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Cablegate: Pro-Green Scholars Critique Ma Ying-Jeou's

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OO RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #0733/01 1491024
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281024Z MAY 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9016
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8310
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 9621
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 9957
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 2705
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 1274
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9552
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 2090
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 6673
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TAIPEI 000733

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL CH TW
SUBJECT: PRO-GREEN SCHOLARS CRITIQUE MA YING-JEOU'S
INAUGURAL ADDRESS

REF: TAIPEI 698

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) Summary: In a recent panel discussion, several
leading pro-Green scholars argued that President Ma
Ying-jeou's May 20 inaugural address and his approach in
general are rooted in the past, turning back to KMT policies
from the early 1990s (when the party was in power) to address
21st century issues. The scholars charged Ma with continuing
to play partisan politics in his speech by attacking rather
than giving any credit to the DPP administration. In their
view, his foreign policy is confused, seeking to expand
international space while simultaneously calling for a
"diplomatic truce" with Beijing. They also maintained that
Ma's cross-Strait approach is naive, making major concessions
to Beijing up front on the assumption that the PRC will
reciprocate out of simple goodwill. When major progress on
fulfilling his lavish campaign promises fails to materialize
in the coming months, Ma will begin to feel the heat from
dissatisfied voters, the Green scholars predicted. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) A group of leading pro-Green scholars sympathetic
to the DPP analyzed KMT President Ma Ying-jeou's May 20
inaugural address and the future of Taiwan politics at a
panel discussion hosted by the Taiwan Thinktank on May 21.
Professor Lo Chih-cheng, Chairman of the Political Science
Department at Soochow University, moderated the discussion.
The four discussants were Vincent Chen (National Chengchi
University), Michael Hsiao (Academia Sinica), Lai I-chung
(Taiwan Thinktank), and Steven Yang (Taiwan Institute of
Economic Research). The following paragraphs summarize some
of the more interesting views presented during the session.

Partisan Politics
-----------------

3. (SBU) Several scholars suggested President Ma Ying-jeou
has not moved beyond the highly partisan politics of the past
several years despite his campaign pledges to promote
political reconciliation and harmony. In his inaugural
address, Ma had nothing good to say about former President
Chen Shui-bian and his administration, instead implying the
DPP was corrupt, incompetent, and even an impediment to
democratic development. This contrasted with President
Chen's 2000 and 2004 inaugural addresses, which had
acknowledged KMT contributions. They maintained that Ma
should have been more gracious and conciliatory, pointing to
at least some of the DPP's major accomplishments, such as
building the High Speed Railway.

The Question of Sovereignty
---------------------------

4. (SBU) In the opinion of the scholars, Ma demeaned
Taiwan's status by avoiding references to sovereignty or
related concepts. For example, Ma talked about Taiwan's
"external relations" without referring to "diplomacy"
(waijiao), a word that implies sovereignty. In addition, he
said Taiwan should strive for "dignity, autonomy, pragmatism,
and flexibility." Several of the academics criticized Ma's
use of the word "autonomy" rather than "sovereignty" as a sop
to Beijing that degrades Taiwan's international status. In
his desire to placate China, Ma showed himself naive,
over-eager, and inconsistent, suggesting at one point that
Taiwan must continue to expand its international space, but
later saying the Taipei should reach a "truce" with Beijing
over diplomatic competition. The scholars argued that this
formulation sends an ambiguous message to Taiwan's allies
about Taipei's commitment to maintain diplomatic
relationships.

5. (SBU) One scholar suggested Ma's approach to foreign
relations indicates a strategic realignment in Taiwan's
priorities. Although Ma emphasized the importance of the
U.S. as Taiwan's major security partner and promised to
strengthen ties with the U.S., he made no mention of the
relationship with Japan, Taiwan's other major ally. The DPP

TAIPEI 00000733 002 OF 003


had focused on the U.S.-Japan-Taiwan relationship vis-a-vis
China, but Ma's silence on Japan suggests he is thinking in
terms of a U.S.-China-Taiwan trilateral relationship.

Things Left Unsaid...
---------------------

6. (SBU) One scholar suggested the most positive elements of
Ma's speech were things he left unsaid. For example, Ma did
not mention his controversial cross-Strait common market
proposal, nor did he reiterate past statements suggesting
that he would de-emphasize the maintenance of diplomatic
relationships. He also discussed Taiwan's international
relations before taking up cross-Strait affairs. Raising the
issue in reverse order would have implied Taiwan's
subservience to China in its external affairs.

...And Words Mistranslated
--------------------------

7. (SBU) The academics criticized the official English
translation of Ma's address, arguing that it distorted the
meaning of the original text at several important points.
Most notably, Ma stated at one point in his speech that
Taiwan is concerned for the welfare of "Chinese compatriots,"
a passage that reads as the "people of mainland China" in the
English text. Ma also referred to those living on both sides
of the Strait as belonging to "one Chinese nation," (zhonghua
minzu) a phrase that is translated into English as people
sharing a "common Chinese heritage." The Chinese version is
notable for using words that are conciliatory toward Beijing,
while the English text, aimed at the Western audience, is
more neutral.

Honeymoon Over?
---------------

8. (SBU) One academic argued that Ma's inaugural address
showed he is out of touch with the views of Taiwan's people
and unprepared to deal with the realities of the island's
domestic and external political conditions. Ma made no
mention of Taiwan identity in his speech, despite the
important social trend of increasing Taiwan identity over the
past eight years. Ma, who also failed to mention the need to
reform the KMT in his speech, has been separating himself
from the party to the greatest extent possible to protect his
image. This risks exacerbating tensions within the party as
factions continue to compete for influence. Ma's
"honeymoon," which lasted from March 22 to his inauguration
on May 20, is now over, one Green scholar concluded.

Lowering Economic Expectations
------------------------------

9. (SBU) Ma's inaugural speech was short on economic policy
specifics, which had been a central theme during the
campaign. Some of the scholars suggested Ma now understood
he had exaggerated the extent of Taiwan's economic problems
during the campaign. Others observed he may now want to
lower expectations, realizing his various economic programs
would have only a limited effect on the economic situation.
One economist suggested the Ma administration will need to
take a pragmatic approach to address economic difficulties
caused by weak domestic demand resulting from stagnant wages,
slackening export growth due to currency appreciation, the
global market downturn, and rising fuel and commodity prices.
Ma's plan to spur domestic consumption through
infrastructure development is generally sound, but the key
will be setting priorities and financing the projects.

10. (SBU) Ma has given away Taiwan's bargaining leverage
early on with no guarantees that Beijing will respond in
kind, the Green scholars said, and he has overestimated the
effect that weekend charter flights and expanding mainland
tourism will have on reducing cross-Strait tension. Ma's
approach to cross-Strait negotiations is predicated on
acceptance of the "1992 Consensus," which has failed to
result in major breakthroughs in the past owing to China's
unwillingness to recognize any interpretation of "one China"

TAIPEI 00000733 003 OF 003


other than its own. When cross-Strait developments fail to
meet expectations in the next six months, public opinion will
begin to turn on Ma, the Green scholars predicted.

Comment
-------

11. (SBU) These pro-Green scholars represent a significant
segment of Taiwan opinion, which worries that KMT steps to
enhance cross-Strait relations could compromise efforts they
support to strengthen Taiwan's separate identity.
Consequently, Ma's cross-Strait policies will be constrained
in the coming months and years by a need to take into account
the views of this important subset of the population.
WANG

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