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    Peaceful pandas vs bellicose Chen

2006-01-07 07:14

There could not have been better ambassadors of peace than the two superstars introduced yesterday.

After a six-month selection period, two giant pandas were unveiled by the Chinese mainland as a goodwill gift to Taiwan.

Within the first moment of being introduced to the public, the couple garnered celebrity-type status as their images bombarded TV screens across the island.

Although it has yet to be determined when they will settle down at their new home, the pair has successfully drawn attention from the Taiwanese public with their irresistible charm.

Recent media surveys found more than 73 per cent of the local Taiwan residents welcome the arrival of the pandas, despite the obstruction set by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration to the plan.

Such a high approval rate suggests the Taiwan compatriots are willing to accept the mainland gift as a symbol of peace, unity and friendship.

In fact, Beijing's pandas and other goodwill gestures such as the tariff-free imports of 15 varieties of Taiwan-grown fruits have been widely hailed by the Taiwanese people.

Sadly, the DPP administration led by Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian has ignored the public's cry for better cross-Straits ties while distorting the mainland moves as a "united front" strategy against the island.

The ruling party's preoccupation with pro-independence ideology and anti-mainland mentality was partly behind its crushing defeat in last December's local government elections by the opposition Kuomintang, which favours closer relations with the mainland.

Rather than learn a lesson from the harsh setback, Chen became so desperate that he again resorted to hostile and confrontational attitudes towards the mainland.

In his New Year's address, the Taiwan leader used scathing political rhetorics to advocate what he called investment risks on the mainland and Beijing's military threat to the island.

He pledged to tighten control over cross-Straits economic exchanges through "pro-active management and effective opening up."

Stepping up his attempt to push for the island's independence, Chen repeated a timetable to write a new "constitution" for Taiwan before his second and final term ends in 2008.

His remarks, which defied expectations for a more conciliatory stance toward the mainland and went against the wishes of people across the Straits, drew angry responses and mounting criticism from the opposition parties and the public.

Signalling the negative impact of Chen's policy on the island's economy, his message also triggered a sell-off on the island's stock market on January 2, the first day of its opening in the new year.

Undoubtedly, Chen's dangerous moves to fuel cross-Straits tensions will only prompt people on both sides of the Straits to stay alert and make greater efforts to safeguard peace and stability in the Straits.

As a major sign for the Taiwanese people's weakening support for him, Chen's popularity rate plunged to a record low of 13 per cent following his New Year speech, according to the latest local media survey.

Stubborn as he is, Chen has to face the reality: he may be able to block the entry of the panda couple, but he cannot stop the Taiwanese people's love for the pandas, or aspirations for cross-Straits peace and stability.

In this sense, a bellicose Chen is no rival for the peaceful pandas.

(China Daily 01/07/2006 page4)


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