Thursday, January 31, 2008

Political Pand'-ering

Beijing attempts to spread its soft (and cuddly!) power to the island of Taiwan.

With the March presidential elections on Taiwan quickly approaching and a continued strong outlook for KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou, China has relaunched an insidiously furry plan to win over the people of Taiwan with their most advanced PR weapon--the ultimate WMD of public diplomacy. . . that's right, pandas.

According to today's AP article, a pair of Chinese pandas were first offered to Taiwan in 2005 "to mark a landmark visit by the leader of Taiwan's Nationalist party." Beijing then acted shocked and appalled at Taiwan President Chen's refusal to admit the oversized raccoons for obvious political reasons, because, well, Taiwan obviously needs pandas—as do we all (please pause for a moment to note our thick tone of sarcasm).

Beijing, of course, didn't make the whole thing go over any easier with Taiwan's ruling party when, according to the AP, they subsequently named the lovable fuzzy-wuzzies: "'tuantuan' and 'yuanyuan' — words that together mean 'reunion' in Chinese."
Now that the KMT candidate is the pollster's favorite for the March election in Taiwan, Beijing has put Taipei on notice that the pandas are up for offer once again.

We see this as yet another example of Beijing's inability to refrain from tainting even the most trivial connection to Taiwan with nationalist overtones. It would have been much more subtle and effective to have simply offered the pandas to Taiwan with no strings attached. After all, its tough to demonize a country that lends you a pair of objectively cute panda bears and asks for nothing in return.

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