1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news coverage November 24 on AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt's visit to Taiwan; on the year-end city mayors' and county magistrates' elections around the island; and on Taiwan's falling unemployment rate from September to October. The pro-independence "Liberty Times" ran a banner headline on page two, reading "Meeting [AIT Chairman] Raymond Burghardt, [DPP Chairwoman] Tsai [Ing-wen]: the United States Should Eliminate Taiwan People's Grave Concerns [over U.S.-China Relations]."
2. Several editorials and commentaries discussed AIT Chairman Burghardt's visit to Taiwan and U.S.-Taiwan relations in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama's China trip. A column in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" said Burghardt's visit to Taiwan in the wake of Obama's China visit is a standard operating procedure of the State Department and that Obama's tactful acceptance of China's sovereignty over Taiwan signified a major change in U.S. policy. A column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" said Obama had to keep a low-profile manner during his recent trip to China because, given the United States' weakening national strength, the United States is no longer able to "preach" or "rectify" China as it did before. An op-ed in the China-focused "Want Daily" discussed Obama's China trip and said Washington will not give up on Taiwan, but Taiwan's importance will be increasingly marginalized under the framework of U.S. core interests. An op-ed in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" said Obama's China trip "contained some very troubling aspects for Taiwan" as he "allowed the Chinese leadership to completely frame the interchanges on the Taiwan issue and demonstrated a disregard of the US' vital role in helping to keep Taiwan free of Chinese control or rule." An editorial in the conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post," however, welcomed Burghardt's visit to reassure Taiwan that "Obama's China trek did no harm to Taiwan's national interest." An editorial in the pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" discussed Burghardt's remarks and said the controversy caused by the U.S. beef imports in Taiwan was not a "phony issue" as described by Burghardt but one genuinely concerning the health safety the Taiwan people. End summary.
A) "A Huge Warning Signal for Taiwan-U.S. Relations"
Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in his column in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 540,000] (11/24):
"Immediately following [U.S. President Barack] Obama's trip to China, AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt came to Taiwan, reiterating that the U.S. position toward Taiwan remains unchanged. This is the standard operating procedure of the U.S. State Department. To put it more bluntly, [Washington] is just trying its upmost to placate [Taiwan]. But Ma Ying-jeou was saying that Taiwan-U.S. relations over the past six decades have never been as good as now. Does [he] mean that Burghardt is here on a holiday?
"It is very obvious that Taiwan-U.S. relations have been moving backwards and turning cold since Obama took over the helm. This is mainly because the U.S. national strength is declining while that of China is on the rise, and partly because the Ma administration has been tilting toward mainland China. But the Ma administration has been feeling good about itself all the time. The joint communiqu statement inked by Obama and [Chinese President] Hu Jintao nearly formally accepted mainland China's sovereignty over Taiwan, which is a harmful development for Taiwan, but the Ma administration acted like a frog sitting in the slowly boiling water, taking pleasure in the comfort and warmth [of the situation].
"All the previous U.S. presidents would mention the three [U.S.-China] communiqus in tandem with the 'Taiwan Relations Act (TRA)' when they visited mainland China. The fact that Obama deliberately ducked mentioning the TRA this time is a huge warning signal [for Taiwan], but the Ma administration just laughed it off. Obama vaguely brought up the TRA in the press conference afterwards, and the Ma administration was overjoyed [by the move], believing that it was a rare move, which will be favorable for Taiwan. [The Ma administration's performance] was akin to self hypnosis. In the joint statement, Obama and Hu not only reiterated respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity but also further emphasized that they were the core interests [for both sides]. The fact that Obama, using diplomatic rhetoric tactfully, expressed his acceptance of China's sovereignty over Taiwan is a major policy change, and Taiwan should remain vigilant about it. ..."
B) "Rising Vigorously While Obama Lowers His Head [Submissively to China]"
Chin Heng-wei, editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly, wrote in his column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000] (11/24):
"The message [sent out by the] U.S. President [who] visited China
was quite simple: the United States is now in a position of weak national strength, so it is unable to 'preach' or 'rectify' China as it used to. The United States and China are intertwined with each other in terms of trade and economics; China is the United States' biggest creditor, yet Beijing can hardly get itself away clean from the huge amount of its 'foreign exchange reserves.' As a result, both the United States and China have no alternative but to seek a way to 'work with each other,' a way that will be beneficial for both. Obama's trip this time was aimed at resolving the trade and economic unbalances between the United States and China. ... But it was all up to China to decide whether it wants to change its policy. This is the reason why Obama had to keep a low-profile manner. ..."
C) "Will the United States Give up on Taiwan?"
Xie Shengyou, visiting professor at the University of Bamberg in Germany, opined in the China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] (11/24):
"[U.S. President Barack] Obama visited China, and both China and the United States released a joint statement -- a move that met the core interests of the two countries. Honestly speaking, [Chinese President] Hu Jintao defeated Obama in the game this time. Even though Obama verbally mentioned the Taiwan Relations Act, such a legal foundation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan was missing in the Sino-U.S. joint statement. Does [it mean that] the United States has given up on Taiwan? ...
"Obama said in both Tokyo and Shanghai that the United States will not [seek to] contain China because Washington needs Beijing's [cooperation] in many ways: continuing to purchase U.S. treasury bonds; working together to address the financial crisis; and helping to deter Pyongyang and Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, it is still too early to say that China can be treated as an equal of the United States and work together with Washington as the two major nations in the world to resolve global problems. As a matter of fact, there is no fundamental change to Sino-U.S. relations, and there is a long way for China to become a fully responsible big country in the world. ...
"U.S. foreign policy has its continuity and consistency. Besides, for the sake of its own core interests, the United States will continue to act in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan and to strengthen cooperation with Taiwan. But given mainland China's growing political and economic strength, Washington will gradually come to realize or, further, to acknowledge Beijing's position. Washington will not give up on Taiwan, but Taiwan's importance will be increasingly marginalized under the framework of U.S. core interests. This is a [trend] to which the Taiwan people with growing Taiwan-centric consciousness must pay attention."
D) "Burghardt's Visit to Taipei"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post" [circulation: 30,000] editorialized (11/24):
"... The haste with which Burghardt is visiting Taipei -- just a week after President Obama left China -- is greatly appreciated, of course. That shows Washington wants Taipei to understand as soon as possible Uncle Sam won't walk out on Taiwan while trying to win Chinese 'friendship.' Washington knows full well Taipei must be seriously concerned because President Obama mentioned only briefly the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which promises U.S. assistance, particularly in the form of arms sales, to the island to defend itself against possible attack from the People's Republic. ...
"Obama didn't make mention of the act in Shanghai nor in his talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing. But he told the American press of one of the most important pillars of U.S. foreign policy vis--vis China and Taiwan. Burghardt described Obama's mention of the act as motivated by 'a personal desire to make sure it's mentioned.' Burghardt had to calm the jitters of our government leaders roused by Obama's omission of mention about the 1979 act in Shanghai and his cursory remarks in Beijing. Burghardt also had to inform Taipei the United States is still reviewing the sales of F-16 C/D fighters. Taiwan needs them as soon as practicable. At any rate, we are glad the United States saw to it that Taipei was reassured almost at once that Obama's China trek did no harm to Taiwan's national interest."
E) "Obama's Jarring First Trip to China"
Former Washington correspondent Charles Snyder opined in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (11/24):
"US President Barack Obama's maiden trip to China contained some
very troubling aspects for Taiwan. Obama allowed the Chinese leadership to completely frame the interchanges on the Taiwan issue, and demonstrated a disregard of the US' vital role in helping to keep Taiwan free of Chinese control or rule. At one point, Obama came within a split-second of declaring that Taiwan is part of China. Throughout the trip, the existence of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) was virtually forgotten, and Obama ducked the issues of China's military threat to Taiwan and the need for the US to help Taiwan defend itself. ... In a joint press conference, Chinese President Hu Jintao said Obama 'on various occasions has reiterated' that the US 'respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity when it comes to Taiwan,' and Obama echoed that commitment in the context of a one-China policy. Does that mean Obama winked and conceded China's territorial claims to Taiwan during their private talks? ...
"The most jarring moment came during the 'town hall' session on Obama's first day in China. The meeting was closely orchestrated by the Chinese leaders, and questions were tightly scripted. The Taiwan question was picked via the Internet from a Taiwan businessman operating in China, who said he is "worried" about US arms sales and that his business is doing well because of the Taiwanese government's current cross-strait policy. Obama said he backed a one-China policy, and praised the reduction in cross-strait tension, saying he hoped the improvement would continue 'between Taiwan and the rest of -- and the People's Republic.' He was about to declare Taiwan to be part of China, reflective of a predilection to see reality in that way. It was, in the word of a leading Washington expert in China and Taiwan, a reflection of his 'mind set.' How did he get this 'mind set?' Surely the administration's experts on China know that 'official' US policy is that the status of Taiwan is undetermined and solvable only with the approval of the Taiwanese people. They are too savvy to give him a bum steer. ..."
F) "U.S.-Taiwan Beef Flap Is Not Phony Issue"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation: 20,000] editorialized (11/24):
"Speaking with reporters yesterday morning, American Institute for Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt stated that the simmering controversy over a protocol signed Oct. 22 between the U.S. and Taiwan's Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government to liberalize U.S. beef imports was a 'phony issue.' ... Contrary to the sentiments expressed by the AIT chairman, demands raised by consumer, and health safety protection groups and the DPP for renegotiation of the October 22 protocol aim to guard against genuine and grave dangers to both the health security of our 23 million citizens and the health of our democracy and are not 'anti-American' but pro-health and pro-democracy.
"First, it is necessary to recognize that there are genuine health safety concerns associated with US beef products, especially ground beef and 'offals' which are known to carry higher risk of BSE, which can cause the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans, and other pathogens. BSE is particularly worrisome because, as acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's own Food Safety and Inspection Service, there are no effective preventative tests or effective treatment for BSE and because prions, the suspected agent, cannot be killed by cooking, even by microwave, which means that consumers cannot "protect themselves. In sum, there is no 'acceptable' level of risk for the entry of BSE into Taiwan's food chain.
"Contrary to claims by President Ma Ying-jeou and other KMT government officials, the October 22 protocol provides weaker protection for Taiwan consumers than similar agreements signed between Washington and Japan and South Korea. ...It is worth noting that U.S. based consumer and health safety organizations, such as the Consumers Union, have expressed little confidence in the effectiveness of the procedures put in place by USDA, which has a vested interest in beef exports, to protect even the health of US citizens. Ma's claim that Taiwan had no option but to accept such liberalization as part of its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization disregards the WTO's Agreement on Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, which gives member states the power to carry out import risk assessments and implement import controls over goods which may pose serious health risks. ... The continued defiance of this principle by the KMT government, including its refusal to submit agreements signed with the authoritarian People's Republic of China for legislative ratification, constitute a 'clear and present' threat to the survival of Taiwan's democracy as well as our national and health security."