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

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0488/01 0980954
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 070954Z APR 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8640
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8139
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9377

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000488

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: U.S.-CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS


Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
April 4-7 news coverage on vice president-elect Vincent Siew's
planned meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Boao Forum
on Hainan Island (China) from April 11-13; on president-elect Ma
Ying-jeou's possible visit to the United States, and on Ma's new
cross-Strait policies. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an
editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" discussed Ma's
requested U.S. trip and Siew's China trip and possible developments
in Washington-Beijing-Taipei relations. Editorials in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" and pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" both hailed Siew's upcoming visit with
Chinese President Hu Jintao, calling it a "win-win" situation for
both sides of the Taiwan Strait. A separate "United Daily News"
op-ed called the upcoming meeting between Siew and Hu a gamble by Ma
against Washington and Beijing. An analysis in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" said a window of opportunity has opened
for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resume talks. An op-ed in
the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times," written by a
former American official, commented on U.S.-Taiwan relations and
said unhappiness with President Chen Shui-bian "has served to
disguise disagreement among senior U.S. policymakers and a general
hardening in views about Taiwan." A separate "Taipei Times" op-ed,
on the other hand, said Ma's U.S. trip has sparked controversy. End
summary.

A) "[Ma Ying-jeou's] U.S. Trip and [Vincent Siew's] China Trip Are
the Same Issue"

The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
editorialized (4/7):

"Ma Ying-jeou has yet to assume the presidency, but he cannot wait
to promote his foreign policy. Vincent Siew's trip to China and
Ma's trip to the United States are [moves] in the same chess game,
so there is no need to view them separately. Ma's camp has long
been aware that the Ma-Siew ticket would be elected, so they have
started arranging the pair's visits overseas on the quiet; [the
arrangement was that] Ma would visit the United States, and Siew
would go to China. The best scenario [for such an arrangement]
would be that both Washington and Beijing agree to Ma's and Siew's
visits, which would be the biggest gift for their inauguration. The
worst scenario, however, would be that neither Washington nor
Beijing agrees. [Should that happen,] Ma's camp has nothing to
lose; they have at least extended their goodwill gesture to the two
major countries which have the power to dominate Taiwan's future.

"A scenario somewhere in between is more complicated. If Washington
agrees [to Ma's trip] while Beijing says no [to Siew's visit], it
would at least not be too difficult for Ma's camp to justify itself
to their supporters. The United States is, in any case, Taiwan's
long-term protector; if Washington accepts Ma's [visit], it will
reinforce his mandate, a situation that would be a bonus for Ma.
But should Beijing say yes [to Siew's visit] while Washington turns
down Ma's request, there will be two major points of concern for
Ma's camp: Namely, Ma will feel worried that there will be rumors
saying he is going to sell out Taiwan; also, Washington's suspicion
that he is tilting toward China will make him uneasy.

"The fact that Ma suddenly expressed in public his interest in
visiting the United States before his inauguration was akin to
telling the Taiwan people that he loves Taiwan and attaches great
importance to the United States. His additional purpose was to help
purify Siew's China trip in advance and to lay bare his heart to
Washington, which will in return feel that it owes him a favor in
public. Washington has used every excuse to procrastinate on giving
a clear answer regarding Ma's visit to the United States. China, on
the other hand, quickly and joyfully accepted Siew's visit. It is
obvious that Beijing feels urgency to draw close to Ma's camp. ...
"But there will be many variables regarding the interaction among
the three sides in the future. Sandwiched between two major
countries, Ma's camp can only take one step at a time and react to
whatever happens next. ..."

B) "Hu [Jintao] and [Vincent] Siew to Meet at the Boao Forum:
Realizing the Win-Win Situation amid Transformation!"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (4/7):

"... We truly hope that Hu Jintao and Vincent Siew can formally meet
each other at this year's Boao Forum, unveiling a 'Hu-Siew
meeting/new era' for both sides of the Taiwan Strait or even
establishing a foundation for a '2008 cross-Strait consensus.' In
fact, both Hu and Siew are the best choice to unveil this new era.
... We are willing to believe that Hu and Siew, as judged from
their personalities, are capable of being the leading exponents of
'transformation' for both sides of the Taiwan Strait and the people
who can be trusted to push for a 'win-win' situation across the
Strait. As a result, Taipei and Beijing are perhaps still taking a

guarded attitude toward the Boao Forum to test the waters, but we
expect both sides not to waste this wonderful pivotal opportunity
and to strive to create something as lofty as the '2008 cross-Strait
Boao consensus.' ..."

C) "Hu-Siew Meeting -- Ma [Ying-jeou's] Gambling with the United
States and China"

Shih Chien University Dean of Student Affairs Lai Yueh-tchienn
opined in the pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation:
400,000] (4/7):

"... Since Vincent Siew must first obtain Ma Ying-jeou's approval
for his trip to Hainan Island, Siew is practically a proxy for Ma.
The writer personally believes that [Siew's trip] can be viewed as a
counterpoint to [Washington's] reaction to Ma's request for a U.S.
trip; namely, it is a gamble by Ma between Washington and Beijing.
After his election, Ma hopes to improve [Taiwan's] relations with
the U.S. government so as to increase his bargaining chips during
[Taiwan's future] talks with Beijing. Ma thus chose the strategy of
extending a goodwill gesture to Washington by handing over his
strategic initiative and letting Washington decide whether to accept
Ma's request of a U.S. trip. Ma was consequently stuck in a dilemma
of passivity. In the face of Washington's inactive attitude, Ma
changed his direction by going from Taipei through Beijing to
Washington. Ma probably believes that, once he breaks through
Washington, he will be able to travel to Tokyo, Paris, London,
Berlin and Brussels. ...

"Opening a door to Ma and Siew will possibly create an opportunity
and climate for [Beijing] to hold its Olympics smoothly. Such
benefits are enormous. Even though such a decision will likely
change the U.S. government's original attitude toward Ma, still,
when comparing the two, a smooth Olympics outweighs Ma's U.S. trip
after all. Similarly, Washington may also open its doors to Ma
because Beijing allows Siew to visit. The move might help
Washington get Ma's promise of the U.S. arms package in return, and
such benefits will be tremendous for the U.S. administration which
will step down at the end of this year. Consequently, should Ma and
Siew be able to visit the United States and China, respectively, the
benefits for them will be huge as well. ..."

D) "The Window of Opportunity Has Silently Opened for Both Sides of
the Taiwan Strait to Resume Talks"

Journalist Wang Ming-yi noted in an analysis in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000] (4/6):

"... Hu Jintao's specific policy announcement [on the 1992
consensus] was, without a doubt, a declaration to the world that
both sides of the Taiwan Strait are about to walk out of the
political stalemate. Now Beijing's warm welcome extended to Vincent
Siew to attend the Boao Forum has again proved that Hu's policy
thinking has completely gone beyond the traditional framework of
China's Taiwan policy, and he has instead adopted a flexible and
pragmatic policy. Under pressure from severe challenges coming both
internally and externally, Hu continued to adopt a pragmatic
approach, resolve the deadlock of the '1992 consensus', and create a
new chapter of dialogue with the new Ma-Siew administration. This
is, without a doubt, a 'window of opportunity' for both sides of the
Taiwan Strait to resume talks. It is also advantageous timing for
both sides to put aside their disputes, pragmatically re-open talks
on various issues, and construct a new framework for cross-Strait
relations."

E) "Boao Forum Paves the Way for a Cross-Strait Common Market"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (4/7):

"The best news in Taiwan after Ma Ying-jeou's landslide victory in
the presidential election on March 22 is his running mate Vincent
Siew's scheduled visit to Boao on Hainan Island to meet with Chinese
president Hu Jintao this coming weekend. ... Perhaps it might have
been offered as a consolation prize after Beijing successfully
opposed Ma Ying-jeou's loudly announced plan to visit the United
States as president-elect. At any rate, Siew should take the
opportunity to help Hu Jintao better understand the man who will be
sworn in as president on May 20. ... We do wish Vincent Siew every
success at Boao. His success will pave the way for the long-awaited
detente between Taiwan and China."

F) "Change is Hard in Taiwan and US"

Kurt Campbell, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Center
for a New American Security, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (4/4):

" Ma has made it amply clear that he wants a fundamentally better

formal relationship between Taiwan and China. Ma has articulated a
perfectly reasonable set of guidelines for how to conduct economic
and political relations with Beijing that should, at least in
theory, be far more welcome to China. However, in recent years,
China's cross-strait policy has been notable for its lack of
flexibility. It is not clear whether China's secretive leaders are
prepared to take a variation on 'yes' for an answer, particularly
after the most recent upheavals in Tibet. Chinese leaders and
diplomats have not demonstrated any facility for flexibility when it
comes to Taiwan lately and there are indications that at least some
of the key actors in the Politburo would prefer to keep the pressure
on Taiwan.

"Ma and his associates probably anticipate at least some of the
diplomatic stubbornness that likely lies ahead in relations with
China, but he will probably be surprised by an unfortunate
continuity in US policy toward Taiwan. As is well known, Taiwan-US
relations have hit a low point in recent years and there are broad
hopes in some quarters that under Ma's administration, Taiwan-US
relations will revive - perhaps even substantially. However, too
much is made of the role that Chen played in the recent downturn in
relations. The truth is, despite the fact that most of the blame for
current troubles was placed on Chen and his advisers, the US shares
the responsibility. Like on most other issues of real consequence
in foreign policy, the Bush team has been far from united on the
issue of Taiwan. Unhappiness with Chen has served to disguise
disagreement among senior US policymakers and a general hardening of
views about Taiwan.

"A desire to avoid problems with China given US preoccupations and
difficulties elsewhere is palpable in US thinking. Privately, the
incoming policymakers in Taiwan are hoping for a better relationship
with Washington, including higher level contacts, public
acknowledgement and appreciation for Taiwan's contributions, and
even overt military planning in the case of contingencies. However,
it's far from clear whether the Bush administration wants much
beyond Taiwanese quiescence in its actions and utterances. It is
possible that despite Taiwanese hopes for better relations with
Washington and Beijing there are powerful forces that favor a
certain degree of continuity in these key relationships. This turn
of events is likely to be deeply discouraging for Taiwan. The hope,
however, is that leaders in Beijing and Washington will appreciate
the significance of the outcome of the Taiwanese presidential
election and will take full advantage of the opportunities that lie
ahead."

G) "Ma's Dream of Visiting US Sparks Controversy"

Liu Shih-chung, vice chairman of the Research and Planning Committee
at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (4/6):

"... In his telephone conversation with Bush, Chinese President Hu
Jintao reportedly said Beijing could accept the so-called '1992
consensus,' under which each side of the Taiwan Strait should be
allowed to have its own definition of 'one China.' But does Hu's
spurious gesture of 'goodwill' translate into Chinese approval for
Taiwan's newly elected president to visit Washington at such a
sensitive juncture? ...

"Ma's diplomatic maneuvering reflects his double standard concerning
the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration's foreign
policy. During his election campaign, Ma accused the DPP of being
confrontational and a trouble-maker on the international front, and
especially concerning relations with the US and China. ... If that
is true, wouldn't Ma's attempt to visit Japan and the US risk
raising Beijing's hackles too? How does he intend to make peace
with Beijing and win more international space for Taiwan if Chinese
authorities find his actions as provoking as Chen's?"

YOUNG

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