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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's Presidential Election, U.S.

VZCZCXYZ0007
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0422/01 0842323
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 242323Z MAR 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8525
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8064
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9319

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000422

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 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, U.S.
CARRIERS IN THE TAIWAN STRAIT

1. Summary: The Chinese-language and English-language dailies in
Taiwan gave significant reporting and editorial coverage March 22-24
to Saturday's presidential election, in which KMT's Ma Ying-jeou won
a landslide victory over DPP's Frank Hsieh. The two controversial
referenda proposed by the KMT and the DPP, respectively, seeking
Taiwan's UN membership, failed to pass the required thresholds. The
pro-unification "United Daily News" ran the results of its latest
opinion survey on page two March 24, which showed that 86 percent of
those polled said they accept the fact that Ma was elected
president, and 70 percent said they are confident in the KMT's rule
over the coming four years. A survey released by the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" March 24 also showed that 79 percent of
the respondents said they are happy to see Ma elected president, and
66 percent of respondents said they believe improving Taiwan's
economy should be the first priority.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, editorials in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times," the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" and "Taiwan News" all cast doubts
about how Ma is going to interact with Beijing and while still
maintaining Taiwan's national interest. These editorials all said
they will closely examine Ma's words and deeds and asserted that any
decision concerning Taiwan's future must be decided by the Taiwan
people. A column in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" hailed
Taiwan's democracy and said Ma's landslide victory has freed the
island from being ruled by an alien regime. A "China Times"
editorial called on Ma to face Taiwan's mainstream public opinion
with a humble heart, and a "United Daily News" editorial discussed
the constitutional significance of Saturday's presidential election
and added that some political curses deliberately imposed on Taiwan
by the DPP can finally be lifted. An editorial in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" suggested that Ma
visit Beijing, a move that would mark the beginning of a real
dialogue across the Taiwan Strait. Two op-eds in the "Liberty
Times," however, discussed the two U.S. aircraft carriers sailing
near the Taiwan Strait. An op-ed said that, while the U.S. and
China are competing to shape a new order in the Asia-Pacific region,
the DPP should think about what kind of a role Taiwan should play.
A separate op-ed said the U.S. deployment of its aircraft carriers
near Taiwan demonstrated that stability in the Taiwan Strait is
crucial to the U.S. and Japan's interests in the region. End
summary.

3. Taiwan's Presidential Election

A) "The Day of Being Elected Is the Beginning of Ordeals"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
editorialized (3/24):

"... During his campaigns, perhaps out of convenience or being
affected by the public opinion and thus tilted toward the
Taiwan-centric values, Ma Ying-jeou has made slight revision to his
'[cross-Strait] common market' platform; he called for Taiwan's
future to be determined by the Taiwan people and asserted that
[Beijing] has to dismantle missiles targeting Taiwan before both
sides of the Taiwan Strait can sit down and talk. On top of that,
Ma also emphasized that he was running for the president of a free
and democratic country with independent sovereignty. All these
remarks should be viewed as the pledges of a president-elect, which
will be implemented and examined by the public after he takes the
helm. We look forward to seeing Ma implement these revisions, and
we need to inform the future president respectfully: [They] must by
no means push Taiwan toward the 'one China' road of no return and
leave out the option of independence when deciding Taiwan's future.
Also, any decision regarding Taiwan's future must be made via
plebiscites. Likewise, the DPP is in fact both a brake and a
partner for the new president in his dealing with China in the
future. Ma has the opportunity to create a pattern in which both
the ruling and opposition parties work together to cope with China's
annexation [attempts]. ..."

B) "The Significance and Challenges of the Transfer of Power for the
Second Time"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
editorialized (3/23):

"... Also, during the process of the island's democratic
development, Taiwan's voters have constantly sent out significant
messages via their choices. Saturday's presidential election was no
exception. The KMT staged a comeback and regained administrative
power; such a development indicated that this political party, which
has ruled Taiwan for over half a century by autocratic means, has
now regained the support of a majority of voters through democratic
means. An alien regime has now obtained legitimacy and legality [on
the island]. It is equally important that Ma Ying-jeou, who was
born in the British colony of Hong Kong, has now been elected

president in a fierce race. [Ma's election] highlighted Taiwan
voters' tolerance, which even outshines that of other advanced
democracies, including the United States. ...

"Judging from the general situation, there are some imperfect
aspects in Taiwan's presidential election and deepening democracy.
The most evident case is that the two referenda have failed to pass
their required thresholds. Such a result highlighted that the
current 'birdcage referenda' have such a high threshold that makes
it unable to reflect public opinion precisely. Saturday's fresh
examples also sent out incorrect signals to the world, which will
damage Taiwan's interests. ..."

C) "Out with the Old, In with the Older"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (3/23):

"Taiwan's voters have changed government for only the second time,
re-installing the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the presidency.
KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou defeated the Democratic Progressive
Party's Frank Hsieh by almost a 17 percent margin. Ma was the
favorite in the election and opinion polls had at one time put him
as many as 25 percentage points ahead of Hsieh. Public
dissatisfaction with the DPP's political record and consequent
losses in January's legislative elections sapped party morale, and
this was reflected in the results of the poll, despite a narrowing
in the performance of the candidates. ...

"The KMT should be especially cautious when dealing with the
cross-strait problem. Cross-strait relations should be improved, but
implementation of the 'one China' principle remains dangerous.
There are numerous reasons for this. For now, this will suffice: The
Dalai Lama has repeatedly expressed that he seeks real autonomy for
Tibet rather than independence, but still China has dealt with the
situation forcefully and brutally. Let this serve as a stark
reminder for Ma: Taiwan's long-term possibilities must not be
sacrificed for short-term economic benefits, and toeing China's line
offers no guarantee of a peaceful outcome. Once Ma assumes office,
he should begin to repair the increasingly worn US-Taiwan
relationship and facilitate cooperation with Japan to reduce the
Chinese threat. Hundreds of Chinese missiles threaten this country
and Taiwan's president cannot sit idly by as their numbers grow. Ma
must immediately begin to make up for the arms deficit resulting
from eight years of KMT budget boycotts. Only real might can serve
as a backup to meaningful cross-strait negotiations."

D) "Ma's Challenges Just Beginning"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (3/24):

"There is no doubt that the adoption of an 'economy is everything'
strategy was one of the key elements behind the landslide victory of
Kuomintang president-elect Ma Ying-jeou in Saturday's election over
Democratic Progressive Party contender Frank Hsieh Chang-ting.
Evidently, most voters have placed their hopes on Ma and his party
to bring them a better life, with apparent disregard to the
feasibility of his promised panaceas or how our country's national
status has been and may continue to be sabotaged in international
society. ... In the face of the two-handed strategy of the People's
Republic of China to lure Taiwan investment into the Chinese market
and simultaneously obstructing Taiwan's participation in the world
community, president-elect Ma must devise ways to address Taiwan's
external relations in manner that is pragmatic and also in keeping
with Taiwan's national interests. ...

"A positive sign was Ma's confirmation of his switch to adopt, at
least in form, the long-held position of the DPP that 'Taiwan's
future must be decided by the people of Taiwan' and his affirmation
that Taiwan people deeply desire to be represented in the U.N. But
there are numerous signs that Ma will find bumps on his 'yellow
brick road' to cross-strait peace and prosperity. Ma's first major
external challenge will involve the degree to which he will be
capable of upholding "Taiwan-centric identity" and Taiwan's
sovereignty and independence when he pursues political dialogue with
the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party ruled PRC. ... The KMT
president-elect will also face a stiff challenge in counteracting
Beijing's attempts to swallow up more of Taiwan's remaining 23
official diplomatic partners and intensify Taiwan's isolation.

"Ma's assumption that Beijing would have the 'goodwill' to grant
Taiwan more international respect and space if only Taipei accepts
the 'Consensus of 1992' lacks political reality and constitutes just
one of the 'missing links' that the KMT politician failed to address
honestly during the presidential campaign. Ma should also avoid
being hijacked by the KMT old guard, represented by figures such as
KMT honorary chairman Lien Chan, who favor a kowtowing approach to


Beijing as such an appeasement stance would deprive the KMT
president of any bargaining power in cross-strait consultations as
well as erode his domestic mandate. Ma should also not lock himself
in Taiwan but should follow the example of outgoing President Chen
Shui-bian in utilizing every possible opportunity to highlight
Taiwan's democracy and bolster its foreign relations. Finally, Ma
should never retreat from his acceptance of the principle that only
the Taiwan people have the right to decide their future as this is
the true core value of Taiwan democracy and the bottom line for any
negotiations with Beijing. Ma should be aware that voters will
continue to 'listen to his words and watch his deeds.'

E) "Crossing a Mountain Top"

Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]:

"The transfer of political power for the second time is a necessary
process to consolidate democracy. Ma Ying-jeou's landslide victory
this time has made Taiwan break loose of the shadow of being
governed by an alien regime. As a matter of fact, A-bian should
shoulder seventy percent of the responsibility for the DPP's defeat
in the election, and Ma has eighty percent of the credit for the
KMT's coming back to power again. ...

"The 'long stay' program that Ma started last May has created wonder
with Ma, whose identification with the land of Taiwan and Taiwan
society's acceptance of a president of mainland Chinese origin have
passed the trials step by step. The magic spell that a mainland
Chinese cannot be the president of Taiwan has been broken, and a new
Taiwan identity has emerged. Taiwan's democracy has made a big
stride forward. ..."

F) "Face Taiwan's Mainstream Public Opinion with a Humble Heart"

The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (3/23):

"... Ma Ying-jeou ran far in the lead [in Saturday's presidential
election] garnering 58 percent of the vote, which even surpassed the
54 percent of the vote won by [former President] Lee Teng-hui when
Taiwan held its first direct presidential election twelve years ago.
Ma's election has broken the half-century-old magic spell of ethnic
groups; it has also smashed the myth that nativism is equivalent to
the DPP. The Taiwan people should be very proud of such a
development, which did not come easily, and the achievement is worth
cherishing for the president-elect. The moment of being elected
marks the beginning of a difficult task. In the face of the wound
caused by political antagonism in Taiwan over the past eight years,
the problems the new president will have to face will be much more
and more difficult than he can imagine. ...

"Frank Hsieh lamented in his speech after having learnt of his
defeat that Taiwan's democracy has been walking against the wind all
the time. Hsieh viewed this presidential election as his personal
setback and not the defeat of Taiwan's democracy. This view is
completely accurate; the essence of democracy lies in respecting the
people's choices, and a president elected by the voters represents
the popular desire. The fact that the island is able to undergo the
transfer of power for the second time indicates that Taiwan's
democracy has grown mature. In the future, the transfer of
political power will become a normality of Taiwan's democracy, which
is exactly the most important mechanism to check and balance the
ones in power. ..."

G) "[KMT] Returning to Strategic Ambiguity and Seeking to Get out of
the [Cross-Strait] Quagmire Pragmatically"

Journalist Lin Ting-yao noted in an analysis in the centrist,
pro-KMT "China Times" [circulation: 400,000] (3/24):

"New President-elect Ma Ying-jeou reiterated [the position of] 'one
China with separate interpretations' and said he has no intention of
inviting the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan.
[Ma's] China policy thinking has gradually returned to the line of
'strategic ambiguity' previously held by the KMT government, which
is distinct from the 'strategic clarity' line of 'one China, one
Taiwan' and 'one country on either side of the Taiwan Strait,' as
set up by Chen Shui-bian and the DPP. ... It is evident that Ma has
gradually returned to the KMT's old route of 'strategic ambiguity'
by seeking a mutual consensus amid ambiguity. But the difficulty is
that the cross-Strait relations have been stretched very thin by the
Bian administration. How to rebuild mutual trust across the Taiwan
Strait and whether Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation and China's
Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait will resume
talks, other than the efforts put in by Ma's administration, lie in
Beijing's response."

H) "Breaking the Taiwan Curse; Rebuilding the Taiwan Value"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (3/23):

"... There are three very important constitutional implications to
this [presidential] election. The first is to accomplish 'the
second party turnover,' which means the KMT and the DPP both come
into power and fall out of power because of direct elections. This
is extremely significant regarding the 'consolidation of democracy.'
Second, the KMT's 'full rule,' with the concern of weakness in
'check and balance' however, avoids a constitutional disaster of a
'split government' which was caused inevitably by 'a small president
and big constraint.' Third, this year is the twentieth anniversary
of the lifting of martial law. 'Sons and daughters' who just turned
twenty years old participated in the voting.

"This presidential election can be regarded as 'a choice of Taiwan
values' and 'a redemption for Taiwan values.' The result of the
vote counting smashed three major curses in Taiwan politics, which
are a) the ethnic label; b) the hard fight between unification and
independence; c) a regime from outside. ..."

I) "Improving Relations between Taiwan, China"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (3/23):

"One most urgent task facing Ma Ying-jeou, the president elect, is
to improve relations between Taiwan and China. To be sure, that is
practically the only one thing he must try the best he can to
accomplish in the next four years. Is he up to it? ... Ma condemned
the Chinese suppression in Tibet and said he would consider letting
Taiwan boycott the Beijing Olympics in August. He should
reconsider. And he should do something more. We hope the
president-elect would say he would go to Beijing, just like U.S.
President George W. Bush. The Games are for peace. Even the Dalai
Lama does not oppose, if not outright support, the Beijing Olympics.
If accepted, his trip to Beijing is the best olive branch Taiwan
could extend to China. It will mark the beginning of a real dialogue
across the Taiwan Strait that would set the modus vivendi in place
and usher in a lasting peace in one of the world's flashpoints."

4. U.S. Carriers in the Taiwan Strait

A) "Taiwan, Be Quiet! Commenting on the Power Re-Organizing Under
the U.S.-China Competition after the Referenda"

Yun Cheng, a freelancer focusing on the Taiwan issue, opined in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000] (3/23):

"... The deployment of two aircraft carriers' battle groups is the
first time since the 1996 Taiwan Strait missile crisis. ... It is
unusual that the U.S. comes without invitation and uses the same
amount of force for 'conflict' while nothing happens in the Taiwan
Strait. Why do two aircraft carriers' battle groups come? What
does Taiwan mean to the U.S. interests? ...

"... [U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Timothy] Keating released the
information in a downplayed manner, even said that China 'has had
the posture of surpassing the U.S.' with the purpose of assuring the
bottom line of the U.S. core interests and send the warning. The
standby of two aircraft carriers' battle groups in the Taiwan region
is not for Taiwan's democracy; instead, it is to secure the scope of
the U.S. influence in the West Pacific since the Pacific War and it
is even the obligation of the homeland defense under the U.S.
constitution! Taiwan, be quiet! ...

"A 'quieter Taiwan' is in accordance with the U.S. interests. But
what does it mean by Taiwan's interests? When the U.S. continues
saying that no matter the Republic of China or the so-called Taiwan
is not a 'country' anymore, the DPP, which has demolished the
illusion of ruling the government, cannot respond by scolding that
'who said I am not [a country] at all' or 'I will show you by a
referendum.' The DPP should take this terrible loss as an advantage
to admit its understanding in the past as incomplete, even wrong and
review the meanings in every level again, including the meaning of
the Republic of China to Taiwan, the meaning of Taiwan to the U.S.
Constitution, and Taiwan in the international law. To form a next
stage of the movement theory in accordance with the fact, not on
expectation, is the right way. ..."

B) "Commenting on the Shock of the U.S. Aircraft Carriers"

Cheng Ta-chen, an assistant professor in the International Affairs
and Strategic Studies in Tamkang University, opined in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000] (3/23):

"Before [Taiwan's] presidential election, the U.S. deployed two
aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait region. ... The outside does
not know whether the U.S. and Japan has received concrete
intelligence and make such movement. Undoubtedly, the display of
the U.S. defense force has deterred China at a certain level. The
U.S. and Japan have taken advantage of this opportunity to
demonstrate that the Taiwan Strait is a region where both countries
'are highly concerned.' The stability of the Taiwan Strait is where
two countries' interests lie. The internal [politics of] Taiwan
might overlook the implication. However, the U.S. and Japan's
movement has caused a certain amount of shock in China. ..."

YOUNG

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