THEN: Tuan Tuan (top) and Yuan Yuan play in the snow at a breeding facility in Ya'an, in southwest China, in 2006. (CHEN XIE / AP / Xinhua)
Chinese pandas arrive in Taiwan
By Puteri Sabira Associated Press
Landing rivets island as Beijing intensifies its efforts to warm relations and pave the way for eventual reunification with the Communist mainland.
Taipei, Taiwan —- Two Chinese pandas whose combined names mean “reunion” arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, the latest installment in a Beijing charm offensive aimed at convincing the island’s people to embrace their Communist rival.
A male panda, “Tuan Tuan,” and his female companion, “Yuan Yuan,” set down at the Taipei airport after a three-hour flight from southwestern China, as millions of Taiwanese watched spellbound on local television.
Chinese pandas are usually loaned abroad in pairs, with hopes that they will mate.
Knots of eager onlookers at the zoo waited to see the couple —- the first-ever pandas to inhabit the island —- though all they could see was the red, panda-ornamented tarpaulin covering the pandas’ cages.
Front-page photographs of the pandas in their native Sichuan province habitat were splashed across Taiwanese papers Tuesday, and TV stations followed their flight to Taipei with breathless updates.
The pandas’ arrival —- more than three years in the making —- comes amid rapidly improving relations between Taiwan and China, which split amid civil war in 1949.
Only a week ago they initiated daily air and direct maritime links across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait, and several days later China agreed to loan $19 billion to mainland-based Taiwanese companies struggling to keep afloat in the global economic slowdown.
The rapid-fire Chinese moves underscore the determination of the Beijing government to leverage Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s readiness to turn his back on his predecessor’s contentious anti-China policies —- and move closer to Beijing’s ultimate goal of China-Taiwan unity.
Since his inauguration seven months ago, Ma has moved aggressively to link Taiwan closer to the mainland, opening the door to a substantially increased flow of Chinese tourists and sanctioning a more liberalized regime for bilateral investments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
His steps contrast sharply with predecessor Chen Shui-bian’s efforts to emphasize Taiwan’s political and cultural separateness, which enraged Beijing and prompted it to reaffirm long-standing threats to use military force against the democratic island it claims as its own.
The pandas —- and their new, two-story zoo habitat —- will be unveiled to the public during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday in late January.
【2008/12/24 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution】報紙原貌