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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's Political Situation

VZCZCXYZ0009
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #3011/01 2432203
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 312203Z AUG 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1896
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5601
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6807

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003011

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - DAVID FIRESTEIN
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A


TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: TAIWAN'S POLITICAL SITUATION


1. Summary: Amid the extensive reporting on former DPP Chairman
Shih Ming-teh's campaign to oust President Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's
news coverage August 31 also focused on President Chen's planned
overseas trip. The pro-status quo "China Times" ran a banner
headline on page four that read "U.S. Refusing to Allow 'Air Force
One' to Land, Bian's Overseas Trip May Either Take Commercial
Airplane Or Not Transit Guam." The pro-independence "Liberty
Times," Taiwan's biggest daily, also ran a news story on page four
with the headline "President's Overseas Trip Plans to Transit Guam;
Will Take Air Force One on His Way [to Palau] and Fly with China
Airlines on His Way Back." In terms of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan,
the "Liberty Times" ran a banner headline on page four that said
"Regarding U.S. Arms Procurements, Lee Jye: Ma Sent Message Saying
Bill Will Be Handled in New Legislative Session."

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" said that on the surface the
ongoing political movements in Taiwan seem to be aimed at
anti-corruption and President Chen's ouster, but they actually
reflect Taiwan society's feelings of powerlessness and loss toward
constitutional democracy. A commentary in the limited-circulation,
conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post" said
the United States' attitude is crucial to President Chen's survival.
An opinion piece in the limited-circulation, pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times," however, said the campaign to oust
Chen is a charade that is meant to prepare the KMT for the 2008
presidential elections. A separate "Taipei Times" editorial said if
the campaign to oust Chen is indeed a charade to protect KMT
Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and prepare him for future presidential
elections, it is not working very well, because Ma seems unable to
control his troops. End summary.

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A) "Two Criteria for Scrutinizing Taiwan's Constitutional
Democracy"

The pro-unification "United Daily News:" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (8/31):

"For the on-going political movements [in Taiwan], they may look on
the surface like they are aimed at anti-corruption and Bian's
ouster. But on a deeper level, they actually reflect the entire
Taiwan society's feelings of powerlessness and loss toward
constitutional democracy. ... Two criteria may be adopted to
scrutinize Taiwan's constitutional democracy. First, the general
criterion of a constitutional democracy can be used to examine
Taiwan's constitutional democracy. Second, since Beijing is the
biggest threat to Taiwan's survival and development, the criterion
of 'whether it can address cross-Strait problems' can also be
applied to examine Taiwan's constitutional democracy. ...

"... In terms of the general criterion of a constitutional
democracy, our constitutional democracy is in fact disqualified.
Our government is not governed by the constitution, nor are our
people able to maintain social justice in accordance with the
constitution. Taiwan may as well be regarded as an
'unconstitutional country.' ... There is no possibility that
Taiwan will return to its previous authoritarian period governed by
the martial law, so it has no choice but to deal with Beijing's
threats using constitutional democracy. Yet if constitutional
democracy is incapable of resolving the political polarity between
'Taiwan independence and anti-Taiwan independence,' and of following
[the people's] desire for westbound economics, the crisis of
Taiwan's survival is akin to being secretly concealed in its
malfunctioning and paralyzed constitutional democracy. ..."


B) "U.S. Is Crucial to Chen's Survival"

Dr. William Fang, special to the conservative, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" [circulation: 30,000] noted (8/31):

"... Indeed, U.S. support may be one of the few remaining pillars
that the president can rely on for the survival of his
administration amid the current nation-wide outcry for him to step
down to take responsibility for alleged power abuses. ... The most
important reason that President Chen is still able to hang on there
is his unparalleled unscrupulousness as well as the firm backing of
a small minority of hard-headed and biased 'deep green' people and
the willing collaboration from some high corrupt party and
government officials, including prosecutors and judges. Of course,
the United States, Taiwan's strongest ally, views the whole
developments currently unfolding on the island from the perspective
of its national interests.

"The most important question being asked by the U.S. must be: Is
Chen still able to control the situation and maintain the stability
on the island that will continue to benefit the United States? The
'one million people to depose the president' must try to convince
Washington that the answer is no. It is reported that Yu Shyi-kun,
the chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will
soon fly to the U.S. to argue the case for the president. It is
imperative that the anti-Chen camp should also do all it can to sway
American public opinion. Efforts should be made to explain to
Americans that the majority of the Taiwan population now believe
Chen is so morally and politically unfit to lead the nation that he
must step down right away, otherwise Taiwan, an important ally of
the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region, will face a prospect of chaos,
violence and even bloodshed. If Chen is allowed to serve out his
second term until 2008, Taiwan will probably lie in ruins under the
rule of such an incompetent, immoral and unrepentant person. Will
such a weakened Taiwan serve the national interests of the U.S.?
..."

C) "Counting the Days to the Election"

Nat Bellocchi, former chairman of the AIT and now a special adviser
to the Liberty Times Group, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (8/31):

"These days, Taiwanese media spend almost all of their energy on
producing stories about the need for President Chen Shui-bian to
step down, despite the lack of judicial evidence that he has
committed any illegal act. The purpose of all this is not primarily
to destroy the president, but to keep him and his government
occupied on this issue while the pan-blue opposition prepares for
the forthcoming elections. ... For the two most important countries
for Taiwan, the US and China, there will be much uncertainty. The
uncertainty for China will be the greatest. Even if the KMT wins -
which most people believe is best for China - to what extent that
party will be able to pursue its objectives is questionable, as a
large part of the population is not supportive of the KMT's
platform.

"Further, even if the KMT's objective of a closer relationship with
China is fulfilled, this is far short of what Beijing wants. If on
the other hand, the DPP can win both the legislature and the
presidency, China may have the difficult task of developing a policy
that will not overly challenge the US. For the US, the hope is for
a KMT that will not move too close to China, or a DPP that can
develop a better relationship with China. The US will likely
continue its present policies. The key question will be whether the
US can have a more effective dialogue with a Taiwan that remains an
important partner in a growing region. There are crucial changes
ahead that could determine the future of Taiwan's democracy and its
national identity. The people of Taiwan will make that decision.
But what they now seem to be doing is accepting a step toward a
different kind of democracy, and that is only 19 months ahead."

D) "Ma's Enemies Take Their Chance"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (8/31):

"If former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Nat Bellocchi is to
be believed, the push to oust President Chen Shui-bian is a charade
that is meant to protect Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma
Ying-jeou from unpleasant scrutiny as he goes about preparing his
party for the presidential election in a year-and-a-half's time. If
this is the case, the charade is not working. If anything, forces
in the KMT are now using the maverick campaign to undermine Ma,
accusing him of being a pushover. Presumably, these KMT hardliners
would prefer Ma lead an armed assault on the Presidential Office
with a few thousand stormtroopers in tow, or at least join the
sit-in and pout for a few hours like former President chairman Lien
Chan after the last presidential election. ...

"Ma claims that he has 'hardened up.' Unfortunately, this is not
reflected in Ma taking his own line and sticking to it, but in
taking a harder line to disarm blue-camp extremists. This is not
political strength, nor is it pragmatism; it is flat-footed,
wishy-washy and manipulable behavior. ... Reforming the KMT was
always going to involve some bloodletting, but now it seems that Ma
will have a serious struggle on his hands to achieve this. If Ma
cannot control his troops, the DPP will be able to ask: 'Who will
really have power in a KMT government and can they be trusted?' The
skeletons in the KMT's closet are too many and too odious for the
pan-green camp not to be able to exploit this angle, despite its
complacency and ham-fisted politicking of late, and despite growing
alienation among voters. If things continue in this direction, the
DPP will be thrown a lifeline for an election that it should never
have been able to win."

YOUNG

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