Chinese pandas arrive in Taiwan

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The Independent Online

When taken together, their names mean "reunion" in Chinese. Yesterday, in a moment heavy with symbolism, two giant pandas called Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were flown from China to Taiwan.

The latest outbreak of "panda diplomacy" came as Beijing stepped up a charm offensive on the island it still considers a renegade province of the People's Republic. Millions of Taiwanese watched live television coverage of the arrival of the first pandas ever to inhabit Taiwan. But their hopes of seeing the animals in the flesh were dashed – their cages were covered by a tarpaulin as they were wheeled from an aircraft at Taipei airport and driven to the city's zoo.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan will be quarantined for 30 days before they are officially unveiled during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday next month. The zoo expects its new star attractions to pull in 30,000 visitors a day. China's gift of pandas signifies how ties between Beijing and Taiwan have strengthened since the election of the Taiwanese President, Ma Yinh-jeou, in May.