That sucking sound you heard today was for once not jobs going to China but instead, the collective in-breath of the world media. Big news today was that Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛), a politician from the “pro-independence” (”surprise choice“; “counter to the pervasive mood of thawing“; “pro-independence figure“) Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) was appointed to head the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) in the new cabinet of President Ma. This CNA piece has good background on her:

The decision to name Lai as head of the cross-strait policy making governmental agency drew disparaging comments from some Kuomintang (KMT) legislators, while a group of Kuomintang (KMT) supporters gathered outside the venue of Monday’s press conference shouting for Liu to step down.

The protestors argued that Lai is not a member of the KMT nor does she have the required experience in dealing directly with Beijing to hold such a post.

Liu, however, noted that the selection of the MAC chairperson was initiated by President-elect Ma Ying-jeou and that Lai is “qualified for the position on the basis of her past experience in dealing with mainland affairs as well as her educational background.”

Lai holds a master’s degree in International Relations and a doctorate in Development Studies — both earned in the United Kingdo m. She has served as Taiwan’s negotiator for World Trade Organization accession, as a member of the National Security Council, a legislator, and a university research fellow.

Folks, that is not a signal that the new President is going to take a middle ground in China policy. Instead it is a signal that MAC will not be an important player in cross-strait contacts. As Feiren pointed out to me in a chat we had about Lai, it looks like instead the backchannel and alternative structures like those that Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian were fond of creating will handle such contacts — let’s not forget, that the two parties have been having substantial contacts and cooperation for many years. The infrastructure is already there — MAC is now superfluous. As if to punctuate that perception, another Lien-Hu LoveFest was announced at the same time it was announced that Lai got the MAC post…..note that the parallel system of formal Beijing-KMT party-to-party contacts, discussed in this article here, and the Straits Exchange Foundation, which got for its head the Vice-Chair of the KMT, who is in China at the moment….

Meanwhile, the KMT-CPC forum, established in 2005 by CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao and then-KMT Chairman Lien Chan, is a place for business leaders, academics, government officials, and even leaders of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party to exchange views with their Chinese counterparts, Chang said.

The forum will also help build consensus among its participants and these decisions may be translated into policies for Beijing and Taipei, Chang added.

Although Ma has said that contacts with China under his administration will be made mainly by the Straits Exchange Foundation and that his administration’s policy will not be dictated by the KMT, the contacts between the KMT and CPC will continue, Chang said. (By Maubo Chang)

So we have –

– the Mainland Affairs Commission headed by a “pro-independence” politician;
– the Straits Exchange Foundation headed by the Vice-Chairman of the KMT;
– the KMT-CPC forum as a formal mechanism for party-to-party talks
– the informal and secret party-to-party communications going on for at least a decade now.

Which one will have the most weight? Hmmmm…….

UPDATE: Is Lai even Green? asks maddog in the comments below. Other Greens aren’t so sure, he points out. It was Lai who invited the Red Ants from Shih Ming-te’s fake protest in Taipei into the TSU, causing members to ask to have her expelled.

Huang [Maddog: That's David Huang (黃適卓)] told reporters that he would leave the party today if it failed to expel TSU Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) and nullify her candidacy for legislator-at-large. He also asked the party to remove members of the “anti-Chen campaign” working at TSU headquarters.

The “anti-Chen campaign” was launched by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) last year in a bid to force President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to resign amid corruption allegations against him, his wife and his closest aides.

Members were dubbed the “red-shirt army.”

Producing a photocopy of what he called a “destroy the pan-green plan,” Huang said Lai’s boyfriend had suggested that Liu Kun-li (劉坤鱧) — a member of the “anti-Chen campaign” — work at TSU headquarters. Huang said Liu sent an e-mail about the “destroy the pan-green plan” to TSU spokeswoman Chou Mei-li (周美里) in August.

As maddog notes, whenever the KMT says “black” you should think “white”….