Last month, I blogged about China's attempts to give Taiwan a pair of giant pandas "as a symbol of peace, unity and friendship." Of course, China's idea of "unity" requires Taiwan to place itself under Beijing's rule, and so the gift was refused. As the Telegraph reported:
Taiwanese officials have said the gift of two giant pandas offered by China as part of a diplomatic charm offensive will be refused. Taiwan fears acceptance would be seen as acknowledging Beijing's claim that Taiwan is part of China.But China didn't give up. On June 1, China Daily reported that Chinese officials were still urging Taiwan to accept the pandas:
Beijing yesterday renewed its charm offensive towards Taiwan, urging immediate non-government talks across the Straits to pave the way for goodwill gifts to reach the island.So, Beijing started making preparations for delivering a gift that Taiwan refused to accept. And instead of clearly reaffirming its earlier rejection, Taiwan's government went wobbly. As the Taipei Times reported the very next day:
The gifts include scrapping import tariffs on dozens of Taiwan-grown fruits and giving the island a pair of giant pandas as a symbol of peace, unity and friendship.
...Six mainland officials from related government departments elaborated on Beijing's preparations for delivering the gifts yesterday at a regular press conference held by the Taiwan Affairs Office.
Before China can fulfill its promise to deliver two giant pandas to Taiwan, officials from Beijing and Taipei will have to sit down and discuss the practical implications, such as whether the animals will be able to survive in Taiwan, the Cabinet said yesterday.With Taiwan sliding from an outright refusal to a discussion of details and practicalities, China began whipping up popular support. It's giving plenty of media coverage to the selection of the two pandas, and holding a contest to name them.
Sadly, Taiwan seems to have finally buckled under the weight of China's panda hoopla. As Taiwan's Central News Agency reported on Saturday:
MAC [Mainland Affairs Council] officials said the government will be glad to see the pandas come to Taiwan if the procedures are in accordance with related international and domestic laws and there is somewhere in the country that is capable of taking care of the animals. The officials stressed that the government is considering the issue purely from the conservation point of view and not from any other angles.When Taiwan first rejected the pandas on the grounds that the gift would violate international agreements on trade in endagered species, I thought it was just putting a diplomatic spin on its decision. But now it sounds like it's actually preparing to accept the pandas, once all the legal kinks and practical matters are addressed.
I think this is a mistake. Given the degree to which China is spinning the pandas as a symbol of cross-Straits "unity" (i.e., Taiwanese subjugation), Taiwan should have simply said no.
If Taiwan hopes to enjoy undisputed independence someday, it cannot afford to foster a sense of ambiguity about its national sovereignty. Like pandas themselves, it should be a matter of black and white.