Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef, U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #1262/01 2990830
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 260830Z OCT 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2541
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9448
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0862
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001262
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/P, EAP/PD - THOMAS HAMM
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S. BEEF, U.S.-CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage October 24-26 on the Taiwan government's decision to open
its market to U.S. bone-in-beef and beef products; on the elections
for the KMT's central standing committee; and on the Taiwan's
Chinese Professional Baseball league playoffs.
2. Regarding the decision by the Taiwan government to open the
Taiwan market to U.S. bone-in-beef, editorials and columns in most
local newspapers lambasted the government for a poor and opaque
decision-making process. Also, the editorials and commentaries
criticized the Taiwan government's reported calculation to open
Taiwan's market to U.S. bone-in-beef in exchange for resuming
negotiations on the U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement (TIFA) and other favors from the United States. They
argued this has put the people of Taiwan's health at risk.
Concerning U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, two articles in the
KMT-leaning, China focused "Want Daily" alleged that the United
States has decided to get involved in the cross-Strait political
dialogues, judging from various comments made recently by U.S.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and U.S. Assistant
Secretary of State Kurt M. Campbell. Another editorial in the
pro-independence "Taiwan News," reflected on the remarks made by
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director William A. Stanton at a
press conference last week. The editorial urged the Obama
administration to avoid harboring a naive mentality when dealing
with Beijing. End summary.
3. U.S. Beef
A) "Suspending the Importation"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
"... We think that the government should suspend the import of U.S.
beef. Also, [the government should] immediately hold public
hearings and allow domestic and international experts as well as
consumer interest groups to express their views; make assessments on
various issues; and try to come up with other coordinated measures.
"Only after the consensus is reached domestically can the import of
U.S. beef not cause disasters. Otherwise, even if [the U.S. beef]
was imported [into Taiwan] forcibly, the U.S. beef would not win the
hearts of consumers and could not have a market. The United States'
strong attitude could also hurt the feelings of the Taiwan people.
Because of the Ma Ying-jeou administration's weakness and lack of
ability, the experience of South Korean [President]'s Lee Myung-bak
is very likely to be restaged in Taiwan. These developments would
not be something that we would be happy to see."
B) "U.S. Beef and the Livelihood of Taiwan's People"
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... There are three controversial points in the 'dispute over U.S.
beef.' First, the scale of relaxation [on restrictions on U.S.
beef] exceeds the normal scope. In addition to bone-in steaks, the
import of a great amount of offal has put the health of the Taiwan
people at risk. Second, the policy making was opaque. Especially
when the health authorities' opinions were not fully respected, the
National Security Council, which had a leading role in the policy
making, did not need to face public opinion. Third, the [Taiwan]
government was not sincere enough to communicate with the society.
[The Taiwan government] constantly used confusing language, such as
'not import in principle,' 'both sides [in the United States and
Taiwan] had private understandings, to mislead the public and create
"It is reported that the reason Taiwan made significant concessions
was in exchange for the [resumption of] negotiations on the
U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as well
as [for] the United States to relax its restrictions to allow
cabinet-level officials to visit Taiwan. No matter what, it is
unbelievable to put the people's health on the negotiating table to
make a political deal. ..."
C) "How Were the Negotiations Conducted!"
A column in the KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000]
"... Judging from the level of the Taiwan people's pro-U.S.
attitude, it is unlikely that large-scale protests such as those in
South Korea several years ago would happen in Taiwan. However, the
[Taiwan] government cannot think that it has gone through the test
safely. It is because, compared with the beef issue, Taiwan's
negotiations with the other side [of the Taiwan Strait] on an
Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) involve more
complicated political and economic issues as well as feelings. If
the [Taiwan] government is incapable of dealing with the beef issue,
how can people believe that they [the Taiwan government] can
safeguard the interests of Taiwan when they negotiate the ECFA [with
D) "U.S. Beef: Unbalanced Multilateral Relations"
The KMT-leaning, China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000]
"... What we should try to understand deep down is why we must make
such a compromise and concession. According to our understanding,
it is because the United States hopes that Taiwan will not lean
toward China on issues such as business interests and cross-Strait
relations. Taiwan, on the other hand, hopes to resume [the
negotiations on] the U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement (TIFA) by fully opening Taiwan's market to U.S. beef as a
way to dispel the United States' worries that Taiwan would lean
toward China after signing an Economic Cooperation Framework
Agreement (ECFA) with China. If these accounts were true, we
believe that the [Taiwan] government, which had pledged solemnly
that the ECFA will not be leaning toward China at all, has already
lost its own position. Using the safety of the Taiwan people as a
price to 'balance' the trilateral relations among Taiwan, China and
the United States has totally deviated from the principle of
'putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people.' It is a
serious loss of equilibrium. ..."
4. U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
A) "The United States' Role in Cross-Strait Relations"
Professor Edward Chen from Tamkang University's Graduate Institute
of American Studies (GIAS) wrote in a column of the KMT-leaning,
China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] (10/25):
"... So far, regarding Washington's views about the cross-Strait
negotiations, no one has expressed the views more clearly than
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt. At
the end of March 2008 before Ma Ying-jeou assumed office, Burghardt
visited Ma and recommended that cross-Strait dialogues be conducted
through three stages of development. At the first stage, the three
links [of postal, transportation and trade] and allowing Chinese
tourists to visit Taiwan could be dealt with. At the second stage,
deep-level economic and trade issues could be discussed to make the
cooperation on economic, trade and investment [issues] more open
than before. This stage has almost come to an end. The third stage
will touch on political issues such as a cross-Strait peace
agreement, the reduction of military threats, and participating in
international organizations. ...
"At the moment, the cross-Strait dialogue is going to enter into the
third stage of [dealing with] political issues. United States
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, whose position in the
United States State Department is only under Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, said that he hoped that both sides of the Taiwan
Strait could move to negotiate on 'confidence-building measures
(CBMs).' In fact, as is mentioned in this article earlier, the
United States has been playing a key role in the cross-Strait
negotiations on signing an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement
(ECFA). Now, when the cross-Strait negotiations on economic issues
are almost concluded and the negotiations on political issues have
not yet started, the United States has decided to get involved.
While giving a speech at an event discussing the rise of China on
September 24, 2009, Steinberg encouraged both sides of the Taiwan
Strait to push forward the 'confidence-building measures (CBMs).'
He said that if both sides of the Taiwan Strait start negotiations
on CBMs, cross-Strait relations will be more stable and amicable.
However, Steinberg did not elaborate clearly on his remarks. ..."
B) "The Reason that the United States Gets Involved in Cross-Strait
Professor Edward Chen from Tamkang University's Graduate Institute
of American Studies (GIAS) wrote in a column of the KMT-leaning,
China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] (10/26):
"United States Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and
Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell's remarks are further proof of
Washington's resolution to get involved in Asian and cross-Strait
affairs. While giving a speech in Washington on October 19, 2009,
[Campbell] said that what the United States needs to do the most in
Asia is to 'show up' and let Asian countries feel the existence and
commitments of the United States. ...
"From Campbell's remarks, [it can be seen that] the United States
has at least three goals. First, Washington intends to show Beijing
that, during President Barack Obama's visit to China, the United
States will not hurt Taiwan's interests. Second, Washington did not
avoid revealing that the United States will have a competition of
the dragon and the eagle with China in Southeast Asia. Third, it
was a response to Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg's
remarks encouraging both sides of the Taiwan Strait to push forward
the 'confidence-building measures (CBMs).' ...
"There are at least the following three reasons why the United
States would like to play a role in the cross-Strait negotiation
process. First, the United States feels that the speed of
cross-Strait developments has exceeded expectations. If the United
States does not get involved now, it would become an outside
observer. Second, once both sides of the Taiwan Strait launch
negotiations on issues that have high political sensitivity, the
United States should actively participate in [the negotiations]
through track two channels to understand the development of
cross-Strait relations and negotiations which might have an impact
on the national interests of the United States. Furthermore, the
United States does not want to be an observer or an outsider. Only
by making itself play the roles of promoter, facilitator,
supervisor, arbitrator and guarantor can the United States say
something during the cross-Strait negotiations and bring its clout
with both sides of the Taiwan Strait into full play."
C) "U.S. Needs Balanced Policy Toward Taiwan"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (10/26):
"In his first meeting with the Taiwan news media last week, newly
arrived American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Taipei representative
William A. Stanton focused on reemphasizing that there will be no
change in Washington's policy toward Taiwan under the new Democratic
administration of President Barack Obama in line with the 1979
Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). Even though Stanton delivered a
reassuring message that 'there is no reason to be concerned about
Taiwan in particular' with regard to President Obama's slated visit
to the People's Republic of China, we urge Washington to take more
seriously the exacerbating imbalance in cross-strait relations and
the potential negative impacts on both Taiwan and American strategic
interests in the Asia-Pacific region. ...
"In his discussion with local media, Stanton stated that one of the
most critical topics for the upcoming meeting between Obama and PRC
State Chairman and CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao will be on
climate change as Obama hopes to build momentum for closer
collaboration among the world's two top emitters of greenhouse gases
in the run-up to the Global Conference on Climate Change in
Copenhagen in December. In the light of this agenda, the question
of Taiwan will be sidelined. ...
"In order to secure Washington's continued support for his
China-centric agenda and boost flagging approval ratings, [Taiwan
President] Ma [Ying-jeou] is now doing whatever he can do please the
U.S., such as deciding to reopen imports of U.S. beef. Ma hopes to
secure agreement from Obama for items such as a visa-waiver program,
visits by senior U.S. officials and the resumption of the Trade and
Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) dialogue and distract
attention from the inability to secure advanced F-16 C/D type jet
fighters and other systems that can help redress the yawning
military imbalance across the Taiwan Strait and the weakening of
Taiwan's sovereignty and bargaining position with Beijing.
"We also urge the Obama administration to avoid harboring a naive
mentality when dealing with Beijing, as reflected in the assumption
that, after a climate control accord is reached, the PRC will permit
the U.S. president to meet with the Dalai Lama or announce new arms
sales to Taiwan. Beijing will gain and will make use of an
advantageous leverage unless Obama is able to develop a risk
'hedging' strategy and reorient Washington's East Asian policy
toward a more balanced direction that takes into account the new
imbalances in the Taiwan Strait."