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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.- China-Taiwan Relations

VZCZCXYZ0012
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #2614/01 3480826
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140826Z DEC 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7604
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7540
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8817

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002614

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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.- CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage December 14 on the death threats President Chen Shui-bian
has received recently; on the National Communications Commission's
plan to regulate spam emails in Taiwan; on the plunge of Taiwan's
stock price index Thursday; and on the 2008 elections. In terms of
editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" said the United States' constant moves to oppose
Taiwan's UN referendum were the results of Washington's affirmation
of China's rise and its influence. Washington believes that it will
endanger regional peace and stability if it fails to establish a
strategic partnership with China, the article said. An analysis in
the pro-unification "United Evening News" alleged that AIT Chairman
Raymond Burghardt's visit to Taiwan this time was aimed at demanding
that President Chen "peacefully transfer" his presidential powers in
2008.
A "Black and White Column" commentary in the pro-unification "United
Daily News" said Burghardt's recent visit to Taiwan shows that the
US is taking preventive measures as Chen Shui-bian's hidden
intentions were being exposed. An op-ed article by a prominent
Taiwan professor of political science in the same newspaper
commented that the US is now the decision-maker of the Taiwan
unification-or-independence issue.
End summary.

A) "A 'Chinese War' Is Going on"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
editorialized (12/14):

"... [Ever] since Taiwan proposed to hold a UN referendum, the
United States has been constantly imposing pressure on the island by
having relevant officials openly deliver statements or come to
Taiwan and talk to the ruling and opposition political figures.
Even with constant U.S. moves and the increasing intensity of its
opposition, the United States still failed to alter the process of
the UN referendum. But such moves highlighted that the United
States tends to tilt toward China, a trend that implies a concealed
concern that cross-Strait situation might get out of control. ...

"... But we have discovered that the reason why Washington has
constantly imposed pressure on Taiwan [over the UN referendum] was
because it wants to show it to Beijing. What is curious is, since
opposition to the UN referendum is a violation of the democratic
spirit and international practice, why did the United States choose
to sabotage its own image just to placate China? The key lies in
the fact that the United States seems to have affirmed China's rise
and its influence, believing that regional peace and stability will
be endangered should [the United States] fail to establish a
strategic partnership with China. Therefore, under China's
pressure, [Washington felt that] it must 'do something' about the UN
referendum so as to resolve China's doubts and insecurity. ..."

B) "Peaceful Change of Leadership? The United States Might Not Be
Able to Sleep Well at Night"

Journalist Chen Chih-ping noted in the "Cold Eyes" column in the
pro-unification "United Evening News" [circulation: 100,000]
(12/11):

"In the wake of a series of fruitless remarks and communications
with Taiwan, AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt came to Taiwan
personally to communicate with Bian and Frank Hsieh. Based on the
messages revealed from various parties after [Burghardt's] talks
[with different individuals], the most important message that the
United States wanted to deliver this time was to demand that Chen
Shui-bian 'peacefully transfer' his presidential powers next year,
regardless of whether it is Ma Ying-jeou or Frank Hsieh who is
elected president March 22, 2008. ...

"To conclude on Burghardt's trip this time, the demand that Chen
'peacefully transfer' his presidential power should be viewed as its
principal axis, whereas its various aspects include: First,
[Washington wants] to ensure that the Bian administration will not
go to extremes. Burghardt therefore revealed that [the United
States] has expressed hopes to China that the latter should resume
dialogue with Taiwan's new leader. The move was aimed at taking
away any possibility that Chen might use China's tough position as
an excuse to initiate radical action.

"Second, [Washington wants] to ensure that the presidential election
slated for March 22, 2008 will be held as planned. The United
States thus expressed concerns about President Chen's recent
comments on the martial law. The American Institute in Taiwan is
also reportedly closely watching the Bian administration's recent
ban on a former national security official to publish his books and
is prudently interpreting whether the Bian administration is
regressing in terms of democracy.

"Third, [Washington wants] to make sure that its inability to manage
the Bian administration will no longer exist in the wake of next
year's presidential election, so as to secure a new situation for
Washington-Beijing-Taipei ties.

"Fourth, [Washington wants] to make sure that the leadership can be
peacefully transferred on May 20, regardless of whether it is
transferred to Ma or Hsieh. Burghardt also emphasized that the
United States' cross-Strait policy is based on the United States'
interests. Washington has obviously noted attempts by the Bian
administration to manipulate the anti-U.S. populist line by accusing
Washington and Beijing of working jointly to suppress Taiwan. ..."


C) "Hidden Intentions Exposed"

The "Black and White Column" of the pro-unification "United Daily
News" commented [circulation: 400,000] (12/13):

"... From this context, one can tell from the very solemn and
negative reactions by Thomas Christensen and Raymond Burghardt to
Bian's threatening words of 'considering martial law' that the
series of words and deeds of [Chen Shui-] Bian, which violate the
democratic and constitutional principles, as well as Minister of
National Defense Lee Tien-yu's saying he would obey Bian's martial
law order even if the parliament does not approve it, indeed alerted
the US side that this is a serious matter. Any slightly indiscreet
responses may well destroy Taiwan's democracy all at once.

"The US side has deeply experienced Bian's unpredictability. He
once claimed that, if the Blue Camp wins the election, there would
not be 'a transfer of power to another political party' but 'a
transfer of sovereignty.' As seen by the Americans who advocate
democratic elections, this means Bian is very likely to refuse a
peaceful transfer of power. The hidden intentions [of Bian] have
been exposed. The US side will certainly make preparatory
arrangements in order to prevent anti-democratic fascist rule from
appearing under Bian's manipulation. Or else, the US will be
ashamed to face the people of Taiwan!"

D) "The Americans Interfere with Internal Affairs. Ma and Hsieh
Bowing and Bending"

Professor Chih-yu Shih, Department of Political Science, National
Taiwan University, wrote in an op-ed in the pro-unification "United
Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (12/13):

"Washington's sending AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt as an envoy to
Taiwan has brought a whirlwind. The main purpose was to criticize
the referendum, saying it is a unilateral change in the status quo,
violates the Four Noes pledge and binds the hands and feet of the
new government [to be inaugurated] in 2008. Faced with such rude
intervention, Taiwan's ruling and opposition parties, which always
believe Taiwan to be an independent nation, do not seem to feel
Taiwan's independence being violated.

"... Just seeing the over cautiousness of the people of Taiwan
toward Burghardt, one will know that the rhetoric that Taiwan or the
Republic of China is an independent nation is self-deception. In
their heart of hearts, the people of Taiwan see the US as their
master.

"Without any dissatisfaction, Beijing applauded Burghardt's open
interference in Taiwan politics. Beijing's leadership may as well
argue that the warning against Taiwan independence made by Burghardt
during this visit was a result of [China's] pressure. This means
that Washington takes Beijing seriously. Therefore, even though,
theoretically, the US's interfering with Taiwan should be seen as
interfering with China's internal affairs and [therefore]
intolerable, it is tolerated for the time being. The fact is that,
if Beijing does not interpret Burghardt's open interference this way
and gives itself an out, Beijing would be in trouble justifying its
position should the US intervene on its own when confrontation
arises across the Strait.

"... From the long-term perspective, even if Chen Shui-bian's
reaction to Burghardt's criticism may be described as obstinate and
unruly, it can be explained that any changes in the future will have
nothing to do with him. As for Ma Ying-jeou and Frank Hsieh's
bowing and bending, they have acted as if the US were their father.
If the US succeeded in gaining control over these two candidates for
the presidency this time, does it mean that Taiwan is being pushed
and tied more toward the US? Since the long-term trend is obvious,
Taiwan independence advocacy naturally receive indirect
encouragement. The referendum issue, as a result, will only evolve
toward more confrontation.

"This trip by Burghardt appears commanding. All parts of Taiwan
were careful and cautious. But Beijing is becoming marginalized.
The habit that the leaders of both sides across the Strait have
developed of taking their cues from the United States is too
deep-rooted to be changed. The situation now is that unification
depends on the US and independence also depends on the US. Both
sides across the Strait have high talk of nationalism. However,
thus far there has been no confrontation, because the master has not
told them to start fighting."

YOUNG

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