Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #1230/01 2310943
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180943Z AUG 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9775
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8543
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9750
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001230
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: U.S.-CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS
Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies gave significant
coverage August 16-18 to the money laundering case allegedly
involving former President Chen Shui-bian and his family members.
News coverage also focused on Taiwan's loss to China in last
Friday's baseball competition in the Beijing Olympic Games; and on
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps' history-making with eight gold medals
in the Beijing Olympic Games. In terms of editorials and
commentaries, an op-ed in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times"
discussed the United States' attitude toward the Ma Ying-jeou
Administration's "diplomatic truce" policy toward China. The
article urged the Ma Ying-jeou Administration to work harder in
communicating with Washington and Beijing to win their support for
the "diplomatic truce" policy. An editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" also chimed in by
urging the Ma Administration to explain clearly Taiwan's overall
diplomatic strategy before it carries out the "diplomatic truce"
policy. End summary.
A) "Can [Ma's] Low-profile U.S. [Transit] Visit Win Washington's
Support for the Diplomatic Truce Policy?"
Professor Edward Chen of Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of
American Studies opined in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times"
[circulation: 300,000] (8/18):
"... As of now, the United States has not publicly opposed both
sides of the Taiwan Strait negotiating a diplomatic truce. Neither
may [Washington] necessarily oppose wholeheartedly a diplomatic
truce across the Taiwan Strait. It is just that both Washington and
Beijing have smooth communication channels, so [the United States]
will have a better understanding than we will in terms of Beijing's
ideas about diplomatic truce. ...
"When it comes to the issue of diplomatic truce between the two
sides of the Taiwan Strait, Taipei and Washington apparently have
different strategic concerns. For President Ma, a diplomatic truce,
if it is achievable, will not only meet Taiwan's national interests,
but it will also be advantageous for his re-election. This is why
Ma has been working with perseverance to push for [his diplomatic
truce policy]. For the Bush Administration, however, it is
concerned that, should Taipei insist on pursuing such a policy, it
will likely have an impact on other economic and trade negotiations
between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Nonetheless, if Taipei
accepts the suggestion [proposed by AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt
during a meeting with Ma after Taiwan's March 22 presidential
election] that both sides of the Taiwan Strait negotiate in three
stages [i.e. in the first stage deal with charter flight matters; in
the second stage deal with economic and trade cooperation; and in
the third stage deal with sensitive issues such as a peace accord,
minimizing military threats, and Taiwan's international space] and
with Washington encouraging them on the side, it will likely help
Taiwan to integrate quickly into the developing East Asian economy.
This is why the United States has been constantly urging both sides
of the Taiwan Strait to resume dialogue since 2005.
"[Ma's] low-profile transit stops in the United States are not only
conducive to the reestablishment of mutual trust between Taiwan and
the United States, but also helpful in creating a good atmosphere
for cross-Strait negotiations, as [his low-profile transits] are
less irritating to Beijing. However, in order to make the United
States and China agree that both sides of the Taiwan Strait start
talks on a diplomatic truce, Ma's national security team apparently
needs to work harder in communicating with both Washington and
B) "Taking a Stand Is a President's Role"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (8/18):
"... Considering that China has always done all it can to suppress
Taiwan internationally, it is absurd to pin our hopes on Beijing not
trying to entice our allies simply because of the so-called
"diplomatic truce." Predicating the "truce" on China's goodwill begs
the question of how much trust there is between the two sides, and
how long that trust, if it indeed exists, will persist. These are
all unknowable variables. ... The Ma administration wants to
abandon the money diplomacy but maintain our allies. What is the
overall diplomatic strategy that will achieve this goal? As
president, it is Ma's duty to clearly explain this to the Taiwanese.
While it is true that his administration has reduced cross-strait
tension - at least for now - the closer relationship is a problem
for the US because it is no longer clear where Taiwan belongs.
Despite this, Ma has not offered an unambiguous explanation, and his
government policy continues to lean heavily toward China without any
signs that the government sees cause for alarm or a need to correct
"Still, militarily, economically and internationally, the US remains
Taiwan's most important supporter. The US government is still
waiting for Ma to react to the rumored freeze on US arms sales to
Taiwan. A president is supposed to set a nation's primary goals and
deal with the big issues. Rather than micro-managing and fiddling
with trivialities such as saving a few dollars on chartering regular
aircraft for overseas state visits, Ma should expend his efforts on
designing the main direction of the nation's future development."