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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Panda Diplomacy 

Never will those who wage war tire of deception
Sun Tzu – The Art of War

It was an unusually cool December’s day in Taipei when the precious and heavily-guarded cargo arrived aboard its flight from China.

Yet the icy wind at the airport went unnoticed by the assembled diplomats, soldiers and media.

They were caught up in the hype of the occasion, labeled a “historic thawing in the diplomatic relationship” between China and Taiwan by the international media, and too preoccupied with natural curiosity, to be thinking about the weather.

And as the cages were carefully unloaded from the plane, the crowd jostled for position and craned their necks, desperate to catch even a glimpse of Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan before they were taken into quarantine.

Millions more watched the scenes unfold live on television.

The two pandas, whose names combined meant ‘reunion’, had just arrived from Sichuan Province; marking the most significant development in China’s Panda Diplomacy program.

Ever since the civil war of 1949 when the Kuomintang Party and two million followers fled China and its Communist Party, establishing themselves in Taiwan and gaining international recognition, legitimacy and most crucially protection, the two nations had been the most bitter rivals.

For decades Taiwan sunned itself in the light of development and prosperity while its neighbour dwelled in the bitter and unceasing winter of communism.

With unconditional military backing from the United States, for years Taiwan had thumbed its nose at its monolithic motherland.

But for now these historical offences were put to one side, for Taipei was in the grip of Pandamania.

The Taipei Zoo website crashed daily as the hundreds of thousands of hits it received swamped its server, tickets to Panda Hall, the $10 million specialist enclosure, sold out weeks in advance, even stall holders at the zoo cashed in doubling, then tripling, the prices of their panda souvenirs.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan dutifully played their part – eating bamboo, canoodling in the enclosure, looking cute – biding their time, waiting for this humiliating public charade to end, and reap the glory rightfully theirs.

And end it did.

Six months after they arrived Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan made their move – the ruthlessly trained pandas, goring the face of their keeper with their teeth, slicing his throat with their terrible claws and making their escape from Panda Hall, from Taipei Zoo, and into the city.

Yuan Yuan made her way directly to the home of President Ma Ying-jeou, passing over the compound’s gate, slipping past the security detail, and climbing onto the balcony that led to his bedroom.

The President barely gasped as his ribs were ripped from their cage, snapped and gnawed upon in front of his horrified, dying eyes in Yuan Yuan’s furious attack.

As Yuan Yuan gorged herself on the President, Tuan Tuan had made his way to Taiwan’s military headquarters, similarly avoiding detection, and managing to reach the room housing Taiwan’s missile defense shield and radars.

Tuan Tuan plunged his claws in to the main circuitry board – as he felt the surge of electricity contract his muscles and the smell of his cooking meat, he took heart that he would surely reap his promised reward – 49 untouched, unknown bamboo forests solely for his consumption – in the afterlife.

As the radar system collapsed China launched its first wave of missiles, its warplanes left their airfields and battleships, its soldiers landed silently on Taiwan’s shores.

Once again Taiwan and China would be reunited.


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