Ted Galen Carpenter, whom I’ve critiqued here on more than one occasion, has an article in The National Interest arguing that the fundamental support for independence here in Taiwan will rein in the ability of the KMT to cozy up to the PRC government:

If they examine the KMT’s position carefully, however, Chinese leaders are likely to be disillusioned. Although Ma does favor eventual reunification, there are three important caveats. First, reunification can take place only if mainland China becomes fully democratic. Ma—and most KMT members—have no interest in having Taiwan unify with China in its current, authoritarian incarnation. Second, reunification can occur only with the explicit consent of the Taiwanese people. In other words, Taiwan would have a veto. Finally, the KMT has reluctantly conceded that all options—even independence—must be available to Taiwanese voters when it comes time to make a decision. All of those caveats are anathema to Beijing.

The reality is that there is not a huge difference between Ma’s positions and the policies that Chen’s government has pursued. The KMT is simply more subtle and conciliatory in its language, and more cautious about actions that might provoke Beijing. In the short run, the latter is quite important. Whereas Chen and the DPP have repeatedly pushed the envelope on asserting Taiwan’s sovereignty, and thereby threatened to disrupt the fragile status quo in the Taiwan Strait (much to Washington’s dismay), a KMT government is committed to preserving the status quo. In the long run, though, reunification would not be much more likely under a KMT administration than a DPP one. And it remains to be seen how long Beijing will be content with a status quo that maintains Taiwan’s existence as a de facto independent state.

Carpenter’s analysis doesn’t seem to take into account the numerous “short of formal unification” positions available to Ma and the KMT, that would annex Taiwan to the PRC without any obvious change in status. He also takes Ma at his word. Finally, since China defines the status quo in the Strait, he doesn’t really get how it can manipulate Washington (and Taipei’s image) to its own benefit — the KMT will have to come round because it will sooner or later be accused of “risking the status quo.” Nevertheless, not everyone in Washington is celebrating the KMT victory. Carpenter should be happy — an AIT official was cited in the Taipei Times yesterday as saying that the era of large weapons purchases may well be over.

Carpenter’s position on the recent election is actually quite nuanced — much better than a lot of the conventional wisdom running around the media these days:

True, the rout of President Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was an emphatic repudiation of Chen’s performance in office. But whether it was a repudiation of his assertive policies toward Beijing is less certain.

Actually, it was not a repudiation of Chen’s performance in office, either, as I noted below. But at least Carpenter, who often doesn’t get Taiwan, is clued into the fact that Chen’s policies in many ways reflected local will.

Meanwhile, on the lighter side, the Seattle Times describes Taiwan’s indie music scene….

The musical tastes of Taipei are not too different from Seattle. A recent visit to a record shop there revealed that six out of their Top 10 indie rock titles were from Seattle — and many of those albums were from Sub Pop. Listeners in Taipei must love Band of Horses and the Shins just as much as we do.

As for their tastes in pop, it mirrors ours, too — with sounds echoing the Britney of old, Jonas Brothers and Justin Timberlake. Have a listen to these hot Asian acts……