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Cablegate: Media Reaction: President Chen's Weekend Tv

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

110913Z May 05




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: As Taiwan dailies continued May 11 to cover
the aftermath of President Chen Shui-bian's weekend TV
interview, the focus also fell equally on PFP Chairman
James Soong's planned meeting with Chinese President Hu
Jintao Thursday and next Saturday's ad hoc National
Assembly election. The centrist "China Times" carried
the newspaper's latest opinion survey on its front
page, which showed that President Chen's approval rate
has dropped from 44 percent in February to 39 percent.
The popularity rate for KMT Chairman Lien Chan
following his recent trip to China, however, surged
from 31 percent in February to 47 percent. A poll
conducted by the pro-unification "United Daily News" on
its second page also showed similar results. According
to the "United Daily News" poll, Chen's approval rate
has plunged to 32 percent, the lowest since he assumed
office in 2000. Several newspapers, including the pro-
independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's biggest daily
and a long-time supporter of Chen, all spent their
first few pages reporting on former President Lee Teng-
hui's and the Pan-Green camp's criticism of Chen.

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2. All the major Chinese-language Taiwan dailies
carried reports on their inside pages on Soong's
planned meeting with Hu Thursday. A page-four news
story of the "China Times" headlined: "Soong-Hu meeting
will define the 1992 Consensus," and a page-two news
story of the "Liberty Times" said: "Tomorrow's Soong-Hu
meeting will discuss the `1992 Consensus." Both the
"Liberty Times" and the "United Daily News" also spent
a whole page discussing the upcoming ad hoc National
Assembly election and the "Law Governing the National
Assembly's Exercise of Power," which is still stuck in
the Legislative Yuan.

3. In terms of editorials and commentaries, several
newspapers continued to discuss Chen's remarks made
during his three-and-a-half hour TV interview over the
weekend and his flip-flopping attitude. A "United
Daily News" editorial said Chen launched strong attacks
against former President Lee and in the meantime sought
to redefine his plans to change Taiwan's name and to
write a new Constitution. A "United Daily News"
commentary said Chen's passionate remarks were an
attempt to resolve his power crisis. A "Taiwan Daily"
editorial, on the other hand, said that Chen's expose
confirmed some previous speculations that the United
States has indeed intervened in the China trips by KMT
Chairman Lien and PFP Chairman Soong. Editorials of
two limited-circulation, English-language newspapers,
despite their different political orientations, all
said that Chen has brought on himself most of the
problems he is facing now.

4. Two newspaper editorials discussed the disputed ad
hoc National Assembly election which will be held this
coming Saturday. The "Liberty Times" said the election
would offer Taiwan people a chance to become a normal
and complete country if the constitutional revision
concerning the popular right to referendum is passed.
A "China Times" editorial also sought to clarify
certain disputed issues concerning the ad hoc National
Assembly election, saying that the move to include in
the Constitution people's right to amend the
constitution does not equal de jure independence. End

1. President Chen's Weekend TV Interview

A) "Chen Shui-bian Launches Harsh Attacks on [Former
President] Lee Teng-hui and Redefines Name Ratification
and Constitutional Reform "

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation:
600,000] commented in its editorial (5/11):

". To criticize Lee at this time, Chen Shui-bian is
actually moving towards redefining `Name Ratification
and Constitutional Reform.' Chen would like to change
the national title to "Taiwan" within three years.
Chen stresses that if he cannot make the change, Lee
Teng-hui could not do it either even if he were the
president. Chen emphasized that "Name Ratification
and Constitutional Reform" is not equivalent to
changing the national title. In another abrupt turn,
Chen said that when the national assembly is abolished,
that is considered Constitutional Reform; When Chen
added `Taiwan' on the passports and included `Taiwan'
watermark on IDs, it is Name Ratification. This is
Chen Shiu-bian's new theory, `Name Ratification and
Constitutional Reform' is no longer a "cannot be done
issue" but it is already done!

"Facing challenges from all sides, Chen Shui-bian at
this time seems to have started his new strategy. On
the one hand, paint an ugly image of Lee Teng-hui;
Replace his previous title from `Father of Taiwan' and
`Forefather of Democracy' to `Undisciplined Old
Senile.' On the other hand, redefine `Name
Ratification and Constitutional Reform.' Under the new
definition, Chen Shui-bian will no longer be the
betrayer to `Name Ratification and Constitutional
Reform,' but become an outstanding leader to make `Name
Ratification and Constitutional Reform' a dream come
true! ."

B) "A-Bian's Passionate Act: to Counteract the Power

Journalist Chen Ming-feng observed in the "United
Notes" column of the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 600,000] (5/11):

". The public criticized President Chen for his fickle
and unpredictable behavior. It is a matter of fact,
after the "Bian-Soong" meeting, other than President
Chen's harsh comment on Lien's China trip, Chen has
swayed from pro-left to pro-right on the Cross-strait
issues. But over time, the public can sympathize and
understand the atmosphere within the DPP. In the five
years since Chen was first elected President, society
and Chen's motto for People's government and "the third
path" have not met eye-to-eye. In fact, they have gone
awry and many important political issues have become
slogans to manipulate the voters. Even though the
opposing parties cannot deny responsibility, isn't
President Chen somewhat responsible?

"President Chen opened the door after the "Bian-Soong"
meeting and their ten-point consensus. By having Soong
pass a message during his visit to China, Chen does not
have to bear alone the accusation of being a traitor or
becoming too friendly with the communists. President
Chen should know very well the reason for his changing
behavior, perhaps it is a reflection of his defeat in
the legislative election, or maybe pressure from the
international situation. But can the DPP supporters
understand? How can they accept that their past
decisions have been crushed?

"The fact is that since the establishment of the DPP,
it has experienced many civic-related activities and
pro-independence events etc, but how much of the
fundamentalist base is left? How many will ignore
social and national security to insist on pro-Taiwan
independence? There might be some but definitely not
many. The queries pouring from within are really about
President Chen's personal leadership and not only
limited to Cross-strait issues.

"For Taiwan's interests, the fact is that the President
leaning towards being neutral gives more opportunity
for development in cross-Strait relations. Once the
two sides of the straits can resume talks, peace and
economic prosperity will be possible. Whatever it is,
President Chen must insist in reconciliation. The
President must be able to put away his status and
communicate with all parties, change his style of
leadership to regain his credibility in order to
resolve the crisis."

C) "Pan-Blue Legislators' Attempt to Block the [U.S.]
Arms Procurement Bill Undoubtedly Proves that Lien and
Soong Are Mouthpieces and Executors Acting on Behalf of
China's Interests - President's Expose [at the TV
Interview] Proves That the United States Has Obtained
Lien's and Soong's Agreement with Regard to [U.S.] Arms
Procurement Bill. Lien and Soong Must Clarify Their

The pro-independence "Taiwan Daily" [circulation:
150,000] commented in its editorial (5/11):

". President Chen's expose [during his TV interview
Sunday and Monday] also confirmed some reasonable
speculations, namely, that the United States has indeed
interfered in the China visits by [KMT Chairman] Lien
Chan and [PFP Chairman] James Soong. Washington has
obtained Lien's and Soong's agreement with regard to
[the passage of] the arms procurement bill, and in
return, it also helped Lien and Soong obtain the Taiwan
government's endorsement for their China trips. This
information has also more or less explained Chen's flip-
flopping attitude toward the opposition leaders' China
trips, which has truly upset his supporters. .

"The United States, on the one hand, hopes that both
sides of the Taiwan Strait will resume dialogue so that
they will not engage in military conflicts triggered by
escalating confrontations. On the other hand, however,
Washington is concerned that the Pan-Blue camp will
tilt toward China too much and that would endanger the
United States' strategic interests. The United States,
as a result, conducted crisis management with Lien and
Soong's China trips and in the meantime used this
opportunity to seek to resolve the disputed U.S. arms
procurement bill currently stuck in the Legislative
Yuan. Washington's contact with Lien and Soong, as
stated in Chen's remarks, has already proven that. .

". Taiwan and the United States, which will come to the
island's rescue whenever there is a conflict in the
Taiwan Strait, are the reasons for the active expansion
and modernization of the Chinese military. Given its
military strength, China is capable of launching a
modern war against [Taiwan] and has posed a serious
threat to the U.S. military's intervention in cross-
Strait conflicts. This is a fact already widely
acknowledged by military security specialists all over
the world, and everybody is watching and concerned to
see if Taiwan has the determination or capability of
defending itself with U.S. assistance.

"Frankly speaking, the answer to this question is
getting more and more uncertain following Lien and
Soong's visits to China. Even the United States, which
will likely assist Taiwan, has begun to wonder if
[Lien's and Soong's China trips] will be the beginning
of Taiwan tilting toward China politically. The U.S.
conclusion to this question will significantly affect
the United States' basic policy toward Taiwan,
especially in terms of bilateral military cooperation.
As a result, the U.S. arms procurement bill will,
without doubt, has become a litmus test [for answering
this question], which the Pan-Blue camp can no longer
dodge. If the Pan-Blue camp attempts to block the arms
procurement bill again, it will prove that the camp,
under the leadership of Lien and Soong, is the
mouthpiece and executor acting on behalf of China's

D) "Chen's Isolation Is His Own Doing"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
[circulation: 30,000] noted in its editorial (5/11):

". As a national leader, Chen should not only have long-
term goals and a comprehensive strategy for achieving
them, he should also consult with nation in the
decision-making process. But he seems to think he can
see more clearly than others and can afford to ignore
the people. We do not object to Chen seeking to
improve ties with China, but he cannot be allowed to
play fast and loose with Taiwan's security, or endanger
Taiwan's sovereignty and the power of the people.

"The crisis that the present administration faces has
been precipitated by Chen's increasingly domineering
manner. He has now attacked former president Lee and
the TSU simply to bolster his own policies - seemingly
betraying those who have supported him and risking a
split within the pan-green camp. Chen has brought most
of these problems on himself. He should take the
advice of former DPP chairman Lin Yi-hsiung and take a
good hard look at himself."

E) "Chen May Pay a High Price for Unsubstantiated

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" [circulation: 30,000] editorialized

". Chen's weekend TV interview was aimed at winning
back hard-line independence supporters, who are
reportedly planning to vote in the coming poll for his
once staunch ally, the far-left Taiwan Solidarity Union
(TSU), in retaliation for the president's mishandling
of the mainland visits by Lien and Soong - trips they
worry will cause Taiwan to lean toward China that in
turn may undercut their political cause. .

"Chen's fierce attacks on his opponents over the
weekend, together with his impassioned talk of
defending his policy, has attained an immediate effect
of drawing attention away from a damaging internal
party rebellion against him over his policy flip-flops.
But it remains to be seen whether his remarks and moves
to please the independence fundamentalists will be able
to help his party to ward off widely predicted losses
in the election.

"One thing, however, seems certain. That is Chen will
have to pay a high price for his unsubstantiated
charges against Soong and Lien. . Besides, Chen's open
admission that the proposed referendum article is a
ground rule for pursuing formal independence is likely
to remind Beijing that the Taiwan leader has not
lessened his push for a separate Taiwan republic
because of its recent enactment of an anti-secession

"More fundamentally, Chen by fabricating issues without
the backing of concrete evidence, once again has proved
to the public that their president is a politician who
might be willing to sacrifice social harmony or risk
national security if he can do so to win elections.

2. National Assembly Election

A) "The Legislative Yuan Should Quickly Pass the `Law
Governing the National Assembly's Exercise of Power' to
Facilitate Constitutional Operations"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation:
800,000] editorialized (5/11):

". Taiwan's current Constitution was created in China
by the KMT regime and forcefully imposed on the Taiwan
people. It is filled with the structure and
operational logic of the Greater Chinese sentiment and
also fails to uphold Taiwan's public opinion. As a
result, to turn Taiwan into a normal nation through the
efforts of constitutional amendments or re-writing a
new constitution has always been a goal that the Taiwan
people strive for. Even though the four constitutional
revisions that these ad hoc National Assembly members,
[who will be elected this coming Saturday], are tasked
with may not really be able to achieve such a goal, the
revision regarding including in the Constitution
people's right to amend the Constitution will certainly
hand the power of amending the Constitution to our
people. In the future, as long as the route advocating
Taiwan consciousness and sovereignty wins the support
of the majority of the Taiwan people, Taiwan can evolve
into a normal and complete nation via the popular right
to call for a referendum. Most importantly, the Taiwan
people will no longer be cheated by those `self-
deceptive' slogans of some politicians and can move
their historical duties forward by themselves. Just
because the move to include in the Constitution
people's right to amend the Constitution will highlight
Taiwan's sovereignty and show that Taiwan people are
their own masters rather than slaves or servants of
China, China regards the move as `de jure independence'
and intends to block the passage of such a
constitutional revision by working together with the
United States and Taiwan's opposition parties. ."

B) "Arguments over the Inclusion into the Constitution
Popular Right to Referendum and De Jure Independence"

The centrist, pro-status quo "China Times"
[circulation: 600,000] commented in its editorial

"The election of the ad hoc National Assembly members
will be held this coming Saturday, . and its result
will not only concern whether the proposed package of
constitutional amendments will be passed, it is in
reality also a test of the political parties'
reputations and people's confidence in them. .

". From observations of this wave of Chinese fever
interwoven with Constitutional amendments, the issues
which most deserve further discussion and clarification
are whether writing referendum into the Constitution
would result in de jure Taiwan independence, and
whether KMT and PFP's China fever means collaborating
with the Communists to contain Taiwan and further
endanger the ensuring of Taiwan's entity.

"Linking writing referendum into the Constitution with
de jure Taiwan independence is one of the main appeals
of the Democracy Action Alliance, which participates in
the ad hoc National Assembly representatives' elections
and opposes the Constitutional amendment bill. The
basis of the alliance's discourse is that once the
Constitutional amendment bill is ratified and passed,
the National Assembly will exist no more, and in the
future when there are bills on territory change and
Constitutional amendment, the bills will be ratified
via referendum, and this constitutes what
Constitutional scholars address as the so-called `de
jure Taiwan independence' problem, and this can result
in Chinese Communist Party's fierce opposition, and
will bring Taiwan into a dangerous situation of war.

"The Democracy Action Alliance's discourse opposing the
Constitutional amendment bill also earns support from
PFP, which openly endorsed the Constitutional amendment
bill when it was passed in the Legislative Yuan last
year, and the PFP also rationalizes the discrepancy
between its earlier and current positions regarding the
Constitutional amendment bill with the alliance's
discourse. However, the PFP's position opposing the
writing of referendum into the Constitution was
criticized by President Chen Shui-bian in a TV
interview the other day as Chen said [PFP Chairman]
James Soong was using the position in exchange for the
Chinese Communist Party's agreement for him to visit.
Then Chen further pointed his finger at the Chinese
Communist Party for interfering with Taiwan's
Constitutional reform and stated bluntly that
abolishing the National Assembly and writing referendum
into the Constitutional Amendment bill is essentially
making a new Constitution. Hence, the article on the
writing of referendum into the Constitution is not only
the language of electoral antagonism, but it has been
upgraded into controversies over whether the Chinese
Communist Party is interfering with Constitutional
reform and whether the Constitutional amendment bill is
essentially the making of a new Constitution. ."

". Essentially, writing referendum into the
Constitution is just an improved procedure for
Constitutional amendment ratification designed for the
replacement of ratification by National Assembly, and
it does not necessarily relate to de jure Taiwan
independence, and it is tough to interpret it as
essentially making a new Constitution. .

"Another dispute that needs to be clarified is whether
Lien's and Soong's China trips indicated that they have
joined hands with the Chinese Communist Party to
restrain Taiwan and whether such a move will endanger
the construction and development of Taiwan's entity.
The first thing that must be clarified is that what
both Lien and Soong advocated in China was that they
are against Taiwan independence, a position that is
consistent with the Pan-Blue camp's position. But anti-
Taiwan independence obviously should not be seen as
tantamount to anti-Taiwan. In other words, each
political party can have different views and ways to
express their love and prospects for Taiwan. All the
various options, including Taiwan independence, to
maintaining the status quo, to unification, should be
protected under the freedom of speech. ."


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