Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. President Obama's China Visit
DE RUEHIN #1376/01 3220940
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180940Z NOV 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2750
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9510
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0911
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001376
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 CHINA VISIT
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language and English-language
papers gave significant straightforward and editorial coverage
November 18 to a joint statement released by U.S. President Barack
Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao Tuesday. News coverage
also focused on developments in cross-Strait relations and the
year-end city mayors and county magistrates' elections around the
island. The KMT-leaning "China Times" ran a front page banner
headline reading "Obama Reiterates the Taiwan Relations Act; the
United States Urges Both Sides [of the Taiwan Strait] to Actively
Engage in Dialogue." The pro-unification "United Daily News" also
ran a news story on its front page with the headline: "Obama-Hu
Joint Statement: the United States Supports Political Dialogue and
Peaceful Development across the Taiwan Strait."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" discussed Obama's remarks on the
Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and said it showed that the TRA is of
equal importance as that of the three U.S.-China communiqus. An
editorial and a column in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
criticized Obama's trip to Asia and said all one saw was that Obama
was trying to create a good impression with China, and one does not
see any new U.S. foreign policy. A "United Daily News" editorial
discussed the core values of Obama's visit to China, while a
separate column questioned if Washington and Beijing have made any
quid pro quo when urging both sides of the Taiwan Strait to engage
in political dialogue. A separate "United Daily News" op-ed and an
editorial in the China-focused "Want Daily" discussed the new
developments in U.S.-China relations, while a "China Times" column
said neither Washington nor Beijing secured what they desired in the
Obama-Hu meeting. End summary.
A) "The International Community Must Realize That Any Agreement
Reached by the KMT and Chinese Communist Party Is by No Means Made
at the Wish of the Taiwan People"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000]
"... In his joint press conference with [Chinese President] Hu
Jintao afterwards, [U.S. President Barack] Obama stressed
unambiguously: In accordance with the three U.S.-China communiqus
and the policy [stipulated in] the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), we
support both sides [of the Taiwan Strait] to strengthen their
relations. It is quite evident that the TRA is considered as
equally important as the three communiqus; [only in this way] can
one accurately interpret the complete picture of the United States'
cross-Strait policy, to which it has adhered until today.
"One can say that Obama's cross-Strait policy is fundamentally a
continuation of the previous [U.S.] administrations -- namely, it
meets the individual interests and common interests of relevant
countries to ensure stability, security and peace in the Taiwan
Strait and opposes any unilateral attempts to alter the cross-Strait
status quo. Yet such an international asset is now facing threats
-- namely, China is using military intimidation and political and
economic united front [tactics] to carry out its great task of
unification by annexing Taiwan, and the Ma administration in Taiwan
is now working in collusion with [Beijing] ..."
B) "'Taiwan Relations Act' Matters Less and Less"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
"[U.S. President Barack] Obama talked animatedly about adhering to
the one China [policy] and the three communiqus in Shanghai while
deliberately avoiding mentioning the 'Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).'
In his joint statement issued together with [Chinese President] Hu
Jintao afterwards, Obama emphasized that the United States must
abide by its one China commitment and that he believes the Taiwan
[issue] concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and
still he did not mention TRA at all. On another occasion, Obama
briefly glossed over the TRA. Nevertheless, officials and scholars
in Taiwan and the United States all interpreted [these developments
as indicating] that the relations between the United States, China
and Taiwan would remain unchanged and the United States would not
abandon its commitment to Taiwan. One may not be able to observe
the changes in the short or middle term, but in the long run, could
it be possible that there are no gradual, accumulated changes? ...
"Generally speaking, given Obama's underprivileged [background]
status of being born of a minority ethnic group but growing up in
the United States, and his complexion, he ought to sympathize with
Taiwan, which is also in an underprivileged position. Also, given
the liberal spirit of the Democratic Party, it seems reasonable that
Obama will not alienate himself from democratic Taiwan just to curry
favor with the authoritarian and undemocratic China. But the truth
is that the United States, under the governance of Obama, has been
tilting toward China in a more significant way than his
predecessors. Why is this so? Judging from the realism
perspective, China is the United States' biggest creditor and
Washington needs China's assistance in making it through the dark
moments of the [current] economic recession. ...
"Taiwan, as a result, is being gradually cast off in the process
while the United States and China are getting closer and closer.
Now the United States still asks Taiwan to improve its relations
with China, but in the future, it may not even bother to say so and
just want to let go and be off the hook. This is the reason why
Obama just lightly touched on human rights and the Taiwan issue in
Beijing. In other words, for the United States, human rights and
Taiwan have gradually faded away and turned from substantive issues
to those which exist in form only. Judging from Obama's
disposition, he is a president who wants to please everyone, lacking
both great vision and in-depth cultural knowledge; he is also an
opportunist who veers with circumstances and says things only for
his own convenience. Such a man does not have courage and willpower
to shoulder [responsibilities] and will change whenever the
situation alters. All Taiwan can do is to try its best to take care
of itself. ..."
C) "Obama Says 'Hello' in Shanghai-ese"
Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000] (11/18):
"Obama called himself 'the first Pacific president' and promised
that the United States will be back in Asia. But except for making
a good impression with China, one can hardly see any of [the United
States'] new foreign policy during his trip to Asia this time. One
only saw his style but not the real content in his speech. ...
[Singapore's Minister Mentor] Lee Kuan Yew openly warned that if the
United States stays out of Asia, it will lose its leadership in the
world, and once China grows into a superpower in the Asia Pacific
region, the balance of power in the region will collapse. Lee's
remarks have offended Beijing, but they have spoken the [true
feelings] of the Asian Pacific countries. ..."
D) "Go One's Own Way: Both Sides [of the Taiwan Strait] Sign a
Memorandum of Understanding on the Same Day When Obama Sets Foot in
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... People may not agree with one another when it comes to how to
interpret the [significance] of Obama's visit to China in terms of
U.S.-China relations and cross-Strait relations, but they may all
agree on the core values. First, the trend of the times is tilting
toward China, and Beijing's control over nearly one trillion U.S.
dollars worth of U.S. government bonds is just one of [the
examples]. Second, the tone in the previous Clinton and Bush
administrations was: 'not to contain China, but should welcome it to
join the international community.' But Obama's wording is: 'there
are very few global challenges that can be solved unless the United
States and China agree.' Third, Obama hopes that he can lead the
United States out of the 'unilateralism' of the Bush administration,
and, given the impact of its predicament in Iraq and the financial
tsunami, the United States has started to deeply reflect on its role
in the world. With all these great changes adding up, its influence
on the U.S.-China relations and on cross-Strait relations is:
U.S.-China relations have moved onto a path that is more friendly
and cooperative than before, and China's say in things only becomes
stronger rather than weaker. By contrast, Taiwan needs to try to
find a new path for itself under the new U.S.-China relations. ..."
E) "Urging Both Sides [of the Taiwan Strait] to Engage in Political
Dialogue -- Are Washington and Beijing Singing the Same Tune?"
Washington correspondent Vincent Chang wrote in a column in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (11/18):
"... Judging from the content and breadth of the [U.S.-China joint]
statement, Obama has ensured in this trip to Asia that [the United
States] will develop a 'partnership' with China and that both
countries are willing to work together to handle global issues on
the foundation of mutual benefit. This is by far the greatest gain
for both sides. ... In addition, the United States also mentioned
[in the statement] that it looks forward to 'efforts' by both sides
to increase dialogue and interactions in economic, 'political,' [and
other fields], and develop 'more positive and stable cross-Strait
relations.' ... At the moment when both sides [of the Taiwan
Strait] have not yet reached a consensus [on many issues],
Washington stepped forward and messed things up with the issue of a
political dialogue. The move not only single-handedly endorsed
China's position but also violated the part about 'urging both sides
to talk,' as specified in the United States' 'Six Assurances.' One
cannot help but doubt if there is any quid pro quo between the
United States and China. ..."
F) "Obama, Hu Join Hands Yet Fight [with Each Other]; Taiwan [Needs
to] Find a Way out"
Professor Chao Chun-shan from Tamkang University's Graduate
Institute of China Studies opined in the pro-unification "United
Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (11/18):
"... In any case, the United States and China are using a strategy
of 'seeking common ground while maintaining differences' to maintain
their relations of 'both cooperating and conflicting with each
other.' In this vein, it will naturally have an impact on the
development of the triangular relationship among Taipei, Washington
and Beijing and on Taiwan's policy toward the United States and
toward China. Obama's open approval of improved cross-Strait
relations indicates that the conciliatory policy the Ma
administration has pursued since he assumed office in terms of
cross-Strait relations has won support of the nations that are
friendly with Taiwan and thus created a win-win-win situation. ...
On the other hand, the Ma administration's efforts to strengthen
[Taiwan's] relations with the United States have added new fuel to
the island's 'modus vivendi diplomacy.' ..."
G) "Neither the United States Nor China Gets the Interests Their
The "International Lookout" column in the KMT-leaning "China Times"
[circulation: 120,000] wrote (11/18):
"It appears that in the summit between Obama and Hu Jintao, both
sides have failed to reach a consensus on the matters they both
consider most important, and as a result, neither side gets what it
wants. ... Even though Obama said in his speech in Tokyo that [the
United States] does not seek to contain China, he also said he will
not make concessions in terms of values while developing U.S.
relations with China. It goes without saying that China will not
recognize the American values. As a result, both sides are doomed
to be friends rather than allies."
H) "Sino-U.S. Relations as Seen from Obama's Remarks"
The China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] editorialized
"... When speaking of the 'Taiwan Relations Act,' normally both
China and the United States have their own interpretation -- Beijing
simply turns a blind eye to it, while Washington tries to emphasize
it whenever it can. But when a U.S. president shows a neither
distant nor close attitude toward this act, it would be against the
common knowledge of international politics if one says that the
United States is not pondering its Taiwan policy under the new