First, the good stuff. The island’s own Jon Adams has a strong post in a FEER blog about the missiles that those statesmen in China point at the radical corporate lawyer Presidents in Taiwan. He writes:

Fortunately, such scenarios are extremely unlikely. In the next few years, it’s the missiles’ role as a bargaining chip that could be the most important.

Mr. Lin says Mr. Ma’s demand that China withdraw its missiles before peace talks can begin was just an opening negotiating position. The missile issue is not necessarily that big an obstacle, he said. “Ma had good reason to up the ante—you never start at a low point, you start as high as you can go,” said Mr. Lin. “I don’t think the high demand by Ma will be an obstacle to Beijing and Taipei talking.”

One key is that Mr. Ma is talking about “withdrawing” missiles, not dismantling them. As Taiwan’s defense minister has emphasized, the missiles are on mobile launch vehicles that can easily be moved. Even if they were rolled inland, they could be moved back in a crisis. A “withdrawal” would therefore be mostly symbolic, with China displaying a less aggressive military posture and winning public-relations points in the process.

Still, there’s another hurdle. Chu Shulong, of Beijing’s Tsinghua University, says he thinks Beijing will likely raise the issue of U.S. arms sales to the island if Mr. Ma pushes for a missile rollback. “The mainland side will link Ma’s demand for a withdrawal of missiles targeted at Taiwan to Taiwan’s purchase of arms,” said Mr. Chu. Beijing could demand, for example, that Taiwan halt at least some arms purchases in return for a partial missile pullback.

Adams always does excellent work, and somehow manages to wade through all the political minefields in China-Taiwan relations without managing to blow himself up. Kudos to him for a very readable and informative piece, which shows how the “informality” of blogs is an asset in presenting complex information.

The Christian Science Monitor has a pretty good piece on the Taiwan-Tibet-China situation, that calls for concessions on China’s part. As A-gu pointed out, Veep-elect Siew was greeted at the Boao Forum by the Vice-governor of Hainan Province — someone of equal status, one vice-island-leader to another….although the sentiments are good, the editorial can’t resist one last reference to Mad Chen:

The Dalai Lama seeks only full autonomy for his people within Chinese rule while the newly elected leaders of Taiwan are happy with the island’s ambiguous status as de facto independent but still officially part of “one China” (someday). Taiwan’s president-elect, Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party, plans closer economic ties with the mainland and, unlike outgoing President Chen Shui-bian, won’t agitate Beijing with moves toward official independence.

Poor Beijing, tortured by the wholly evil and all-powerful Chen Shui-bian. Luckily Ma Ying-jeou has arrived to cure cancer, raise the dead, usher in a 1,000 year reign of peace on earth, and remove all the calories from dark chocolate. *sigh* I doubt any of these editors will ever realize how thoroughly they have been used by Beijing…. still, the article’s heart is in the right place.

Lots of people sent me the opening paragraph to an article in the Wall Street Journal from Apr 15:

There’s a welcome outbreak of pragmatism on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Saturday’s meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Vice President-elect Vincent Siew of Taiwan was the highest-level session between officials of the two Chinas in almost 60 years. What happens next will be a test of Beijing’s imagination.

It’s funny to recall that Siew is not actually an official of the Republic of China; he’s a private citizen at the moment. The reference to the Two Chinas, which many people described in terms not fit for a family blog, was not so much misguided as ominous. Folks, we are going to see a general rollback in the way Taiwan is portrayed — all those struggles to get “Taiwan, Province of China” out of websites and so on are going to take a huge hit. References to “the Two Chinas” in WSJ are only the beginning of a long downhill slide. It goes without saying that the article does not mention the ongoing and behind-the-scenes talks between Beijing and the KMT that go back years. I wonder what it will take to get those mentioned in the international press?

Why were there US carriers deployed to the waters around Taiwan during the elections? Bill Geertz at the Washington Times informs us….

The American military officials said U.S. fears had been heightened shortly before the election, in which a pro-independence party’s presidential candidate was defeated, because U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Chinese mobile short-range missile units within range of Taiwan had been moved to a heightened alert status.

The activity was interpreted as a signal that China might try to intimidate the Taiwan government and people with missile test firings, as occurred before their 1996 presidential election, or in the worst case, an actual attack. China has between 900 and 1,000 missiles deployed within range of the island that Beijing considers a breakaway province.

Scary eh? What was China up to? China was simply out to convince US officials that Mad Chen was for real:

Chinese officials described the Taiwan Strait situation as “increasingly dangerous” during one such military exchange in 2007, the report said.

“Chinese officials assessed as ‘high,’ the risk of an ‘incident’ occurring during the time between the March 2008 election and the May 2008 Taiwan presidential inauguration, and called on the United States to make more direct and open statements opposing the referendum [on United Nations membership] at higher levels than the United States has previously issued,” the report said.

Yes, there really is a serious possibility that Chen Shui-bian, an unpopular lame duck president would foment a pro-independence incident when the military, legislature, the county magistrates, the bureaucracy, the police, the judiciary, the universities, and the media are all pro-KMT, and the island’s most important ally, the US, hates him….. A Wag the Dog incident fomented by China — that perhaps is a possibility.

Although there seems to be little commentary in the media that points out that China may well judge that Ma will not fight — and may thus invade, looking for the easy win. Amid the dozens of articles this week on Ma’s call for regular flights between China and Taiwan, and the move to make the Yuan a fully convertible currency, Ma the Destabilizer is one role no one has assigned to the world’s most handsome leader yet.

Finally, in addition to media reports in today on the proposed free trade zone around the Taoyuan Airport (free trade zones around Taiwan ports of entry have long been a favorite panacea — Cargo Cult style — proposed by local legislators), Reuters reports on the visit of Chinese investment moguls to our fair island in search of investment opportunities….

According to the announcement, the group will visit Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s two largest cities, as well as other popular development areas. But a spokeswoman at Phoenix, which is also sending an affiliated real estate unit, said the itinerary had yet to be finalised.

Ma, who will take office on May 20, has said he favours opening up the commercial property market to mainland investors. He also wants to allow investment in housing as long as properties are held for at least five years to avoid speculation.

Although the outgoing administration of President Chen Shui-bian started to open up Taiwan’s property market to mainland investors, it put up so many restrictions that most would-be investors stayed away.

Self-ruled Taiwan and China, which claims the island as its own, remain political rivals since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. But despite that rivalry, economic links between the pair have thrived, with China now Taiwan’s biggest trading partner and favourite investment destination. Taiwan has become a popular investment ground in recent years for foreign real estate buyers who believe markets such as China and Hong Kong have become overpriced.

I’m curious to see how local property laws will have to evolve to accommodate the influx of foreign investment…..

BONUS: for those of you wanting to see Taiwan’s dollar diplomacy in action, read this article from a St. Lucia paper on donations of Taiwan computers by the local Taiwan embassy that somehow morphed into donations from a particular local political party to area schools….

The Embassy confirmed that only the computers they have donated to government bore that particular sticker, as all other donations were monetary. In response to questions surrounding the reasons afforded by government in their request for the computers, the Taiwanese Ambassador said: “Once I send you the present I will not ask you if you are going to eat the cake or sell it to someone else.”