Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. President Obama's China Visit

Published: Thu 19 Nov 2009 09:48 AM
DE RUEHIN #1380/01 3230948
R 190948Z NOV 09
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1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage November 19 on U.S. President Barack Obama's China visit
and Taiwan's reactions to the joint statement inked by Obama and his
Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao on November 17; on developments in
cross-Strait relations; and on the year-end city mayors' and county
magistrates' elections around the island.
2. Several editorials and op-ed pieces in Taiwan's papers continued
to discuss the Obama-Hu joint statement and the reasons why the
Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) was not mentioned in the statement. An
analysis in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" said the Obama-Hu
joint statement was harmful to Taiwan, because Beijing can use it to
put pressure on Washington in the future in terms of U.S. arms sales
to Taiwan and cross-Strait relations. A column in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" said the joint statement
indicated that future U.S.-China relations will move toward the
direction of "more cooperation and less confrontation." A separate
"United Daily News" column said the fact that the TRA was not
mentioned in the U.S.-China joint statement can be viewed as a
warning signal for Taiwan. An editorial in the KMT-leaning "China
Times" interpreted the signals behind the Obama-Hu joint statement
and said the statement will definitely become the guideline for
U.S.-China relations during Obama's term of office. The article
also urged Taiwan to express its disagreement with the statement to
the United States when Washington sends its envoy to Taiwan next
week. A separate "China Times" column said the joint statement
showed that Obama has finally acknowledged China's influence in the
international community. An editorial in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taiwan News," however, said Obama "basically did
not depart substantively from existing U.S. policy on the Taiwan and
Tibet issues despite intense pressure from the PRC." End summary.
A) "Obama-Hu [Joint] Statement Harmful to Taiwan; Is the Ma
Administration Wide Awake Yet?"
Washington correspondent Nadia Tsao wrote in a news analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000] (11/19):
"If the Ma Ying-jeou administration still believes that [current]
U.S.-Taiwan relations are better than those during the [former Chen
Shui] Bian administration, the U.S.-China joint statement made
public on November 17 should deal a blow and wake Taiwan's leader
up. This is because the statement clearly indicated that in [U.S.
President Barack] Obama's head, he never thought of Taiwan's core
interests at all. Should things go on according to the logic of the
joint statement, any further developments of cross-Strait relations
will be like the 'one China' as Beijing defines it. ...
"On top of the United States' reiteration that it respects China's
sovereignty and territorial integrity, what has kept [us] on our
toes by the November 17 joint statement is the fact that the Taiwan
issue will be dealt with under the premise that Washington and
Beijing establish and deepen their strategic mutual trust. In other
words, if the Obama administration wants to carry out the 'strategic
reassurance' policy proposed by Deputy Secretary of State James
Steinberg to ensure that China's rise will not pose any threats to
other countries, Beijing, in return, can also request that
Washington carry through the one China policy as part of the
strategic reassurance. Therefore, it requires [our] close attention
as to how Beijing will use this joint statement to put pressure [on
Washington] in terms of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan or further
political talks across the Taiwan Strait.
"There is no lack of mid- or high-level officials in the Obama
administration who understand and sympathize with Taiwan; however,
judging from Obama's trip this time, he is a U.S. leader who has no
[specific] ideology and has almost no understanding of, or feeling
for the historical background of what has been happening in the
Taiwan Strait. It will be a challenge for Taiwan to try to make
Obama understand the situation Taiwan is in and its core interests,
and, obviously, the Ma administration has fallen short in this
respect. ..."
B) "Obama-Hu Meeting Seen in the Eyes of Beijing"
The "United Notes" column in the pro-unification "United Daily News"
[circulation: 400,000] wrote (11/19):
"... For Obama's visit to China this time, Beijing has attached
great importance to how he would define their bilateral relations,
and 'to establish strategic partnership' became a commitment that
Beijing badly craves. Obama, however, did not disappoint Beijing;
the "China-U.S. joint statement' clearly indicated that the United
States and China have decided to continue their strategic and
cooperative partnership and to deepen strategic mutual trust. Even
though the two sides may disagree [on some issues,] [what is
important is to] respect and accommodate each other's core interests
and major concerns. This statement indicated that U.S.-China
relations will move toward the direction of 'more cooperation and
less confrontation' in the future. ...
"... In addition, Beijing realizes that, due to the counter attack
by the Republican Party, Obama is now facing strong political
pressure, so he needs to score points by cooperating with East Asia,
and China is a major target for Obama. As a result, under the
strategic framework of China-U.S. cooperation and the situation that
cross-Strait relations have been improving, the 'rock' -- Taiwan
issue -- that originally stood in the road of China-U.S. relations
has been moved to the side and is no longer the stumbling block
hindering Beijing-Washington ties. ..."
C) "Shouldn't the DPP Be Held Responsible [for the Current State of
U.S.-Taiwan Relations]?"
The "Black and White" column in the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 400,000] wrote (11/19):
"... [U.S. President] Obama did not mention the 'Taiwan Relations
Act' (TRA) in Shanghai on November 15. Some may thought he just
missed it, and, as expected, he verbally mentioned the TRA in his
joint press conference with [Chinese President] Hu Jintao
afterwards. Unexpectedly, however, the TRA went missing again in
the Obama-Hu joint statement. Among the three occasions, the
formal, written joint statement is naturally the most significant
one, so one cannot say it is not a warning signal [for Taiwan].
Besides, the joint statement said the United States welcomes the
'peaceful development' in cross-Strait relations (Beijing's official
wording). Such a statement can all the more be regarded as [a move
showing] Obama has endorsed Hu's cross-Strait policy.
"Given such a situation, not only has the pressure on cross-Strait
relations increased, but also there are some doubts in terms of
Taiwan-U.S. relations. If Taiwan wants the United States to take on
more commitments that surpass its capability or willingness to take
on risks, it seems reasonable should the United States decide to
back out or fade away. ..."
D) "Carefully Interpret the Signals in the Obama-Hu Joint
The KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] editorialized
"... The [U.S.-China] joint statement is perhaps the most important
document regulating China-U.S. relations following the three
U.S.-China communiqus. It may be an overstatement to call it the
fourth communiqu, but the joint statement will definitely be a
guideline document for China-U.S. relation during Obama's term of
office. China and the United States have signed communiqus and
agreements in the past, but in the part on Taiwan in the Obama-Hu
joint statement, there are several points that are obviously
different from all the previously signed documents.
"First is about the proposal and confirmation of the core interests.
The statement particularly pointed out that China's and the United
States' respect for each other's core interests is the key to ensure
a healthy development of bilateral relations. Here, U.S. core
interests is not the point; what matters is that China's core
interests are ensuring its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Even though neither side specified what this [statement] really
refers to, Hu Jintao, nonetheless, further indicated in the press
conference that 'on issues such as Taiwan, [the United States]
respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.' Obama, on
the other hand, also said he respects that 'Tibet is part of China.'
All these have clarified that the core interests refer to the
Taiwan and Tibet issues and that the United States must respect
[China's interests] and thus has no right to intervene.
"Second, Taiwan's security is not mentioned [in the joint
statement]. In all its previous statements or talks about
cross-Strait [issues], the United States has always mentioned the
'Taiwan Relations Act' (TRA) or its commitment to Taiwan's security'
in tandem with the three U.S.-China communiqus, but unexpectedly
not in this formal document. Even though perhaps Washington will
reiterate it afterwards, the effect will not be as strong as in a
joint statement inked by two state leaders. ... Third, the United
States' expectations for political talks [across the Taiwan Strait]
have gradually assimilated with China's attitude. When speaking of
its hopes for cross-Strait political talks in the past, Washington
only said that it hopes to reduce tension, but in the joint
statement, it clearly stated that 'it looks forward to efforts by
both sides to increase dialogue and interactions in economic,
political, and other fields.' This [statement] has exactly matched
mainland China's latest policy toward Taiwan. ...
"There were actually signs that can be traced as to why Obama would
be tilting [toward China] to such an extent. ... In addition to the
fact that China is in possession of 600 billion U.S. dollars worth
of U.S. government bonds, Washington needs to work with Beijing on
issues ranging from climate change, the economic crisis, or even
global security; it also needs to acknowledge China's rise and
accept the fact that the two countries will govern the world
together. On the other hand, though it is no longer possible for
the United States to be the only superpower in the globe, Washington
is not resigned to being pushed out of the Asia Pacific region by
China. On the contrary, it wants to join the region more
proactively. ... Given all these factors interwoven together, the
United States [agrees to] yield to China's core interests, in
exchange for China's not objecting to the United States' continued
presence in the Asia-Pacific region and for Beijing's active
coordination with Washington on global issues. This can be viewed
as a sensible deal, with Washington feeling pleased, China feeling
happy, and all the Asian-Pacific nations feeling relaxed. Perhaps
the only ones that are sacrificed are Taiwan and Tibet.
"The joint statement signified a major change in U.S.-China-Taiwan
relations. Though there are elements related to international
structure [behind it], the Ma administration's national security
team is obliged to find out how this process resulted in such an
outcome. First, if the United States had informed [Taiwan] in
advance of the content [of the joint statement], the national
security decision-making agency would be considered to have
neglected its duty by failing to handle it prudently and responding
to it solemnly. If Washington did not even notify us or if Taiwan
did not learn of it at all in advance, it would be even more
worrisome. It is reported that the United States will send someone
to explain this to Taiwan next week, and Taiwan should seize this
opportunity to express its disagreement [to the statement] and let
Washington assure its security commitment to Taiwan via remarks made
openly by high-ranking [U.S.] officials or concrete actions such as
arms sales [to Taiwan], in an attempt to revise step by step the
direction of the joint statement. ..."
E) "Obama Acknowledges China's International Influence"
The "International Lookout" column in the KMT-leaning "China Times"
[circulation: 120,000] wrote (11/19):
"...No matter how swift and fierce China's rise is, it will be
difficult for it to become a worthy opponent of the United States.
Then what is it about China that the United States cares most? The
answer should be its 'international influence.' The one thing that
Washington cannot tolerate and fears most is that the influence of
other countries surpasses that of the United States. [To achieve
that] requires not only powerful military force and strong economic
power but also many other factors. How can one influence and win
others over if it has mighty military power but wages war
frequently, and if it has a lot of money but is heartless and
heavily in debt? Yet it happens that the United States has been
having such troubles over the past few years, and, as a result, it
has gradually lost the respect of others and its influence in the
international community has also declined little by little.
"By contrast, China somehow has [benefited from its] peaceful rise
over the past few years, and its modesty has won it respect. It
'gave away' the money it has earned from the United States and
Europe to the Third World, with no strings attached. It does not
care about suffering a loss when making friends in Asia, and it
never preached to any other countries; it develops modern weapons
but never brags about them. China is completely independent in
terms of the direction of its foreign relations, and it never favors
any country or blocs. Also, it constantly emphasizes the United
Nations. All these have helped to increase China's influence in the
international community. ... One can say that the growing Chinese
influence is the result of the decline of U.S. [influence.] In
consequence, the thing that the United States fears most has finally
happened: it appears that China's international influence will
likely surpass that of the United States. Just take a look at the
China-U.S. joint statement, which has covered almost every important
issue in the current international community, and Washington
requires Beijing's assistance on all these matters. Isn't that akin
to acknowledging China's influence in the international community
publicly? No wonder China welcomes it earnestly."
F) "Obama's Asian Policy and Taiwan's Challenge"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (11/19):
"The first Asian tour by new U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize
laureate Barack Obama manifested the new American regional agenda
whose importance transcends the traditional fixation in Taiwan on
the Washington-Beijing-Taipei triangle. In contrast with the
unilateralism of his predecessor, Obama sent a message that the U.S.
aims to launch a comprehensive re-engagement in the Pacific
community during a major speech on his Asian policy delivered in
Tokyo November 14. ... Some of Obama's themes clearly reflected a
continuity of U.S. interests, especially Washington's concern with
opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and terrorism as grave
threats to the security of both Asia and North America through
various channels, including the six-party talks on North Korea.
While this effort will help ensure that Washington's influence on
these two issues will not fade, another consequence will be the
enhancement of the PRC's weight in regional security and this is a
development that merits close concern from Taiwan. ...
"Hence, while Obama emphasized his hopes that the U.S. and the PRC
can become 'strategic partners' in efforts to promote economic
growth, energy security and regional stability, the Democratic
president was willing to annoy PRC State Chairman Hu Jintao by
stressing the universality of 'fundamental human rights' for 'all
peoples' and by announcing the restoration of a bilateral 'human
rights dialogue' early next year and openly 'encouraging' Hu to
resume serious dialogue with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual
leader and his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Obama's
transparent intent is to secure the cooperation of the PRC in his
global and regional strategic agenda undoubtedly enhances the CCP
regime's strategic leverage which will undoubtedly be utilized to
exclude Taiwan from these regional processes and push to achieve
substantive and perhaps legal 'unification.'
"Nevertheless, Obama basically did not depart substantively from
existing U.S. policy on the Taiwan and Tibet issues despite intense
pressure from the PRC. Moreover, despite Obama's vague statement of
'respect' for the 'sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,'
the U.S. president pointedly highlighted the Taiwan Relations Act of
1979, which commits Washington to ensure Taiwan's security and
treats Taiwan for all legal purposes as a distinct state, along with
the so-called 'three communiqus' as constituting the foundations of
Washington's 'our one-China policy.' Facing this new complex
situation, Taiwan official and civic forces must set aside cherished
illusions or obsessions and adopt proactive diplomatic efforts based
on democratic values and endeavor to link with other democratic
states to promote a 'democratic rise' to promote a free and
prosperous East Asia."
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