Cablegate: Media Reaction: The U.S. And Taiwan's Un Referendum
DE RUEHIN #2124/01 2600910
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170910Z SEP 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6819
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7264
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8520
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002124
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - NIDA EMMONS
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: THE U.S. AND TAIWAN'S UN REFERENDUM
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies gave extensive
coverage on September 15-17 to the two large-scale rallies launched
by the ruling DPP and opposition KMT in Kaohsiung and Taichung,
respectively, on Taiwan's UN bid. News coverage also focused on the
crash of a Thai passenger plane in Phuket Sunday, and on a former
vice minister of the interior, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail
on corruption charges last Friday. The pro-unification "United
Daily News" ran a banner headline on page four on September 16th
that said "Bian Confirms That High-level Dialogue Between Taiwan and
the United States Has Once Been Cut Off for a Few Months." The
pro-independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's biggest-circulation
daily, however, ran a news story on page two on September 15th with
the headline "The United States Denies that Taiwan-U.S. High-level
Dialogue Has Been Called Off." The centrist, KMT-leaning "China
Times" front-paged the results of its latest opinion survey on its
supplement September 17, which showed that the Taiwan people's
mistrust of the United States rose to a record high of 37.5 percent,
higher than the percentage (29 percent) of those who have trust in
the United States.
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "Liberty Times"
editorial said Taiwan should continue communicating with the United
States patiently in an attempt to remove the latter's
misunderstanding of the UN referendum. A separate "Liberty Times"
editorial urged the Taiwanese people to articulate their positions
on Taiwan's UN bid via the referenda and to solicit support for
Taiwan's UN bid from the entire international community. An
editorial in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
discussed the two major rallies in Taiwan Saturday and the air raid
drill in Shanghai. The article said these events "indicate that the
two sides of the Taiwan Strait will not back down over Taiwan's
sovereignty." An editorial in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taiwan News" said it is time for Washington to
open its ears to Taiwan's call for UN membership. A "China Times"
editorial called the UN referendum a campaign show featuring
President Chen Shui-bian alone. A separate "China Times" editorial
urged the public not to underestimate the negative impact on Taiwan
triggered by the UN referendum. A "United Daily News" editorial
said the two major rallies in Taiwan Saturday have become a
confrontation between the Republic of China and the country Taiwan.
An editorial in the conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post," on the other hand, urged President Chen not to take
American friendship for granted. End summary.
A) "Taiwan Should Plan Its Next Step Following the 'Big Rally' in a
Rational and Pragmatic Attitude"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
"... Taiwan can totally disregard China's unreasonable suppression,
but for the United States' opposition [to the UN referendum], it
relies on our patient communication and persuasion to resolve all
differences and misunderstanding. We must recognize clearly the
reality of international politics -- namely, the United States is
the world's superpower and it is also Taiwan's most powerful
supporter. Taiwan wants to join international organizations such as
the UN, but without U.S. support, it will make [our] objective that
is difficult to achieve even more inaccessible. The United States
opposes Taiwan's conducting the UN referendum because it is worried
that China will take retaliatory actions against the island, which
will thus affect regional peace and stability. But the democratic
system is the best platform for communication between Taiwan and the
United States. We believe that under the universal values that we
share with each other, the U.S. government will surely be able to
understand Taiwan's mainstream public opinion, and it will have the
moral courage to change its mind and support Taiwan's UN bid. ..."
B) "The Rally Is Just [Taiwan's] First Step toward the UN"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
"... Even though the Bush administration is neither just nor
convincing enough [in opposing Taiwan's UN referendum], which has
naturally sabotaged the U.S. image, the Taiwanese people are clearly
aware that the key [to this issue] lies in China. Therefore, the
Taiwan people must not only articulate their positions via the
referenda, but should also expand their targets to the entire
international community outside of the United States, including
non-government organizations. In addition, the island's first
referendum held four years ago and its move to abolish the National
Unification Council and National Unification Guidelines in early
2006 had all sown discord between Taiwan and the United States, but
the disputes were resolved smoothly afterwards following [close]
communication. These experiences proved that as friends between
democratic countries, there are rarely problems that cannot be
C) "The Warning behind the Air Raid Drill"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (9/16):
"... So why does it matter if Taiwan holds a referendum on entering
the UN? Even if an overwhelmingly large percentage of the people in
Taiwan vote in favor of joining it, this would not make Taiwan a UN
member. But if Taiwanese were to vote in a referendum on the UN
bid, the act would represent a clear example of Taiwanese self-rule,
which is intolerable to Beijing. ... With the Beijing Olympic Games
just around the corner, Beijing cannot threaten Taiwan as it has
before. Therefore, the job of warning Taiwan against independence
activities has been left in the hands of the US, which has already
publicly cautioned Taiwan against holding a referendum.
"Between Beijing and Washington, the latter obviously still carries
more weight with the Taiwanese government. Unless Beijing is ready
to go to war, it has very little leverage over Taipei. But what if
there is something slightly less than a formal declaration of
independence, such as a referendum on UN entry? It seems there is
little consensus on what China would do. But one way or another,
Beijing had to respond to yesterday's rally in Taiwan. The air raid
drill in Shanghai clearly showed its true colors."
D) "Time for U.S. to Open Its Ears to U.N. for Taiwan"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (9/17):
"... The combined turnout of well over 200,000 Taiwan residents for
the rallies comprised a forceful response to Beijing and Washington
and also served as methods to mobilize backing for the presidential
election campaigns by the DPP and KMT, a contest clearly won by the
DPP with a display of leadership unity as well as a far larger and
more spontaneous and enthusiastic turnout with a clearer and more
forward-looking vision. Moreover, the rally showed that the
widespread 70 percent-plus backing of Taiwan's drive for U.N. entry
and the DPP referendum on applying for U.N. membership as 'Taiwan'
in opinion polls is not simply a matter of passive agreement but a
matter of strong emotion among a major percentage of Taiwan's
"Instead of creating intimidation, the widely publicized declaration
by Christensen that Washington does not 'recognize Taiwan as a
state' seems to have sparked popular anger and revealed the major
difference between Taipei and Washington and the fundamental reason
for the opposition of the U.S. to the 'UN for Taiwan' referendum.
Quite simply, for any Taiwan resident who participated in the
struggle for democracy against the authoritarian KMT regime to
realize the principle that 'sovereignty rests with the people' or
who cherishes our democratic society absolutely cannot accept this
negation of Taiwan's 'current status' as a democratic independent
state that deserves to be a full member of the world community and
not an international orphan. It is this fact of the public will of
the vast majority of the Taiwan people that Washington policy makers
and analysts seem unable to understand. ...
"Unfortunately, Washington's recent words or actions have shown that
it is objectively complying with the strategic objectives of the
authoritarian Beijing regime by blocking the efforts of the DPP
administration and the civil society to protect Taiwan's current
status as an independent democratic state. We have no intention of
belittling the weight of Washington's objection. We believe the way
in which the U.S. State Department has handled the delivery of its
warnings to Taiwan indicates that Washington actually does realize
it is putting up a show to ease PRC pressure and understands it is
doing something shameful. ...
"Nevertheless, while Washington may believe it is merely attempting
to deal with a peripheral 'annoyance' in its global 'war on
terrorism,' the open denial of Taiwan's status as a 'state' involves
our fundamental interests. ... We also urge Washington to
re-examine its approach to Taiwan and to engage in direct senior
level dialogue so that both sides can gain a more accurate
understanding of our mutual realities and asymmetric priorities.
E) "Bundling Referenda with the Presidential Election Is a Move for
A-Bian to Put All the [Taiwan] People on a Short Leash"
The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
"... In the wake of repeated warnings from the U.S. officials, many
people were worried that U.S.-Taiwan relations would be harmed. But
Chen Shui-bian not only appeared to be fearless but has also
constantly and openly challenged [Washington], demonstrating an air
of being daring and ready to confront the two superpowers - the
United States and China. Surely he does not have to fear anyone,
because the more pressure imposed by Washington and Beijing [on
Taiwan] now, the more he can harvest from the backlash of the Taiwan
public. It will be the next [Taiwan] president that will have to
clean up the mess Chen has left behind! ... Did anyone notice that
the more heated the UN referendum issue gets, the dimmer the figures
of Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang become? ... The two have become
followers of Chen, who is always the shining star in all the
occasions promoting the UN referendum. ... This is a campaign show
featuring Chen and Chen alone! ..."
F) "'Nothing Will Come out of [the Referendum]' in the End After
Having Gone through So Much Trouble?"
The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
"... One should never underestimate the negative impact on Taiwan
triggered by the 'UN referendum!' It has not only damaged the
substantive relationship between the United States and Taiwan but
has also stimulated Beijing to accelerate its moves to block Taiwan
diplomatically. What's even more fatal is that it has taught a
valuable lesson to the international community: Namely, Taiwan's
referenda are doomed to fail starting from the very beginning.
Given the high threshold for the referenda and the counteracting
between the Blue and the Green voters, Taiwan cannot even get to the
stage of 'being unable to enter the UN even if the UN referendum is
passed;' the UN referendum itself is a 'mission impossible.'
Following this round of manipulation, perhaps the United States and
China have both seen through and understood this game! In other
words, no matter how many times Taiwan wants to play the game of
referenda, and no matter how sensitive the referendum titles may be,
they are all basically impossible to be put into practice, and they
are all nothing but lip service. If so, why should anyone need to
worry about them? No one got it the first time in 2004, but when it
is done again in 2008, everyone knows about the trick now. No one
will care about Taiwan should it want to 'bundle the referenda with
the presidential election' again in 2012. What does that tell us?
It indicates that Taiwan does not even have the ability to be a
'troublemaker' in the future any more! ..."
G) "Take to the Streets and Join the Rally; Do Not Become Beijing's
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... The 'UN referendum' has become the 'referendum on Taiwan
independence,' and such evolvement has inspired at least three
in-depth thoughts: First, do the Taiwan independence activists
really 'love Taiwan,' or do they simply want to destroy Taiwan and
become the accomplices of Beijing (how can Taiwan still exist if the
ROC is destroyed)? Second, the 'UN referendum' has also evolved
into an 'anti-U.S. referendum'. Isn't such a development stupid and
ridiculous? Third, Taiwan independence has become a political ploy
for Chen to resolve his crisis of corruption. Isn't it pathetic?
The two rallies today have become a confrontation between the ROC
and the country of Taiwan. ..."
H) "U.S. Ties Not to Be Taken for Granted"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (9/16):
"... In our opinion, President Chen has come to take good relations
with the United States for granted, and this is a major mistake. If
President Chen thinks the U.S. can be strong-armed into accepting
his views about what will and will not provoke trouble in the Taiwan
Strait, we believe he is seriously mistaken. In the end, the United
States will most likely end up reducing the amount of high-level
contact with our government on a permanent basis, harming not only
the government of President Chen, but also all of his successors.
The United States has already gotten accustomed to avoiding
high-level contact with us, not least because our government has
failed to be responsive to Washington's needs at a time when the
U.S. government has its hands full in terms of world affairs. ...
Instead of taking American friendship for granted, President Chen
should try to be more considerate, accommodating and understanding
about the needs of our most powerful friend."