Saturday, September 17, 2011

More on the Financial Times hack job =UPDATED=

The hachet job on Tsai Ing-wen's visit that FT brokered yesterday (see post below this one) has provoked all sorts of commentary. Josh Rogin at The Cable at Foreign Policy noted the Administration's bad week on Taiwan, another shining example of its ability to alienate its supporters while angering its critics. After discussing the decision not to sell F-16s to Taiwan, Rogin observed:
Meanwhile, the administration got caught this week in a separate scandal related to Taiwan. An unnamed U.S. government official signaled to the Financial Times that the United States did not want to see Taiwanese opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen win January's presidential election because it could raise tensions with China.

"She left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-Strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years," the U.S. official told FT. Tsai's opponent Ma Ying-Jeou has already used the quote to attack the candidate.

Tsai had been in Washington all week meeting with administration officials and outside experts. One of the experts she met with, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Randy Schriver, told The Cable that the criticism of Tsai was a bad breach of protocol.

"I understand that the Obama administration assured Dr. Tsai this week at high levels that the U.S. will remain neutral in Taiwan's election," he said. "I hope the Obama administration is trying to identify the unnamed official from the story and will reprimand that person for publicly contradicting so many of their own senior officials who spoke on the topic this week."


For those on Capitol Hill who are already critical of the Obama administration's Taiwan policy, the leak is just one more example that the White House views Taiwan though the lens of its policy toward Beijing.

"It is embarrassing, but perhaps not surprising, that this administration would attempt to undermine Dr. Tsai's candidacy in such a way," said another senior Senate GOP staffer. "Instead of catering to the whims of the PRC, the administration should stay neutral, and then stand back and let the voters on Taiwan determine for themselves who their leaders should be and what their relationship with the mainland will look like."
The Nelson report, which I cited in the original report below this one, laid the hatchet job at the feet of the rivalry between State and the Obama Administration. At the same time Walter Lohman at Heritage expanded on Rogin's comments in the last two paragraphs, arguing that....
Three, the White House comments reflect an all-too-well-trained instinct for carrying China’s water on cross-Straits issues. It is the PRC that is dictating the terms of the “stability” the U.S. is concerned with maintaining. It is the PRC that declares any deviation from the trend in the direction of unification “destabilizing” and threatens to resort to force to preclude any movement counter to this trend—as it alone perceives it. And judging by the White House response to its encounter with Tsai this week, the PRC’s perception is the only one it cares about.

There is another problem with the White House comments: Tsai Ing-wen may still, despite this blow, be elected president of Taiwan next year.

Taiwan needs the U.S. A President Tsai would have no option of distancing Taiwan from America. But without trust in the U.S., which has also suffered a blow from this calculated public assessment of Tsai, the relationship can easily descend into a cycle of manipulation and retribution that serves no one’s interest. After all, where does a political figure like Tsai go when her efforts to be reasonable and responsible have been rebuffed?

The concern for “stability” is a legitimate concern in any situation where America may be called in to restore balance by force. But to tar one side of these elections in Taiwan as uniquely damaging to American interests when the only evidence to that effect are self-interested complaints from China is wrong and extremely shortsighted.
The White House has thus set itself up for a fall if it criticizes Tsai and then finds her the next president. Lohman's observation that the White House is carrying Beijing's water for it is quite true, and was also true of the previous Administration. As a long-time Taiwan observer with nearly a half century of experience remarked in a private email, too many analysts are still approaching Taiwan the same way they have since the 1960s, thinking they can solve the issue by selling out Taiwan.

Taiwan's democracy bites both ways. It is a "problem" for Beijing if it wants to annex Taiwan, and it is a problem for those in the US who think that they can solve the Taiwan issue by annexing Taiwan to China. Like Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai is beholden to an electorate that does not want to be part of the PRC.

The ugly ignorant arrogant remarks of the Administration official are worth another look:
A US official said that while Tsai Ing-wen understood the need "to avoid gratuitous provocations" of China, it was "far from clear… that she and her advisers fully appreciate the depth of [Chinese] mistrust of her motives and DPP aspirations."
Imagine. Some official in Washington, who probably has not spent much time here, claims that Tsai Ing-wen, who grew up here and is the Chairman of a major political party here, doesn't understand Chinese hatred of Taiwan, its democracy, and of the DPP. I assure you, she does. And further, as Lohman pointed out, this official is simply carrying CCP water -- his critique of Tsai is Beijing-centric -- poor, put-upon, misunderstood Beijing.....

UPDATE: More from the Taipei Times:
Some analysts now believe the unsolicited call to the newspaper, aimed at crippling Tsai’s campaign, may have been unprecedented as a calculated and virtually open political attack.
The newspaper described the caller, who was well known to reporters, as a “senior administration official.” The official’s message was clear: The Obama administration did not trust Tsai to keep the peace and it would be better to re-elect Ma.

Tsai’s aides and entourage were shocked because there had been no trace of such sentiments in their meetings.

At the State Department, she had met with US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell and their response to her views and policies had appeared to be positive, Tsai’s aides said.

US Senator James Inhofe, the Republican who is co-chair of the US Senate Taiwan Caucus, immediately asked the State Department for an explanation.

“The ‘official’ mentioned in this [Financial Times] article is totally unknown to us and certainly does not speak for the Obama administration,” the State Department replied.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Grant said...

This could easily just blow up backwards on the US. But, would it help the DPP?

Anonymous said...

"US concerned about Taiwan candidate" in FT should be regarded as a false report for the following reason: It said 'Both sides agree there is "one China", but have agreed to disagree over the definition of China.' The truth is PRC has never accepted such a position; it has been the one-sided wishful thinking of Ma's government. If a report can make up such a thing, it can make up anything--including the unnamed senior US official!

Anonymous said...

it's fine that there's all this criticism about the obama administration for how they've been treating dr. tsai, how they're dealing with taiwan's upcoming election, and their refusal to sell f-16s. but all this criticism is mainly inside the beltway and with non-mainstream papers. like the heritage and financial times?? no mainstream american reads those.

why isnt the mainstream press reporting on these matters like cnn, msnbc, fox, nytimes, etc? ny times - my favorite paper - used to report a lot on taiwan issues but they've hardly been writing about taiwan anymore. and i havent seen any news broadcasts about dr. tsai's trip or the f-16 issue or the growing conflict between taiwan/china, etc. the average american doesnt know what's going on with taiwan and how the obama administration is negatively treating taiwan and helping china suppress taiwan's sovereignty and damage her democracy!! and im a democrat who voted for obama, btw!! the next american election may be the first time i vote republican.

Michael Turton said...

Anon -- well, I know why the mainstream press hasn't reported on Tsai's trip. The problem isn't the US MSM, but DPP PR management.


Michael Turton said...

Not the first time that's occurred either. The problem has been ongoing with the pan-Green side for years.

Tai De said...

Anon, I think Obama must understand that China mistakes his policy for weakness. But to vote for a Republican candidate only because of Taiwan is funny. If other American factors (esp. building the economy) speak for Obama, this means that America would be stronger with Obama than with a Republican. Taiwan could profit from a Republican president, yes. But not in the long run.

Oh, and didn't former president Reagan say he would establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan again - before he became president?

Anonymous said...

tai de, im not happy with obama for many other reasons besides the taiwan issue. especially the economy. he's done nothing for the economy. he's given in to the republicans on a lot of issues that he once supported and disappointed many in his party/supporters. whats worse than disagreeing with a president on the issues is a president who wont even stand up for his principles and fight the opposition. his "compromising" for the sake of maintaining peace and diplomacy comes across as weak and capitulating just like ma ying-jeou compromising with china comes across as weak and capitulating. they're both whimps as far as i'm concerned.

on top of that i didnt vote for him in the primary. i never thought he was experienced enough to be president anyway and it's become clear that assessment is correct. he didnt even finish 1 term as senator.

Readin said...

"Taiwan's democracy bites both ways. It is a 'problem' for Beijing if it wants to annex Taiwan, and it is a problem for those in the US who think that they can solve the Taiwan issue by annexing Taiwan to China. Like Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai is beholden to an electorate that does not want to be part of the PRC."

You forgot to mention the other way it bites. It is also a problem for those who would make Taiwan the world's people and even the Taiwanese understand is not part of China as Lee and Chen attempted to do. The KMT won the legislature and the presidency democratically.

Readin said...

I agree with Tai De that voting for one party or solely based on how it treats Taiwan is a poor way to vote. If you're voting for president, you're an America and America should be your first priority.

As for the rest of Tai De's comments, I think he's way off. The difference between the Republicans and Democrats economically is that Republicans always promise to behave responsibly and control spending, but they often break their promises. Democrats, on the other hand, always promise to spend irresponsibly and destroy our nation and they always keep their promises.

So we're 14 trillion in debt and Obama believes the solution is to put us 15 trillion in debt? Sounds like a brilliant man.

I suppose there is a possibility Keynesian economic policy may work if done correctly - but correct implementation demands that the government save up money during good times so the money can be released as stimulus during bad times. We haven't saved anything up so everything the government wants to inject into the economy has to first be borrowed out of the economy.

But does Keynesian spending work even if you can afford it? Japan tried hard and was the worlds largest creditor, but it still had a lost decade and is now deeply in debt.

Readin said...

@anon "whats worse than disagreeing with a president on the issues is a president who wont even stand up for his principles and fight the opposition"

It sounds like you're talking about Bush. How much did spending increase during his term despite his claim to be "conservative"? Even liberals like Garry Trudeau recognized it.