Cablegate: Media Reaction: Russia-Georgia Situation, U.S.-China-Taiwan
DE RUEHIN #1300/01 2460843
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020843Z SEP 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9870
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8569
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0016
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001300
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: RUSSIA-GEORGIA SITUATION, U.S.-CHINA-TAIWAN
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused August
30 - September 2 news coverage on the continued investigation into
former President Chen Shui-bian's money laundering case; on
Saturday's mass rally targeting President Ma Ying-jeou's first one
hundred days in office; and on Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo
Fukuda's sudden resignation Wednesday. Taiwan's defense needs and
planning also caught the local media's attention, including various
sources debating on whether Taiwan has ever proposed the letter of
request (LOR) to the United States regarding its plan to procure
F-16 C/D fighter jets. In addition, the centrist, KMT-leaning
"China Times" devoted its entire page four Monday to reporting on
Taiwan's research and development of the indigenous Hsiung Feng IIE
cruise missiles, the procurement of F-16 C/D fighter jets, and the
Ma Ying-jeou Administration's allegedly poor defense planning.
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an op-ed piece in the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" discussed the war between Russia
and Georgia and its implications for Taiwan. The article concluded
that under the circumstances that Russia-Georgia conflict would
launch a new Cold War in Eurasia, China seems to have acquired a
major position among Russia, the United States and NATO, which will
naturally put Taiwan in a very unfavorable position. With regard to
the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, an editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" expressed hope
that both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates will
pay more attention to the Taiwan issue and cross-Strait situation.
A separate "Taipei Times" op-ed piece, written by Nat Bellocchi,
former AIT Chairman and now a special adviser to the Liberty Times
Group, asked if Taiwan is ready to engage the present in the wake of
the Beijing Olympics. End summary.
3. Russia-Georgia Situation
"Russia-Georgia War Will Involve Taiwan in a Calamity"
Lai I-chung, an executive committee member at the Taiwan Thinktank,
opined in a column in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times"
[circulation: 300,000] (8/31):
"... In light of the fact that Russia has been acting proactively
and taking full advantage of Washington being trapped by Iraq and
anti-terrorism and NATO and the Europeans taking inconsistent
diplomatic approaches, the reactions of the United States and NATO
have been very weak. But chances are slim that the United States
and NATO will take no action at all. Even if they are unable to
help Georgia to regain its 'territorial integrity,' both Washington
and NATO, at the request of some former Eastern European countries
[sic, presumably former East Bloc], will seek to strengthen their
cooperative ties with these countries and expand their strategic
restraining capabilities toward Russia in the Outer-Caucasus and the
Black Sea. Such a development can be seen by Poland's rapid move in
signing [an agreement to deploy] a battery of [American] missile
interceptors in Poland and the United States' new expectations for
"Strategic competition between the two sides will only intensify,
since Russia deems these areas as its own domain of power, on which
no other country is allowed to encroach, while both Washington and
NATO are worried that, because of the Russia-Georgia war, Russia
intends to challenge the order in Eurasia in the post-Cold War era.
Under such circumstances, strategic competition turning white-hot is
likely to trigger a new Cold War in Eurasia, even if Russia does not
have the ideology of expansionism.
"Should a new Cold War occur in Eurasia, China will very likely
acquire the central position, as in the Cold War era, of being able
to alter the balance [of power] between the United States and
Russia. For Washington, it may possibly adopt either of the
following two ways to deal with its strategic competition with
Russia in Europe: Namely, it will either resume its old way, as in
the Cold War era, of joining hands with China to restrain Russia, or
it will discuss with Russia the settlement each other's domain of
power. The former approach will result in Taiwan's marginalization,
while the latter will damage the United States' strategic
reputation, as Washington will tacitly allow Russia to do whatever
it wants with Georgia, and thereby weaken Washington's regional
stabilizing capability via its alliance with Asia. No matter which
way Washington adopts, China will be the biggest winner. ...
"Given that the war between Russia and Georgia will likely launch a
new cold war in Eurasia, it appears that China has occupied a more
favorable strategic position. Also, because the Olympic Games no
longer pose any restrictions on China and the Beijing Olympics have
added fuel to nationalism, there seems to be neither a need nor
desire on China's part to act in concert with Taiwan. Should Taiwan
respond to such a development by tilting more rapidly toward China
in exchange for zero threats from Beijing, it will only push Taiwan
more hastily away from the strategic track of the United States,
Japan and India and make the island become more isolated. As a
result, crisis in the Taiwan Strait will only arrive earlier!"
4. U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
A) "Taiwan and the US Presidential Race"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (8/30):
"Cautious optimism is the appropriate response to the US Republican
party sharpening its rhetoric in support of Taiwan as part of its
presidential campaign. For Taiwanese who watch US politics,
optimism is a precious and fleeting commodity. Not so long ago, it
was sensible to assume that the US military intervention in Iraq -
and to a lesser extent Afghanistan - would become so repulsive for
voting Americans that the proposal to support a small country such
as Taiwan against the designs of the Chinese juggernaut in the event
of conflict would be laughable.
Adding to the gloom for pro-democracy Taiwanese was the swift
retreat by US President George W. Bush, whose early, provocative
comments supporting Taiwan gave way to the unenlightened China
appeasement that defines the modus vivendi of the Department of
State and much of US academia. ...
"When China irritates people and governments, Taiwan gains. This is
because the threat that Taiwan faces turns into a thing that others
can appreciate - if only for a moment - in practical terms. Now, by
upping the ante on the political currency of cross-strait conflict,
the camp of the Republicans' presumptive candidate, Senator John
McCain, is asking Americans to think carefully about what China is
and what it could do, and why Taiwan is inseparable from this issue.
The message is abrupt and not without risk, but it is safe to say
that the Democrats will respond not by defending China but plugging
presidential candidate Obama's credentials to defend US interests
should China become too obnoxious. ...
"Either way, Taiwan and China are developing into a potential wedge
issue for the Democrats. For Taiwan, this is not necessarily a good
thing because the issue is not crucial to the vote, and because the
tenor and content of the debate is completely outside Taiwan's
control. And even if Taipei could do something to tilt public
sentiment in the US, it is unlikely that President Ma Ying-jeou's
administration would have the intelligence and ability to seize the
initiative. In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National
Convention on Thursday, Obama warned that the US must learn to face
the threats of the future and not be distracted by the mistakes of
the past. Obama's 'threats' tend not to be states but extremism,
environmental concerns and economic vulnerabilities, yet all of
these concerns have a Chinese link. With luck, the Republicans' move
to turn this into a point of debate will allow more truths about
China, Taiwan and their stateside supporters to be aired before the
next president takes his post.'
B) "Is Taiwan Prepared to Engage the Present?"
Nat Bellocchi, former AIT chairman and now a special adviser to the
Liberty Times Group, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" (8/31):
"... Ma supports having Taiwan's allies enter into economic and
cultural relations with China and he will seek participation in 16
UN agencies. Many see these and other issues - suggesting a
comprehensive economic cooperation agreement with China similar to
Hong Kong's; seeking UN observer status; and suggesting name
flexibility - as undermining Taiwan's sovereignty. ...
While all this might be a concern for Beijing, Taiwan will be busy
trying to move closer to China.
"At the same time, Taiwan is trying to rekindle US interest. That is
difficult with the US focused on the election race, which will
produce a new government in about five months. Its relations with a
growing China will be more difficult than before. Its problems in
the Middle East will not end, while recent tensions with Russia over
Georgia are causing it more headaches. This is a time to go over
what has been going on. Issues both at home and abroad are changing.
Are we ready?"