Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef Imports to Taiwan
DE RUEHIN #1272/01 3020949
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290949Z OCT 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2562
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9455
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0870
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001272
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 IMPORTS TO TAIWAN
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage October 29 on the "storm" over the Taiwan government's
decision to allow the import of U.S. beef, offal and spinal cords
and its aftermath; on the alleged game fixing by several Taiwan
professional baseball players; and on the KMT's upcoming by-election
for its Central Standing Committee.
2. Editorials and op-ed pieces in Taiwan's major Chinese-language
and English-language dailies continued to lash out at the Ma
Ying-jeou administration's decision to allow the import of U.S. beef
and at AIT Taipei Director William Stanton's recent remarks
comparing the risk of contracting mad cow disease by eating U.S.
beef with the death rate caused by scooter accidents in Taiwan. An
editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" severely criticized
AIT Director Stanton's "foolish" analogy and the United States'
"hegemonic and arrogant" mentality. A column in the pro-unification
"United Daily News" said Stanton's "domineering persuasion" might
end up getting Washington the opposite of what it hopes. An
editorial in the KMT-leaning "China Times" also questioned if the
United States is trying to make a fortune at the expense of Taiwan's
national mishaps. A separate "China Times" op-ed, and editorials in
both pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" and "Taiwan
News" all lambasted the Ma administration for failing to protect
Taiwan's interests and listen to Taiwan's public opinion. A
separate "United Daily News" op-ed by a DPP legislator said the U.S.
beef storm revealed a warning signal: namely, the Ma administration
has lost balance in the strategic relations among Taiwan, the United
States and China. End summary.
A) "The Most Obstinate AIT Director in History"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
"... When speaking of the safety of U.S. beef, AIT Taipei Director
William Stanton said Taiwan has a population of 23 million, among
which 1,034 people lost their lives in scooter accidents last year
-- a [death] rate far higher than that caused by the mad cow
disease. 'Maybe people should stop riding scooters since it was
more dangerous [than eating beef],' Stanton said. He also cited his
reply to a [Korean] student when he served in Seoul, who questioned
him what if one died of mad cow disease because of eating U.S. beef:
'how do you know you would not go blind when you watch a Samsung
television?' Such an analogy was inappropriate and indeed very
"Based on 'Stanton's logic,' one can infer as follows: [People] can
use drugs because the number of people dying from drug use is less
than that caused by scooter accidents; [people] can have random sex
because those who die from HIV/AIDS are less than those who die in
scooter accidents ... Nor does it matter that China has exported
toxic food products or asbestos boards to the United States and
Japan, because the Americans who die from these toxic products are
far less than those who die in accidents. The United States is a
superpower of the world leader class, and the language a diplomat
uses when he speaks must be appropriate to the occasion and logical;
he must not copy Taiwan's politicians in making up glib but lame
arguments. One must know that what is at issue is not the low risks
of contracting mad cow disease; what really matters is that the fear
of getting ill is overwhelming. ...
"The United States has been often rejected and resented by other
countries, and the Americans rarely know why. The truth is that it
was caused by the United States' hegemonic and arrogant mentality.
The United States, like all the mighty empires in history, lacks
empathy and sympathy towards others. With its one and only
principle of self-centeredness and self interests to deal with other
countries, it goes without saying that [the United States] cannot
win a favorable impression from the people of other countries.
Stanton's glib tongue has actually reflected such an attitude [of
the United States]. This is the reason why even the Green camp
people, who are usually pro-U.S., cannot bear to see it and have
[stepped] forward to lash out at the United States.
"It is a reasonable policy decision if the Ma administration wants
to use [Taiwan's] import of U.S. beef in exchange for something
similar to the most-favored-nation trade agreement, arms sales or
other interests so as to balance U.S.-China-Taiwan relations. [We]
can allow the import of U.S. beef, and all it takes is for the
[local] consumers to refuse to buy it. What's at stake is that [we]
must do it in exchange for other interests; we give and we take, and
we cannot easily let others trample us underfoot and take whatever
they want, as at the end of the Qing Dynasty. Stanton's attitude
has unexpectedly resulted in making the Taiwan people despise U.S.
beef all the more, and he will also become the 'most obstinate AIT
director' in the history of Taiwan-U.S. diplomatic history."
B) "William Stanton's 'Domineering Persuasion'"
The "Black and White" column in the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 400,000] wrote (10/29):
"... At this moment, if the U.S. side can offer a dispassionate and
calm explanation over the fear for the mad cow disease, it may be
able to give the Ma administration a hand. Nevertheless, AIT
Director William Stanton pointed out that the cases of contracting
mad cow disease in the United States is far lower than the death
rate from scooter accidents in Taiwan, and that over 1,000 [Taiwan]
people lost their lives because of scooter accidents last year.
Speaking of this, he questioned: 'Should Taiwan people stop riding
motor scooters?' Such an argument is really 'annoying'! It is true
that the cases of contracting mad cow disease is small, and that the
number of Taiwan people dying from scooter accidents is far higher
than that of American people getting the mad cow disease. But it is
really [not right] to compare the two [figures] with each other. ...
How is it possible that Stanton is not aware of this awkward
situation when the [Taiwan] public is indignant and the Ma
administration is being severely lambasted, how about that Stanton?
"[Former President] Chen Shui-bian claimed that he was 'the
administrative agent of the U.S. military government' and that he
had 'constantly received instructions from AIT.' The Taiwan people
in general believe that his remarks were nothing but an excuse to
help exonerate himself from a charge, and they just laughed them
off. But in the face of the controversy over [U.S.] beef and the
United States' condescending gesture and tone, one cannot help but
reflect on whether the United States has always been making repeated
and unrestricted demands in terms of the long-standing Taiwan-U.S.
"U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly declared that
[Washington] needs to 'treat [other countries] equally' in terms of
its international relations and to 'listen to different voices.'
But it appears that the [U.S.] foreign service system, which is
accustomed to being bossy, has yet to adjust its practices. In
terms of the U.S. beef issue, the Taiwan public is now highly
indignant, and the United States' 'domineering persuasion' without
considering the consequences may end up in [getting] just the
opposite [of what it hopes]."
C) "Could it Be That the United States Is [Trying to] Make a Fortune
at the Expense of Taiwan's National Mishaps?"
The KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] editorialized
"... Frankly speaking, when it comes to the storm over U.S. beef
this time, even though there are mistakes on the Taiwan side, which
failed to do appropriate administrative maneuvering and offer clear
explanations, the real and prime culprit behind the scene is the
United States. The public is asking the National Security Council
and the Council of Agriculture what [Taiwan] really gets in return
for opening [Taiwan's market] to U.S. beef offal, but the two
agencies only offered vague and uncertain explanations. Even though
we do not understand the real contents of the exchange of interests,
it is not difficult to figure out why these agencies found it hard
to explain [to the public]. ...
"In addition to the U.S. beef, another news story related to
Taiwan-U.S. relations was the hikes in the price tags for the U.S.
arms sales to Taiwan. News reports said that recently the United
States has requested that Taiwan install additional 'software to
prevent information leaks,' ruthlessly ripping Taiwan off of a total
of USD 1.8 billion. Adding the USD 1 billion worth of radar system
and its peripheral facilities, [the United States] has made sure and
taken advantage of the reliance of Taiwan's national defense on the
United States by making a huge demand. This is another move to make
a fortune at the expense of Taiwan's national mishaps. ...
"Washington is actually clearly aware of Taiwan's difficult
situation. We can of course understand the United States' planning
for its national interests. But if Washington is just taking
advantage of Taiwan's difficult situation by seizing this
opportunity to pressure Taiwan to import the beef offal and bones
that are unpopular in the United States or to raise the price for
arms sales, then the United States is trying to make a fortune at
the expense of Taiwan's 'national mishaps' -- a move that is really
"Judging from a different perspective, the United States hopes that
China and Taiwan will sign the Economic Cooperation Framework
Agreement. But in the meantime, it does not want to see the two
sides getting too intimate and thus making Taiwan-U.S. relations
estranged, as that kind of development will result in another form
of imbalance between Taiwan, China and the United States. If a gap
were created between the United States and the Taiwan people because
of the beef issue and the arms sales to Taiwan, it will force both
sides of the Taiwan Strait to move even closer. Will that possibly
meet the United States' interests?
"Overall, we want to urge the United States to take a closer look at
the bigger environment and situation concerning Taiwan, China and
the United States and not seize the opportunity of Taiwan's
predicament to make a fortune. U.S. President Barack Obama has just
won the Nobel Peace Prize, and he should at least show the prestige
of being the big president of a big country getting an award.
Forcing Taiwan's Ma administration and representatives of Taiwan's
ruling party to sign an [agreement similar to the] Treaty of
Shimonoseki for [U.S.] beef offal and brains just one month prior to
[Taiwan's] year-end city mayors' and country magistrates' elections
is definitely a stupid strategy that will lose more in the long run.
D) "Ma Ying-jeou Must Take Strict Precautions to Prevent the U.S.
Beef Storm from Getting out of Control"
China Times' former President Wang Chien-chuang wrote in a column in
the KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] (10/29):
"This article will talk about its conclusion first: The 'storm overQ.S. beef'
has proved that the Ma administration is not only an
'arrogant, malfunctioning government' but that it has also clearly
shown the symptoms of 'early aging.'... The Ma administration
claimed that it negotiated with the United States based on the
'South Korean model' or boasted that Taiwan's model is stricter than
that of South Korea. But in terms of its results, the Ma
administration has evidently only consulted Seoul's 'negotiation
model for U.S. beef,' and it has failed to learn South Korea's
lesson of 'U.S. beef storm.' ..."
E) "[Getting Stuck] in a Dilemma -- a Warning Signal for the Ma
DPP Legislator Ke Chien-min opined in the pro-unification "United
Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (10/29):
"... Frankly speaking, the warning signal really revealed by the
talks over U.S. beef this time was that the Ma administration has
now lost its balance in terms of the strategic relations among
Taiwan, the United States and China; or further, it is stuck in a
dilemma where it is criticized by all sides. When it comes to the
strategic equilibrium among Taiwan, the United States and China, the
more that the Ma administration is tilted toward China, the more it
will arouse doubts from the United States. Such a development will
only result in a vicious cycle of [Taiwan's] losing its bargaining
chips in talking with the United States."
F) "US Beef and the Curse of Yu Wen"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (10/29):
"Those familiar with Taiwan's political scene will recall the name
Yu Wen, a Taipei City Government staffer during President Ma
Ying-jeou's stint as mayor from 1998 to 2006. Following Ma's
indictment in 2006 for misusing his special allowance, Yu became a
fall guy in some observers' eyes, serving nine months in jail for
failing to keep Ma's accounts in order. The term 'Yu Wen' has since
become part of Taiwan's political lingo. It refers to a government
official or agency that serves as a scapegoat and takes the heat for
"Factor in diplomatic concerns and it is highly unlikely that the
DOH or the premier would have dared to make the 'final call' on US
beef without a directive from -- or at least the blessing of -- the
Presidential Office and the National Security Council. Presidential
Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi on Saturday said the lifting of the
beef ban was a 'joint decision' in which the government acted in
concert. This is hopelessly inconsistent with Ma's attack on the
health minister. Since Ma took office, a disturbing pattern has
developed in which lower-order government officials shoulder
responsibility for disasters created by their superiors. ... The
more 'Yu Wen' figures there are, the more Taiwan will suffer as it
endures an incompetent government lined with officials who bask in
their power but shy away from responsibility. Will a real
decision-maker stand up?"
G) "Taiwan's Meat Ready for Sale by Ma to PRC"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (10/29):
"The decision by President Ma Ying-jeou's Chinese Nationalist Party
(Kuomintang) government to lift a ban on imports of bone-in beef,
intestines and ground beef from the United States has fuelled
concerns over whether Ma will similarly betray vows to defend
Taiwan's interests in trade talks with the People's Republic of
China. ... Indeed, the obvious incapacity of Ma and other KMT
officials to resist pressure from Taiwan's long-time ally in the
beef imports talks has punctured the credibility of his vocal
promises not to liberalize imports of Chinese agricultural produce,
allow Chinese workers into Taiwan and not denigrate Taiwan's
sovereignty in the ECFA talks. The Washington debacle also provided
another case study of how the Ma government has repeatedly
discounted the value of Taiwan's political bargaining chips through
its habitual 'black box' decision making, its refusal to engage in
democratic dialogue with opposition parties or concerned civic
groups and its habitual resort to manufacturing accomplished facts
to short-circuit dissent.
"Indeed, it is likely that last week's humiliating surrender at the
negotiating table in Washington aimed to defuse rising opposition in
Taiwan to the proposed ECFA with the PRC by securing a resumption of
talks with the U.S. on the long-stalled 'trade and investment
framework agreement' (TIFA). Exposing our consumers to the health
risk of consuming U.S. offal and ground beef to defuse opposition to
the ECFA would be bad enough, but the KMT government would be
exposed as truly incompetent if Ma is telling the truth and our
government did not secure any reciprocal benefits from Washington.
Our citizens can hardly expect the KMT government to do any better
in the far more critical ECFA negotiations with the no less
secretive and authoritarian Chinese Communist Party-ruled PRC or to
show any more respect to the Legislative Yuan's oversight. Given
the Ma government's refusal to renegotiate the agreement, we urge
citizens to call on their legislators to insert a direct ban on beef
offal, intestines, ground beef and other high-risk animal products
into the Food and Health Management Law. Last but not least, we
urge all Taiwan citizens should support efforts to require that any
comprehensive trade pact with the PRC be ratification by national