Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Presidential Election
DE RUEHIN #1567/01 3110942
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060942Z NOV 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0276
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8710
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0157
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001567
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. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese- and English-language dailies
all gave significant straight news reporting and editorial coverage
November 6 to the election of Democrat Barack Obama as the next U.S.
president. News coverage also focused on the mass protests in
Taipei Wednesday against the visit of Chairman Chen Yunlin of
China's Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait.
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" criticized Ma Ying-jeou for eagerly
tilting toward Beijing while the United States was engaged in its
presidential election. The article said the status quo across the
Taiwan Strait, which is highly valued by the United States, is
"undergoing quantitative and qualitative changes." Editorials in
the mass-circulation "Apple Daily," pro-unification "United Daily
News" and the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" all hailed the
Obama victory and U.S. progress in ethnic equality. A separate
"United Daily News" op-ed urged the Ma Ying-jeou administration to
start close communication with Obama's foreign policy advisors
before he assumes office, so as to lay a foundation of mutual trust
between Taiwan and the new U.S. administration. A "China Times"
op-ed said Obama's Asia policy advisers are clearly aware of the
complexity of the cross-Strait situation, so the chances are slim
for him to tip in favor of China. A separate "China Times" op-ed
hailed Obama's election and spelled out several thorny issues that
he will have to face. An editorial in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" praised Obama's
victory as a manifestation of democracy and the need for change. An
editorial in the pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News"
also applauded Obama's victory and said the Democrats are now more
likely to take a firm stance against China and Taiwan's KMT
administration on human rights and democracy issues than its rival
Republicans. End summary.
A) "United States Fully Engaged in its Presidential Election, While
the Ma Administration Is Busy Tilting toward China"
Journalist Su Yung-yao noted in an analysis in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 700,000] (11/6):
"Barack Obama was elected U.S. president Wednesday. While it still
takes time for [Obama's] national security team to take shape and
start operations, major changes have taken place in the Taiwan
Strait. The 'maintaining of the status quo across the Taiwan
Strait,' which the United States has highly valued, is currently
undergoing quantitative and qualitative changes. The cross-Strait
situation is quickly tipping in favor of China, particularly as the
Ma administration is eager to negotiate with Beijing while
Washington is fully engaged in its presidential election. ...
"Previously Taiwan was able to have the upper hand strategically [in
terms of its interactions with Beijing], but with the Ma
administration taking over the helm beginning May 20, the island has
unduly and suddenly been seeking so-called reconciliation and
goodwill gesture from Beijing, while the international environment
is not necessarily favorable for Taiwan. All the other forces that
are friendly with Taiwan, such as the United States, can only stand
aside and watch [such a development]. ... The Ma Administration may
argue that the U.S. State Department has said that it welcomes the
resumption of dialogue between Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation
and China's Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait. But
what else can other countries such as the United States say when
even Taiwan itself is unwilling to attach importance to [and take
advantage of] the power that is in favor of the island? What is
more worrisome for the United States is that at this moment, when
there is a short period of power vacuum in the Taiwan Strait,
Taipei's tilt toward China has enabled Beijing quickly to fill the
B) "The Seventh Evolution of the United States"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 500,000]
"... Barack Obama is about to face very severe challenges, but his
election has sent a clear signal to the world: The Americans have
climbed over the high mountains of ethnic antagonism and succeeded
with a soft landing, both psychologically and ideologically. Such
self-innovative rationality, courage, capability and mechanics will
be sufficient to make the United States a great country, if not the
only superpower, in the 21st century."
C) "Obama: New American Dream, New American Values"
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... It is noteworthy that Barack Obama's unique background --
having a Caucasian mother, an African father and an Indonesian
stepfather, being raised in Hawaii and having a Muslim middle name
-- has resulted in his habit of thinking 'marginally.' This has not
only enabled him to keep balance, but his view of the world also
tends to tilt toward universal values that are more tolerant and
diversified, in contrast to Washington D.C.-centered pride and
prejudice. Judging from this perspective, it is expected that he
will be able to reconstruct U.S. values, lead the United States with
'pluralism' to regain recognition from the world, and renounce
[President] Bush's 'unilaterialist' hegemonic leadership. At least,
tension between the United States and the Islamic world will be
alleviated immediately. One must not forget that the results of
various surveys have showed that over eighty percent of the people
in other countries, including Taiwan, if they had the right to vote,
would pick Obama. Such wide, trans-national support will be a
valuable asset for Obama to reconstruct U.S. confidence and values.
D) "Stabilizing the New Triangular Relationship"
Alexander Huang, an assistant professor at the Graduate Institute of
International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University,
opined in the pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation:
"... The election of Obama to as president comes at a critical
juncture, when the United States is facing significant economic and
diplomatic predicaments and the rise and decline of strong powers.
Facing China's rapid rise economically and militarily, the United
States is unlikely to ignore Beijing's clout in international
affairs. When dealing with the triangular relationship of the
United States, China and Taiwan, our country should avoid making
trouble, [which would] thereby force Obama to seek Beijing's
assistance to stabilize the situation across the Taiwan Strait. On
the contrary, [Taiwan] should make efforts in improving cross-Strait
relations, which is the pillar to uphold the framework where the
three bilateral relationships of the U.S.-Taiwan, U.S.-China, and
cross-Strait will simultaneously operate well. Only by such an
approach can our country [Taiwan] maintain the right to speak in the
E) "Revelations of Obama's [Victory]: Yes, Change We Want"
The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 220,000]
"... The immediate significance manifested by Barack Obama's
election is, without a doubt, that U.S. society has made a big step
ahead toward ethnic equality. ... Even until the eve of the voting,
many people still could not believe that all the polling results
showed that Obama was in the lead. The fact that the United States
has elected an African-American president indicates that the
tolerance of ethnic equality in U.S. society has truly made a
significant progress. ...
"In short, the election of Obama signifies the commencement of a new
era of ethnic equality; it also signifies that the international
situation will begin to change, and that there will be a brand new
turning point for the global financial and economic order. Obama's
election is not merely a victory for himself or the Democratic
Party; it also marks the beginning of 'change' that world citizens
are looking forward to."
F) "An Election That Has Rewritten the U.S. History"
Dr. Lin Cheng-yi, a research fellow at the Institute of European and
American Studies, Academia Sinica., opined in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 220,000] (11/6):
"... Obama sees China as a competitor, not an enemy, and he regards
Japan as an ally. He is concerned with China's manipulation of the
exchange rate of the Renminbi. The United States must express its
disagreement to China in terms of the latter's intellectual property
rights, human rights record, environmental protection, and its
policy toward Sudan and Iran. China needs to play the role of a
responsible big country, and the United States also needs to be
vigilant and closely monitor China's enhancement of its strategic
capabilities. Obama hopes that the United States and China can join
hands in addressing the challenges of nuclear proliferation and
global warming. Obama supports arms sales to Taiwan and
confidence-building measures across the Taiwan Strait.
"Even though Obama does not appear to support Taiwan as obviously as
John McCain, his Asia policy advisers such as Jeffrey Bader and
Richard Bush of the Brookings Institution are clearly aware of the
complexity of the cross-Strait situation. As a result, the chances
are slim for him to tip in favor of China. ..."
G) "Obama's American Dreams and Challenges"
Freelancer Wu Fang-ming wrote in the "International Column" in the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 220,000] (11/6):
"... However, behind [what Barack Obama once said] that 'everything
is possible in my American dream,' the new leader of the United
States is going to face a series of thorny issues domestically and
internationally, which will be the most critical situation to deal
with since [the time of] Abraham Lincoln. First, with respect to
international relations or the world order, after the Iraq war, the
gap between the United States' actual strength and the requirement
of the United States to be a global leader is getting bigger. The
circumstances even resulted in the United States isolating itself
[from the international community] by [pursuing] unilateralism. The
countries of the world did not want to follow the lead [of the
United States]. What was left were only boos and the notoriety of
[the United States] being a unilateral hegemonic leader.
"Second, with respect to the economy, Obama will face three major
economic difficulties which are: saving the sluggish economy;
stabilizing the financial system and rebuild the heavily impacted
financial system; and trade policy with China. ... China has become
a leading United States creditor and economic partner. The mutual
reliance [between China and the United States] economically is
growing. However, the United States will have to handle carefully
the concerns over whether the United States will become
protectionist [country] that China and developing countries have
been worried about in terms of disagreements on issues such as
textile quotas, the appreciation of the Chinese Yuan, and trade
H) "Barack Obama's Victory Signifies Need for Change"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (11/6):
"Barack Obama's overwhelming win in the U.S. presidential race
proves that the United States is really a democratic and peaceful
nation. It is an historic achievement that symbolizes the end of
racial prejudice. ... Obama has won the race mainly by emphasizing
the need for change - a message that has resonated with the voting
public. Most Americans have suffered greatly from a prolonged
financial crisis, a situation they blame on George W. Bush, the
current Republican President. ...
"He and his Democratic majority on Capitol Hill now face the task of
governing the United States through a difficult period. Ironically,
the circumstances that contributed to his victory will test his
ability to lead the country. ... People in Taiwan are unavoidably
concerned whether the United States, with Obama as its head of
state, will continue to provide the island with the military aid it
needs in defending against a possible attack from mainland China.
In our view, the U.S. government won't significantly change its
policy toward either Taiwan or mainland China, because a peaceful
Taiwan Strait will be in the best interests of America."
I) "Obama's Triumph Good News for Taiwan"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (11/6):
"... Obama's status as the first black American to be president of
the United States is full of historical significance and is being
welcomed worldwide as a symbol of triumph over slavery and racial
prejudice as well as a triumph for ordinary citizens and progressive
values over elitism and ultraconservative or even reactionary
social, culture and political forces in the world's only superpower.
... However, it is important to note that the most important factor
in his victory and of the Democratic Party in both houses of
Congress was the resolve and passion of young, minority and
progressive voters opposed to the illegal and disastrous war against
Iraq conducted by incumbent Republican president George W. Bush and
against Iraq and the associated deterioration of the U.S. economy,
social welfare and human rights standards within the U.S. and Bush's
fatal unilateralism and disdain for global human rights,
environmental, labor and moral standards in his foreign policy. ...
"Since Obama will be initially be occupied with global economic and
domestic social issues, the change in power next Jan. 20 is unlikely
to immediately impact on Washington's policies toward Taiwan.
Nevertheless, we believe that the return of Democratic Party
governance should at least benefit Taiwan indirectly, especially if
he is able to pull the U.S. out of the Iraqi morass and restore a
multilateral diplomacy. ... In addition, the future Obama
administration is likely to adopt a firm stance on many issues in
Sino-American relations, including China's export of "black heart"
defective and dangerous foods, beverages and other goods to the
United States, just like to Taiwan and other countries and perhaps
even press Beijing to enhance labor standards, improve environmental
protection, improve food and product safety standards and other
measures that will help 'even the playing field' and promote fairer
"Taiwan's democracy should also benefit from the fact that the
Democratic Party is historically also more concerned with issues of
international human rights and democracy than its conservative
rival, and the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional
leadership will include numerous officials or congresspersons who
have a high commitment to promoting human rights. Therefore, Obama's
triumph will likely generate 'inconvenience' for Taiwan's newly
restored rightist ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang),
which has long had a 'community of values' with the far-right wing
of the Republican Party, especially in the decades of authoritarian
rule under KMT autocrat Chiang Kai-shek and his son Ching-kuo. ...
Even if many of his foreign policy advisers look favorably on the
resumption of cross-strait dialogue between the KMT government and
the PRC as conducive for regional peace, it is open to question
whether Obama will accept a rollback of Taiwan's democracy and human
rights or the revival of KMT authoritarianism or even the transfer
of 'Democratic Taiwan' into the PRC as the price tag. A shared set
of values, including democracy, human rights, freedom and
sustainability, between the Democratic Party and Taiwan's Democratic
Progressive Party and Taiwanese civic and social reform
organizations, can provide a foundation for dialogue that may be
essential to keep the lighthouse of East Asian democracy shining in