Thursday, May 05, 2005


Taiwan has apparently been thrown into a tizzy by Beijing’s offer to visiting KMT Chairman Lien Chan of two giant pandas:

The KMT sees this as a public relations coup for itself and its rapprochement policy.

Taipei mayor (and KMT hotshot) Ma Ying-jeou promised to form a task force so its zoo could get the bears.

In an expansive mood, he suggested that the bears be named Bian-bian and Lien-Lien, after the ROC’s president Chen Shui-bian and VP Annette Hsiu-lien Lu, sworn enemies of the KMT.

Vice President Lu adopted a tone of queenly hauteur:

Meanwhile, when asked for her opinion about China's pandas, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said that she would welcome the Chinese pandas if they were presents celebrating the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Other DPP lawmakers fretted over the big picture:

"If we accept the pandas, that means we're admitting ourselves we're a local government," said DPP lawmaker Hsu Kuo-yung. "Our lovely next generation is more important than these two lovely animals."

And the environmentalists weighed in:

Local environmentalists meanwhile started a campaign yesterday to oppose Beijing's offer of two pandas, citing rehabilitation of the rare animal as their major concern.

Popular Taiwanese response seems to be Pandas! They’re so cuuuuuuuuuuute!

To me, there’s something endearing about the Taiwanese response, which shows all the message discipline of children scrambling for candy beneath a broken piñata.

Score one for the Chinese. They were able to demonstrate that significant portions of Taiwanese elite and popular opinion responded favorably to the PRC overture, and attitudes on the island trend toward co-existence and not confrontation.

Another, though perhaps lesser, audience was international.

The Chinese were saying, look, we’re showering these people with pandas, not missiles!

And it implicitly rebukes Japan for raising regional tensions with its increasingly overt anti-China containment policy, and for interfering with the relatively routine political and economic horse-trading that characterizes cross-straits diplomacy—and has traditionally governed the post-normalization relationship between the PRC and Japan.

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