Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef
DE RUEHIN #1276/01 3030757
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300757Z OCT 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2572
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9459
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0874
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001276
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
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage October 30 on prosecutors' investigation into game-fixing
scandal in Taiwan's professional baseball league; on the
government's warning regarding the hike in prices in the local
housing market; and on the upcoming local elections.
2. Editorials and commentaries continued to focus on the controversy
over Taiwan's decision to open its market to U.S. bone-in-beef and
other beef products. An op-ed in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
criticized the Ma Ying-jeou administration's poor decision-making
process in the negotiations with the United States, which caused AIT
Director William Stanton to make an analogy between the death rates
of eating U.S. beef and riding scooters in Taiwan. Another column
in the "Apple Daily" questioned the logic behind Stanton's analogy
and warned that if the United States pushes the envelope too much, a
political storm might be created in Taiwan. An editorial in the
KMT-leaning, China focused "Want Daily" said the controversy has
given the people of Taiwan new experiences and feelings about the
United States. The editorial said that whether the people of
Taiwan, one of the pro-U.S. fortresses in the world, would change
their views about the United States, depends on the attitude of the
United States. An editorial in the conservative, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" criticized Stanton's analogy, and
urged the United States to regard Taiwan as "an important piece of
the puzzle in U.S. foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific." On the
other hand, an editorial in the pro-independence, English-language
"Taipei Times" said it is "time for some facts about U.S. beef."
The editorial used statistics to suggest that eating U.S. beef poses
no substantial health risk. End summary.
3. U.S. Beef
A) "Ma Ying-jeou and Su Chi's Perfunctory [Approach]"
Liu Shih-chung, now a Visiting Fellow at the U.S.-based Brookings
Institution, opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation 520,000] (10/30):
"... Facing the United States, the superpower, Taiwan does not have
many bargaining chips during negotiations. Under the current
diplomatic policy principle of 'engaging with China on a full
basis,' the United States does not give Taiwan incentives
immediately just because cross-Strait relations have improved.
Beijing does not loosen its hands on sensitive U.S.-Taiwan issues.
If it is said that during the [former] Chen Shui-bian
administration, there were clashes in relations between the United
States and Taiwan, which were a strain, the Ma [Ying-jeou]
administration's attitude of taking care of everything personally
and being obedient when it deals with the United States should have
provided it with more bargaining chips during negotiations. How
come [the Ma administration] backed off from the bottom line which
the DPP administration had upheld by allowing bone-in-beef, offal
and ground beef coming into Taiwan; moreover, [the Ma
administration] let AIT Director William Stanton get a significant
achievement [on one of his tasks] not long after Stanton assumed
office, which made Stanton contentedly make a ridiculous analogy
[about] the high rate of accidents by riding scooters in Taiwan to
lessen the [public's] worries about the possibility of falling ill
by eating U.S. beef? ..."
B) "William Stanton and U.S. Beef"
Jaw Shao-kong, a radio program host, wrote in his column in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000] (10/30):
"... If [AIT Director] William Stanton's logic is correct, then we
would like to ask, how many people in the United States die from car
accidents per year? Does it mean that anything which causes a lower
death rate than that of car accidents could be allowed to be
imported into the United States? [Would the] United States
Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration agree?
... Taiwan is not that anti-American and always treats the United
States as a friend. But if the United States pushes the envelope
too much, a political storm will be stirred up. ..."
C) "Taiwan People's Perspectives on China and the United States"
An editorial in the KMT-leaning, China-focused "Want Daily"
[circulation: 10,000] (10/30) wrote:
"The arrogance and rudeness of AIT Director William Stanton as well
as the United States' attitude of being [the imperial] Court and a
superior country are not unfamiliar to Taiwan. It is just that for
many people of Taiwan, this kind of unfriendly attitude and unequal
relationship should have been shown by the mainland [China]
government and officials. Now, by the incident of U.S. beef, the
Taiwan people have a total different experience. ...
"The key to how much this new experience brought about by the
controversy over U.S. beef will affect Taiwan people's perspectives
on the United States, whether it will be engraved in people's memory
forever, or just like a boat leaves behind no trail in its path,
will still depend on the attitude of the United States. On the
other hand, Taiwan people's perspectives on China and on the United
States are usually connected with one another. The stronger the
likelihood that Mainland [China] realizes 'a harmonious society' and
'a harmonious world' in its internal and foreign policies, the more
likely [it will be] that [Mainland China] will show enlightenment
and tolerance. This would certainly be more attractive to Taiwan,
which would be more able to balance Taiwan's one-sided leaning
toward the United States. ..."
D) "The Bull Is Pushing Taiwan Away from the U.S."
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (10/30):
"In Taiwan, the expression one would apply when strongly protesting
something outrageous is pronounced the same as 'cow." On the other
hand, the mainland Chinese term 'niu (meaning cow),' the new buzz
word in cross-Strait media, describes something/someone
extraordinary as well as extraordinarily adamant.
"With his bizarre comparison between the number of scooter riders
killed in Taiwan to mad cow disease statistics, the new U.S. envoy
to Taiwan, William Stanton, earned himself the right to be called
'cow' in both Taiwanese and Chinese connotations. ...
"Under such circumstances, the director of the American Institute in
Taiwan's (AIT) comment, as well as the AIT's decision not to re-open
negotiations, certainly did not help Ma's administration other than
cementing the U.S.' image as the unthinking bully across the
negotiation table. Despite the fact that beef represents only one
percent of the bilateral trade between the U.S. and Taiwan, the
American negotiators have made it a precondition for any trade
negotiations. It is seen as a litmus test to whether a country is
'friendly' to the U.S. ...
"Taiwan is not only a developed nation with 23 million people and
the biggest contract chip-maker in the world, it is one of the most
important pieces of the puzzle in U.S. foreign policy in the
Asia-Pacific. The United States is obviously not seeing this side
of the argument. By citing the number of 1,034 deaths in motorcycle
accidents in Taiwan last year, Stanton did not simply make an
analogy. He also implied that mad cow disease does not concern
Taiwan - not because U.S. beef products are safe, but because the
island is not statistically significant enough to raise a mad cow
"But the Taiwanese people are worrying. A local university student
consumed cow dung Thursday in protest of the re-opening of U.S. beef
imports. Washington should do something to reassure the Taiwanese
people and show its concern to the island as a strategic partner
before it is too late. For now, public anger is directed mainly at
the Ma administration. Before long it will turn to the other party
in the beef talks."
E) "Time for Some Facts about U.S. Beef"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (10/30):
"... One thing that politicians don't seem to be taking notice of,
however, is the scientific evidence that suggests eating US beef
poses no substantial health risk. ...
"In the US, to date there have been just three cases of BSE (one
imported) and three deaths from vCJD, but two of these three deaths
were likely cases of exposure in the UK, while the other was a
recent immigrant. These figures are the kind of factual information
the public should have been presented with before the ban was
lifted. This would have given them the chance to make an informed
choice on the matter, rather than be fed with misinformation, rumor
and the mischief of politicians with ulterior motives.
"American Institute in Taiwan Director William Stanton's indelicate
comparison that eating US beef is safer than riding a scooter only
served to embolden opponents and allowed them to continue their
campaign of baseless accusations. ..."