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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's Un Referenda, U.S.-China

VZCZCXYZ0005
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0227/01 0501009
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191009Z FEB 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8149
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7842
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9103

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000227

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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: TAIWAN'S UN REFERENDA, U.S.-CHINA
RELATIONS

1. Summary: As Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies continued to
report on the March presidential poll and the UN referenda, news
coverage on February 16-19 also focused on the "Taiwan Goal," a
defense industry company the DPP administration has recently set up
to coordinate the business of U.S.-Taiwan arms deals; on the
shooting of a former legislator; and on Kosovo's declaration of
independence. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial
in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" urged the Taiwan public to
vote and pass the two UN referenda proposed by the DPP and the KMT
respectively. The article said the passage of the UN referenda will
push the international community to start reviewing and revising the
unrealistic one-China policy. An editorial in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" also chimed in by urging Taiwan
voters to put aside politics and vote for the two UN referenda. A
separate "Taipei Times" editorial commented on Beijing's response to
the alleged Chinese espionage case and concluded that "the Chinese,
by virtue of their actions or habits, are close to spoiling for a
'Cold War.'" A "Taipei Times" op-ed, written by an Australian
writer, discussed China's rise and said it is "bound to cause
turbulence and strife in the years to come, with the US seeking to
hold its position as the reigning superpower." End summary.

2. Taiwan's UN Referenda

A) "[The Island's] Bids to Join or Re-join the UN are a Common Wish
Shared by the Taiwan People"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
editorialized (2/16):

"... The DPP's and the KMT's moves to push for Taiwan to join and to
re-join the UN, respectively, are both based on the fact that the
island's UN bid has become a consensus among the majority of the
Taiwan people and that both referenda have reflected the wish of
mainstream public opinion. This newspaper has asserted many times
in its editorials that the two UN referenda are aimed at maintaining
Taiwan's independent sovereignty, which is the least common
denominator for the island and is consistent with the interests of
all Taiwan people. Currently, some countries are either opposed to
or do not support Taiwan's UN referenda. This is mainly because of
the obstruction created by China, but by no means does it indicate
that the UN referenda were wrong. ...

"If the two UN referenda fail to pass simply because of the
hindrance caused by external force, it will be akin to sending a
signal to the international community that, if the Taiwan people
want to decide their own destiny in the future, the move will be
strongly boycotted by the external force which opposes such a
decision. This is because the experience to suppress Taiwan's UN
referenda [this time] will mislead others to believe that, as long
as they sustain their suppression, the Taiwan people will yield and
give up Taiwan-centric values. As it stands now, whether or not the
UN referenda can pass will have a significant influence on Taiwan's
future. No one should overlook such an influence simply because the
referenda are to be held in tandem with the presidential poll. All
the more, no political party should play the role of an inside
traitor that neuters the free will of the Taiwan people. ...

"Taiwan's democratic progress, from the direct vote of its
president, the entire reshuffle of its legislative bodies, to the
peaceful transfer of power, has fully highlighted that Taiwan is an
independent, sovereign state, and that the Taiwan people are
unanimous in maintaining such a status quo. It is a pity that,
given the interference of the Chinese factor, the international
community has yet to accept Taiwan, which thus cannot become a
normal country. Under such circumstances, the referenda for Taiwan
to join or re-join the UN are akin to having shouldered the
responsibility of pushing for Taiwan to become a normal country.
Should the referenda succeed in passing, it will deal a heavy blow
to the fictitious one-China principle, and the international
community will face up to such a reality and start reviewing and
revising the unrealistic one-China policy. ..."

B) "Putting Politics Aside for the Best"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (2/17):

"While who wins the upcoming presidential election carries a lot of
weight for Taiwan's future, what happens with the UN referendums
will also affect the nation's path. If a referendum passes, it will
have an enormous impact on Taiwanese foreign relations: China will
threaten to implement the 'Anti-Secession' Law, flex its military
muscles and apply pressure on the US, Japan and the EU to express
opposition. If neither referendum passes, the international
community might interpret it as a sign that the Taiwanese public has
little desire -- or is downright opposed -- to joining or returning
to the UN. Consequently, the doors of the UN could be closed for
RELATIONS

good, bringing a calamity for Taiwan, a scenario of total defeat.
...

"If the DPP and KMT have the nation's interests in mind, they should
encourage voters to vote for both UN referendums. That will
neutralize their effect on the election and create a win-win
solution. If the KMT refuses to support the DPP referendum, then a
solution to minimize damage should be adopted. The parties could
come to a consensus and put forward a third choice, a replacement
referendum, through the legislature. But time is short and this
possibility is waning."

2. U.S.-China Relations

A) "Awaiting a 'Hot' Cold War"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (2/18):

"When Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao insisted at a
press conference last week that China does not spy on the US and
that Washington should get rid of its 'Cold War thinking' on the
subject, an obvious response to his first claim was this: Do Liu and
his bosses think Americans are complete idiots? As for the second
claim, a more complex question follows: Given Beijing's willingness
to use threatening language against Taiwan (officially) and
Washington (unofficially, through media outlets and former officials
or military figures), why are US-China relations not already being
discussed in terms of a new cold war?
"The 'Cold War' reference is dubious and there are a number of
reasons for this. Unlike the Soviet Union at the height of its
power, China cannot begin to compete with the US militarily in
global terms. But it does wish to compete in -- with a view to
dominate -- the region. This is not necessarily interpreted by US
politicians as hostile, especially given the mythology that has
developed over Chinese history and its entitlement to 'great power'
status. ... None of this changes the fact that the Chinese, by
virtue of their actions and habits, are close to spoiling for a
'Cold War.' It is simply a function of time, wisdom and inclination
as to when the Americans appreciate that a China under Communist
Party control cannot take any other route, despite the Orwellian
blusterings of its spokesmen."
B) "China's Rise Will Mean Turbulence"
Sushil Seth, a writer based in Australia, opined in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] (2/19):
"The point is that China's rise is a great challenge for the world,
especially the US, as the former has ambitions to overtake the
latter as the world's only superpower. With the US mired in Iraq
and elsewhere, China has used its time and resources well to expand
its political and economic clout, even right into the US backyard of
South America. One would hope that the US is aware of China's
rearguard action. But being already over-stretched, the US is keen
to maximize the area of political cooperation on Iran, North Korea
and elsewhere. Washington is, therefore, inclined to overstate the
mutuality of interest, and underplay differences and concerns from
China. But this situation is unlikely to last as China becomes even
more ambitious and the US starts to clearly see the danger. ...
"In other words, China's rise is bound to cause turbulence and
strife in the years to come, with the US seeking to hold its
position as the reigning superpower. There is, however, a view that
China can be accommodated peacefully in the world order, because the
existing system has been kind to it as evidenced by its economic
growth and growing political status. Therefore, it will have no
reason to subvert or sabotage it. But with China's growing
ambitions, it is unlikely to be satisfied with incremental benefits
accruing to it from a system that was devised by others to maintain
and sustain their supremacy. Beijing will want to put its own stamp
on the system and to maximize its own goals and ambitions of global
supremacy. ...
"If China manages to remain stable and continues to grow (a big if,
considering its multiple problems), it will also have the potential
to play power politics with the global system, including between the
US and Europe. The idea that China will play its role within an
existing international order crafted and controlled by dominant
Western powers seems a bit overdrawn, if not an outright case of
wishful thinking. It would make more sense to treat China as a
power keen to reshape the global order by putting itself in the
center. China will take this direction as its power grows. And this
will mean strife and turbulence. And countries like the US and
others with high stakes in the existing international order will
have no option but to confront the new danger from a resurgent
China."
YOUNG

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