Saturday's papers were abuzz with stories about how China had chosen two pandas for the Taipei Zoo. China demonstrated a nice, Orwellian touch when it claimed that the pandas were meant to be "goodwill presents to the people of Taiwan," but simultaneously had a communist spokesman warn that, "...risk is on the rise, as Beijing sees [Taiwan's constitutional reform efforts] as a provocative step towards formal independence."
There's a wrinkle amidst all this heartwarming goodwill, though: the government of Taiwan is not permitted to have any say into this generous offer whatsoever. After all, since there is no Taiwanese government (to China's thinking), why should any of the standard bureaucratic forms be submitted to a non-existent government? When Taiwan's government insisted upon asserting its authority, Lien Chan, former head of Taiwan's pro-communist party, objected that Taiwan's government was politicizing the issue and ruining peaceful cross-Strait exchanges.
Yes, shame on you, Taiwan. When Beijing tells you to jump, you'd better jump. So saith Lien Chan.
Lien's successor, Ma Ying-jeou agreed, saying, "It is important to make Taiwanese feel the friendship of China."
(Golly, I don't know about you, Mr. Ma, but those two pandas have made me forget ALL ABOUT China's 800 super-friendly missiles packed with high explosives pointed at Taiwanese homes and schools.)
Not surprisingly, The China Post was also on board. "Let's do it for the children," was their position:
"The authorities may cite many reasons why the giant pandas from China shouldn't be imported, but none of them can beat the one the children of Taiwan have for their presence in Taipei. The children love the giant pandas. They want the cuddly bears to live amongst them...Will the government forget about [exercising its authority] for just this once?"
But The China Post kinda gives away the whole game plan away with that last line. They want Taiwan's government to surrender its rights just this once. Just this once...until the next time comes.
(Tellingly, they don't call upon China to recognize the authority of Taiwan's government just this once.)
Perhaps though, I'm being churlish. Pandas are indeed cute, cuddly things. I'll bet the kids sure WOULD love them. What the Taiwanese government needs is a counter-offer, something generous that it's willing to freely give to the communist government. You know, reciprocity.
Taiwan'll agree to take YOUR pandas without any political interference, if YOU'LL do the same for OUR gift.
But what to give? A couple of Formosan pangolins just isn't going to cut it. How about art? Everybody loves art. Maybe a statue for dreary Tiananmen Square? I was thinking about something along these lines:
That'd sure look great in bronze. A little something for China's "tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free."
Your move, China.
UPDATE (JAN 10/06): A letterwriter to the Mon 9th ed of the Taipei Times suggested keeping the pandas kind of like "human shields" near the presidential building to help deter a decapitation strike (sorry, no link to the letter to the editor is available). I half-seriously considered the same possibility yesterday, but didn't include it in the post. Few things would turn international opinion against Taiwan like caging a couple of panda bears near a military target. But the letterwriter also proposed renaming the pandas "Democracy" and "Freedom" once they arrive on Taiwan's shores. That, I like.
UPDATE (Mar 5/06): Rather than giving the Chinese a statue of the Goddess of Democracy, Taipei Times columnist Johnny Neihu had another tongue-in-cheek suggestion:
Why don't we send China a couple of Formosan black bears? They're "solitary animals" that will "usually not attack unless they are threatened," as the Government Information Office's Web site on Taiwan's fauna explains.
I think Beijing has a lesson or two to learn from Taiwan's bears. I say the only way we should let furry-faced Tuan Tuan (
團團) and Yuan Yuan ( 圓圓) into Taiwan is by giving them political refugee status.