Wednesday night I stopped by O’Ginny’s, which is in a warren somewhere off of Mingsheng East Road, to listen to Jonathan Manthorpe, author of Forbidden Nation, speak on the election and on Taiwan in general. Manthorpe proved to have a rare knowledge of Taiwan, and was a pleasure to listen to. The food was meh, but the eye candy behind the bar was outstanding. Unfortunately, I can’t give you directions because I doubt I could find it again — it appears to be located in a tesseract that expands in every direction as you walk along it. I think I walked around there for about three hours, but never actually got any nearer to Nanjing E Road.

Manthorpe talked for roughly 45 minutes. Unlike many newsman, Manthorpe was aware that the published polls in the pro-Blue papers are nonsense. He said that people he respected from both parties had told him the election was tight. It’s Ma’s election to lose, but if he screws up, he could lose.

On Tibet, Manthorpe said that everyone had told him that it would have little effect on the election. He did say it could have an effect if the election is close. My own prediction is that if Hsieh wins, the KMT will immediately blame it on Tibet even though they are saying beforehand that Tibet will have no effect.

One thing about the Tibet issue not being discussed: most discussions of the Tibet-Taiwan relationship have focused on their mutual threat from China. The context, in other words, is the sovereignty issue. But it should be kept in mind that there are millions of Buddhists in Taiwan for whom the Dalai Lama is a revered figure, and thousands of Tibetan Buddhists who might well be affected by events in Tibet. In other words, religion is another point of entry for the Tibet issue into local politics, not just sovereignty. Caveat: many of the Buddhist institutions are pro-KMT, another complicating factor. In Taiwan, politics is never simple, one of the sources of its addictiveness….Hsiao Bi-khim also pointed out another connection in the post below — opening Tibet to China economically through the railway has simply resulted in greater exploitation of Tibet by Chinese — an obvious parallel to the One China common market. This is a cogent point that might swing a few votes.

Max Hirsch over at Thirsty Ghosts has an article on the Tibet Factor:

Ma’s attack on Wen is hardly novel among politicians here. For the ruling, pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, bashing Beijing is virtually a pastime. But Ma — considered Beijing’s best hope for curbing independence moves by Taipei — has staked his presidential bid on vows to further cross-strait detente.

Those plans now appear in danger as public outrage here over Beijing’s ongoing crackdown in Tibet has forced Ma to mothball his China-friendlypersona. With just three days left before the island’s presidential election Saturday, the frontrunner is scrambling to prevent rival Frank Hsieh of the DPP from painting him as a Beijing apologist amid the clampdown.

At the beginning of Mr. Ma’s campaign, he was rarely harsh on China. But because of [Hsieh's] attacks for being soft on the Tibet issue, Ma’s had to adjust his strategy, said Huang Kwei-bo, a political scientist at National Chengchi University.

I sense a shift [in Ma's rhetoric],Huang said.

Making matters worse were Wen Jiabao’s Tuesday comments, which forced Mr. Ma’s hand, he said.

It was very unwise for Wen to talk about Tibet and Taiwan together — that will remind people here of China’s view of the island as a renegade province, he added, referring to Wen’s blaming the Dalai Lama for riots by Tibetans and then slamming Taiwan’s referenda in the same press conference.

As everyone braces for a probable Ma victory, there’s a new line out that Ma and Beijing might not necessarily work with each other as well as people like me believe. Lots of people in the community of Taiwan observers are taking that position. I remain skeptical. Because for all that Ma has criticized Beijing, he hasn’t said that Tibet should be independent. At heart, I believe, Ma remains committed to the China-as-Zion theology of the ROC. In any case, the focus on Ma is wrong; if Ma himself ran the KMT, I would have fewer worries — but the ideologues at the top like Lien Chan, who think of themselves as Chinese and despise Taiwan, are running the show. Ma has never shown any ability to stand up to them. I’m afraid that those betting on a Ma show of strength are trying to build castles out of pudding….