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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Performance of the Ma Ying-Jeou

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0875/01 1720656
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 200656Z JUN 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9237
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8388
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9617

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000875

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: PERFORMANCE OF THE MA YING-JEOU
ADMINISTRATION


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused June 20
news coverage on President Ma Ying-jeou's nomination of Examination
Yuan members Thursday, on approval ratings for the one-month-old Ma
administration, and on new developments in cross-Strait relations.
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" ran an exclusive news story on
page three with the headline "The United States Will Not Decide on
Its Arms Sales to Taiwan before the Olympic Games." The
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times," a sister paper of
the "Liberty Times" front-paged a banner headline reading "U.S. Arms
Decision [i.e., to delay the processing of the arms procurement
package to Taiwan] Made Last Christmas."

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "Liberty Times"
editorial criticized the poor performance of the Ma Ying-jeou
administration and said the administration is distancing itself from
the United States and Japan in order to appease China. An editorial
in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" also
criticized the Ma administration's move to freeze arms procurement
from the United States, saying it has compromised Taiwan's
self-defense capabilities and taken away Taiwan's bargaining chips
in negotiating with China. An editorial in the pro-unification
"United Daily News," on the other hand, spelt out both the
achievements and challenges facing the one-month-old KMT
administration. End summary.

A) "The Ma Administration Has Taken the Wrong Path of 'Leaning
toward China While Distancing Itself from the United States and
Japan'"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
editorialized (6/20):

"...In terms of Taiwan's sovereignty and foreign relations, [the Ma
administration] has shifted from Taiwan's previous position of
standing by the Western democratic camp to leaning closer to China.
[The Ma administration's moves in leaning toward China] include the
[launch of the] direct charter flights, opening up Taiwan to
mainland Chinese tourists, suspending arms procurements from the
United States, and [its attitude during the] dispute between Taiwan
and Japan over the Tiaoyutai Islands. Also, in order to engage with
China, [Ma] recognized the fabricated 1992 consensus and did not
hesitate to incur self-humiliation by giving up his capacity as
President and calling himself 'Mr. Ma [when he meets with the
visiting Chairman of China's Association for Relations across the
Taiwan Strait this fall].' Such phenomena demonstrated clearly that
the Ma administration has taken the path of 'leaning toward China
while distancing itself from the United States and Japan.' In fact,
the United States and Japan have both expressed their grave concern
over the Ma administration's direction. Japanese media even pointed
out that Taiwan and China might plot together to incite nationalism,
betray its long-term allies and throw itself to its potential major
enemy. Will [such a development] conform to Taiwan's security and
interests? ..."

B) "Wanted: a Government with Backbone"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (6/20):

"... The Ma administration has, in record time, managed to denigrate
the nation's sovereignty and the standing of its leader while
ingratiating itself to China, all in return for a few minor economic
rewards from Beijing. But a new low was reached last week when it
was revealed that it was the government that requested the US
government halt some US$12 billion in arms sales, although now it
appears the scene was set several months before Ma took office.
Notwithstanding the vast amounts of money Beijing is investing in
improving its war machine, it is a safe bet that many voters did not
believe a total freeze was what Ma meant when he promised 'not to
engage in an arms race with China' ahead of the presidential
election. ...

"Volunteering to put a halt to arms procurement - when a great deal
of uncertainty exists over the future of the sales - was a
shortsighted, reckless move that could have serious ramifications.
The KMT, as an opposition party, was responsible for a delay of
several years for many of the items on the shopping list. Should
the delay continue until a new president takes up residence in the
White House, the US may decide to make it permanent. This may seem
implausible, but there is legitimate concern as Taipei cuddles ever
closer to China that advanced US military technology may eventually
fall into Chinese hands. Add to this the fact that the KMT has
already ganged up with the Chinese Communist Party to marginalize
the independence movement, and the question follows: What's to stop
the KMT throwing in its chips with a rising China in the battle
against the world's only superpower? ..."

C) "A Month Has Passed Since the KMT Returned to Power and the DPP
ADMINISTRATION

Stepped down"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (6/20):

"... General speaking, the major achievements of the one-month-old
KMT administration are: First, [Taiwan people] have a clearer
national identity; ethnic antagonism has gradually cooled down; and
the constitutional system has stabilized. The foundation for a more
serene and peaceful society has emerged amid various noises on the
surface. Second, [the launch of] direct transportation across the
Taiwan Strait and the wrestling [between Taiwan and Japan] over the
Tiaoyutai Islands have either created or will likely create
significant changes to the ... four-sided relationship among
'Taiwan, the United States, Japan and China.' From now on, if the
Taiwan-centric status can be underlined and become more flexible,
'cross-Strait [relations]' and 'Taipei-Washington-Beijing
[relations]' will not have to be treated separately, and instead,
'Taipei-Washington-Tokyo-Beijing' [relations] can be viewed as one
single chess game. On top of that, the major challenges that the
KMT administration is facing are: given the pressure of oil price
hikes and inflation, how is it going to realize [the ideal of] an
equal and economically prosperous society, and how can it move from
such a basis toward playing a role as a 'Pacific-Asia platform' both
economically and politically.

YOUNG

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