Four Princes of the Sea

Eye On Taiwan
Op Ed
By: David Wang

Never judge a book by its cover remains a truism in life as it does when viewing slickly choreographed military parades on special occasions in Taiwan, where GIs hold their heads up high to put on a show worthy of Hollywood envy. With the key word being “show.”

According to the article posted on Yahoo Taiwan by Lu Chao-long dated May 9, 2016, there is more to the superficial shimmer than meets the eye.

Word is that the Taiwanese Navy is also home to the “Four Princes of the Sea,” or the sons of retired, high-ranking officers. Readers who by now sniff favoritism (aka corruption and influence peddling) may pat themselves on the back for knowing the game of Battleship is played on a tilted board by top-brass insiders.

Incidentally the 1991 scandal involving the purchase by Taiwan of Lafayette class frigates that exposed kickbacks resulted in the death of a Taiwanese navy captain as well as a few others that were assassinated to silence more whistleblowing and blowback.

The Four Princes are all related to ex vice admiral, general and so on. Befitting royalty, these Princes of course are assigned plum duties and don’t have to, as lesser officers, look for medical excuses to evade harsh tours, without sacrificing a dime in pension after an “illustrious” career not on the high seas but high-brow lifestyle.

One Prince in particular, with father a retired vice admiral, was sent to Taiwan’s Chung-Chen Military Academy, then the navy officers’ academy. Unsurprisingly he was, after the freshman year, guaranteed entry to the Virginia Military Institute in the USA, after which its 4-year training he returned to Taiwan to be an officer. His relation to a retired senior officer meant that, after only 2 years in the service, he was eligible to go stateside to “acquire” a 2-year master’s degree. Upon returning to Taiwan, he was averse (taken for granted for Princes) to the rigors of duty at sea, so he, of course, qualified for a state-funded PhD program abroad. But that’s when his ship grounded. Only a year into the doctorate program, he was ejected from the school due to “unethical or dishonorable” behavior and scampered back to Taiwan.

However a seasoned navy man can always survive even the roughest going as he incredibly landed a post abroad as commander. After a brief 3-year tour, he returned to Taiwan and applied for retirement last September due to “vocational disinterest,” which was approved by the authorities as he met all the criteria.

Another blip was spotted on the radar of this Prince of the high seas however. While posted as consultant for the navy intelligence unit, he worked less than 3 months that should have resulted in a below-par evaluation, but yet, with influence-peddling by father, was given a top grade that spared him from a compromising future evaluation and promotional possibility post-PhD.

A military insider said that someone who refuses duty at sea and is ejected from a PhD program after only a year is normally punished. But this Prince, due to humanitarian (aka cronyism, nepotism, influence-peddling and old boys’ club) reasons, was even posted overseas on a 3-year stint (aka sans immediate supervision and hence a sinecure beyond the reach of mere mortals) without reprimand, also allowed to retire with full pension shortly after such service.

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