US embassy cable - 04LILONGWE415

TAIWAN FRETS OVER POST-ELECTION TIES TO MALAWI

Identifier: 04LILONGWE415
Wikileaks: View 04LILONGWE415 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2004-05-18 12:15:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Tags: PREL PGOV KHIV PINR TW CM MI Public Relations President Parliament
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000415 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/18/2014 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, KHIV, PINR, TW, CM, MI, Public Relations, President, Parliament 
SUBJECT: TAIWAN FRETS OVER POST-ELECTION TIES TO MALAWI 
 
REF: A. 02 LILONGWE 1031 
 
     B. LILONGWE 286 
     C. STATE 48160 
     D. STATE 55006 
 
Classified By: Pol/Econoff Marc Dillard for reasons 1.5 b/d. 
 
Summary 
------- 
1.  (C/NF)  Taiwanese diplomats are worried that an 
opposition win in Malawi's upcoming presidential and 
parliamentary elections could result in Malawi breaking 
diplomatic relations, Second Secretary C.W. "Albert" Chang 
told Pol/Econoff.  Local Taiwanese officials avoid the 
opposition and channel some aid through mechanisms closely 
aligned with the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), 
leaving many in opposition to perceive the Taiwanese as 
pro-UDF rather than as development partners with the country 
of Malawi.  Noting some recent PRC activity in Malawi, Chang 
made a pitch for closer local aid cooperation with the USG, 
so that the GOM might perceive cutting ties with Taiwan as 
threatening USG programs as well.  While we agree that the 
Taiwanese are seen as pro-UDF, we note that Taiwan managed a 
similar transition ten years ago, when it dropped its support 
of the dictator Hastings Banda and aligned with current 
President Muluzi.  The key to that transition (as will likely 
be the case again) was the cash Taiwan produced for the new 
government.  End summary. 
 
Taiwan Fears Change After Malawi's Election 
------------------------------------------- 
2.  (C/NF) Diplomats at the Taiwanese Embassy in Malawi are 
worried that a change in Malawi's government after May 20 
presidential and parliamentary elections could affect 
Malawi's diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, Second Secretary 
C.W. "Albert" Chang told Pol/Econoff on May 5.  The polls, 
which will be Malawi's third democratic elections, will bring 
with them a new president, as President Muluzi is 
constitutionally ineligible to run for a third term. 
 
3.  (C/NF) Chang had asked for the meeting ostensibly to 
discuss election prospects, because, he explained, Taiwanese 
diplomats have virtually no contact with opposition parties. 
He stated that their practice of avoiding the opposition was 
not a policy, but described it as "well understood" that 
officials should not meet with those outside the government. 
President Muluzi, he added, "has pawns everywhere," including 
National Intelligence Bureau officers and other "watchers." 
"He would know if Taiwan met with the opposition, and he 
might cut ties."  (Note: Chang later stated that the 
Taiwanese Ambassador had frozen out a confidante, former 
Agriculture Minister Aleke Banda, when Banda defected from 
the ruling United Democratic Front.) 
 
4.  (C/NF) Because of Taiwan's contact practices, Chang told 
Pol/Econoff that many in the opposition associate Taiwan with 
the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and would be 
inclined to court the PRC.  (Note: Taiwan's aid practices, 
which have included facilitating a Taiwanese NGO's support 
for a trust run by the first lady, as well as 
behind-the-scenes payments per ref A, re-inforce opposition 
perceptions of Taiwan supporting the UDF rather than Malawi.) 
 
Suspicions of PRC Activity in Malawi 
------------------------------------ 
5.  (C/NF) Unsurprisingly, Chang stated that the Taiwanese 
keep a close watch on suspected PRC activity in Malawi.  Over 
the course of the conversation, he noted the following: 
 
--A PRC company in the commercial capital Blantyre is 
constructing an office building on contract for the GOM. 
Chang stated that the Taiwanese Embassy suspects that 
undercover PRC officials have been placed among the company's 
management.  He stated that the Taiwanese had uncovered a 
similar arrangement with a PRC Foreign Affairs implant in a 
company "in Nigeria or somewhere else in the West African 
region" two years ago. 
 
--Current Minister of Housing K. Phumisa attended a 
conference in Beijing between one and two years ago (likely 
in previous incarnations as Minister of Information or 
Minister of Transportation).  How, Chang asked rhetorically, 
did he get invited? 
 
--A PRC television crew recently visited Malawi and toured 
the country extensively while making a documentary.  Chang 
stated that local PRC representation would have been needed 
to set up such a tour. 
 
6.  (C/NF) In possible connection to ref D request, Chang 
gently probed whether the USG had taken stock of PRC 
activities in Malawi and asked whether the USG had considered 
how changes in African recognition of Taiwan could affect 
Taiwan-PRC and US-Taiwan relations. 
 
Pitch for Closer Local US-Taiwan Cooperation 
-------------------------------------------- 
7.  (C/NF) Chang closed the meeting with a pitch for linking 
local USG and Taiwanese aid programs.  Such a link, he 
explained, would benefit Taiwan "strategically," because the 
GOM would see severing ties with Taiwan as potentially 
threatening to USG programs as well. 
 
Comment 
------- 
8.  (C/NF) We wonder if Chang's reasoning for USG-Taiwanese 
aid cooperation is partly behind Taiwan's recent fervent 
attempts to link its local HIV/AIDS programs with CDC efforts 
(refs B and C).  As for Taiwanese fears about its official 
ties with Malawi, Taiwan managed a similar transition ten 
years ago from the thirty-year dictatorship of Hastings Banda 
to President Muluzi's UDF.  Malawi has a long history of 
selling diplomatic recognition to those willing to pay, and a 
successful transition would probably only be a matter of 
arranging for a large enough suitcase of cash. 
 
DOUGHERTY 

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