Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. President Obama's Trip to Asia
DE RUEHIN #1370/01 3210837
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170837Z NOV 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2742
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9507
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0908
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001370
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. PRESIDENT OBAMA'S TRIP TO ASIA
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage November 17 on a financial memorandum of understanding
inked between Taiwan and China Tuesday evening; on U.S. President
Barack Obama's visit to China and his town hall meeting with Chinese
youth in Shanghai Tuesday afternoon; and on Taiwan's year-end city
mayors' and county magistrates' elections. The KMT-leaning "China
Times" ran a banner headline on page two, reading "Obama-Hu Meeting:
There Will Be No Surprises in Terms of the Taiwan Issue."
2. A number of editorials and op-ed pieces in Taiwan's papers
discussed Obama's visit to China. An op-ed in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" discussed the impact of Obama's China visit on Taiwan.
The article said the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan need
to recognize the fundamental strategic changes in the United States'
policy toward Asia and should thus work out a policy that meets
Taiwan's interests and maintains the balance in Taiwan-U.S.
relations. A news analysis and an op-ed in the pro-unification
"United Daily News" both discussed the United States' current policy
toward China, saying that Washington is determined to maintain a
comprehensive, cooperative relationship with China. A "China Times"
column, however, questioned whether Washington has really abandoned
its long-adopted containment policy toward China. An editorial in
the China-focused "Want Daily" described Obama as the U.S. president
with the softest posture when visiting China. End summary.
A) "The Impact of Obama's China Visit on Taiwan"
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):
"U.S. President Barack Obama is currently in the middle of his
first-ever trip to Asia and to China since he assumed office ten
months ago. Judging from the fact that Washington already has
determined that the cross-Strait situation is in a relatively stable
state and thus there is not much to worry about, it is certain that
the Taiwan issue will not become a point of interest in the
'Obama-Hu meeting.' For the ruling and opposition parties in
Taiwan, the deeper-level implications [of such a development] is
that they ought to recognize the fundamental strategic changes in
the United States' Asia policy and, accordingly, work out a policy
that meets Taiwan's interests and keeps the balance in Taiwan-U.S.
"Obama's trip to China has two major objectives: First, based on
the foundation of mutual trust [built] between the two sides over
the past ten months, [he will] clearly define China as the United
States' 'strategic partner.' ... Unlike the concept of 'strategic
competitor' adopted in the initial stages of the Bush administration
and that of 'a responsible stakeholder' coined in the second term of
the Bush administration, the Obama administration has further
advanced the U.S.-China relations to a level of 'strategic
partnership.' [Obama sought to] strengthen 'strategic reassurance'
on both sides in terms of the many issues requiring international
cooperation, including the exchange rate of the Renminbi, Iran's and
Pyongyang's denuclearization, and anti-terrorism, and he also took
advantage of his Asian trip this time to urge [the United States']
allies in the region to share the same awareness.
"The main reason why Washington is so sure of Beijing stems from the
reinforcing mechanism of high-level dialogue between the United
States and China. ... The second objective is to implement the
U.S.-China consensus to combat climate change. ... [In order to]
'engage with China,' other topics such as China's human rights and
democracy have thus become less important. ... Exactly due to [such
a development], the Ma Ying-jeou administration's current pro-China
policy, which has resulted in alleviated tensions in the Taiwan
Strait, caters to Washington's likes. But such practices of making
rapid and significant concessions to Beijing will not necessarily
serve Taiwan's national interests, if they fail to win the United
States' appropriate and timely commitment to Taiwan in return. The
controversy caused by [Taiwan's'] reopening its market to U.S. beef,
the long-stalled arms procurement deal for F16 C/D fighter jets, the
fact that the resumption of the 'Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement' talks will have to wait until the end of this year, and
the pending visa-waiver program have all constituted the uncertain
factors in Taiwan-U.S. relations. If the strengthening of
Taiwan-U.S. relations has to depend on the stability of U.S.-China
relations, Taiwan will be put in a disadvantageous situation where
it can only look up to Beijing for its approval. ... Even though
Obama has repeatedly guaranteed that the United States will not
ignore Asia, the Ma administration still needs to have its own
'hedging' strategy. ..."
B) "In the Face of China's Rise, Smiling Obama [Makes] an Optimistic
Washington correspondent Vincent Chang wrote in an analysis in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (11/17):
"... The Obama administration is the [U.S. administration] that has
enjoyed the smoothest relations with China during the transition
period of [the U.S.] power transfer since Washington and Beijing
established diplomatic ties in 1979. During his speech in Tokyo a
few days ago, Obama avoided mentioning the differences between the
two nations and said clearly that [he will not seek to] contain
China. The Obama administration has set the tone of its China
policy on maintaining a comprehensive, cooperative relationship with
China. ... The Obama administration is facing the rise of China
with a positive attitude and exploring the possibility of forming a
'partnership' with China to create a win-win situation. But still,
the Obama administration has to pragmatically confront the
differences between the two nations over fundamental values such as
democracy and human rights, and the danger of conflicts over
practical interests involving trade, economics and regional
C) "Forgot [to Mention the] Taiwan Relations Act? Obama Shows the
Sword without Drawing It out of the Sheath"
Professor Alexander Huang from Tamkang University's Graduate
Institute of International Affairs & Strategic Studies, opined in
the pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... Both the United States and China are two big powers that have a
huge influence on the world economy and security, and both sides
have many issues on the global, regional and bilateral levels that
they need to face and seek cooperation from each other. In the face
of China's rapid rise in its economic and military power over the
past two decades, the United States has naturally endured
unprecedented threats since World War II in terms of its interests
in Asia. The U.S. government now adopts a strategic guideline of
'facing the reality, getting along with each other pragmatically,
reducing disputes and seeking a win-win situation' for its current
policy toward China. Taiwan, without a doubt, needs to confront
[such a development] with wisdom and prudence if it wants to
maintain the maximum [amount] of its national interests while
sandwiched between the two great powers. ..."
D) "Has Obama Really Abandoned the Containment Policy?"
The "International Lookout" column in the KMT-leaning "China Times"
[circulation: 120,000] wrote (11/17):
"The U.S. Obama administration has said it over and over again that
it wants to attach great importance to Asia, but judging from his
indifferent attitude toward the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference,
one can hardly tell how much attention he has paid [to Asia]. ...
One can say that it is for China that Obama has travelled eastbound
this time. Visiting Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore are merely [stops]
en route [to China]; he needs China, which is the only place where
he can secure his national interests in the Asia Pacific [region].
Since Chinese people attach great importance to face, Obama will
surely get what he expects by using his smooth talking, staying a
few more days [in China], and showing some friendly gestures.
"Further, in his speech in Tokyo, Obama said, 'we welcome China's
efforts to play a greater role on the world stage. In an
inter-connected world, power does not need to be a zero-sum game,
and China needs not fear the success of other countries. The United
States does not seek to contain China. On the contrary, the rise of
a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the
community of nations.' The focus of such remarks was that the
United States has abandoned its long-adopted containment policy
[toward China]. China of course loves to hear that, but it will not
be so nave as to believe that the United States will cease its
containment policy. ...
"The most confusing question that the Obama administration finds
hard to face is: Which path will China take in the wake of its
rise? How is the United States going to cope with it without
endangering U.S. interests? The so-called 'rise of a strong,
prosperous China' is just a statement to patronize and infatuate
E) "Sino-U.S. Relations on the Move, the Invariable Spring Tide in
[the River of] History"
The China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] editorialized
"... Among all [the U.S. presidents that] have visited China, Obama
is probably the one that has the softest posture. Neither does he
promote American values or Washington [views], nor does he provoke
[China by mentioning] sensitive issues such as China's human rights
and religious freedom. Judging from the perspective of historical
change and the global political and economic landscape, the soft
posture of Obama and his pragmatic attitude are actually part of the
megatrend. The United States was severely traumatized by the global
financial tsunami, yet China has become a major driver behind global
economic recovery. [As a result,] the global power structure has
undergone [fundamental] changes. ...
"Prior to his visit to Asia, the United States put forward three
issues that it needed to reach an agreement with China over:
re-balance the global economy, climate change and new energy, Iran
and Afghanistan issues.... Obama has a very tough mission to
accomplish, and the United States has very limited bargaining chips.
This is the reason why Obama has to be very soft when visiting
China, and it also reflected the change in the global landscape.