Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations

Published: Tue 24 Nov 2009 04:26 AM
DE RUEHIN #1390/01 3280426
R 240426Z NOV 09
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage November 21-23 on developments in cross-Strait relations;
on AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt's visit to Taipei; and on several
Taiwan fishing boats, which were detained by the Burmese navy on
November 19.
2. Editorials and commentaries in Taiwan's papers continued to
discuss U.S. President Barack Obama's China visit and changes in
U.S.-China-Taiwan relations. An editorial in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" and an op-ed in the KMT-leaning "China Times" urged
the public to pay attention to the warning signals sent out by
Obama's China visit. An op-ed in the pro-unification "United Daily
News," however, called for new thinking and interpretation of the
Obama-Hu joint statement. Several op-ed pieces linked AIT Chairman
Burghardt's Taiwan visit to the Obama-Hu meeting and said Taiwan
needs "strategic reassurance" from the United States. An editorial
in the China-focused "Want Daily" discussed the United States'
future role in Asia, and an editorial in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" discussed the "Chinese lesson" Obama
has learned during his visit. End summary.
A) "Attach Great Importance to the Warning Signals Sent out by
Obama's China Trip"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000]
editorialized (11/21):
"... Despite all these, the fact that [U.S. President Barack] Obama
has allowed China to dictate nearly the entire agenda regarding the
cross-Strait issue was a big warning sign for Taiwan. In addition
to touching lightly on the well being of the Taiwan people, in his
joint statement with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Obama stated his
respect for China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. This was
originally the wording consistently used by the Beijing government,
but it will certainly limit Taiwan's room for maneuver and violated
the fifth item of the 'Six Assurances' made by President Ronald
Reagan in 1982: namely, the United States does not agree to alter
its position about the sovereignty about Taiwan. Likewise, Obama's
[assertion] in the joint statement regarding 'looking forward to
efforts by both sides to increase dialogue and interactions in
economic, political, and other fields was also inconsistent with the
third item in the 'Six Assurances': namely, the United States would
not mediate between Taiwan and China. Without a doubt, the Ma
Ying-jeou administration should be held entirely responsible for all
these [developments]. ...
"AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt is coming to Taipei Sunday to brief
our country on the details concerning Obama's China trip. Given
that the Ma administration claimed that there is no difference
between the developments in the Obama-Hu meeting and 'the
information it acquired prior [to the meeting], it seems quite
natural that it will not proactively request that Washington clarify
the many doubts [that the people have] about the trip, as
anticipated by those who are concerned about Taiwan-U.S. relations.
When the Taiwan people observe the changes in Taiwan-U.S. relations
in the wake of Obama's China trip, the arms sales, such as the F-16
fighter jet deal, will be a major point of interest, which is also
one of the solid indicators that can be used to examine the real
reason for Burghardt's visit. ..."
B) "New Thinking There Should Be in Interpreting the Obama-Hu Joint
Chao Chun-shan, Chairman of the Foundation on Asia-Pacific Studies
and a professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of China
Studies, opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation:
540,000] (11/21):
"... Judging from the above-mentioned strategic and tactical
perspectives, we believe that the signals President Obama wants to
convey via the Obama-Hu joint statement were merely a reflection of
a series of tactical adjustments the new U.S. administration has
made in terms of its cross-Strait policy in the face of the changes
inside and outside [the United States]. ... Due to the changes in
the [global and domestic] landscapes, we will not over-interpret
some of the wording in the Obama-Hu joint statement. ... Also, we
believe [the fact] that Taiwan's security was not mentioned in the
joint statement is a logical effect resulting from the alleviated
situation across the Taiwan Strait. ... We believe that the United
States will faithfully implement its commitment made under the
'Taiwan Relations Act' to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan, because
it is conducive to peace and stability in the region and therefore
meets the U.S. national interests.
"Finally, in terms of the [call for] political dialogue across the
Taiwan Strait, an issue that has drawn the most attention lately, we
believe that the relevant wording in the joint statement did not
violate the United States' long-standing call for both sides to
resolve their differences using peaceful means. ..."
C) "[AIT Chairman] Raymond Burghardt Arrives in Taiwan to Explain
the Obama-Hu Meeting: the United States Only Offers a [Justifiable]
Explanation? [Taiwan] Wants Strategic Reassurance"
Professor Edward Chen from Tamkang University's Graduate Institute
of American Studies opined in the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 400,000] (11/23):
"AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt has arrived in Taipei and will offer
an explanation for the Obama-Hu meeting. Since both the U.S.
Congress and the U.S. media believe that Obama made too many
concessions to Hu Jintao, Burghardt, in addition to providing
'strategic reassurance' to Taipei this time, should also provide
support for the policy and [various] projects on which Washington
and Taipei have been working together. ... Since Washington has
guaranteed more than more once [prior to the Obama-Hu meeting] that
it would not disappoint Taiwan and has agreed to make it up to
Taiwan afterwards, Burghardt should not just be offering an
explanation this time but should provide 'strategic reassurance' to
Taiwan. What really matters is that strategic reassurance cannot
just be lip service but must be accompanied by [real] support for
the policy and [various] projects on which Washington and Taipei
have been working together. These should include strengthening
U.S.-Taiwan military cooperation projects, concrete measures to
support Taiwan's participation in international organizations or
international establishments, as well as Washington's approval to
sign a U.S.-Taiwan extradition agreement, visa-waiver [program]
agreement, trade and investment framework agreement, and a free
trade agreement in the future."
D) "Attach Great Importance to the Cross-Strait Crisis Caused by the
United States' Pro-China [Attitude]"
Former DPP Legislator Julian Kuo opined in the KMT-leaning "China
Times" [circulation: 120,000] (11/23):
"... For the first time in the joint statement, there appears [the
wording of] 'respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial
integrity, and neither side supports any attempts by any force to
undermine this principle,' and only the three [U.S.-China]
communiqus, not the 'Taiwan Relations Act,' were mentioned. Based
on this fact, China will certainly expand its interpretation by
saying that 'the United States respects China's sovereignty and is
opposed to Taiwan independence.' ([Former U.S. President Bill]
Clinton only mentioned that [Washington] does 'not support Taiwan
independence' and never said 'being opposed to Taiwan
independence.') Or further, Beijing will demand that Washington
respect China's 'Anti-Secession Law.' ([Former President George W.]
Bush was opposed to the 'Anti-Secession Law.') If the United States
does not express its views otherwise, it will be akin to
[Washington] acknowledging that Taiwan is China's domestic issue,
and the United States will thus lose its role of providing strategic
balance in the Taiwan Strait.
"The joint statement also commended the outcome of the visit to the
United States by the vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military
Commission, in October this year, stating that [Washington and
Beijing] will take concrete steps to advance sustained and reliable
military-to-military relations in the future.' What matters is that
the major appeal made by the Chinese official during his U.S. trip
was that 'U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are the hurdle for Sino-U.S.
relations.' Washington's acceptance of such a statement implied
that there might be changes to its arms sales to Taiwan. ... What's
most important is that the United States has attached importance to
the fact of China's rise, saying that it welcomes a strong,
prosperous and successful China that plays a greater role in world
affairs,' and it also defined U.S.-China relations as a 'partnership
that will address common challenges in the 21st century.' In order
to seek China's cooperation, Washington not only has denied the
'China threat theory,' but it no longer highlights the importance of
human rights.
"The United States has made such concessions to show its weakness --
from respecting China's sovereignty, looking into its arms sales to
Taiwan, expressing expectations for peace talks across the Taiwan
Strait, and welcoming China's rise to avoiding mentioning democracy
and human rights; all these have indicated the decline of the U.S.
hegemony and the rise of U.S. realism. Judging from a long-term
historical perspective, Obama's China visit may just be an initial
reaction by the United States toward China's rise, and it is certain
that in the future Washington will do more things tilting toward
China that will disappoint its allies and bitterly upset Taiwan. In
this vein, the major 'regression' in Taiwan-U.S. relations' is
nothing but one of the [series of] effects from the United States
coping with China's rise. ..."
E) "How Is the United States to Lead and Direct Asia?"
The China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] editorialized
"... A bigger political problem for Obama in the future is that in
his 'Asian policy' speech in Tokyo, he declared that the United
States is interested in developing relations with Asian nations and
will continue to maintain a leading position in the Asia-Pacific
area. The question is how is the United States going to lead Asia
while the strength of China is coming close to that of the United
States today? The United States must adopt a low [profile] and be
flexible in taking advantage of smart power to make major
contributions in Asia, so that it can play a leading role in the
area. ...
"In reality, when it comes to dealing with the global financial
crisis and the challenges of traditional and non-traditional
security issues, the importance of U.S.-China relations prevails
over that of U.S.-Japan relations. But in terms of the East Asia
strategy and regional security in Northeast Asia, U.S.-Japan
relations outweigh that of U.S.-China relations. By maneuvering
these two sets of relations appropriately, the United States should
be able to contribute to the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific
region. ..."
F) "An In-depth Analysis of the Sino-U.S. Joint Statement"
Professor Tsai Wei from Chinese Cultural University's Sun Yat-sen's
Institute for Globalization Studies opined in the China-focused
"Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] (11/21):
"... Finally, we should pay attention to the fact that the
China-U.S. joint statement possibly indicated that along with the
growth of mainland China's economic and political strength, the
United States will do more to confirm, understand, act in concert
with, and even acknowledge Beijing's position. Even though
Washington will not and has no intention to betray Taiwan, Taiwan's
role and importance will, over time, be more marginalized. This is
a developing process from a quantitative change to a qualitative
change, and it will not shift its direction as Taiwan's willpower
hopes it will. Taiwan's situation will only be all the more
G) "Obama's Chinese Lesson"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (11/21):
"US President Barack Obama's visit to China was most notable for his
hosts' refusal to play his game. Nothing could have been more
symbolically ludicrous and deflating for Obama and the dignity of
the office of US president than speaking before a bunch of
hand-picked university students taking part in a 'town hall' address
in Shanghai. ... What this trip has done is give Obama something
very personal that might challenge the stance of those under him
that the Chinese government should, in effect, be afforded
diplomatic unaccountability. With direct experience of the ill will
and hubris of Chinese politicians and media appointees, together
with predictably limited progress on regional, environmental and
human rights issues, Obama will not take home anything like the awe
for Chinese might and history that Mao Zedong inculcated in former
US president Richard Nixon when they met in Beijing.
"The part of the US establishment that allows North Korean autocrats
to be named as such and Chinese autocrats to be feted and empowered,
therefore, may find that Beijing's refusal to find common ground
with the West on basic levels of diplomatic courtesy will impress
itself on the US president. Taiwan can only gain from this, though
the effects are likely to be subtle and gradual, and certainly not
enough to justify a reduction in vigilance. It has been said
before, but it needs to be said again and again: Beijing's communist
government regards open displays of goodwill from the West
patronizingly at best, but more often with suspicion and open
contempt. In Obama's case, however, Beijing has adopted an
astonishingly cavalier approach at a symbolic level with the one
world leader whose friendship it could have employed for the
betterment of all. Even by the complex and inscrutable standards of
much statecraft, Beijing has presented Obama and the American people
with a regrettable message: Give us face when making deals -- but
leave your principles at home."
H) "U.S. Must Clarify Stance on Taiwan"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (11/23):
"...The absence of the TRA from the Joint Statement was particularly
unfortunate since the latter was the first such broadly stated
expression of commitment on numerous issues between the U.S. and the
PRC for over two decades and because the joint statement contained
an unprecedented agreement to Beijing's insistence on respect from
Washington for China's sovereignty and territorial integrity within
the context of 'building and deepening bilateral strategic trust'
and as 'the core of the three U.S.-China communiqus which guide
U.S.-China relations.' It is likely that American Institute for
Taiwan Board Chairman Raymond Burghardt, who arrived yesterday to
brief President Ma Ying-jeou and his Kuomintang administration and,
hopefully, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, that the
issue of 'sovereignty and territorial integrity' does not refer to
Taiwan. Since the Joint Statement does not explicitly include a
recognition by Washington that 'Taiwan is part of the People's
Republic of China' (as it did regarding Tibet), Burghardt might
argue that the U.S. is agreeing only to 'respect' of a general
principle and the U.S. has only 'acknowledged' but never
'recognized' Beijing's claim that Taiwan is 'part of China' or 'part
of the PRC' under the latter's 'one China principle.
"Nevertheless, we cannot help but be concerned that Beijing will
take advantage of this seemingly new expression of Washington's
"respect" to bolster its international propaganda that 'Taiwan is a
part of China' and downplay the TRA, especially since this
affirmation was preceded by a paragraph in which Beijing defined its
meaning by emphasizing that 'the Taiwan issue concerns China's
sovereignty and territorial integrity.' However, the Obama
administration should keep in mind that the language of the Joint
Statement skirts very close to contradicting the 'Six Assurances'
commitments made to Taiwan in July 1982 by the late U.S. president
Ronald Reagan, including his promise that Washington would not play
a mediation role between the PRC and Taiwan or alter its position
regarding sovereignty over Taiwan. Moreover, the Joint Statement
also showed that Washington is pleased to see the improvement in
cross-strait relations and the resumption of dialogue between Taipei
and Beijing after the restoration of KMT rule last year under Ma.
"Nevertheless, Washington should pay attention to an increasing
number of indications that this 'improvement' is more apparent than
substantive and more fleeting than lasting and not overlook growing
dissent within Taiwan over the pace, scope and the lack of
transparency and democratic accountability in Ma's cross-strait
policy. The expression in the Joint Statement that the U.S. 'looks
forward' to 'efforts by both sides to increase dialogues and
interactions in economic, political, and other fields' creates an
impression of endorsement for Ma's one-sided and China-centric
cross-strait policy and the extension of 'political' or even
'unification' talks for which there is absolutely no consensus in
Taiwan. This statement is particularly alarming since it seems to
encourage Beijing's current intensification of pressure on the Ma
administration to enter into 'political talks,' as illustrated by
the calls by several heavyweight PRC scholar-officials for political
negotiation during a conference held earlier this month in Taipei.
"Obama could have provided more balance and upheld democratic
principles if he had reiterated the content of the statement by his
predecessor Democratic president Bill Clinton on Feb. 24, 2000 that
'the issues between Beijing and Taiwan must be resolved peacefully
and with the assent of the people of Taiwan' during his post-summit
press statement. We urge Burghardt to reaffirm to both the Ma
administration and the Taiwan people that U.S. policy toward Taiwan
has not and will not change even though Washington is deepening its
'strategic partnership' with Beijing and that the Taiwan Relations
Act remains the foundation of U.S. policy toward Taiwan. The AIT
chairman should also clarify that the U.S. has no intention to push
Taipei into 'political negotiations' with Beijing and should confirm
that the Obama administration respects Taiwan's democratic system in
terms of how its cross-strait policy is forged, including the
democratic principle that the resolution of issues between the PRC
and Taiwan must have the 'assent' of the 23 million Taiwan people."
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