At first I thought I must be hallucinating when I read the headline in the China Post: U.S. defends Taiwan arms sales, upbraids China. “Upbraids China”? How is that possible, I thought. Sure enough, the AFP article cited the actual words of Dep. Sec. of State Negroponte:

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said Washington had expressed concern to Beijing about its ongoing military buildup on its side of the strait separating the mainland and the Taiwan island.

“We view China’s buildup as unnecessary and counterproductive,” he told a congressional hearing.

Negroponte said that missiles actually encourage the independence movement that they are supposed to deter. The language used is hardly “upbraiding.” For example, Secretary of State Rice branded the DPP’s UN referendum as “provocative.” In the upside-down world of US-China relations, missiles are “unnecessary” while referendums are “provocative.”

AP says that the invitation of KMT Chairman Wu Po-hsiung to China is a “sign of warming relations” though offhand I think this is his third official trip there. It would nice if those other trips had been mentioned, though that certainly would have caused head scratching among readers — if Wu has been there before, how can a visit now be a sign of “warming relations?” What we really have is a sign of normal relations between the two parties proceeding normally.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Ma made it clear that he has no intention of following Chen’s pro-independence path but said unification with China is unlikely “in our lifetimes.”

I’ve been listening in on much commentary in the papers, on email lists, and so on, on what Ma will mean for Taiwan and its future. The “negative view” is that Ma will begin taking steps that will hollow out our democracy at home and bring us too close to China abroad. This is signaled by the chilling pointers to Singapore as a model for Taiwan and other stuff. The “optimistic” view is that Ma will be too hemmed in by splits in his party — the Lien Chan crowd dislikes him, as do the arch-conservatives and the Taiwanese KMT — and by events to accomplish much (note that this incorporates the “negative view” — if Ma could somehow get control of his party, he’d accomplish much damage). Some good things might come out of a Ma reign as well — during the DPP administration the legislature slashed government departmental budgets in a (successful) attempt to harm the ability of the DPP to govern well. Ironically, with the KMT back in power, the legislature will be forced to expand budgets back to more realistic levels, and many useful projects might receive funding. A hamstrung Ma might even have only a four year reign. Also, I hear pigs may fly….

Over the next couple of years, I’ve heard, Ma plans to cool down the diplomatic initiatives of the ROC and stop attempting to compete with China. This might mean more room for soft diplomacy, for public diplomacy, it was explained to me. We’ll see. I tend to be very pessimistic on what Ma means for Taiwan’s democracy — it seems incredible to me that the KMT will just risk delivering Taiwan back to the DPP at the end of four or eight years in a free and fair election. Guess we’ll find out….

EVENT: David Reid of David on Formosa reminds me that…

Amnesty is also holding a screening of a documentary about a football match between the Danish and Tibetan teams which the Chinese tried to stop. The screening is tonight (5/17) at Bliss in Taipei.

China attempted to stop this football match because, as we all know, China never politicizes sporting events…..