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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0151/01 0390945
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 080945Z FEB 10
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3298
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9690
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1075

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000151

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.-CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused February
6-8 news coverage on the tumbling world stock markets last Friday;
on the prosecutors' search of a local financial holding company last
Friday; and on the year-end five city and county magistrates'
elections. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial
and an op-ed piece in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" both
discussed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. The editorial said the Taiwan
people should no longer put hopes in the Ma administration, which
just curries favor with China and sees Taiwan's defense needs as
child's play. The op-ed also said Taiwan's defense needs have been
ignored during the United States' decision-making process. An
editorial in the pro-unification "United Daily News," however, said
Taiwan can use its "soft power" to play a critical role in the
triangular relationship between Washington, Beijing and Taipei. An
editorial in the conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" discussed China's rising confidence and "increasing
assertiveness" in its dealings with China. An editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" said Taiwan's "best
path is to play the role of a democratic balancer to the rise of an
authoritarian and expansionist China and the declining regional
presence of the U.S. ..." End summary.

A) "Can [We] Allow the Ma Administration to Cling Obstinately to Its
Reckless Course?"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000]
editorialized (2/6):

"... As the receiver of the United States' arms sales to Taiwan, a
decision made in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, our
government did make some positive responses [to the move]. But in
response to China's picking an argument for no reason, the Ma
administration, which is adopting an all-round China-tilting policy
line, did not dare to make any comment. China has been deploying
heavy military forces and many missiles on the opposite side of the
Taiwan Strait, and it has openly declared that it will not hesitate
to use force to annex the island. Judging from basic common sense,
Taiwan's procurements of foreign armaments are nothing but a move
aimed at maintaining its fundamental defense needs. ...

"... But now Ma Ying-jeou has cut corners for the United States [in
terms of the arms sales to Taiwan], as shown in the arms sales
package which does not contain the submarines and more advanced
fighter jets). Still, [the Ma administration's] reactions were
simply to justify its expedited tilting toward China -- namely,
'arms sales' would [enable Taiwan] to engage in more interactions
with Beijing. [The KMT], be it a ruling or opposition party, has
been wholeheartedly trying to curry favor with China and has viewed
Taiwan's fundamental defense needs as insignificant matters. How
can the Taiwan people have hope in such a political party? ..."

B) "[U.S.] Arms Sales to Taiwan, a Minor Defect in Something
Otherwise Perfect"

Bill Chang, an advisory member at the Taiwan Thinktank, opined in
the pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000] (2/6):

"... The acquisition of large-scale military weapons requires a long
time and complicated preparations beforehand. Now that the United
States has failed Taiwan again in [providing it with] certain major
[arms] items, it is obvious that [Washington] has failed to catch up
with Taiwan's needs for its military buildup. This is particularly
true given that Taiwan is incapable of manufacturing such weapons
and has no other reliable channels to acquire those weapons.
Furthermore, it is already a fact that Washington has attached
increasing importance to China. Since [President Barack] Obama took
over the helm, [U.S.] arms sales to Taiwan have appeared to become a
ritual-like political gesture -- Namely, [it is announced] once a
year and tries to avoid all the 'sensitive items' while focusing on
telling [the world] that there is no significant changes in
Washington's China policy and showing the Congress that it adheres
to the 'Taiwan Relations Act' without provoking China. As a result,
the consequence is that the priority for Taiwan's real defense needs
have unexpectedly dropped in the United States' decision-making
process. ... Should Beijing gradually take over control of U.S.
arms sales to Taiwan, resulting in Taiwan spending big money but
unable to get the weapons it needs most, it will create a lot of
hidden problems for Taiwan's security. "

C) "Taiwan's Sense of Security: 'Soft Power' Is More Important"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (2/6):

"... Judging from [all these perspectives], the arms sales issue
indeed has many layers of peculiarity: First, it would be more
appropriate to say that Taiwan has been holding money in both its
hands to purchase protection from the United States rather than
buying weapons from the United States. Second, in the end, it is

still up to the United States' own interests whether Washington is
willing to protect Taiwan. Third, even if Taiwan has purchased
weapons, its armaments are, after all, not sufficient for the island
to defend itself should a war break out [in the Taiwan Strait]. In
this vein, is Taiwan really the side 'that has no control over its
actions' in the triangular framework between Washington, Beijing and
Taipei?

"Not necessarily so. Since Taiwan has no ability to really 'end a
war with wars,' it has to prevent wars using other means, or to take
precautions before a war really happens. There is nothing else but
'soft power' that Taiwan can use to defend itself and to contribute
to regional stability. ... China's rise is already a foregone
conclusion, and those big countries, such as the United States and
Japan, have long since started to modify their strategic interests.
Someone says that only when Taiwan-U.S. relations are stabilized can
cross-Strait relations be stabilized. But in fact, given the
triangular relations between Washington, Beijing and Taipei, only
when any of the bilateral relations becomes stabilized can the
triangular relationship becomes stabilized. In light of this,
Taiwan still has a critical role to play in between. ..."

D) "Beijing's Surprising 'Surplus of Confidence' in the World"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (2/8):

"... Now, Beijing speaks with increasing assertiveness, and acts
with growing confidence. It didn't hesitate to lecture the U.S. and
blame it for causing the global economic recession. It rejected
U.S. demand for the revaluation of Renminbi, the Chinese currency
which Washington says has been kept below its true value to make
Chinese goods competitive in export. It brushed off criticism on
human rights abuses. It sentenced dissident Liu Xiaobo to 11 years
in jail despite Obama's pleading. It executed a Briton for drug
trafficking despite Prime Minister Gordon Brown's request for
clemency: The list goes on and on.

"Recently, there have been ominous signs that Beijing's diplomatic
assertiveness is increasingly viewed by the rest of the world as
unsettling and hubristic. As a result, the United States appears
ready to hit back. A rough patch in Sino-U.S. relations is looming
large. Last week, Beijing warned the United States in harsh
language against President Obama's announcement of selling US$6.4
billion arms to Taiwan, demanding that Obama rescind the 'mistaken
decision' in order to avoid damaging broader U.S.-China relations.
China is also adamantly opposed to Obama's planned meeting with the
Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet whom Beijing labeled a
'splittist,' in the White House, saying the rendezvous harms China's
core interest. It should be noted that the U.S. is not doing
anything different from what it has been doing all along. But
Beijing's reaction is different -- unusually strong and vehement,
and menacing. It bodes ill for relations between the world sold
superpower and a rising power. ..."

E) "Taiwan's Balancing Role in U.S.-PRC Relations"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (2/8):

"The relationship between the United States under new President
Barack Obama and the Chinese Communist Party - ruled People's
Republic of China entered a new reality - based stage following
Washington's announcement Jan. 29 of a US$6.4 billion package of
defensive arms sales to Taiwan and Beijing's threatened retaliation.
... In the wake of Obama's visit, the Beijing leadership apparently
believed that Washington's desire to seek PRC cooperation on a wide
range of international issues signalled that the PRC could do
anything it wanted and thus felt "cheated" when the Taiwan arms
sales package was announced as if Washington had broke a promise not
to sell weapons to Taiwan. Moreover, Beijing authorities may also
have overlooked that their own harsh rhetoric over Obama's plans to
announce the Taiwan arms package and meet with the Dalai Lama, the
flap over Google's protests over PRC internet censorship, the lack
of active cooperation with U.S. initiatives in the Copenhagen
conference and its boycott against a U.S.-led push for new sanctions
on Iran had combined to provoke Washington's decision to play 'hard
ball.' ...

"In fact, the new US$6.4 billion package of arms sale to Taiwan was
mainly symbolic of Washington's intention to continue to abide by
the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and the exclusion of advanced F-16
Block C/D fighters and submarines signalled Obama's intention to
avoid excessively angering Beijing or impeding the so-called
cross-strait "reconciliation" launched by President Ma Ying-jeou's
right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration. The
changes in the atmosphere of U.S.-PRC relations should give a much
needed wake-up call to the Ma's administration. First, it is
evident that the PRC leadership is becoming more self-aggrandizing

instead of more responsible as its military, economic and diplomatic
clout rises. ... Second, the Obama administration has finally gotten
the message that the world democratic community should not entertain
wishful thinking when dealing with Beijing and has wisely adopted a
firmer stance toward the PRC as a pragmatic 'risk hedging' measure.
What is more worrisome is the blindness of the Ma administration to
these changes in Sino-American relations. ...

"Most importantly, while the Obama administration is formulating a
more cautious China strategy, Ma and the KMT are pursuing a fantasy
of reaching 'a cross-strait economic cooperation agreement' without
regard or even awareness of the price tag in Taiwan's international
status and economic autonomy. Ma should instead display his resolve
to bolster Taiwan's self-defense capabilities by urging Washington
to accelerate the review of selling more advanced fighters and
submarines to Taiwan. Moreover, Ma should first refrain from
further sending wrong messages to Washington, as he did last summer
by saying that 'natural disaster, not mainland China, is Taiwan's
main enemy.' ... Instead of 'leaning to one side' in the PRC's
direction, Taiwan's best path is to play the role of a democratic
balancer to the rise of an authoritarian and expansionist China and
the declining regional presence of the U.S. and work more closely
with both Washington and Tokyo to ensure our active participation in
economic and trade mechanisms."

STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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