Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef Imports to Taiwan,
DE RUEHIN #1326/01 3130955
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090955Z NOV 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2662
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9480
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0893
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001326
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 from November 7 through 9 on the controversy and aftermath
of the Taiwan government's decision to allow the import of U.S. beef
and beef products; on developments in cross-Strait relations; and on
U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Asia. Almost all
papers reported on the remarks by Jeffrey Bader, senior director for
East Asian Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, at the
Brookings Institute on November 6, in which he said President Obama
will not touch on the issue of Taiwan's status in his upcoming trip
2. Editorials and op-ed pieces in Taiwan's papers from November 7
through 9 continued to focus on the controversy caused by the Ma
administration's decision to allow the import of U.S. beef and beef
products. The pro-independence "Liberty Times" ran an editorial and
a column lambasting the Ma administration for failing to safeguard
Taiwan's sovereignty and protect the well being of its people by
signing an "unequal treaty" with the United States. An op-ed in the
KMT-leaning "China Times" by a former DPP legislator also condemned
the Ma administration for belittling Taiwan by failing to defend the
island's right as Seoul did in 2008. An op-ed in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily," however, called for an end to the
farce over U.S. beef. The article said Taiwan's overall interests
will be endangered if it insists on renegotiating the beef deal with
the United States. A separate "Apple Daily" piece said the
resolution to the beef controversy is for the Ma administration to
acknowledge its fault and to seek remedy from the United States. An
op-ed in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
discussed the lessons to be learned from the beef debacle, while an
editorial in the conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" said it is the upcoming island elections that have
created all the farce over U.S. beef. With regard to
U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, a "Taipei Times" op-ed discussed the
pitfalls and possibilities in President Obama's Taiwan line. A
"China Post" editorial and an editorial in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taiwan News" each expressed their hopes for Obama
on U.S.-China relations when he visits Beijing in November. End
3. U.S. Beef Imports to Taiwan
A) "Randomly Kowtowing to Other Countries While Acting too
Arbitrarily to Its Own People"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000]
"...Handling foreign affairs according to its own wishful thinking
and being incompetent are part of the essence of the Ma
administration. What's worse is that it is not only muddleheaded
and stupid toward other countries but also acting arbitrarily to its
own people. Taking the opening [of Taiwan's market] to U.S. beef as
an example, the Ma administration has deceived the public, shown no
interest in communicating, lacks credibility and totally disregarded
the health and well being of its people. ... The most disgusting
part is that the Ma administration has not only failed to play the
role of gatekeeper for the health of the Taiwan people during its
talks with the United States, but it has also forced its people to
accept whatever deals it has made [with the United States]. ...
"Given the way the Ma administration has been handling the import of
U.S. beef -- 'randomly kowtowing to other countries while acting too
arbitrarily to its own people,' the Taiwan people have to step
forward to force this administration to change its policy and
renegotiate a new deal with the United States. The Taiwan people
have to try its utmost to stop [the signing of] the Economic
Cooperation Framework Agreement and the financial Memorandum of
Understanding [with China], which will surely put Taiwan in grave
B) "Ma Administration IQlicing Taiwan like Salami"
Freelance columnist Hu Wen-hui wrote in a column in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000] (11/9):
"... 'Slicing a salami' is the model that Ma used to handle Taiwan's
sovereignty, and its talks with the United States on U.S. beef were
nothing but a 'test run' to see how the Taiwan people will react.
The agreement that Taiwan will sign with China is actually the 'test
salami' that Ma will be slicing. ... Ma's [evil] intent has turned
from a 'conspiracy' to an 'open scheme.' Take the protocol for U.S.
beef imports as an example. The Ma administration was muddleheaded
and incompetent when it signed the unequal treaty [with the United
States], and when the people reacted strongly against it and a storm
was taking shape because of it, [the Ma administration] then forced
its people to accept it, citing the excuse that the protocol is very
important for Taiwan-U.S. relations. ...
"The Ma administration claimed that what we will be eating is [beef]
from cattle younger than 30 months, but it was later found out that
there was no such a provision in the protocol, except for the
letters from two U.S. assistant secretaries. [National Security
Council Secretary-General] Su Chi alleged that the letters written
by U.S. officials have the same validity as that of the protocol and
that the authority of the protocol is higher than [Taiwan's]
domestic laws. [Given such logic,] does it mean that the authority
of the U.S. official letters is higher than Taiwan's laws? This is
the worst case of forfeiting [Taiwan's] sovereignty and humiliating
our nation! ..."
C) "Political Farce over [U.S.] Beef Can Be Over Now"
Professor Jack Lee from National Open University's Department of
Public Administration opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 520,000] (11/9):
"... To expand the imports of U.S. beef is an important step for
Taiwan's national security strategy, and it is designated to pave
the way for future Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA)
talks between Taiwan and the United States under the [framework] of
the World Trade Organization (WTO). ... What is bizarre and
confusing was that the DPP has always seen safeguarding the
Taiwan-centric awareness as its mission, but now it is strongly
demanding that Taiwan and the United States renegotiate the beef
deal, a move completely opposite to its long-standing 'anti-China
and pro-U.S.' position. All we can say is that this is a political
farce over [U.S. beef] made just for the year-end [city mayors' and
county magistrates'] elections.
"In reality, the protocol Taiwan signed with the United States [over
U.S. beef imports] has adopted stricter standards than the norms set
up by the World Organization for Animal Health, and the standards
are the same as those revised and adopted by South Korea in the wake
of its 'beef storm.' The series of administrative measures that the
Department of Health will adopt are akin to substantive moves to
block the import of U.S. ground beef and beef offal. Besides, given
that the beef importers said they would not import [U.S. beef offal
and ground beef]; the local city and county governments have adopted
the self-management [policy]; and the consumers have been taught not
to eat [such beef], there is hardly any market in Taiwan for U.S.
ground beef and beef offal. ...
"How is the Legislative Yuan going to amend the Act Governing Food
Sanitation? ... Once the act is amended in the way that will
endanger the protocol [Taiwan signed with the United States], Taiwan
will surely have to restart talks with the United States, a
development that will do serious damage to the mutual trust between
Taiwan and the United States. ... If one goes too far in playing the
game of domestic politics, Taiwan's international and foreign
relations will be harmed, and should it result in the United States
adopting retaliatory measures against Taiwan, it will be Taiwan's
overall interests that will be endangered. As a result, now is the
time to call a halt to the political farce over U.S. beef!"
D) "Using Beef to Hype up Social Panic"
Sun Ching-yu, a senior political commentator, opined in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000] (11/9):
"... In the face of social panic, the only way is to resolve the
problem. Initiating a referendum to show opposition to the import
of U.S. beef is a campaign, not a resolution. To seek to block the
U.S. beef imports via legislation ... [will not work either] as what
[we have signed] is an international treaty which cannot be
obstructed technically via legislation. The reasonable resolution
is to go to the source -- namely, the Ma administration has to
acknowledge its fault and seek remedy from the United States. Or it
can stop the imports of those controversial parts [of the cattle]
for the time being and demand extra guarantees [from the United
E) "Dogged Flattering Will Not Trade Respect in Return"
Former DPP Legislator Julian Kuo wrote in a column in the
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] (11/9):
"The Ma administration's hasty decision to allow the import of U.S.
beef recently has aroused the indignation of the entire country.
What is weird was that the head of our Department of Health had
sought to defend the United States immediately when the public began
to criticize the decision. Not only so, when the opposition party
demanded that Taiwan renegotiate the deal [with the United States],
our Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded immediately that the move
would endanger our national credibility. It is a clear fact that
Taiwan has been abused and insulted by the United States, but our
government has totally overlooked the fact that it can take
advantage of the public opinion [to deal with the United States].
[Given that we have] such a government that belittles itself, it is
no wonder that the United States will not take us seriously. ..."
F) "Lessons to Learn from Beef Debacle"
Professor Chou Kuei-tien from National Taiwan University's Graduate
Institute of National Development opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (11/8):
"... Just like its predecessor, the government cites various health
assessments and claims that the risk of contracting vCJD by eating
US beef is one in several hundred million. But don't forget that,
three years ago, the government refused to allow imports of US
bone-in beef because it said bone-in beef carried a higher risk of
mad cow disease. This is contradictory to the reasons currently
given for relaxing restrictions on US beef imports. Also do not
forget that the US sells around 36 million head of cattle every
year, only 1 percent of which is checked for mad cow disease. This
means that more than 35 million unchecked cows are exported. We can
imagine how high the potential risk of contracting vCJD by eating US
beef would be. Both Japan and the EU check each animal they import.
Government officials continue to play a numbers game with the public
and continue to fail to understand why people are so panicked about
US beef. This is the fifth lesson we have learned.
"Officials all the way up to the president claim that strict
standards will be used for US beef imports, but would the public
believe such claims in the current climate? The central government
has not only failed to guard national health, it has also shifted
risk liability to individuals. On the one hand, the Cabinet "gently
expects" self-discipline of businesspeople, while on the other the
government claims negotiations with Washington were difficult. The
logic behind Taiwan's national security concerns remains at the
level of developing countries, prioritizing economic development
(well, some may prioritize the military) at the expense of Taiwan's
already bruised environment and national health. The government
should face up to the globalization era's non-conventional safety
issues involving ecology, health and food. This is the lesson we
must urgently learn."
G) "The Beef War Is Now Fought on the Domestic Front"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] (11/7):
"The beef war between Taiwan and the United States is over. But it
is being fought on the domestic front now. Why? It's election time!
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party isn't spearheading the
new war against American beef, which its leaders have claimed is a
scheme to poison the people of Taiwan. ... Opposition leaders have
since then stepped aside to let the people, businessmen and even
Kuomintang local chief executives organize an islandwide boycott of
'unsafe' American bone-in beef and offal, which supposedly has a one
in a billion chance to infect consumers with fatal mad cow disease.
For their part, these politicians are planning to collect enough
signatures to initiate a referendum on such imports from the United
States, although they probably know full well it will never be
called. ... War or no war over American beef, the Democratic
Progressive Party will continue escalating the political upheaval
until it wins or loses the all-important local islandwide
4. U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
A) "Pitfalls and Possibilities in Obama's Taiwan Line"
Nat Bellocchi, former AIT Chairman and a special adviser of the
Liberty Times Group, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (11/9):
"... While it is essential to engage China on these issues, we need
to ensure that this is not done at the expense of a free and
democratic Taiwan. During the past weeks, Chinese spokesmen have
called on the US and other international partners to respect China's
so-called 'core interests.' It would be good if Obama emphasized
clearly that it is a core interest of the US that the future of
Taiwan be resolved peacefully and with the express consent of the
Taiwanese people. ... The US can play a constructive role if Obama
is willing to apply creative thinking and steer away from the
pitfalls of the mantras that were recited in the past. The
fundamental values of democracy and human rights, for which the US
stands, mandate that we are more supportive of the dream of many
Taiwanese that their country be accepted as a full and equal member
of the international community. That would be change we can believe
B) "What to Possibly Expect as Obama Heads for China"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] (11/8):
"... Given the tremendous interaction between the United States and
mainland China in recent years, the time is ripe for a summit
meeting between Obama and Hu. Following last year's global financial
crisis, these two countries have become even more interdependent
upon each other, with mainland China financing U.S. debt and U.S.
imports fueling the mainland's economic development. This
phenomenon and its effects on the global economy have recently been
dubbed the rise of 'G-2' or 'Chimerica' by some observers. Given
Obama's connections to traditionally protectionist groups such as
labor unions, this trip should help persuade Obama that free trade
brings about more benefits than protectionism. On the other hand,
Obama's unprecedented celebrity status in the region will provide
him a unique opportunity to communicate directly with ordinary
people through his speeches and activities. ...
"For many years, Beijing has sought the signing of a joint
communiqu addressing these highly sensitive issues. But successive
U.S. presidents, ranging from George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton and
George W. Bush, have politely declined to sign any joint communiqus
or make highly sensitive statements. President Obama would be wise
to continue the previous policy of maintaining the status quo and
refraining from signing a joint communiqu. Like other presidents in
the past, Obama can repeat the diplomatic language of the three
communiqus signed in the 1970s and 1980s and the Taiwan Relations
Act. When asked to comment about Taiwan matters in public, Obama can
conveniently summarize these documents and stay out of trouble. He
should also repeat the longstanding U.S. policy of encouraging
Taipei and Beijing to resolve their disputes peacefully. ...
"Some observers in Taiwan are fearful that the new American leader
might be too accommodating to Beijing's requests. However, President
Obama is a very talented public speaker and has proven his
familiarity with the Taiwan issue in the past. The situation in the
Taiwan Strait today is markedly different from how things were when
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush visited mainland China in the past.
... Because of this, Obama would be wise to merely encourage these
cross-strait interactions while refraining from making any major
policy statements in favor of one side or the other.
It is even possible that Obama might make positive statements about
Taiwan and the development of democracy here while interacting with
his hosts in mainland China."
C) "Obama Must Affirm Democracy in Asia"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
"United States President Barack Obama will show whether his new
Democratic administration has a cohesive and principled strategy to
accommodate the new changes in the Asia - Pacific region when he
makes his first official trip to Asia this week. ... President
Obama needs to affirm that while engaging China into the
international system regime is a top priority, hedging the risks
that the PRC may become a major source of instability in global
economic, political and democratic order is no less important.
However, Obama has rarely touched upon Beijing's continued violation
of human rights and rapid expansion of military might since taking
office Jan. 20 and Beijing reportedly is pushing for more
concessions by pressing Obama to publicly recognize Chinese
sovereignty over Tibet, a concession which the PRC regime would
likely exploit to bolster its claims over Taiwan or other
"Let us remind President Obama that Article One of the International
Covenant on Civic and Political Rights posits that 'all people have
the right of self-determination' and that concessions on this
principle for the sake of rhetorical promises for cooperation could
pull the cornerstone out from hopes for lasting genuine security in
Asia and democratic change within China and offer no assured benefit
for U.S. long-term core interests. We urge President Obama to
utilize his planned public speech in Shanghai to instead send a
clear message to the Chinese people on the need to open up the PRC's
authoritarian political system and embrace the universal values of
democracy and human rights.
"While seeking Beijing's substantive cooperation on climate change
and other pressing global issues, Obama should ask the PRC
leadership to make 'strategic reassurances' to turn away from
military expansionism and repression and toward peace-making and
democratic opening. While it is widely believed that Taiwan will
not be a focal point of Obama's meeting with PRC State Chairman Hu
Jintao, we urge the U.S. president to address the Taiwan issue in a
clear manner in line with long-term U.S. interests and democratic
principles and avoid taking the recent apparent stability in
cross-strait relations for granted. Besides Beijing's arms build-up
and its refusal to abandon the use of military means to annex
Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou's KMT administration has made
excessive concessions to the PRC which risk Taiwan's substantive
independence, economic autonomy and prosperity, international
visibility and freedom of democratic choice for our future. We urge
President Obama to clearly express to the Chinese leaders that all
issues between the PRC and Taiwan 'must be resolved peacefully and
with the assent of the people of Taiwan.'"