Cablegate: Taiwan Media Too Hard On Ma According to Fujian

DE RUEHGZ #0554/01 2610857
R 170857Z SEP 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Taiwan Media Too Hard on Ma According to Fujian
Cross-Strait Scholars

1. (SBU) Summary: Is Ma Ying-jeou getting a bum rap from the Taiwan
media? Cross-Strait scholars at Xiamen University in Fujian
province say he deserves higher marks, citing good progress on
cross-Strait relations, foreign affairs, political and social
issues. One researcher blamed disappointing economic performance on
factors generally beyond Ma's control. Taiwan's economy will
continue to struggle with limited prospects for growth from
government spending, investment, domestic consumption or exports,
according to one scholar. He believes that mainland tourists are
the best hope for the Taiwan economy and that their numbers can be
increased if travel is made more convenient. The scholars are
optimistic about continuing progress in cross-Strait relations,
asserting that Beijing's timetable for Taiwan is not urgent. The
academics commented that Beijing would be open to allowing Taiwan
more participation in international organizations as long as Taipei
avoids a "two countries" approach to cross-Strait relations. One
scholar commented that Tsai Ing-wen would seek to lead the
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) away from Chen Shui-bian but
would face challenges from the many Chen supporters who remain
entrenched in the party. End Summary.

Giving Ma Higher Marks

2. (SBU) The scholars at Taiwan Research Institute (TRI) at Xiamen
University give Ma Ying-jeou higher marks for his performance than
the Taiwan media, according to TRI President Liu Guoshen. Liu said
Ma had made good progress on cross-Strait relations, foreign
affairs, political and social issues, promoting peace and building
trust across the Strait step-by-step. Sun Yun, a TRI researcher,
pointed out that Ma had made the economy a priority but had not had
much success because of factors largely beyond his control such as
rising oil prices, inflation and generally deteriorating business

3. (SBU) Sun believes that Ma's approach on cross-Strait relations
-- further opening, a cooperative approach with Beijing and pursuing
a peace framework -- still enjoy support from the Taiwan people. He
explained that Beijing responded positively to Ma's description of
the cross-Strait relationship as between special regions instead of
countries and to Ma's decision to scale back missile research.
According to Sun, Beijing showed its favorable reaction by
authorizing State Council Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi's
announcement at early September's China International Fair on
Investment and Trade in Xiamen of several new measures, including
issuance of permanent ID numbers to Taiwan residents in the mainland
and facilitation of mainland tourism travel to Taiwan via Xiamen.

4. (SBU) Economic issues are currently the focus of Taiwan's
Mainland Affairs Council, and they will dominate the agenda when
Chen Yunlin, the chair of the Association for Relations Across the
Taiwan Strait (ARATS), visits Taiwan in October, according to
Researcher Chen Kongli (a former head of TRI). Liu commented that
there is reason to be optimistic that cooperation will continue. He
pointed out that Beijing has stopped talking about unification for
the time being. He believes that Beijing's timetable for its Taiwan
agenda is not urgent.

Taiwan Needs Mainland Tourists

5. (SBU) Tang Yonghong, a TRI economics professor, predicted that it
would take some time for Taiwan's economy to show substantial
improvement. He explained that the Taiwan government didn't have
enough fiscal resources to stimulate the economy with more
government spending after inheriting a deficit from the Chen
Shui-bian administration. Private investment has mostly moved to
the mainland. Tang argued that domestic consumption was stunted by
an expanding wealth gap, characterized by an "M-shaped" society with
growing numbers of rich and poor and a shrinking middle class.
Taiwan was having difficulty generating increases in exports, he
said, because of economic difficulties in two of its major trading
partners -- China and the United States.

6. (SBU) Taiwan's economy needs more mainland tourists, according to
Tang. Tourism so far had failed to take-off because Taiwan tours
were too expensive, travel application procedures were too
complicated and the charter flights schedules were inconvenient with
most seats taken by Taiwan travelers. Tang believes that Taiwan
should allow charter flights that fly direct without passing through
Hong Kong airspace, allow more flights, simplify application
procedures and reduce the cost of tours by about 30 percent. If
these steps are taken, he predicted that Taiwan would be able to
attract the 3,000 tourists currently permitted on a daily basis.

Room for More International Space

GUANGZHOU 00000554 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) Chen speculated that Beijing would be open to discussion
about how Taiwan might participate more actively in international
organizations as long as Taiwan avoids any insistence on a "two
countries" formulation and the two sides maintain good
communication. Chen pointed out that Taiwan already belongs to
2,157 non-governmental international organizations, which he said
was more than the mainland. He expressed concern that U.S. policy
on this issue had changed since former AIT Director Raymond
Burghardt had written an article saying that Taiwan shouldn't need
to get Beijing's approval to join international organizations. The
Consul General assured Chen that the U.S. government's policy had
not changed with regard to membership in international
organizations, though he called for finding creative ways to allow
Taiwan to participate where certain kinds of interest, such as
global health, were a concern.

Tsai Ing-wen Dealing with Chen's Legacy

8. (SBU) Tsai Ing-wen has taken anti-Ma and anti-Beijing positions
similar to Chen Shui-bian, but she is eager to lead the party away
from Chen and achieve her own success, according to TRI Political
Research Director Zhang Wensheng. This will not be easy, Zhang
said, because Chen still has many supporters, especially among those
who benefited from eight years of the DPP controlled government.


© Scoop Media

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