Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's 3-in-1 Elections, U.S.-
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TAIPEI 004798
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - ERIC
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: TAIWAN'S 3-IN-1 ELECTIONS, U.S.-
1. Summary: Major Taiwan dailies gave significant reporting
and editorial coverage December 3-5 to Taiwan's 3-in-1 local
elections Saturday, in which the KMT won a landslide
victory, and the impact of the elections on the future
prospects of the pan-Blue and pan-Green camps. The pro-
unification "United Daily News" ran a banner headline on its
front page December 5 that read: "Bian's Approval Rating
Drops to a New Low of 21." The sub-headline added: "[DPP's]
Defeat Is Mainly Due to Its Poor Administrative Performance
and Party Image Tarnished by the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid
Transit Corp. Scandals. 56 Percent [of the Respondents]
Believe Chen Shui-bian Should Be the Key Person Held
Responsible [for DPP's Setback]." The centrist "China
Times" also carried a poll survey on its page two December 5
edition that said: "45 Percent [of Those Polled] Believe
Chen Should Be Held Responsible for the DPP's Defeat."
Most papers carried the State Department's statement
Saturday that the "3-in-1" elections reflected Taiwan's
democratic strength and vitality. The centrist "China
Times" also carried a news story December 5 saying that due
to the KMT's landslide victory and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-
jeou's soaring popularity, Washington has invited Ma to
visit the United States after the 3-in-1 elections.
2. Almost all newspapers editorialized on the 3-in-1
election results and the future prospects for President Chen
Shui-bian and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou. Editorials of the
pro-independence "Liberty Times," "Taipei Times," (English-
language) and "Taiwan News" (English-language) all agreed
that the DPP's setback is a stern warning to the ruling
party. An editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
analyzed the election results and said they will have a
profound impact on President Chen Shui-bian and the DPP. A
"China Times" editorial said the voters have used their
votes to send a clear message to both the ruling and
opposition parties, namely, no political party can be the
ruling party forever. A commentary in the limited-
circulation, conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" said President Chen has himself defeated the
DPP and that he will not change his policy lines during the
remaining two years. A commentary in the limited-
circulation, pro-independence, English-language "Taipei
Times" urged the Chen Shui-bian administration to reinforce
its ties with the United States. End summary.
1. Taiwan's 3-in-1 Elections
A) "Can the Blow of Saturday's Elections Wake up the DPP?"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 600,000]
commented in an editorial (12/4):
"The 3-in-1 local elections were over Saturday, with the KMT
winning 14 mayoral and magistrate posts, defeating the six
slots collected by the DPP. DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang
offered to resign to take responsibility for the DPP's
defeat. The DPP's setback in Saturday's elections was not
merely a problem of the party's mobilization, nomination or
campaign strategies. Rather, it is because the voters have
lost faith in the DPP government, a lesson worth pondering
for the DPP people. .
"The DPP's defeat in Saturday's elections demonstrated that
Taiwan's voters are capable of reflection, and they will not
endorse a government that has violated its [pledge of
adopting] a route to Taiwan nativism. If the DPP fails to
carry out its commitment to reform, nativism, and stemming
corruption, the applause it won in the past will become
catcalls. The voters have cast a vote of no confidence in
the DPP government now. What is left to see is whether the
DPP is a party capable of self-examination and can regain
the mainstream public's confidence in its power to safeguard
B) "The DPP Receives a Stern Warning"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
[circulation: 30,000] said in an editorial (12/4):
". Commentators have argued that the outcome of these
elections would be a good indication of the strength of [KMT
Chairman] Ma's leadership. And now that the KMT has
performed very well, it is widely believed that the internal
rifts and turmoil that were generated by the KMT
chairmanship race may subside for the moment.
"It seems that the era of Ma Ying-jeou has officially
started. The DPP had better start preparing itself for some
tough challenges ahead. Finding out where it has gone wrong
in recent years is the first step to meeting those
C) "All Sides Must Heed Voters' Message"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News"
[circulation: 20,000] editorialized (12/5):
". This result [of Saturday's elections] undoubtedly
inflicted a grave setback to President Shui-bian and the DPP
by demonstrating a severe lack of . trust on the part of the
majority of the public in the DPP government. KMT Chairman
Ma Ying-jeou emerged as the sole major winner in the
campaign. Through this triumph, the Taipei City mayor
consolidated his new leadership within the pan-blue camp and
has also become the most popular political heavyweight in
Taiwan politics. These facts are clearly favorable to his
expected bid for the presidency in March 2008. .
"In sum, the results of Saturday's poll showed a public
eagerness for a cleaner government, more political
stability, continued economic improvement, better and more
efficient governance, and well-established rule of law and
political institutions. By taking the theme of strength and
unity, and applying it to healthy political competition,
anti-corruption, economic rejuvenation, fighting crime and
improving the welfare of the people, the DPP administration
may be able to win back support from the rank and file."
D) "Ma Gets Stronger; Bian Got Deflated; and Voters Are the
An editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 550,000] wrote (12/4):
"The KMT landslide victory: `Ma [Ying-jeou] gets stronger;
[Chen Shui-]Bian gets deflated; and it's over for [James]
"The results of Saturday's elections have profound
consequences. Chen Shui-bian has become a lame duck both
within and outside the DPP; neither Washington nor Beijing
pay any attention to him, and both will wait until a new
president is elected in Taiwan in 2008. The pan-Blue
legislators' morale was highly boosted; they now think they
have a strong reason to block [some of] the bills and will
definitely act tougher. Taiwan is doomed to waste its time
in internal struggles for the next two years. In comparison
to the unprecedented solidarity of the pan-Blue alliance
surrounding Ma Ying-jeou, the DPP will face intense internal
struggles or will even split. Chen Shui-bian's prestige and
authority will be jeopardized and, should he fail to
coordinate [among the various DPP factions], the DPP will
likely suffer a severe defeat in the presidential election
slated for 2008. ."
E) "Taiwan People Give Their Answer Using Their Votes!"
The centrist, pro-status quo "China Times" [circulation:
400,000] noted in an editorial (12/4):
"The Central Election Commission announced the final results
of the [3-in-1] elections Saturday. The announcement is
akin to a formal declaration that the 3-in-1 elections have
again redrawn the political map of Taiwan. The KMT has
successfully crossed [and expanded its power to over] the
Cho Shui River [that runs across central Taiwan], while the
DPP lost several of its traditional strongholds and
retreated to the six cities and counties in southern Taiwan.
Taiwan voters have used their votes to send a clear message
to both the ruling and opposition parties: no party can be
the ruling party forever!."
F) "President Chen Defeats His DPP"
Joe Hung said in the conservative, pro-unification, English-
language "China Post" [circulation: 30,000] (12/5):
"President Chen Shui-bian, who ended the half-century one-
party rule of the Kuomintang in Taiwan in 2000, defeated his
own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in what is known as
the `three-in-one' election of local governments on
Saturday. The opposition Kuomintang won big, but its
landslide victory was a vote of no confidence handed to the
president by the voters, who five years ago they had found
an incomparable leader but now feel they have been cheated.
"The most urgent task facing the defeated president is to
safeguard the stability of his government in the face of a
triumphant opposition.. No matter how the administration is
reshuffled, the president, who in fact is his own premier,
will not change his policy lines. The impasse between the
two sides of the Taiwan Strait will remain, if it does not
get worse - Chen vowed in the last days of the campaign to
make it worse, should the opposition win - until he bows out
in May 2008. Nothing will be done to improve relations with
China, an emerging economic power, on which Taiwan depends
increasingly heavily for trade and growth. ."
2. U.S.-Taiwan Relations
"U.S.-Taiwan Relations Need to Be Reinforced"
Liu Kuan-teh, a Taipei-based political commentator, said in
the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
[circulation: 30,000] (12/3):
"While domestic attention has again been focused on local
politics and elections rather than international affairs, a
closer look at the recent triangular goings on between
Washington, Taipei and Beijing reveals an urgent need for
President Chen Shui-bian's administration to reinforce its
ties with the US. .
"There is no doubt that the US and Taiwan share the
universal values of democracy, freedom and human rights.
But when it comes to the question of how to strike a balance
between the growth of Taiwan's democratic consciousness and
Washington's attempts to build a `candid, constructive and
cooperative' partnership with China, it seems only the
national interests of the US prevail. Even the `alliance of
values' between Washington and Taipei can sometimes become
distorted.. Therefore, Bush's recent statement [in Kyoto]
presents a window of opportunity for the government to
consolidate a sustainable partnership with the US.
"The lack of intimate interaction between Bush and his
Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, displays a delicate change
of Beijing's perception of the Bush administration. While
intentionally refusing to engage in talks with Chen,
Beijing's leaders have also shown less willingness to
cooperate with Washington. One should not overlook the
possible change of Chinese mindset as Beijing probably has
its eyes on the next change of leadership in both Taiwan and
the US. Until 2008, passive interaction with Taiwan and the
US may become a central principle of Beijing's policy..
"Under such a geopolitical landscape, the Bush
administration should really contemplate the degree to which
Washington can keep a balance between safeguarding its own
national interests and dealing with an undemocratic China
while keeping a fully-fledged democratic Taiwan safe from
China's military expansion."