administrative or legal punishments. 2. Assurance of success in fooling the public that what he had done was intended to benefit the nation, he was such a responsible, courageous and righteous official that he was willing to shoulder all the blame for others and that he should be forgiven because, compared with the abuses of past administrations, his error was only a small potato. 3. An enormous ability to justify his wrongdoings by all kinds of excuses and lead a normal life in the face of all criticisms and insults. In fact, Chiou’s attitude can be summed up by one word, “audacious,” which, by and large, reflects the mentality of the Chen Shui-bian administration in the past eight years. In other words, President Chen and company have displayed extraordinary boldness and impudence in countering overwhelming public attacks, even within his own party, on their misdeeds, ensuring the survival of his notorious regime to the present. The most important reason for such unusual resilience lies in the fact they fully realize that about 30 percent of the “deep green” people stand firmly behind the administration, no matter how corrupt it is. This is why most reform-minded DPP leaders, even today, still refrain from openly criticizing Chen. Without doing so, all reform calls appear to be superficial and doomed.