Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. President Obama's China Visit
DE RUEHIN #1391/01 3280428
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240428Z NOV 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2787
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9525
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0922
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001391
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 dailies continued to
focus news coverage November 20 on U.S. President Barack Obama's
China visit and Taiwan's reactions to the joint statement inked by
Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao on November 17; on
developments in cross-Strait relations; and on the year-end city
mayors' and county magistrates' elections around the island.
Several papers also reported on Obama's exclusive interview with
China's "Nan Fang Zhou Mo" (Southern Weekly) published on November
2. Editorials and op-ed pieces in Taiwan's papers continued to
discuss the Obama-Hu joint statement and the reasons why the Taiwan
Relations Act (TRA) was not mentioned in the statement. A column in
the pro-independence "Liberty Times" criticized Obama for acting too
submissively to China. A separate "Liberty Times" op-ed and two
op-ed pieces in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" said Taiwan has
been severely harmed and marginalized by the U.S.-China joint
statement. An "Apple Daily" column and an op-ed in the
China-focused "Want Daily" both said Obama has returned to the
United States without anything from this Asia trip, while an op-ed
in the KMT-leaning "China Times" discussed current U.S.-China
relations and the impact of the U.S.-China joint statement on U.S.
arms sales to Taiwan. End summary.
A) "Bowing Diplomacy"
The "Free Talk" column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 680,000] wrote (11/20):
"[U.S.] President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this time has
triggered huge controversy and repercussions in the United States.
He not only bowed too humbly to Japan's Emperor, making the American
people feel displeased, but also, to everyone's surprise, said in
Beijing that [he] welcomed authoritarian China to increase its
global influence -- a move that humiliated the democratic United
States. Even the Washington Post, which has always been supportive
of Obama, has stepped forward to attack [Obama's] move as being
"Obama dared not exert pressure on China to appreciate the Renminbi,
allowing China to continue manipulating the exchange rate, which
would result in China having stronger competitiveness to defeat U.S.
products and thus causing Washington's trade deficit with Beijing to
keep rising. It is true that the United States has been severely
traumatized by the financial storm, and China is on the rise. But
there is still a great gap between the two in their national
strength. Of course the United States should attach great
importance to China's presence and influence, but it really does not
need to act so submissively by not daring to insist on its
principles in front of China. ..."
B) "What Is It That Ma Is so Happy about in the Obama-Hu Meeting?"
Joseph Wu, a research fellow at National Chengchi University's
Institute of International relations and Taiwan's former
representative to the United States, opined in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000] (11/20):
"... The aspects that deserve Taiwan's attention include: Obama did
not mention Taiwan at all in his Tokyo speech; during his 'town
hall' meeting in Shanghai, he only mentioned the three [U.S.-China]
communiqus but avoided talking about China's military threats and
the United States' commitment on arms sales [to Taiwan]; in the
press conference following the Obama-Hu meeting, even though Obama
mentioned the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in tandem with the three
U.S.-China communiqus, he also talked about respecting China's
sovereignty and territorial integrity; in the joint statement [with
China], Obama did not talk about TRA, but he mentioned twice mutual
respect for [China's] sovereignty and territorial integrity and that
[he] 'looks forward to efforts by both sides to increase dialogue
and interactions in economic, political, and other fields.' ...
"The TRA is a U.S. law, in which Section 4 talked about that, even
in the absence of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the United
States, whenever U.S. laws refer or relate to foreign countries,
nations, states, governments or similar entities, such terms shall
include and [such laws] shall apply with such respect to Taiwan --
namely, Taiwan is treated as a de facto independent nation. In the
1982 Six Assurances, the United States also did not recognize
China's sovereignty over Taiwan. These two documents are the most
important foundations that hold together the relations between
Taiwan and the United States.
Yet in the U.S.-China joint statement, when China emphasized that
'the Taiwan issue concerns China's sovereignty and territorial
integrity,' the United States and China, surprisingly, 'reiterated
respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and
neither side supports any attempts by any force to undermine this
principle.' Obviously, the U.S.-China joint statement has exceeded
the authority of the TRA and the content of the Six Assurances.
Given such a situation, the status whereby Taiwan is regarded as a
de facto independent [state] has suffered a strong impact. ... In
addition, prior to the Obama-Hu meeting, Beijing had privately
expressed hope that the United States would support cross-Strait
dialogue, in an attempt to seek the United States' approval to
squeeze Taiwan into the 'one China' framework, thus creating an
international climate favorable for China's [push for] political
talks across the Taiwan Strait and also reducing Taiwan's [room to
maneuver]. Such a development has of course put Taiwan in an
"Indeed, the Obama-Hu meeting is a great victory for China in terms
of its foreign relations. But when we look back at Taiwan itself:
given that the Ma administration has already accepted 'one China'
and torn down Taiwan's last line of defense -- its 'democracy,' [how
can] we demand that the United States not accept China's sovereignty
claims over Taiwan, except to swallow the bitter fruits of the
C) "Obama Returns [to the United States] Empty-handed"
Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" circulation: 520,000] (11/20):
"... There are a lot of things that the United States hopes China
will do, but there is little that it can offer to China. This is
the reality, and, in fact, Obama really does not have any bargaining
chips to exert pressure on China. When [former U.S. Presidents]
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush delivered speeches in China in the
past, they both spoke loudly of the values of democracy and human
rights, and, eventually, Beijing would always release some
dissidents or make concessions in other areas. But this time Obama
did not even dare talk about [these matters]. ... It is not because
Taiwan-U.S. relations have improved, but because Taiwan has become
an internal issue of China so Obama did not mention Taiwan during
this trip. While the KMT and Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
are feeling good about themselves, Beijing has reaped a major
D) "Obama Is Utterly Routed, While Taiwan Is Bitterly Injured"
Professor Edward Chen from Tamkang University's Graduate Institute
of American Studies opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 520,000] (11/20):
"Under the financial pressure of mainland China, it looks as if the
Obama administration has thrown away its helmet and coat of mail and
been utterly routed during the negotiating process with the Beijing
government this time. Judging from the content of the China-U.S.
joint statement, it is a success for Beijing in terms of its
negotiating skills and word games and a major victory in terms of
its foreign relations. ... In the 'China-U.S. Joint Statement,'
Washington said it would adhere to the one China policy and abide by
the principles stipulated in the three U.S.-China communiqus, and
again the TRA has 'vanished.' This indicated that the TRA, which is
originally a U.S. domestic law and is thus of the highest rank, has
become something dispensable that can disappear or re-appear. Over
time, the TRA will fade away eventually.
"Second, Obama not only 'welcomes peaceful development across the
Taiwan Strait' but also 'looks forward to efforts by both sides to
increase dialogue and interactions in economic, political, and other
fields.' This indicated that Washington has not only endorsed the
'peaceful development' policy mainland China has been advocating in
the recent years, which carries the implication of 'peaceful
unification,' but has also further played the role of facilitating
political and military talks [across the Taiwan Strait]. It is
questionable whether such [a position] would violate the sixth
assurance in the 'Six Assurances' made by President Ronald Reagan
not to pressure both sides [of the Taiwan Strait] to enter into
negotiations. Third, the greatest harm to Taiwan's national
interests is the fact that Washington and Beijing have agreed to
'reiterate respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial
integrity is at the core of the three U.S.-China joint communiqus
which guide U.S.-China relations.' In fact, no U.S. president has
ever said anything about 'respect each other's sovereignty and
territorial integrity,' so how could Obama 'reiterate' it?
"Given that Washington respects Beijing's sovereignty and
territorial integrity, it is certain that Washington will not be
able to present its own views on cross-Strait issues from a vantage
point, let alone play the role of a mediator, supervisor, or one who
provides guarantees. ... As a result, the respect Obama has shown
for Beijing is the 'disrespect' he has shown to our country. Even
though China-U.S. relations will be strengthened because of Obama's
remarks about 'respect,' cross-Strait relations will likely be
endangered, and the mutual trust between Taiwan and the United
States will thus likely be reduced. Are these the developments that
Hu Jintao and Obama are really happy to see? ..."
E) "Obama Visits China, and Taiwan Is Marginalized"
Emerson Chang, Director of Nan Hua University's Department of
International Studies, opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 520,000] (11/20):
"... In the joint statement, Obama and Hu Jintao both reiterated
'respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity is
at the core of the three U.S.-China joint communiqus which guide
U.S.-China relations.' Since whenever Beijing mentions its
'sovereignty and territorial integrity' in its documents, it always
talks about the 'Anti-Secession Law' or words like 'deterring
splitist activities for Taiwan independence.' At the same time,
Obama's declaration was akin to announcing that the United States
respects China's position to oppose Taiwan independence. The harm
that Obama's declaration has done to Taiwan has surpassed that
caused by [President Bill] Clinton's policy of 'not supporting
Taiwan independence' and turned a blind eye to the reasons why
[President George W.] Bush was opposed to the 'Anti-Secession Law.'
Also, it has violated the statement in the TRA that 'any attempt to
resolve Taiwan's future in a non-peaceful way will be regarded as
threats to the peace and stability in the West Pacific region.' The
afore-mentioned declaration by Obama is inconsistent with the
content of [the United States'] one China policy on 'peaceful
resolution of the Taiwan issue.' ...
"All these signs showed that China has secured a magnificent victory
in terms of the Taiwan issue; it has also made great progress in
terms of China-U.S. relations. Further, Obama's intent to
procrastinate on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan has become more evident
following his visit to China. The alleviated tensions across the
Taiwan Strait have conveniently provided him with an excuse to
temporarily freeze U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. ..."
F) "Behind the Sino-U.S. Joint Statement: Will Beijing Propose a
Limit on [U.S.] Arms Sales to Taiwan?"
Chiu Kun-hsuan, Director of National Chengchi University's Graduate
Institute of East Asian Studies, opined in the pro-unification
"United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (11/20):
"... Judging from a positive perspective, [the U.S.-China joint
statement] can be interpreted as Washington showing approval of the
Taiwan government's efforts over the past year to ease cross-Strait
tensions. But what we should pay more attention to is that in the
wake of the improved cross-Strait relations, whether [or not]
Beijing will use the August 17 communiqu as a precedent to request
that the United States limit or even stop its arms sales to Taiwan.
G) "China, the United States Enter an Era of 'Cooperation and
Chen Yu-chun, a Taiwan academic now working as a senior research
fellow at China's Tsinghua University, opined in the KMT-leaning
"China Times" [circulation: 120,000] (11/20):
"... The United States has been consistent in its Taiwan policy, and
Obama still used the one China [policy], the three communiqus and
the 'Taiwan Relations Act' as the foundation of the U.S. policy
toward China. But the Obama administration had a new way of saying
it, such as 'respecting China's sovereignty and territorial
'strong committed' to supporting one China, 'proactively encouraging
political dialogue across the Taiwan Strait,' and also agreeing to
the statement proposed by Hu Jintao to 'respect each other's core
interests and major concerns.' These wordings are worth pondering
and deserve Taipei's attention. The TRA is the legal foundation for
U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and thus a strategic pawn for the United
States, so there is no way the United States will abandon it.
Beijing is always opposed to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and it never
acknowledges the TRA. As a result, Beijing and Washington just put
aside their disputes, while [the TRA] will remain an unexploded bomb
between the two nations. In order to prevent the arms sales issue
from becoming a major hurdle in China-U.S. relations, the China-U.S.
'August 17 Communiqu' can thus become a tool for maneuvering. The
United States expects both sides of the Taiwan Strait to strengthen
their political and economic dialogue and is happy to see improved
cross-Strait relations. Has [such a statement] foreshadowed
something about [U.S.] arms sales [to Taiwan]?"
H) "Signals Brought along by Obama"
Associate Professor Tao Yi-feng from National Taiwan University's
Department of Political Science opined in the KMT-leaning "China
Times" [circulation: 120,000] (11/20):
"... As expected, Obama took advantage of his rhetoric and
performance skills that he is best at during this trip to Asia to
try his utmost to show [the world that] he is 'the United States'
first Asia-Pacific president' by emphasizing that the United States
will continue 'participating in Asia.' But in terms of
'counterbalancing China,' it is obvious that he has stepped out of
the Cold War thinking and started to seek changes. ...
"But the question is that China does not intend to step out of Cold
War thinking. ... China is still using the zero-sum logic of 'its
army will move forward when its enemy is retreating' in response to
the U.S. policy change. ..."
I) "[Travelling] in a Low-Profile Manner, [Obama] Has Achieved
Columnist Ku Er-teh opined in the China-focused "Want Daily"
[circulation: 10,000] (11/20):
"... During his trip this time, Obama is trying to create the image
of a gentle friend by avoiding touching too much on issues that
Beijing cares about most. Thus, he only briefly touched on issues
such as human rights, Tibet and Taiwan. ... Obama has reaped a
limited harvest during this low-profile trip to Asia. ... Obama's
low-profile manner [contrasted by] Hu Jintao's powerful response,
has, in return, resulted in criticism of Obama in the United States.
Should such a development cause the hawks' power to rise, it will
be unfavorable for cooperation between the two nations. ..."