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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef Imports to Taiwan, President

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1339/01 3140930
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100930Z NOV 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2688
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9491
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0900

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001339

SIPDIS

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, PRESIDENT
OBAMA'S TRIP TO ASIA

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage November 10 on rumors that the United States had halted all
U.S. beef exports to Taiwan given the Taiwan government's tight
control over the product; on developments in cross-Strait relations;
and on the unidentified cash flow to Palau in 2005 and its possible
connection with former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian.

2. Editorials and op-ed pieces in Taiwan's papers appeared to have
shifted their focus to discuss cross-Strait and other local issues
rather than U.S. beef exports to Taiwan. Only one column in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" discussed AIT Taipei Director William
Stanton's recent analogy about the risk of eating U.S. beef and
riding scooters and President Ma's analogy regarding the risk of
eating U.S. and smoking or eating betel nuts. The article said
Stanton's remarks and logic exposed the chauvinistic mentality of
U.S. officials stationed in Taiwan, while Ma's remarks revealed his
ignorance of the fears and desires of the ordinary people in Taiwan.
With regard to U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Asia,
a column in the KMT-leaning "China Times" discussed the new term
"strategic reassurance" coined by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
James Steinberg and U.S.-China relations. An editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" urged the Obama
team to "resist the temptation of gaining 'concessions' on unrelated
issues by nodding along as Beijing inevitably introduces policies or
slogans that injure Taiwanese interests." End summary.

3. U.S. Beef Exports to Taiwan

"Hidden Discrimination of the VIPs"

Chang Ta-chuen, a well-known Taiwan fiction writer and social
critic, wrote in his column in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 520,000] (11/10):

"AIT Taipei Director William Stanton said when he delivered a speech
at National Chengchi University on October 26 that the cases of mad
cow disease in the United States are far lower than the death rate
caused by scooter accidents in Taiwan. Stanton also said candidly
that a Korean student once asked him: 'How do you know one will not
die from the mad cow disease by eating U.S. beef?' [Stanton said
he] asked a question in reply: 'How do you know you would not go
blind when you watch a Samsung television?' [These remarks]
immediately triggered a wide and indignant discussion among the
[Taiwan] public.

"Such highly controversial remarks have fully exposed the
chauvinistic mentality of the U.S. officials stationed in Taiwan.
If such logic were tenable, the United States should then remove all
the travel barriers it has taken the lead to design for the sake of
protecting its homeland security -- the probability of air disasters
caused by carrying a 300 milliliter bottle of water is far lower
than that of getting cancer in the United States, and can the
passengers use [such logic] to resist the requirement for security
check at the airport? ... If such counter-questions are untenable
in practice, on what ground is Stanton's theory convincing to
anyone? ... Stanton looked quite complacent after having made such
undesirable remarks, and the local media, having rushed to bicker
[about them] for a while, stopped looking into the matter anymore.
Oddly enough, why doesn't Taiwan, which is known to be an
independent sovereign state, immediately protest to the United
States against Stanton's discriminatory and discreet remarks? As it
turns out, our own national leader also thought it that way. ...

"... Why didn't Ma try to save those [who smoke and eat betel nuts
in Taiwan by banning the two products] while he can? The reason is
quite simple, and one can understand it real quickly through
Stanton's remarks: Looking at these living, ordinary people from
the eyes of the VIPs who stand up high, dress very clean, and enjoy
good health and hygiene, all they see is probably the approval
ratings they imagine them to be. In other words, they are blind to
the fear, risks and desires that most people feel in their lives."

4. President Obama's Trip to Asia

A) "How Come the White House Has yet to Set the Tone on 'Strategic
Reassurance'"

The "International Lookout" column in the KMT-leaning "China Times"
[circulation: 120,000] wrote (11/10):

"It goes without saying that the climax of U.S. President Barack
Obama's trip to Asia will be his visit to China. Prior to his
departure, the official and private think tanks in the United States
have sent out signals about what he might talk about [with Chinese
President Hu Jintao]. But they have failed to mention 'strategic
reassurance.' This is a new term coined by [U.S.] officials, but
why did they forget to mention it when they should? ...
OBAMA'S TRIP TO ASIA

"According to [U.S. Deputy Secretary of State] James Steinberg,
strategic reassurance is a 'bargain.' ... He also added that [U.S.]
arms sales to Taiwan are conducive to regional stability, and that
it meets the interests of Washington and Beijing to have serious
discussions on [regional stability] and [the United States] is
interested in listening to Beijing's views [on the topic]. The
United States will not eliminate the legitimacy of Chinese military
modernization, but it would like to hear some powerful [reasons]
from China so that Washington can understand better that some of
[China's] military programs are consistent with its objective of
peaceful development, [Steinberg said].

"Such a reply is full of loopholes. Every country is legitimate in
developing its national defense, and does China need the United
States to acknowledge its military modernization? The United States
needs to understand clearly the programs in China's military
development, and if it fails to do so, does it mean that they cannot
be regarded as peaceful development? When it comes to arms sales to
Taiwan, Washington's one and only reply is to 'act in accordance
with relevant laws concerning Taiwan.' Does that leave any room for
further discussion? ..."

B) "A Quiet, But Strong Obama"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (11/10):

"... Even so, the House of Representatives vote was a much-needed,
if temporary, victory for the White House as Obama prepares to set
out on a four-nation tour of Asia, including China and Japan. The
Japanese leg of the trip is less problematic than it seems. The
leftist government of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is
quite predictably moving back to the center of reality of Japan-US
relations; not even a fuss over US troop deployment in Okinawa
amounts to as much as some observers fear. It is in China that
Obama's mettle will be tested. North Korea's weapons program may be
the main game, but it is quite easy to overstate what can be
achieved on this matter on this tour; the same applies to the other
leading issues on the table. For Taiwanese, the primary concern
instead is what signals, if any, Obama will send on cross-strait
relations. There is no reason why Obama and his aides would wish to
make an impression with Beijing on Taiwanese affairs -- other than
to quickly acknowledge and deflect China's perennial fears of a
hardening of cross-strait policy. One thing that President Ma
Ying-jeou's time in office has delivered to Washington is a relative
lull in the unification debate that gives it breathing space to do
this, and so work cooperatively with China on practical matters.

"It is therefore unrealistic to expect anything resembling Taiwan
advocacy during Obama's trip to China; if nothing else, this would
be most undiplomatic on a first presidential tour of the US' primary
economic and military rival. The best Taiwan can hope for is a proxy
discussion on human rights, though even this is likely to be
low-key.
For the moment, Taiwanese can settle for a sotto voce approach by
the US on cross-strait tensions. They do not expect gratuitous
pronouncements of limitless military support and platitudes on
shared values. They cannot expect the US to be a cheerleader when so
much in the Taiwanese political environment is unstable and lacking
in consensus. What Taiwanese do expect is a US president who will
not weaken himself and his country -- and the region's stability --
by confusing diplomatic goodwill and compromise on key strategic
points. This Chinese government remains canny, ambitious and
ruthless; no sober observer should assume that its development as a
world power entails reciprocal goodwill, least of all to a
government whose power and wealth it covets but whose founding
principles it despises.

"Taiwanese are all too familiar with news of well-meaning envoys
visiting China and leaving with a full stomach and a pat on the back
for repeating slogans that the Chinese then use for domestic and
international propaganda. In recent years the British and Australian
governments have proven themselves to be particularly vulnerable to
this. It is hoped that the Obama team, for its part, will resist the
temptation of gaining 'concessions' on unrelated issues by nodding
along as Beijing inevitably introduces policies or slogans that
injure Taiwanese interests. In Asia, as with domestic politics, the
key for Obama is to keep his allies on side and quietly let his
rivals know who's boss. However imperfect, that's how things get
done."

STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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