Press Review: Tsai Ing-wen and the Totally Unknown Senior U.S. Official

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s party moved quickly Friday to take advantage of reported remarks made by a senior U.S. official casting doubts on his rival’s ability to maintain stable relations between the democratic island and mainland China.

A story in the Financial Times newspaper cited the unnamed U.S. official as saying that Tsai Ing-wen, Ma’s opposition in January’s presidential election, had created “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 Kansas City Star, on Thursday this week.

Britain’s “Financial Times” quotes an unnamed senior (资深) U.S. official as saying that the Obama administration was worried that if Tsai Ing-wen was elected [president], this could raise tensions in cross-strait relations. In a reaction, Tsai emphasized that she didn’t know if the report was correct or false, but that she hoped that the U.S. government would maintain a neutral position. According to China Review News1), Tsai gave a speech at Harvard University’s Yenching Library and took questions from professors and students, and a crowd was listening outside the library. She made the statement mentioned above while she was taking questions. Tsai believes that the “presidential” elections2) are internal Taiwanese elections, and that America would best maintain a neutral position. She emphasized that her meetings with U.S. officials had all been very smooth, and that these were Taiwan’s best friends. This listener had also listened to [KMT secretary-general] King Pu-tsung (金博聪) and liked Tsai Ing-wen better.

Concerning Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to America, the “Financial Times” quoted a senior U.S. official as saying that cross-strait stability was very important for America, and Tsai’s visit to Washington had caused American concern about that stability – “she – Tsai Ing-wen – makes us doubt if she has the wish and ability to maintain the regional stability the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have enjoyed in recent years” (她(蔡英文)让我们明确怀疑她是否有意愿,且有能力,维持近年来区域所享有的两岸关系稳定).

After Tsai’s speech, a mainland [Chinese] student asked why the DPP, given its emphasis on democracy and human rights, had all the same planned violent actions during Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) chairman Chen Yunlin’s visit to Taiwan. Tsai, slightly displeased, said that first, there needed to be a definition about what spelled violence. In a normal democratic society, speaking somewhat loudly wasn’t unusual, and this was necessary to protect freedom of speech. “If it is called violence, this is disappointing, and we didn’t create violence. We all respect freedom of speech” (如果这叫暴力让人很失望,我们并没有创造暴力,大家尊重言论自由).

Concerning cross-strait relations, Tsai reiterated that there was a need for “stable and peaceful” relations, and this was what every political party and everyone expected. As China was one of the world’s important markets, the DPP hoped to open two gateways (把两大门户打开).

And what about the issue of arms sales? Tsai emphasized that America was “an important element of peace in Asia” (而对于军售问题?蔡英文强调,美国会是“亚洲和平的重要元素”,美国是台湾“非常友好的好朋友”,民主是台美“共同利益”,最重要目标是和平与稳定,面对中国,美国“有时候放心、有时候不放心”), “a very good friend of Taiwan (美国是台湾“非常友好的好朋友”), that democracy was “the common interest of Taiwan and America”, and the most important goal was peace and stability, and America was “sometimes at ease with China, and sometimes it wasn’t”.


The U.S. State Department had earlier stated that the administration took no stance on the forthcoming elections in Taiwan. On Thursday, a State Department official reiterated this stance.

The Financial Times pointed out that Tsai hoped to strengthen the strategic partnership with the U.S. and that she had pledged not to take extreme or radical ways, different from Chen Shui-bian, but that on her visit to Washington, she apparently hadn’t succeeded in making the White House believe that she couldn’t maintain the good cross-strait relations.

The senior official said that even though Tsai was aware of the need to “avoid unprovoked offense” (to China), it “was not perceivable… that she and her staff fully understood how strongly China distrusted her motives, and the DPP’s hopes (资深官员表示,虽然蔡英文了解需要“避免无端挑衅(中国)”,但“完全看不出来…她与她的幕僚充分了解(中国)有多么不信任她的动机,以及民进党的想 望).

Huanqiu Shibao, on Friday this week.

“The ‘official’ mentioned in the article is totally unknown to us and certainly does not speak for the Obama administration. The administration does not take sides in Taiwan’s [or any country’s] election. It’s up to the people of Taiwan to choose their own leaders in an election. Our interest is in a free, fair and open presidential election, not in supporting or criticizing any presidential candidate.

The U.S. State Department, reportedly in a reply to a Congressional source who had  enquired about the alleged comment by a senior US official to the Financial Times. Quoted by The Taipei Times on Friday / Saturday (Taiwan local time) this week.



1) China Review News, Chinese: 中评社 / 中国评论通讯社, a paper registered in Hong Kong since 2005, and whose circulation has been approved by the governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait (唯一在两岸及港澳公开发行的中文时事杂志, i. e. China and Taiwan’s governments), according to the magazine’s company information.

2) Wording which refers or might refer to Taiwan’s sovereignty are put into quotation marks by Chinese media.



» Speaking to America, September 14, 2011


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