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


DE RUEHIN #1051/01 2430928
R 310928Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage August 29-31 on the visit of the Dalai Lama to Taiwan to
offer blessings for the victims of Typhoon Morakot in southern
Taiwan; and on the landslide victory of Japan's opposition
Democratic Party of Japan in nationwide elections Sunday. All major
Chinese-language and English-language dailies also reported on the
arrival of new AIT Taipei Director William Stanton Friday and his
remarks made at the Taoyuan International Airport.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an op-ed in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" discussed the Dalai Lama's visit to
Taiwan and said it should become a win-win situation for all sides.
An op-ed in the KMT-leaning "China Times," however, said President
Ma Ying-jeou's unpredictable and inconsistent leadership style, as
shown in his handling of the U.S. military aircraft coming to Taiwan
in the wake of Typhoon Morakot and allowing the Dalai Lama to visit
Taiwan, will be a problem that Beijing will want to resolve in the
future. An editorial in the pro-independence, English-language
"Taipei Times" discussed the recent developments in
Washington-Beijing-Taipei ties and concluded that "Beijing will want
to ensure that it is the sole regional power upon which smaller
players can rely," and naturally, it will "pressure the US to
leave." End summary.

3. U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations

A) "Dalai Lama's Visit to Taiwan Can Become a Win-Win Situation for
All Sides"

Professor Lin Chong-pin from Tamkang University's Graduate Institute
of International Affairs and Strategic Studies opined in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000] (8/31):

"... Beijing's current policy toward Taiwan: soft [power] will
prevail over hard [power]; will proactively strive to win popular
support [of the Taiwan people]; will insist on [preserving] face
while being flexible in dealing with its substantive interests.
Will Beijing continue [sticking to] such a line? It depends on
three factors: First, whether [the situation] inside mainland China
will remain more or less stable. Namely, will the competition among
the [Chinese] government leaders [come out into the open]? Will
[China's] economy be out of control? Will the disturbances in every
walk of life [in China] be linked together to form any [uniformed]
actions? Second, will the official exchanges between China and the
United States remain stable? Third, will the Taiwan government show
its 'friendly gesture' both in its words and deeds?

"If the answers to the questions above are yes, then Beijing's soft
policy toward Taiwan will remain the same, even though the 'honey
moon' period between Hu Jintao and Ma Ying-jeou is already over.
This is because mainland China's economy has already showed signs of
improvement; Chinese and U.S. officials are having close contacts;
the Ma administration has already quickly sent personnel to Beijing
to explain the decision-making [process] behind the Dalai Lama's
visit to Taiwan and the [Taiwan] authorities have exercised
restraint by not meeting with the Dalai Lama. The entire evaluation
should be more positive than negative. Judging from the current
situation, the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan could result in a
win-win situation for all sides. President Ma has demonstrated his
leadership by consulting with many people and then making a prompt
decision -- a quite refreshing look [for Ma's leadership]. The DPP,
on the other hand, revealed its capability to [launch] surprise
attacks without A-bian [former President Chen Shui-bian]; the Dalai
Lama has won more respect [from the Taiwan people] by cancelling his
international [press] conference; and the Taiwan people suffering
various disasters will be able to get blessings from the Dalai Lama,
who manages to rise above religious bias and always maintains
friendly relationships with all sides."

B) "Cross-Strait Politics Returns to Fundamentals"

Former DPP Legislator Julian Chu opined in the KMT-leaning "China
Times" [circulation: 120,000] (8/31):

"... Similar to the U.S. helicopters coming to [provide] rescue
assistance in Taiwan, the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan to offer
blessings [to the Taiwan people] may not necessarily have any
political implications. But for Beijing, the former case involved
the wrestling [of power] between China and the United States, while
the latter was related to the conflicts concerning [cross-Strait]
unification and [Taiwan] independence, so naturally [the Dalai
Lama's visit] will keep Beijing on its toes. Comparatively
speaking, the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan should be classified as
one of the 'three untouchables' (i.e. Tibetan and Xinjiang
independence, Taiwan independence, and the June 4th [Tiananmen
Square Incident]) in terms of Beijing's foreign relations, and its
political sensitivity ranks much higher than the U.S. military
aircraft coming to Taiwan. But Ma chose to act in an opposite way:
he merely informed Beijing in advance about the U.S. military coming

to Taiwan.

"It is expected that Ma will try the best he can to mend the
[broken] relations [with Beijing] by using all-out efforts to reduce
the political implications of the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan. But
even so, Ma's unpredictable and inconsistent decision-making style
in terms of [Taiwan's] cross-Strait policy will inevitably become a
problem that Beijing wants to resolve. ..."

C) "Not a Good Month for Beijing"

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

"It must have been a bad past few weeks for Beijing officials to
basically tell the US to get the hell out of the region -- but
that's exactly what it did last week during two days of negotiations
on maritime safety between Chinese and US officials, when it
requested that the US phase out and eventually end maritime
surveillance in the region. The meeting, called in response to a
series of near-accidents off the Chinese coast earlier this year,
came at a time when China was least expected to be flexing its
muscles before Washington. After all, with US President Barack Obama
still new in office and his China policy just shaping up, Beijing
has everything to gain from treading carefully, especially when
Washington is courting its help in resolving the global financial

"Some could argue that this is an indication of Beijing's growing
self-assurance, or simply the result of rising Chinese nationalism
under President Hu Jintao. This is unlikely, however, because China
isn't sure-footed enough yet to order the US around, and many are
still undecided as to whether the US and China are strategic
partners or strategic competitors. It is surprising that Beijing
officials would risk undermining the budding relationship with a US
administration that is widely seen as more amenable to China's
objectives than its predecessor. Beijing's hardening stance is the
result of something else altogether: its sense of weakness on a core
issue -- Taiwan. ...

"What derailed this carefully tuned minuet wasn't careless policy or
growing friction; rather, it was the immediate environment -- over
which China has no control -- that changed and is now forcing a
policy realignment. First came Typhoon Morakot, which devastated
southern Taiwan earlier this month. Soon afterwards, US military
aircraft, helicopters and officers were for the first time in many
years officially setting foot on Taiwanese soil, which had an
important symbolic impact on Beijing's perceptions. To add insult to
injury, the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has been
invited to visit Taiwan, something that would have been
inconceivable prior to Morakot. ...

"That Morakot and conflict in Myanmar, in addition to unrest in
Xinjiang, would occur almost simultaneously has made Beijing less
confident of its ability to determine the future course of the
region. It has also made it more aware that despite its well-crafted
-- and so far successful -- policy of ensuring stability along its
border and in the region, some variables remain out of its control.
As all these developments have invited -- or risk inviting --
intervention by outside forces, Beijing will want to ensure that it
is the sole regional power upon which smaller players can rely. One
way to achieve this, of course, will be to pressure the US to


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