Independent sources have informed me that a well-known international wire agency has been sitting on a “big” Taiwan/China story “for weeks” and that it may be on the brink of making it public. The reasons for the delay, I was told, were “a request from China” as well as fears that making it public now would have an impact on this weekend’s by-elections in Taiwan. The news could be released by Sunday, I was told. One source said the story behind the news embargo was possibly as fascinating as the breaking news itself.
While a source told me that in recent months “bits” of news have pointed toward this development, it is, at this point, difficult to conjecture on what this might be. Still, based on what has been made available to me, it is possible to make a few observations:
(a) if the news is being held at the request of Chinese authorities, it means that the “feared consequences” of releasing it prior to the elections would be deleterious to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidates. Otherwise, if it cast the KMT in a positive light (at least with pan-green voters), Beijing would have expedited the release and lifted the embargo so that its beneficial impact were felt before people cast their vote;
(b) tell-tale signs over the past months; the possibilities include (in increasing “controversy” order):
- The opening of Straits Exchange Foundation-Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait offices on both sides, though this isn’t highly controversial and would only have a marginal impact on the elections;
- A visit by senior provincial Chinese leaders. On Feb. 24, Xinhua news agency reported that the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office had announced that an undisclosed number of such officials would soon be dispatched to Taiwan. Again, there is a precedent for this and the controversy level or potential of a negative impact on the election’s outcome is minimal;
- A visit to Taiwan by a senior Chinese Communist Party official, or by a senior KMT official to China. One the Chinese side, Premier Wen Jiabao — who has expressed his desire of visiting Taiwan one day — comes to mind;
And, as our most controversial candidates because President Ma Ying-jeou has said that both would not occur in his first term:
- A summit meeting, possibly in a neutral location, between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Taiwanese President Ma.
- The beginning of negotiations on a cross-strait “peace agreement.”
Other developments that I have discarded because they would potentially have a positive impact on KMT candidates’ chances of getting elected include an announcement by Beijing that it will de-target or dismantle the 1,500 ballistic missiles it aims at Taiwan; allowing Taiwan’s participation at the WHO; and (highly unlikely) a delay in economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) negotiations.
Stay tuned. This could be a very interesting weekend.