Cablegate: Media Reaction: Cross-Strait Charter Flights
DE RUEHIN #2099/01 1702204
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 192204Z JUN 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0753
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5330
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6538
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002099
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - ERIC BARBORIAK
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: CROSS-STRAIT CHARTER FLIGHTS
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
coverage June 17-19 on the rallies held by the pan-Green and
pan-Blue camps over the weekend to show their support for and
opposition to President Chen Shui-bian; inauguration of the
Taipei-Ilan Hseuhshan Tunnel; the crash of an F5-F fighter jet in
Chiayi Saturday; and further investigations into President Chen
Shui-bian's son-in-law's alleged role in an insider trading scandal
and into the alleged role of First Lady Wu Shu-chen in the Sogo
Department Store ownership case. The pro-status quo "China Times"
on June 19 front-paged the results of its latest poll, which show
that 53 percent of those polled believe it is inappropriate for
President Chen to remain in his position. The same poll also shows
that the president's approval rating rose from 21 percent to 28
percent in three weeks in May, and that only two percent more
support the recall motion than those who do not support it (42
percent vs. 40 percent).
2. Several papers editorialized on the agreement to open up special
cross-Strait charter flights. A "China Times" editorial said the
cross-Strait charter flights can barely meet the Taiwan people's
genuine needs and they are of little significance for Taiwan's
economy. An editorial in the pro-unification "United Daily News"
said the cross-Strait charter flights will only make the Taiwan
people tilt even more toward China, while they do nothing to help
build Taiwan's economic independence. An editorial in the
limited-circulation, conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" said the move is more politics than economics, and more
of a gesture than substance. End summary.
A) "Opening Cross-Strait Charter Flights Nothing but Small Steps,
The pro-status quo "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
"Officials on both sides of the Taiwan Strait simultaneously
announced the 'special charter flights' and 'holiday passenger
charter flights' policy, which indeed was a sign of alleviation in
the long-deadlocked, highly confrontational cross-Strait relations.
Even though there is still distance between the policy and the real
needs of the Taiwan people, and the policy differs from the
perception behind the pan-Blue camp's proposed direct transportation
bill, it is a small step [for the Taiwan government] after all.
It's just that this small step is not a 'tango,' but a 'small-step
slow dance,' swinging back and forth. In fact, only one of the four
types - 'special cargo flights,' ' emergency medical flights,'
'special humanitarian flights,' and 'institutionalized holiday
flights' - is of any genuine significance, that is, the
'institutionalized holiday flights.'
"The only breakthrough is the 'institutionalized holiday flights'
because this expands the original model for Chinese Lunar New Year
charter flights to become regular charter flights on the four major
holidays of the year. This is good news for the Taiwan businessmen
on the mainland who want to return to Taiwan for the Lunar New Year
holidays. But such an opening will only benefit some Taiwan
businessmen; it is of little help for Taiwan's economy. ... We
don't want to pour cold water on the government, but the opening
this time is of little significance. ..."
B) "The World Is Flat, but the Taiwan Strait Is Tilted!"
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... The four [types of] direct charter flights that both sides of
the Taiwan Strait agreed on last week created an impasse; [the
policy] will only make the Taiwan people tilt all the more westward
in their behaviors and psychology, but it will do nothing to help
build Taiwan's economic and trade independence. ... If [Taiwan]
wants to be more proactive, it must move further towards more
comprehensive direct transportation [with China] and work in a more
comprehensive way to enhance Taiwan's liberalization and
internationalization, in an attempt to set the groundwork for Taiwan
to become an 'Asian-Pacific platform.' [Taiwan] must not just do it
for the convenience of the Taiwan businessman, but should also put
regional function under consideration. While striving for the goal
of becoming an 'Asian-Pacific platform,' [Taiwan] must first
ascertain its national identity and the constitutional strategic
structure of the Republic of China. If not, it will be a mockery
and a tragedy to push for Taiwan independence on the one hand, and
to push for direct charter flights on the other. ..."
C) "Direct Flights, of Sorts"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] wrote in an editorial (6/17):
"Are direct flights across the Taiwan Strait in the offing? It
seems that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, despite this
week's announcement in Taipei and Beijing that the two sides wills
start nonstop chartered passenger flights during major Chinese
holidays. ... The move is more politics than economics. It is more
of a gesture than substance. This is because of the basic ideology
of the ruling party, which opposes closer relations with the
mainland. The Chen administration has been firmly opposed to direct
transportation links with the mainland, for fear that such links
would eventually bring the two parts together. ...
"Is this a harbinger for the resumption of long-awaited normal
transport links? Probably not, judging from the Democratic
Progressive Party's (DPP) political stand. But Premier Su
Tseng-chang is a pragmatist who may take some pragmatic measures,
including allowing weekend chartered flights, to build up his
popularity ahead of the presidential elections two years from now."