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Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan Arrive in Taiwan!

Yesterday, the pair of Giant Pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan finally arrived in Taiwan.  More than just normal “diplomatic pandas,” Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan’s represents the culmination of much political wranglings between the Mainland and Taiwan that included formal rejections of the pandas in 2005 by ex-President Chen Shui Bian (now formally indicted for  graver crimes, including embezzlement).

The arrival of the pandas has also marked the beginnings of normalization of economic ties between the Mainland and Taiwan (see, e.g., story here or story here regarding even the possibility of the Mainland helping Taiwan in the global economic crisis).  These developments represent the long-time aspirations of the Chinese people on both sides of the strait for closer relationships – and perhaps … eventual political reunification.

Taiwan News reported that the Taipei Zoo is prepared for the panda pair’s arrival,

“We are ready for the pandas, and will get them a supply of some 170 pounds (80 kilograms) of their favorite bamboo a day,” said zoo official Chao Ming-chieh, adding the animals were expected to double the zoo’s number of visitors to 5 or 6 million a year.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan should be ready for public viewing by the Chinese New Year – within a few weeks!

Here are some recent pictures surrounding the events (here is a link to some videos).

This is all-round great news!  However, since this story also carries some political undercurrent, I will also quote an except from a recent Time article on some of the politics:

In its latest move to win over Taiwan, the democratic island China claims as its own, Beijing has sent the island a gift for the holidays: pandas. Flying in on a private EVA jet loaded with their favorite snacks — bamboo, apples and a special kind of bread — the charming ambassadors Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan are arriving at the Taipei Zoo on Dec. 23 just as relations between Taiwan and China are making historical breakthroughs.

Since Ma Ying-jeou took office as Taiwan’s new president in May, the two sides have put aside their ongoing sovereignty dispute to forge new economic ties, starting with key transportation links. On Dec.15, Taiwan and China began direct daily flights, shipping and postal links for the first time in 60 years. Previously, planes and ships had to stop over in a third city, adding needless hours to the routes used by some 5 million Taiwanese a year. Now to get from Taipei to Shanghai — a trip that used to take over 6 hours — is an 80-minute flight.

“The pandas are yet another leg in a series of events that show Beijing has a clear plan to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese,” says Professor Lin Chong-Pin of Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies. Lin says that Beijing’s disposition towards Taiwan has become more steadfast and confident. No longer does it get irritated by Taiwanese independence voices, such as the mass protests held by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during a landmark visit by a top Chinese envoy last month. The Chinese official faced the chaos graciously and promised to meet regularly to ink more economic accords. Just last weekend, China offered $19 billion in financing for Taiwanese investors in China.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan may symbolize a growing friendship between Taiwan and China, but the gift is not without controversy. Together, their names, chosen by a national online survey in China, mean “reunion” — China’s longstanding goal with Taiwan, an island that treasures its hard-won democracy. To many, the fact that the pair is a “gift” implies that China considers Taiwan a province, since the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species specifies China can only give pandas to domestic zoos. (Foreign zoos can only receive the rare animals on loan; even progeny born on foreign soil eventually goes back to China.) In 2006, during the Chen Shui-bian administration, Taiwan rejected China’s offer of the exotic bears.

Ma, however, is not concerned with such technicalities. “I don’t think Ma connects pandas with sovereignty,” says political scientist Yang Tai-shuenn of Taipei’s Chinese Culture University. Ma, rather, is trying to capitalize on the warming ties. “The practical issue is we need closer ties with China to get over this economic crisis,” Yang says. “Nobody can deny this.”

Ma’s chumminess with Beijing has been attacked by the opposition DPP, which, as part of its pro-independence platform, is wary of any moves to draw close to China. But the DPP is also preoccupied with internal problems, such as division over their former leader Chen Shui-bian. Former President Chen, his wife, son and daughter-in-law were indicted this month for bribery, embezzlement, forgery and money laundering. As Taiwan’s first opposition president who led the island towards greater autonomy, Chen still has loyalists, but others want to keep a distance from his scandals and trial. The Chen scandal has even diverted attention away from the current government’s economic troubles. “Ma’s lucky,” says Yang.

The pandas are another amusement. After their flight, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were whisked to the Taipei Zoo — with traffic control that eliminated red lights — to rest at their $9 million four-story house and playground complete with a pond, waterfall, and walls painted with Sichuan scenery. The four-year-old pandas were shocked by the earthquake in May that damaged their Wolong Nature Reserve, but have since been deemed healthy and, through daily exercises, prepped to produce the ultimate charmer — a baby panda.

  1. Vincent
    December 24th, 2008 at 08:06 | #1

    The wording of your article implies that the rejection of the pandas was a “crime.” I don’t think it was.

  2. December 24th, 2008 at 08:12 | #2

    Allow me to indulge a bit, Vincent…

    To me it was a crime!! 😉

  3. December 24th, 2008 at 08:37 | #3

    Oh joy, expensive lard stuffed fur balls to act as the next great craze in Taiwan’s love for exotic animals. And better yet, we get to ignore international norms of transferring animals across borders while taking them!

    Michael Turton on the subject:
    http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2008/12/annexation-lardbombs-explode-at-taipei.html

    and:

    http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2008/12/whats-black-and-white-and-red-and.html

  4. December 24th, 2008 at 09:13 | #4

    Also, when the prof says this:

    Ma, however, is not concerned with such technicalities. “I don’t think Ma connects pandas with sovereignty,” says political scientist Yang Tai-shuenn of Taipei’s Chinese Culture University. Ma, rather, is trying to capitalize on the warming ties. “The practical issue is we need closer ties with China to get over this economic crisis,” Yang says. “Nobody can deny this.”

    I mean come on Yang, sure, better economic ties are great. Nearly everybody wants those.

    But that is *completely* unrelated to accepting a Chinese assertion that Taiwan is a province of China. More importantly, since Ma *does* accept this principal, he clearly *also* accepts that the pandas have something to do with sovereignty. I mean, the very method of taking them is sovereignty related. The Blues love to pretend they’re ignoring politics and just being “practical,” but that’s simply false. Each of these issues has a political component.

    One day perhaps the KMT will grow some balls and admit just how political all these issues are. Then perhaps some of those middle of the road voters would come to their senses and realize they’re not picking between practicality and politics; they’re picking between two parties that offer political platforms that lead to real world results.

  5. December 24th, 2008 at 09:29 | #5

    @A-Gu – On the other hand, are you really going to get angry over this? Doesn’t anyone who argues against this run the risk of looking incredibly small minded?

  6. miaka9383
    December 24th, 2008 at 15:19 | #6

    Here’s a million dollar question of the day… Why can’t people accept the Pandas as a diplomatic gesture to improve cross strait relation instead of politicizing it? Accepting Cute, Adorable Panda Bears, do not constitute as admitting China’s sovereignty to Taiwan. There are news of DPP party members urging their family and supporter of boycotting the panda bears…all I can say is “Wow”

  7. Netizen K
    December 24th, 2008 at 16:29 | #7

    I’m not a fan of sending pandas to zoos. I thought the national government had decided not to send pandas to other countries some years ago.

    I think a law should be passed by National People’s Congress forbidding the loan and gifting of pandas to zoos.

    Once a law is passed, the government can say no more readily to anyone.

    Instead, the cute pandas should be released to the wild.

  8. vmoore55
    December 24th, 2008 at 16:56 | #8

    What Taiwan wants is not some furry black bears from China but a cpl of heavy duty missiles the kind that the US don’t give as gifts.

    May be for Taiwan it’s just lucky that China did not send a Trojan horse, somehow I think China don’t need to go that way. Looking at where the US is at today, Taiwan will need a big brother with deeper pockets and with smarter leaders if they want to stay independent as a tribal enclave.

  9. Steve
    December 24th, 2008 at 18:00 | #9

    Netizen K, I’m with you. Every time I’m in a zoo, I feel bad for all the larger animals living in relatively small habitats. Here in San Diego, we have what many consider to be the best zoo in the world, with only the reptiles in a building. Yet whenever I visit, I’ll watch those tigers pacing back and forth, back and forth, and hate how they can’t stretch their legs and be back in the wild. They have more room to roam in our Wild Animal Park, but still not like their native environment.

    I know our zoo treats the animals as well or better than any other zoo, and also does a lot of work with endangered species (including four giant pandas, including the only adult born outside China), but I still feel sorry for the larger animals. I know Taiwan built a large, modern enclosure for these two pandas, but I’m sure they’d prefer their natural habitat.

    I mean, of course there are political implications; there are political implications with everything that happens between Taiwan and China. But I agree with FOARP; it’s nothing to get angry or excited about. I’m sure they’ll be a big hit and the increased attendance at the zoo will help with all the animals there.

    Hey, let’s feed the tigers in Harbin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT8s52yMgdo (don’t watch if you are squeamish) Rupert Murdoch’s people weren’t so happy about it. I guess they are all vegetarians.

  10. January 25th, 2009 at 13:03 | #10

    Here’s a million dollar question of the day… Why can’t people accept the Pandas as a diplomatic gesture to improve cross strait relation instead of politicizing it? Accepting Cute, Adorable Panda Bears, do not constitute as admitting China’s sovereignty to Taiwan. There are news of DPP party members urging their family and supporter of boycotting the panda bears…all I can say is “Wow”

    The giving of pandas is political, of course — the idea that the DPP is “politicizing” the panda gift is strictly propaganda. China can improve cross-strait relations any time it likes — drop the threats to murder Taiwanese and annex their island, stop suppressing our international space and status, etc. The idea that pandas can improve a situation in which 1,400 missiles are pointed at Taiwan is an obscenity.

    Michael

  11. Michelle Yu
    March 17th, 2009 at 03:47 | #11

    @ Steve
    Are you sure? I’m sure you have very deep concerns for the pandas and other animals but some animals are hunted for the medical purposes, pelts, claws, teeth, bones, and etc. They still get killed even if there are enforcers.

  12. Steve
    March 17th, 2009 at 05:29 | #12

    Hi Michelle~

    I agree with everything you say; people hunt the large animals for what I consider moronic reasons and then people try to save them in zoos and wild animal parks. But for me, it’d be like trying to save humans by putting them in a cage or very limited area and being very nice to them. A prison is still a prison, no matter how nice it is. For a small animal with a small natural habitat, zoos are fine but for large animals, I just watch them pace back and forth. How can an animal that is used to a large habitat many kilometers square live in a small, enclosed area? It can survive, but is that living? I’m sure that for a tiger it’s not, but maybe for a panda it is. I just don’t know but what I do know is that it certainly isn’t natural.

    I just don’t go to zoos anymore; it’s my way to handle how I feel. I’m sure others feel differently.

    The funny thing about it is that most of what people desire in those bones and cartilage can be accomplished much more effiiciently by using Viagra. Do people really need panda pelts? Panda claws, teeth or bones? Why? Aren’t most of those folk remedies that have no inherent medical benefit or at least nothing unique that other medicines can’t also cure?

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