Does diplomacy spread the love or merely paper over the cracks? Probably a bit of both. There was no mistaking the intentions of John Negroponte, US deputy secretary of state, during his recent visit to China. Flowers and chocolates in hand, Negroponte was there to pass on the Bush administration’s official farewell to China. He gave a glowing assessment of the US and China’s “increasingly interdependent” relationship during George W. Bush’s tenure. It is interesting to consider whether Beijing will come to miss the Bush years. Bush is/was a known quantity and Barack Obama is not. The White House has always been more pragmatic about relations with China than the US Congress, but Beijing now faces the prospect of a Democrat president, a Democrat-dominated Congress and a precarious economic balance that may tilt towards protectionism. Cross-strait relations between Beijing and Taipei are currently equally garlanded but perhaps even more uncertain. The two sides have agreed to regular, six-monthly exchanges and the recent resurrection of direct links are likely to be followed by further accords this year. But how much real progress can be made without addressing the elephant in the room that is Taiwan’s political status? At least China Construction Bank (CCB) and Bank of America remain very much in love, despite the latter selling off a large chunk of its stake in the former. Or hath hell no fury like a Chinese bank scorned?