Cablegate: Media Reaction: President Ma Ying-Jeou's Inaugural Speech
DE RUEHIN #0704/01 1421202
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211202Z MAY 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8976
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8293
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9535
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000704
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: PRESIDENT MA YING-JEOU'S INAUGURAL SPEECH
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies gave
significant news reporting and editorial coverage May 21 to
President Ma Ying-jeou's inauguration ceremony and his inaugural
speech Tuesday, in which he emphasized that both sides across the
Taiwan Strait will resume dialogue based on the "1992 consensus."
The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" ran a banner headline on
page five which said "[Ma's Camp Has] Communicated with the United
States over the Draft of [Ma's] Inaugural Speech, but It Has Not
Been Reviewed by the United States." The pro-unification "United
Daily News" front-paged an opinion survey, which showed Ma with a 66
percent approval rating after he was sworn in Tuesday.
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" criticized Ma for failing to
mention Taiwan's sovereignty in his inaugural speech and said Taiwan
will embark on an "irreversible journey of being united by China."
An editorial in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei
Times" said "a crossroads is approaching, and the KMT must decide
whether it wishes to promote Taiwanese interests or act as a proxy
for a foreign government that quietly despises it." An editorial in
the pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" also feared
that Ma will not lead Taiwan forward to the future but will drag its
hard-won democracy back into the past. An analysis in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" said Ma's inaugural speech indicated that
he had taken the strategic high ground by especially emphasizing the
U.S. in order to counterbalance China's military and economic power.
An editorial in the pro-unification "United Daily News" hailed Ma's
inaugural speech as having revived Taiwan's internal recognition of
"the Republic of China" and urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to
recognize the reality of the existence of "the Republic of China."
An editorial in the conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" expressed high hopes for Ma and said that Ma "will be
able to rally all the people of Taiwan behind him to usher in a new
era of prosperity." End summary.
A) "A Taiwan That Is Ripped off of Its Sovereignty Will Embark on
the Irreversible Journey of Being Unified [by China]"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
"... President Ma's inaugural speech discussed a wide range of
issues, but throughout the entire speech, he never mentioned a word
about Taiwan's sovereignty. He even firmly believes that 'in
resolving cross-Strait issues, what matters is not sovereignty but
core values and way of life. Was Ma implying that that were other
core values more important than that Taiwan is a sovereign nation?
... The Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan right now is nothing but
a shell company for an alien regime in Taiwan. Not only does the
ROC not possess Taiwan's sovereignty, but it is also a big barrier
against Taiwan becoming a normal country. President Ma came up with
the incorrect discourse on 'one China with respective
interpretations' because of his lack of an accurate understanding of
historical facts. ...
"China enacted the Anti-Secession Law in 2005, which incorporates
[the idea that] 'Taiwan is part of China' as its domestic law and
thus makes it a plain fact that there is no room for respective
interpretation under the one-China principle. This incidence also
indicated that the key to the final resolution of cross-Strait
issues lies in the controversy over [Taiwan's] sovereignty, and the
source of such a controversy is that Taiwan is a sovereign state,
but China is keen on suppressing Taiwan's status as a sovereign
nation, and it intends to annex Taiwan using military intimidation
and economic united front tactics. President Ma [seeks to] rip
Taiwan off of its sovereignty and is bent on significant opening [of
Taiwan's market] and puts his hope for [the island's] economic
revival on measures such as [easing the bans on] direct
transportation and visits of Chinese tourists. Even though Ma
claimed that 'unification with China was not likely within our
lifetimes,' there are chances that Taiwan will follow Ma's line and
embark on the irreversible journey of 'being unified' [by China].
This was why President Ma's inaugural speech worries
B) "Ma Ying-jeou: Crossroads President"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (5/21):
" Following his 'no unification, no independence, no use of force'
campaign pledge, President Ma Ying-jeou told The Associated Press
recently that unification with China was not likely 'within our
lifetimes,' an extraordinary comment that discredits the narrative
of detente that haunts credulous media coverage of cross-strait
Hopes for the acceleration of cross-strait cooperation with a view
to a peace deal are likely to be dashed if China is unwilling to
fall into step with Ma's realistic assessment. But a human lifetime
is an eternity in geopolitics: It is ludicrous to think that
Beijing would indefinitely tolerate a Taiwanese agenda rooted in
this assumption. A crossroads is approaching, and the KMT must
decide whether it wishes to promote Taiwanese interests or act as a
proxy for a foreign government that quietly despises it. ...
"Ma's undertaking to improve relations with the US is welcome and
necessary, though it should be stressed that a lot of the practical
damage to that relationship was the doing of Ma's colleagues in the
KMT. On substantial matters such as weapons sales, Ma has an
opportunity to use his party influence to strike deals with a
KMT-dominated legislature. However, KMT figureheads such as
Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng are not
going to lie down to do the Presidential Office's bidding, even on
matters of obvious benefit to the nation. Ma must also overcome the
profound hostility toward the US that remains among hardline KMT
legislators, as well as battle the notorious kickback culture of the
Legislative Yuan. ...
"Ma has not been seriously tested as a high official, and as a loyal
KMT man, he has rarely had to live up to the highest of public
expectations. But no one should be under any illusions: These tests
are coming. It will only be a short time before Ma begins to feel
the pressure from Beijing, KMT hardliners and ordinary Taiwanese to
deliver results. These are incompatible agendas, and Ma's customary
kneejerk responses when under heavy political pressure would
exacerbate problems rather than deflect them. Now is the time for
Ma to be his own man, stare down his party rivals and implement an
agenda that upholds the living standards and freedoms afforded by a
sovereign, democratic state, as well as rallying people who share
these goals around him."
C) "Ma Begins Road with Step back"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (5/21):
"In his inaugural address yesterday, Kuomintang President Ma
Ying-jeou declared that he was ready to lead Taiwan into a 'new era'
that will bring political reconciliation and ethnic harmony, clean
governance, economic liberalization, social progress and peaceful
cross-strait relations with the People's Republic of China.
However, the content of Ma's woodenly delivered speech served to
deepen concerns that his presidency and the restored KMT 'complete
governance' will not lead Taiwan to 'open our arms to the future'
but drag our hard-won democracy back into the past. ...
"Ma's failure to reaffirm the right of the Taiwan people to decide
their own destiny is therefore a fundamental negation of the Taiwan
democracy which he praised at the end of his speech. Another aspect
that was regretfully absent was any reference to how to safeguard
Taiwan's national security, collective interests and the social
security of our 23 million people in the process of promoting
'reconciliation and co-prosperity' with the authoritarian PRC and
the implicit authoritarian position that such concerns should not be
discussed or the dangerously naive assumption that security problems
did not even exist in Taiwan-PRC relations. ...
"Ma's call for a 'truce' between Taipei and Beijing is an exercise
in wishful thinking, as has been discussed on numerous occasions,
but the more serious aspect is the new president's evident intent to
exaggerate his electoral victory into a blank check to adopt a
'China-centric' ideology and as a mandate to enter into a
'co-prosperity' sphere with the unstable and inequitable PRC
economy. By unfairly completely negating the record of the DPP
government, the KMT leader lost an opportunity to demonstrate a
statesman-like rationality and pragmatic tolerance through offering
a more balanced evaluation of the DPP's experience and instead
delivered a ringing insult to the opposition party and to the 5.44
million people who cast their ballots for Hsieh on March 22. ..."
D) "Ma's Strategic Thinking of Befriending the United States to
Journalist Lin Ting-yao noted in an analysis in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000] (5/21):
"Judging both from the contents of Ma Ying-jeou's inaugural speech
on May 20 and his itinerary that day for receiving foreign VIPs,
they all manifested a special signal: Namely, the Ma administration
paid more and unusual attention to its ally, the United States, than
to the goodwill gesture it extended to Beijing. ... If one wants to
interpret Ma's inaugural speech precisely, one needs to scrutinize
the cross-Strait relations under the light of international
situation. Ma started out [his elaborations on the cross-Strait
relations] from his insistence on what is best for Taiwan and for
its people, and he is aiming at the global market, not just the
Chinese market, to which he will eventually open Taiwan. ...
"At the current stage, it is Ma who is making all the moves,
dictating the cross-Strait issues and awaiting Beijing's responses.
But the hidden concern is, as a Chinese scholar specializing in
Taiwan affairs indicated, that 'this is creating a difficult problem
for Beijing. Now, in order to enlarge Taiwan's elbow room in the
international community, Ma has again tossed off [the idea of]
'reconciliation and truce' to Beijing. Unlike the DPP's order in
calling for 'dignity, security, and prosperity' [for Taiwan], Ma
adjusted it and said [Taiwan] wants 'security, prosperity and also
dignity.' His re-assertion of [Taiwan's] dignity will surely create
another headache for the other side of the Taiwan Strait. The fact
that Ma took the international strategic high ground to
counterbalance China's military and economic strength by befriending
the United States deserved affirmation. But Beijing definitely will
see [Ma's intention] and as a result, even though Ma has assumed
presidency, it remains to be seen as to whether spring will arrive
for cross-Strait relations."
E) "The New Birth of Taiwan Is Established on the Rebirth of the
Republic of China"
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... [Taiwan's] President Ma Ying-jeou and [Chinese] President Hu
Jintao both used the term 'historical opportunity' to describe the
current time and circumstances that both sides across the Strait are
in. Both [Ma and Hu] should have known clearly that, as [this
article] described above, this presidential election [in Taiwan held
in March] is as good as letting Taiwan's voters save the Republic of
China from the hand of [former Taiwan President] Chen Shui-bian, who
cursed that 'the Republic of China' has died. Therefore, it will
only be when Ma is able to create 'the regeneration of the Republic
of China' in the future and Hu respects 'the 1992 consensus, one
China with respective interpretations' that the Taiwan voters
standing in front of ballot boxes will be willing to support the
political identification and cross-Strait policy of the Republic of
China. If 'the Republic of China' cannot be maintained,
cross-Strait relations will be difficult to maintain as well. If
both authorities across the Strait have this recognition, then they
will know that the two slogans in the end of Ma's speech yesterday,
which Ma said 'long live Taiwan's democracy and long live the
Republic of China!' might echo with each other. In fact, a normal
relationship between both sides across the Strait has to be built
upon a normal relationship between 'Taiwan's democracy' and 'the
Republic of China.' When 'the Republic of China' loses the support
of 'Taiwan's democracy', cross-Strait relations will definitely go
off. This is a difficult problem for Ma, and a realization Hu
should have. ..."
F) "Ma Breathes a New Life into Taiwan"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (5/21):
"... With Ma at the helm of the state, Taiwan ceases to be a
flashpoint of the world. Ma isn't a trouble-maker like President
Chen, who provoked China with his brinksmanship by pushing for
Taiwan independence to win elections for the Democratic Progressive
Party. Mutual trust between Taipei and Washington may be
re-established with the change of government. Relations between
Taiwan and China are expected to improve after Ma begins calling the
shots in Taipei. For starters, he called on Chinese President Hu
Jintao to resume dialogue between Taipei and Beijing on the basis of
the consensus of 1992, under which both acknowledge there is but one
China, whose connotation can be orally and individually expressed.
"With his inauguration, President Ma will be able to rally all the
people of Taiwan behind him to usher in a new era of prosperity.
Taiwan brought an economic miracle of the Twentieth Century. There
is no reason why the people with their 'Taiwan spirit' can't work
hard together under him to rewrite a new page in history. The way
to prosperity isn't strewn with roses. Plenty of obstacles lie
ahead. They can be removed if the people, who have a new unity of
purpose, join hands to get things done. Ma is working to get that
unity of purpose. People have faith in him. He has inspired them
to work for a better future, not just for Taiwan but for the other
side of the Strait as well."