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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's Foreign Relations, Cross-Strait

VZCZCXYZ0009
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0987/01 1900903
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 080903Z JUL 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9427
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8423
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9654

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000987

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: TAIWAN'S FOREIGN RELATIONS, CROSS-STRAIT
RELATIONS

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
July 8 news coverage on the commodity prices hike in Taiwan; on the
controversy over the construction of the Suhua Freeway; and on the
screening process of the Examination Yuan candidates nominated by
President Ma Ying-jeou. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a
column in the pro-unification "United Daily News" discussed the
prospect of President Ma's planned visit to Paraguay and his
possible transit stop in the United States in August. The article
questioned the substantive interests such "transit diplomacy" will
create for Taiwan. An editorial in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" expressed its
optimism about the closer links between Taiwan and China. An
editorial in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times,"
however, warned Ma not to become China's tool and act in China's
interests rather than Taiwan's. An editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" also criticized the
Ma Administration's hasty cross-Strait policy, saying it lacks an
overall strategy to ensure Taiwan's benefits and national security.
End summary.

2. Taiwan's Foreign Relations

"President Ma Going onto the Diplomatic Frontline?"

New York correspondent Jeremy Fu wrote in the "United Notes" column
of the pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
(7/8):

"Taipei is planning for President Ma Ying-jeou's visit to Central
and South America in August. Before the diplomatic truce across the
Taiwan Strait is finally realized, perhaps there is need for Taipei
to push for 'head-of-state diplomacy' at this moment to secure its
relations with its allies that are on the verge of switching
diplomatic recognition [to Beijing]. But it remains a test [for the
Ma Administration] as to whether such a move will be able to break
the pattern set by previous administrations. ...

"What is even more twisted is that Taipei's head-of-state diplomacy
has grown narrower and actually transformed into 'transit
diplomacy.' Over the past few years, whenever a Taiwan president
went overseas to visit other countries, the visit itself became less
important, while at the same time, his transits in those countries
that are not Taiwan's diplomatic allies, particularly the United
States, became the focus of those visits. [Former President] Chen
Shui-bian's transits in New York in 2001 and 2003, respectively,
were perhaps the peak of [Taipei's] 'transit diplomacy' in the
United States. With the strong support and tacit agreement of the
Bush administration at the time, Bian's activities in New York were
no longer a simple 'transit' but truly a 'visit'... But how many
substantive interests can such transit diplomacy create for Taiwan?

"If President Ma makes an overseas trip in August, Paraguay will
certainly be a key leg of his visit. ... In the meantime, the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is very likely planning for Ma to
transit the United States. MOFA's top choice [for Ma's transit]
will be a metropolitan city on the East Coast, in order to
compensate his loss for not being able to visit Washington before he
took office. But Beijing will be holding the Olympic Games in
August; is Ma going to conduct 'transit diplomacy' with much fanfare
again this time? ..."

3. Cross-Strait Relations

A) "Mainland Links Steadying"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (7/8):

"... Upon his election on March 22, the president-elect surprised
all by pledging to start cross-strait direct flights on July 4, a
date so famous and a wish so soon to materialize that many were left
in doubt. Now the U.S. Independence Day will also be remembered as
the day for Taiwan and the mainland to start air links to boost
their blood ties. ... Hopes are high that tourism and other
measures will help Taiwan's economy. Those hopes have become more
urgent as Taiwan has raised fuel prices, battled inflation and seen
its stock market fall dramatically in Ma's first six weeks in
office."

B) "Is Ma the 'Manchurian Candidate'?"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (7/8):

"... Never mind China's deployment of more modern surface-to-air
missiles that threaten Taiwan's airspace, or the fact that
cross-strait flights are skewed in favor of Chinese airlines and eat
into Taiwanese airlines' income, or that the promises of an economic

miracle from Chinese tourism seem to be getting flimsier by the day.
Such rapacious behavior on Beijing's part was to be expected and
the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou, intoxicated with the
promise of better relations with China, seems to have fallen for the
hype hook, line and sinker. Beyond all this, there is now a
perception, as reported by Christopher Hughes of the London School
of Economics, that Ma has finally adopted Beijing's views and will
do what it wants him to do - that he has become Beijing's man in
Taipei, who will open the gates of the castle and bring about the
dream of annexation. ...

"Despite the flexibility he has shown to date on matters of
sovereignty, Ma is not Beijing's man, some brainwashed Manchurian
candidate that can be radio-controlled to do its bidding. Even if
he were, the checks and balances of a democratic system would stop
him before he could do irreparable damage to Taiwan's sovereignty.
Nevertheless, the comments made by Chinese academics and officials
run the risk of reinforcing the perception that he is a tool of
China, which can only make it more difficult for him to exercise his
presidential powers. Even so, vigilance is in order. The
president's every move, along with those of his immediate circle,
must be scrutinized, and any indication that he is about to act in
China's interests rather than Taiwan's should be met with the
strongest opposition."

C) "Hidden Risks of Direct Links"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (7/8):

"... The careful use of opening of cross-strait linkages may help
the revitalization of Taiwan's economic resources, but rushing to
adopt piecemeal unilateral liberalizations without an overall
strategy to ensure balance of benefits and a secure environment will
certainly minimize any beneficial impact, much less 'revitalize the
economy' as Ma and leading government officials have promised.
Instead, excessive haste could cause even more damage to Taiwan's
economy through the distortion of priorities and the loss of
alternative opportunities than is alleged to have been inflicted by
the cautious 'be patient' strategy adopted by former president Lee
Teng-hui and continued, with variation, under former president Chen
Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party government.

"The most immediate risks concern dangers to our citizens because of
inadequate preparations or even insufficient manpower and resources
in fields such as immigration control, disease control and public
safety and even air safety caused by the rash decision to open all
eight of Taiwan's airports for direct flights and Chinese tourism.
... We suggest that the Ma government take some time before the
next set of cross-strait talks to carefully evaluate all of the
costs and risks as well as the benefits of further cross-strait
liberalizations before rushing forward."

YOUNG

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