Lots of stuff out there today in the media and on the blogs….over at the International Affairs Forum there’s a short interview with longtime Taiwan expert Richard Bush, now at Brookings…

There may well be good news in that the election of Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan president, and his more moderate policies toward the mainland, may allow China to become more relaxed about Taiwan trends, and therefore spend less on capabilities that were designed for a Taiwan contingency. Whether they do so is another question, but one can hope that political change on Taiwan will lead to a reduction, to some extent, of China’s military build up.

…meanwhile the Daily Yomiuri reports that Japan is sending 76 officials to Ma’s swearing-in, second only to the 120 US persons on their way…

Japan plans to send 76 politicians and other dignitaries to the ceremony Tuesday in Taipei, including Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada, ministry spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh said.

Chalmers Johnson once used Ishihara’s presence at Chen’s 2004 swearing-in to smear Chen Shui-bian. Think it will happen again? Naw…..Naruwan argues persuasively that the Chinese medicine system of the National Health Service is probably saving the government a bundle. Sofa in the sky muses in prose poetry on a beach…the Real Taiwan hits the mountains. A-gu reminds that the DPP chairmanship election, which I have studiously avoided blogging on because the topic is too despressing, is in a couple of days. Poagao, who lives in Taiwan and is a naturalized citizen, has an annoying experience with a bank…Jeff Miller, who recently biked Taiwan’s south coast, has his sumptuous pictures and meticulous account up. The Only Redhead put up a post asking why there is no intelligent pro-Blue commentary. A question I’ve been asking for the last three years. Prince Roy goes to Green Island. Maddog continues his great series on the diplomatic scandal. Fili has a wonderful post on our blogosphere here in Taiwan. A Dutch sinologist keeps Taiwan puppetry alive. The alleged scammer in the diplomatic scandal says he did no wrong in cleaning $30 million out of the account and vanishing, and is prepared to return a portion of the money. Probably some loose change and a few bills he found in the bottom of the washing machine. Independence groups will rally on May 20. Ma appears in USA Today seeking “peace” with China. The Jamestown Foundation has several articles, including Beijing’s ASEAN policy, the Sanya sub base, and the influence of Tibet on Xinjiang. Don’t miss the great piece in Asia Times dismissing claims that China is a superpower.

SPECIAL: A Japanese scholar calls for greater recognition of democratic Asia in a wonderfully restrained response to former UK PM Tony Blair

“For the first time in centuries, the West will have to come to terms with a seismic change happening about it,” Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, who recently converted to Catholicism, said in explaining his belief in the importance of religious faith. “The East is rising. At the least it will demand parity with the West and perhaps more. But what values will this daunting new world use to guide it? I believe in this world of rapid globalization where power is shifting away from its traditional centre in the West, the world will be immeasurably poorer, more dangerous, more fragile and above all more aimless - I mean without the necessary sense of the purpose to guide on its journey - if it is without the strong spiritual dimension.” Blair apparently believes that the Catholic or Christian faith should underpin the “West” in meeting the challenges from the “East”.

From a Japanese perspective, opposing the “West” and the “East” and representing the “West” by Christianity sounds surprisingly anachronistic and somewhat puzzling. I wonder if Blair did not know that there are a huge number of Christians in the “East”. In fact, Christians in India outnumber those in the UK. It is well known that former Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira and former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung were both committed Christians. In both countries, where the separation of politics and religion is an established practice, their leaders being Christian does not seem to have bothered people in these “Eastern” countries. Would Blair advise Japanese and Koreans to be alarmed by that as a daunting challenge from the “West”?

There’s more, each paragraph better than the last. I am always amazed by remarks like Blair’s. On so many levels — the traditional center of world power is the East, not the West, whose current centrality is an anomaly of the last three or so centuries. Blair’s remarks that the East is “aimless” without something like Christianity are clinically insane and deeply offensive — and absurd coming from the former leader of what was once the largest colonial empire on Earth. Never mind that the “East” is not an identifiable thing. What the East does not need is Christianity, but a broad and sustained Western commitment to the support of democratic, humanistic, progressive values. “But what are the opinions of reasonable men against iron and steel?”

EVENTS: B@Taiwan notes that there is an English tour at the National Museum of Science here in the Chung on 5/18 and 6/14. Sponge Bear and myself are meeting at 7:30 am at the McDonald’s on the corner of Jungong and Dongshan for morning hiking in the Ta-ken scenic area.