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

Published: Tue 24 Nov 2009 08:40 AM
DE RUEHIN #1395/01 3280840
R 240840Z NOV 09
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage November 24 on AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt's visit to
Taiwan; on the year-end city mayors' and county magistrates'
elections around the island; and on Taiwan's falling unemployment
rate from September to October. The pro-independence "Liberty
Times" ran a banner headline on page two, reading "Meeting [AIT
Chairman] Raymond Burghardt, [DPP Chairwoman] Tsai [Ing-wen]: the
United States Should Eliminate Taiwan People's Grave Concerns [over
U.S.-China Relations]."
2. Several editorials and commentaries discussed AIT Chairman
Burghardt's visit to Taiwan and U.S.-Taiwan relations in the wake of
U.S. President Barack Obama's China trip. A column in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" said Burghardt's visit to Taiwan in
the wake of Obama's China visit is a standard operating procedure of
the State Department and that Obama's tactful acceptance of China's
sovereignty over Taiwan signified a major change in U.S. policy. A
column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" said Obama had to
keep a low-profile manner during his recent trip to China because,
given the United States' weakening national strength, the United
States is no longer able to "preach" or "rectify" China as it did
before. An op-ed in the China-focused "Want Daily" discussed
Obama's China trip and said Washington will not give up on Taiwan,
but Taiwan's importance will be increasingly marginalized under the
framework of U.S. core interests. An op-ed in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" said Obama's China trip "contained
some very troubling aspects for Taiwan" as he "allowed the Chinese
leadership to completely frame the interchanges on the Taiwan issue
and demonstrated a disregard of the US' vital role in helping to
keep Taiwan free of Chinese control or rule." An editorial in the
conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post,"
however, welcomed Burghardt's visit to reassure Taiwan that "Obama's
China trek did no harm to Taiwan's national interest." An editorial
in the pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" discussed
Burghardt's remarks and said the controversy caused by the U.S. beef
imports in Taiwan was not a "phony issue" as described by Burghardt
but one genuinely concerning the health safety the Taiwan people.
End summary.
A) "A Huge Warning Signal for Taiwan-U.S. Relations"
Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 540,000] (11/24):
"Immediately following [U.S. President Barack] Obama's trip to
China, AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt came to Taiwan, reiterating
that the U.S. position toward Taiwan remains unchanged. This is the
standard operating procedure of the U.S. State Department. To put
it more bluntly, [Washington] is just trying its upmost to placate
[Taiwan]. But Ma Ying-jeou was saying that Taiwan-U.S. relations
over the past six decades have never been as good as now. Does [he]
mean that Burghardt is here on a holiday?
"It is very obvious that Taiwan-U.S. relations have been moving
backwards and turning cold since Obama took over the helm. This is
mainly because the U.S. national strength is declining while that of
China is on the rise, and partly because the Ma administration has
been tilting toward mainland China. But the Ma administration has
been feeling good about itself all the time. The joint communiqu
statement inked by Obama and [Chinese President] Hu Jintao nearly
formally accepted mainland China's sovereignty over Taiwan, which is
a harmful development for Taiwan, but the Ma administration acted
like a frog sitting in the slowly boiling water, taking pleasure in
the comfort and warmth [of the situation].
"All the previous U.S. presidents would mention the three
[U.S.-China] communiqus in tandem with the 'Taiwan Relations Act
(TRA)' when they visited mainland China. The fact that Obama
deliberately ducked mentioning the TRA this time is a huge warning
signal [for Taiwan], but the Ma administration just laughed it off.
Obama vaguely brought up the TRA in the press conference afterwards,
and the Ma administration was overjoyed [by the move], believing
that it was a rare move, which will be favorable for Taiwan. [The
Ma administration's performance] was akin to self hypnosis. In the
joint statement, Obama and Hu not only reiterated respect for each
other's sovereignty and territorial integrity but also further
emphasized that they were the core interests [for both sides]. The
fact that Obama, using diplomatic rhetoric tactfully, expressed his
acceptance of China's sovereignty over Taiwan is a major policy
change, and Taiwan should remain vigilant about it. ..."
B) "Rising Vigorously While Obama Lowers His Head [Submissively to
Chin Heng-wei, editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly, wrote in his
column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation:
680,000] (11/24):
"The message [sent out by the] U.S. President [who] visited China
was quite simple: the United States is now in a position of weak
national strength, so it is unable to 'preach' or 'rectify' China as
it used to. The United States and China are intertwined with each
other in terms of trade and economics; China is the United States'
biggest creditor, yet Beijing can hardly get itself away clean from
the huge amount of its 'foreign exchange reserves.' As a result,
both the United States and China have no alternative but to seek a
way to 'work with each other,' a way that will be beneficial for
both. Obama's trip this time was aimed at resolving the trade and
economic unbalances between the United States and China. ... But it
was all up to China to decide whether it wants to change its policy.
This is the reason why Obama had to keep a low-profile manner. ..."
C) "Will the United States Give up on Taiwan?"
Xie Shengyou, visiting professor at the University of Bamberg in
Germany, opined in the China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation:
10,000] (11/24):
"[U.S. President Barack] Obama visited China, and both China and the
United States released a joint statement -- a move that met the core
interests of the two countries. Honestly speaking, [Chinese
President] Hu Jintao defeated Obama in the game this time. Even
though Obama verbally mentioned the Taiwan Relations Act, such a
legal foundation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan was missing in the
Sino-U.S. joint statement. Does [it mean that] the United States
has given up on Taiwan? ...
"Obama said in both Tokyo and Shanghai that the United States will
not [seek to] contain China because Washington needs Beijing's
[cooperation] in many ways: continuing to purchase U.S. treasury
bonds; working together to address the financial crisis; and helping
to deter Pyongyang and Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Nonetheless, it is still too early to say that China can be treated
as an equal of the United States and work together with Washington
as the two major nations in the world to resolve global problems.
As a matter of fact, there is no fundamental change to Sino-U.S.
relations, and there is a long way for China to become a fully
responsible big country in the world. ...
"U.S. foreign policy has its continuity and consistency. Besides,
for the sake of its own core interests, the United States will
continue to act in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act to sell
defensive weapons to Taiwan and to strengthen cooperation with
Taiwan. But given mainland China's growing political and economic
strength, Washington will gradually come to realize or, further, to
acknowledge Beijing's position. Washington will not give up on
Taiwan, but Taiwan's importance will be increasingly marginalized
under the framework of U.S. core interests. This is a [trend] to
which the Taiwan people with growing Taiwan-centric consciousness
must pay attention."
D) "Burghardt's Visit to Taipei"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (11/24):
"... The haste with which Burghardt is visiting Taipei -- just a
week after President Obama left China -- is greatly appreciated, of
course. That shows Washington wants Taipei to understand as soon as
possible Uncle Sam won't walk out on Taiwan while trying to win
Chinese 'friendship.' Washington knows full well Taipei must be
seriously concerned because President Obama mentioned only briefly
the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which promises U.S. assistance,
particularly in the form of arms sales, to the island to defend
itself against possible attack from the People's Republic. ...
"Obama didn't make mention of the act in Shanghai nor in his talks
with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing. But he told the
American press of one of the most important pillars of U.S. foreign
policy vis--vis China and Taiwan. Burghardt described Obama's
mention of the act as motivated by 'a personal desire to make sure
it's mentioned.' Burghardt had to calm the jitters of our
government leaders roused by Obama's omission of mention about the
1979 act in Shanghai and his cursory remarks in Beijing. Burghardt
also had to inform Taipei the United States is still reviewing the
sales of F-16 C/D fighters. Taiwan needs them as soon as
practicable. At any rate, we are glad the United States saw to it
that Taipei was reassured almost at once that Obama's China trek did
no harm to Taiwan's national interest."
E) "Obama's Jarring First Trip to China"
Former Washington correspondent Charles Snyder opined in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] (11/24):
"US President Barack Obama's maiden trip to China contained some
very troubling aspects for Taiwan. Obama allowed the Chinese
leadership to completely frame the interchanges on the Taiwan issue,
and demonstrated a disregard of the US' vital role in helping to
keep Taiwan free of Chinese control or rule. At one point, Obama
came within a split-second of declaring that Taiwan is part of
China. Throughout the trip, the existence of the Taiwan Relations
Act (TRA) was virtually forgotten, and Obama ducked the issues of
China's military threat to Taiwan and the need for the US to help
Taiwan defend itself. ... In a joint press conference, Chinese
President Hu Jintao said Obama 'on various occasions has reiterated'
that the US 'respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity
when it comes to Taiwan,' and Obama echoed that commitment in the
context of a one-China policy. Does that mean Obama winked and
conceded China's territorial claims to Taiwan during their private
talks? ...
"The most jarring moment came during the 'town hall' session on
Obama's first day in China. The meeting was closely orchestrated by
the Chinese leaders, and questions were tightly scripted. The Taiwan
question was picked via the Internet from a Taiwan businessman
operating in China, who said he is "worried" about US arms sales and
that his business is doing well because of the Taiwanese
government's current cross-strait policy. Obama said he backed a
one-China policy, and praised the reduction in cross-strait tension,
saying he hoped the improvement would continue 'between Taiwan and
the rest of -- and the People's Republic.' He was about to declare
Taiwan to be part of China, reflective of a predilection to see
reality in that way. It was, in the word of a leading Washington
expert in China and Taiwan, a reflection of his 'mind set.' How did
he get this 'mind set?' Surely the administration's experts on
China know that 'official' US policy is that the status of Taiwan is
undetermined and solvable only with the approval of the Taiwanese
people. They are too savvy to give him a bum steer. ..."
F) "U.S.-Taiwan Beef Flap Is Not Phony Issue"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (11/24):
"Speaking with reporters yesterday morning, American Institute for
Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt stated that the simmering
controversy over a protocol signed Oct. 22 between the U.S. and
Taiwan's Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government to
liberalize U.S. beef imports was a 'phony issue.' ... Contrary to
the sentiments expressed by the AIT chairman, demands raised by
consumer, and health safety protection groups and the DPP for
renegotiation of the October 22 protocol aim to guard against
genuine and grave dangers to both the health security of our 23
million citizens and the health of our democracy and are not
'anti-American' but pro-health and pro-democracy.
"First, it is necessary to recognize that there are genuine health
safety concerns associated with US beef products, especially ground
beef and 'offals' which are known to carry higher risk of BSE, which
can cause the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) in
humans, and other pathogens. BSE is particularly worrisome because,
as acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's own Food
Safety and Inspection Service, there are no effective preventative
tests or effective treatment for BSE and because prions, the
suspected agent, cannot be killed by cooking, even by microwave,
which means that consumers cannot "protect themselves. In sum, there
is no 'acceptable' level of risk for the entry of BSE into Taiwan's
food chain.
"Contrary to claims by President Ma Ying-jeou and other KMT
government officials, the October 22 protocol provides weaker
protection for Taiwan consumers than similar agreements signed
between Washington and Japan and South Korea. ...It is worth noting
that U.S. based consumer and health safety organizations, such as
the Consumers Union, have expressed little confidence in the
effectiveness of the procedures put in place by USDA, which has a
vested interest in beef exports, to protect even the health of US
citizens. Ma's claim that Taiwan had no option but to accept such
liberalization as part of its obligations as a member of the World
Trade Organization disregards the WTO's Agreement on Application of
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, which gives member states the
power to carry out import risk assessments and implement import
controls over goods which may pose serious health risks. ... The
continued defiance of this principle by the KMT government,
including its refusal to submit agreements signed with the
authoritarian People's Republic of China for legislative
ratification, constitute a 'clear and present' threat to the
survival of Taiwan's democracy as well as our national and health
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