Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #0144/01 0360930
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050930Z FEB 10
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3280
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9688
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1073
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000144
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.-CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS
Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused February 5
news coverage on the court ruling made Thursday that a former KMT
legislator was guilty of fraud for her possession of dual U.S. and
Taiwan citizenship; on former Vice President Annette Lu's interview
with President Ma Ying-jeou Thursday in her capacity as the founder
of Formosa Media; and on other domestic political issues. In terms
of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" discussed the recent U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and
the tensions between China and the United States. The article urged
the Ma administration not to turn Taiwan into an enemy of democratic
countries by tilting toward China. An op-ed in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" said the Obama administration's excessively high
expectations for China have unfortunately resulted in the recent
tensions between Washington and Beijing. An editorial in the
conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
discussed the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and concluded that "what the
U.S. is selling is a sense of security. And Taiwan is happily
buying it despite the exorbitant price." End summary.
A) "Taiwan Must Never Degenerate into Becoming the Enemy of the
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000] (2/5):
"... When [U.S. President Barack] Obama was plagued by the financial
crisis in 2009, Sino-U.S. relations were on unusually friendly
terms. But given the gradually eased financial storm and the fact
that China is taking advantage of the difficult and unfortunate
circumstances of the United States to make much ado of 'the dream of
the rise of a big nation,' it appears that Obama has been ready to
adjust his China policy starting in 2010. Under such a
circumstance, President Ma Ying-jeou, who has just received
courteous treatment during his transits through the United States,
will probably need to figure out whether Washington offered him such
treatment because of his tilting toward China or an attempt [by the
U.S. side] to drag Ma from the wrong road of tilting toward China?
"For now, it is none of Taiwan's business as to how Beijing is going
to battle with Washington and whether it is able to win the battle
against Washington. This is China's business. But still, Taiwan
needs to watch out so that it will not suffer as an innocent
bystander. First, if Taiwan's economy continues to be locked into
that of China's, a move that will tie trade and economics across the
Taiwan Strait together, it will be extremely difficult for the
island to escape its fate should any trade conflicts emerge between
China and the United States. ... Second, the Ma administration sees
Taiwan as a part of China -- an effort that will distance [Taiwan's]
strategic interests from those of democratic countries. Should
China and the United States start to vie with each other
strategically in the future, Taiwan will degenerate from being a
democratic ally in Asia to becoming an enemy of the democratic
allies in Asia. The consequences will be inconceivable. ..."
B) "Behind Obama's Hard-line [Attitude] towards China"
Emerson Chang, Director of Nan Hua University's Department of
International Studies, opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 520,000] (2/5):
"... First, the fact that the Obama administration had held
excessively high expectations for Obama's visit to China in
November, 2009 is a [reason for] the recent tensions between the two
countries. Since taking over the helm, Obama has sought to draw a
clear line between his administration and the previous Bush
administration in terms of foreign relations. He upholds 'smart
power' as his guiding principle, uses listening, negotiation and
contacts as his key [skills], puts a special emphasis on pragmatism
and flexibility, with which he seeks to mend the United States'
international image and foreign relations. ... In his Tokyo
address, Obama stressed that [the United States] will not seek to
contain China, and he also pointed out that China's rise is
conducive to world security and prosperity -- a move that smashed
the doctrine calling China a threat and provided the most powerful
justification for the path of peaceful development upheld by China.
[Such a speech] can be regarded as the biggest gift a U.S. state
leader has ever brought to Beijing during his visit to China since
the two nations established diplomatic ties.
"What Washington sought in return was hoping that China can 'build a
positive, cooperative and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship for
the 21st century, and will take concrete actions to steadily build a
partnership to address common challenges,' as specified in the
'Obama-Hu joint statement.' In other words, Obama expected to use
goodwill and reconciliation in exchange for China's friendly
cooperation. The first touchstone testing such expectations was
whether Beijing would agree, as specified in the 'joint statement,'
to adhere to 'providing for full transparency' when carrying out the
carbon dioxide reductions at the Copenhagen summit. ...
"The failure of the Copenhagen talks confirmed the general public
view that Obama has been too weak and has made too many concessions
with regard to his China policy. Obama, as a result, tasted the
bitter fruit of losing face. ... The Google incident showed that
Obama did not adopt a weak attitude toward China, and the State
Department's announcement of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, its
reiteration of the Taiwan Relations Act and turning a blind eye to
the three Sino-U.S. communiqus have further demonstrated Obama's
remorse over the 'Obama-Hu joint statement.' Such a development,
however, forced China to heighten and expand its level of protests
so as to maintain face. ..."
C) "What Is the U.S. Really Selling Taiwan?"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (2/5):
"Washington and Beijing have been locking horns over the United
States government's latest arms sales to Taiwan, as well as some
other thorny issues, such as U.S. President Barack Obama's planned
meeting with the Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
It remains to be seen what will become of the relations between the
two superpowers -- and theirs with Taiwan. But one question needs
to be asked about the arms sales: What is the U.S. really selling
Taiwan? Or what does Taiwan think the U.S. government is selling?
"The Obama administration has not actually approved any new items
for the package. ...But the Obama administration package excluded
some of the promises that Bush had made to Taiwan: diesel-powered
submarines and F16C/D jet fighters. This is the hardware. On the
political side, the package comes as Washington's reiteration of its
Taiwan Relations Act, which obliges it to sell defensive weapons to
the island. ... The hardware that the U.S. is selling Taiwan is not
sufficient to defend the island from the hundreds of Chinese
missiles targeting Taiwan. What the U.S. is selling is a sense of
security. And Taiwan is happily buying it despite the exorbitant
price. ... The sense of security does not come from the hardware,
but rather from the implications attached to the weapons. The
president may not really want to buy the weapons -- a time when
Taiwan least needs to arm itself -- judging from the gradually
easing tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
"But Ma needs to assure the nation -- particularly the
pro-independence opposition camp -- that he will not surrender the
nation if the occasion arises. He needs to play the game of
maintaining military balance across the strait. Such a game does
not depend on the number of troops or strength of the weapons on
each side of the strait, but is maintained by the ambiguous position
taken by the U.S. For both Taiwan and China, U.S. arms sales
represent the possibility of U.S. intervention in cross-strait
military conflicts. That is what Beijing has been protesting about.
... Would the U.S. really intervene? ... The sense of security may
be false, not only because the U.S. may never come to Taiwan's
defense, but also because the island actually lacks the
determination to defend itself. Buying the weapons is not
necessarily a demonstration of such determination, although the U.S.
government has always insisted that Taiwan needs to illustrate its
position by buying the defensive weapons offered to them. ... Some
observers say the air force may not have the pilots to fly F16C/D
jets even if the U.S. sells them to Taiwan. So the weapons systems
Taiwan is getting from the U.S. may just be toys, or a Linus blanket
that makes us feel safe."