Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan,

Published: Wed 1 Oct 2008 09:56 AM
DE RUEHIN #1426/01 2750956
R 010956Z OCT 08
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1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
news coverage October 1 on U.S. President George W. Bush's call for
Congress to pass the US$700 billion bailout bill Tuesday; on the
Taiwan government's measures to prop up the Taiwan stock exchange
after the House of Representatives rejected the bailout plan; on the
stalled U.S. arms sales to Taiwan; and on the Taiwan government's
follow-on measure to tackle the melamine-tainted dairy products from
China. The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" ran an exclusive
news story on page seven with the headline "[U.S.] Arms Procurements
Get Shelved Reportedly Because [Condoleezza] Rice Is Angry [about a
New Leak]."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an analysis and a column
in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" both criticized the Ma
Ying-jeou Administration for blaming former President Chen Shui-bian
for the failed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. The column said the Ma
Administration's China-tilting policy is the main reason why
Washington has allegedly frozen its arms sales to Taiwan. With
regard to U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, an op-ed in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" written by former
AIT Chairman Nat Bellocchi said that many believe that Taiwan's
improved relations with China "will substantially influence Taiwan,
and changes in this relationship could affect U.S. relations." A
separate "Taipei Times" op-ed, written by a Taipei-based Western
writer, said, "as a side effect of a policy shift on North Korea,
whatever influence Beijing had over Washington's position on Taiwan
could vanish, which in turn could weaken the elements in the White
House and at the State Department who in the past five years have
been willing to sacrifice Taiwan for the sake of China's role in the
North Korean disarmament talks." A column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily," on the other hand, discussed the U.S. financial
crisis. The article said U.S. President George W. Bush, who is
about to step down, could only play the role of supporting actor in
this earthshaking change unfolding on Wall Street. An editorial in
the conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
said that American taxpayers will have to pay the bill in the end,
"willy-nilly, out of fear." End summary.
3. U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan
A) "Ma Administration Seeking to Creep out of Its Predicament,
Falsely Attributing the Faults to Bian"
Washington correspondent Nadia Tsao wrote in an analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 700,000] (10/1):
"... Ever since it assumed office, the Ma Administration has not
seen any gratitude expressed by the Bush administration for his
efforts to improve cross-Strait relations or maintain a low-profile
manner towards the United States. In terms of issues such as
national security and arms procurements, both the ruling and
opposition parties in Taiwan have both done something over the past
seven years that sabotaged the goodwill gestures of the Bush
Administration and mutual trust between the two, and they have all
allowed political infighting to override Taiwan's national
interests. Now that China's strength has grown to a degree that one
can hardly compare it with what it was eight years ago. Given that
Washington and Beijing share more deeply intertwined interests, plus
the changes in the Taiwan Strait [over the last few years], will
[the Ma Administration] be able to solve all its problems just by
blaming everything on Chen Shui-bian? The Ma Administration should
at least be honest with itself!"
B) "Abandon One's Armor and Helmet!"
The "Free Talks" column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 700,000] wrote (10/1):
"... If one reflects on the words and deeds Ma Ying-jeou has
previously made toward the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and the
pro-China policy he had adopted since assuming office, one could
tell that Ma has been 'abandoning his armor and helmet' all along,
trying to fawn on China by crippling Taiwan's defense capabilities.
... The Ma Administration decided to abandon its armor and helmet
[i.e. to flee in defeat], but it also sought to use the former Chen
Administration as an excuse for its behavior. The remarks to the
effect that the [U.S.] arms sales [to Taiwan] were frozen because
'Bush is still mad at Bian' are merely aimed at shirking Ma's
responsibilities. Ma has been in office for over four months now.
His policy that shows a rapid tilt toward China is the main reason
why Washington has frozen its arms sales to Taiwan. It is truly
absurd, incompetent and shameful that [the Ma Administration] has
used Bian as an excuse for what his own fault!"
4. U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
A) "Uncertain Times for Taiwan, the US and PRC"
Nat Bellocchi, former AIT chairman and a now a special adviser to
the Liberty Times Group, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (9/27):
"The US and Taiwan are going through a very uncertain period. Both
are dealing with very difficult economic problems. In addition, the
US faces a tight election, and Taiwan has a new government that is
focused on working with China. The future of the US-Taiwan
relationship is not as clear as in the past. ... While the US has
problems of a global magnitude, Taiwan's issues are no less
important. ...
"Then there is the relationship with the US. Many think Taiwan's new
government will continue to improve relations with China.
Inevitably, this will substantially influence Taiwan and changes in
this relationship could affect US relations. In recent years,
Taiwan, the US and China have seen many changes in their
relationships. The US has had problems in the Middle East and is now
battling an economic crisis. Taiwan, meanwhile, has had problems
with the US and China. The US will have to spend time rearranging
its economy and may have to continue to focus on the Middle East,
therefore persisting in its habit of paying less attention to other
world issues.
Taiwan, meanwhile, will likely spend much of its efforts determining
how to relate to China while continuing to work on closer
relationships with other countries.
"B) "Beijing's 'North Korea' Card No Ace"
J. Michael Cole, a writer based in Taipei, opined in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
20,000] (9/29):
"Well before President Ma Ying-jeou's peace overture to Beijing
required supposed nursing by the international community, many
commentators rationalized US President George W. Bush's unexpected
policy volte-face on Taiwan by arguing that the US needed China's
help in the six-party negotiations to disarm a nuclear North Korea.
Cognizant of Beijing's style of diplomacy, in which it never gives
freely but always expects something in return, the US and other
countries involved in the talks with Pyongyang allowed themselves to
become more flexible on a matter they knew was of tremendous
importance to China - Taiwan. Some could argue, therefore, that
Taipei became the sacrificial lamb to ensure the participation of
Beijing - North Korea's principal diplomatic ally and neighbor - in
the disarmament talks. ...
"As a side effect to a policy shift on North Korea, whatever
influence Beijing had over Washington's position on Taiwan could
vanish, which in turn could weaken the elements in the White House
and at the State Department who in the past five years have been
willing to sacrifice Taiwan for the sake of China's role in the
North Korean disarmament talks. While there is nothing to celebrate
in the failure of diplomacy to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its
nuclear ambitions, a reversal of fortunes-combined with a
Taiwan-friendly Japanese prime minister - could bring about a
positive shift in policies toward Taiwan, at modicum a lessened
sense of isolation. If that opportunity emerges, it should be
5. U.S. Financial Crisis
A) "Rome Is On Fire"
Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000] (10/1):
"... No matter in what form the [U.S.] government's bailout plan is
approved, the good life that used to be enjoyed by the rich guys on
Wall Street will come to an end now. In particular, it will be a
nightmare for the privileged few of Wall Street when the CEOs of the
big banks are lined up to receive humiliating interrogations by
Congress. But there are also times when Wall Street can take
delight in others' misfortunes. [They will be amazed to see] the
partisan struggles in Congress and that the reputation of the U.S.
president, the most powerful man in the world, has dropped to such a
"The financial bailout plan proposed by Bush would not win any
support from Congress had it not been endorsed by the heads of the
Department of Treasury and Federal Reserve Board. All the more, the
approval ratings for the Congress are even lower than the 30 percent
for President Bush. The voters do not trust Bush, nor will they
trust Congress. ... Bush, who is about to step down, could only play
the role of supporting actor in this earthshaking change. It is a
polite way to call him a lame duck, while in reality, he is nearly
irrelevant now. ..."
B) "Socialist U.S., Capitalist China"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (9/27):
"The world is changing in unbelievable ways. America is becoming
increasingly socialist while China is now unabashedly capitalist.
Are we living in the real world? ... Now we are witnessing a
beleaguered George W. Bush pleading to Congress for approval of a
US$700 billion bailout plan, the largest in history, drafted by
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Paulson and Bernanke were trying hard to get unlimited authority to
use the money in whatever way they deem appropriate to rescue
troubled financial institutions. Paulson, a former Wall Street
executive, warned Congress that if the proposal was not approved
immediately, the consequences would be disastrous, evoking the
specter of a financial meltdown like the Great Depression in the
"Was this scare mongering? Certainly it sounded familiar. President
George used the same fear to sell Congress and the American people
his war on Iraq, claiming Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass
destruction and was ready to use them. Now, the war is costing
American taxpayers US$1 billion per day. The country's national debt
soared to US$9.6 trillion as a result. The financial burden is a
contributing factor to America's financial disaster of 9/11
Few would deny the urgency of the crisis. But America is the
fortress of capitalism that prizes the market economy. Capitalists
made their fortunes and live like kings. That's OK and that's the
beauty of capitalism. But capitalists are not supposed to seek
government help when their companies go broke. Wall Street
companies, after all, are not like China's SOEs which can always get
money from the bank when they operate at a loss. Besides, China's
"iron bowl" CEOs don't get eight-digit pay packages, either. That's
why Paulson's proposal has raised so many eyebrows. ...
"Unfairness and irony notwithstanding, American taxpayers would have
to bite the bullet, as a harried Bush warned the nation on live TV
Wednesday night of the dire consequences if the bailout plan was not
approved at once. Was he crying wolf again? In the end, American
taxpayers will have to pay the bill, willy-nilly, out of fear. But
then, American capitalism will not be the same, just like Chinese
socialism is no longer true to the meaning of the word. China's
rapacious capitalists are making money at all costs - just look at
the deaths at unsafe coal mines and sickened infants fed with
tainted milk."
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