Cablegate: Media Reaction: The Sichuan Earthquake in China; Burma
DE RUEHIN #0669/01 1350921
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140921Z MAY 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8922
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8267
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9510
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000669
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 SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE IN CHINA; BURMA
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage May 14 on the rescue efforts in the Sichuan earthquake in
China. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" tried to shed lights on the
"rise of China" from the Chinese government's response to various
incidents, including the Tibetan uprising and the Sichuan
earthquake. An op-ed in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times"
commented that the manner in which China manages the Sichuan
earthquake affects how its global image will be shaped and how
cross-Strait relations will develop in the future. A column in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" criticized the Burmese government's
ruthlessness and speculated on the possibility of "regime change"
with the delivery of humanitarian aid from the United States
military. End summary.
2. The Sichuan Earthquake
A) "A Natural Disaster Challenges the Chinese Communists' Capability
Chen Hsin-chih, Associate Professor in the Department of Political
Science at Taiwan's National Cheng Kung University, opined in the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000] (5/14):
"Mainland China has suffered major natural disasters within a short
period of time, including the snowstorm in central China at the
beginning of this year and the current earthquake in Wenchuan county
of Sichuan Province. The Beijing Olympics, which starts its
countdown soon, will also face challenges that affect national
dignity. However, judging from appearances so far, unexpected
natural disasters do not impede the Mainland China's normalization
of relations with neighboring countries. The Mainland China
authorities' transparency, being swift in releasing the news, is
also fresh and new to people and demonstrates its image of being a
big country with confidence. The way [in which China] handles [the
Sichuan earthquake] is not the same way in which [China] handled the
Tangshan Earthquake [in 1976] 32 years ago. A China that is
confident and consolidating its strength will bring new
opportunities and challenges to cross-Strait relations. ...
"Mainland China still faces a bottleneck in that its infrastructure
is not sufficient and its integral quality needs to be improved.
For a long time, even though it is going to pompously hold the
Beijing Olympic Games in the near future, the Chinese Communists
from time to time face unexpected and challenging natural disasters.
If Mainland China works through a series of internal and external
challenges, a Chinese Communists regime with capability and high
confidence will be a respectable opponent in cross-Strait
negotiations in the future. Let us prepare well and wait and see."
B) "Talk About the Rise of China From the Sichuan Earthquake"
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... [China] blocked all information on the conditions during the
Tangshan Earthquake [in 1976] and only released the official
estimate of the death toll, amounting to 240,000, three years later.
Comparing with the previous time, it is definitely totally
different that [China] shows the condition of the [Sichuan
earthquake] on TV and releases estimates of casualties from time to
time. From [way in which China] blocked news of the Tangshan
Earthquake to the open handling of the Sichuan earthquake reveals
"The Tibetan incident [in March] is relatively thorny to the Beijing
regime. The casualties of an earthquake can be revealed by
statistical numbers. The rift in the Tibetan society cannot be
measured, however. ... If China's open release of information on
the [Sichuan] earthquake is regarded as [China's] willingness to
receive internal and external comments, however, [China's] inability
to explain the incidents in Tibet from the beginning to the end
demonstrates that [China] has not found a resolution that is
convincing both inside and outside [China]. The information control
during the incident in Tibet is like the management of the Tangshan
Earthquake. Making information on the Sichuan earthquake public
demonstrates that the response of [China's] civil society and the
[Chinese] government to contingencies have reached certain
standards. Based on these, on the road to 'the rise of China,'
various political shackles that the Chinese Communist regime has
imposed on its government and civilians will have to be liberated,
one after the other, in the future. ..."
"Burma Might Face Regime Change"
Tu Nien-chung wrote in his weekly column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000] (5/14):
"... United States Pacific Commander Admiral Timothy Keating has
arrived in Rangoon with the first [United States] Air Force
transport aircraft. Keating's purpose is definitely not limited to
[providing] aid [to the Burmese victims in Cyclone Nargis]. He will
negotiate with the [Burmese] junta on how to expand the role of the
United States military in [humanitarian] relief in Burma. The
United States has an embassy in Burma and is able to negotiate with
the Burmese government on aid. This time, the large force of the
United States threatens the [Burmese] border and the Commander
[Admiral Keating] visits in person. Although in the name of relief,
it is in fact tantamount to the gunboat diplomacy, which is
extremely out of the ordinary.
"The disaster of the cyclone reveals the Burmese junta's
incompetence and the way it treats civilians as mere pawns. There
are 100,000 deaths and two million people destitute and homeless.
Also, with the breakout of diseases and the soaring of commodity
prices, the internal and external contradictions in Burma will
likely become an upheaval. If an external force receives
coordination within the country, it is afraid that the junta will be
kept constantly on the run and fail to cope in the end. The
possibility of regime change in Burma surfaces as well."