Leading article: Good news from China

Share
Related Topics

There is a distinct sense of déjà vu about panda diplomacy. Beijing, it might be said, is up to its old tricks, trading one of these outwardly winsome animals for another country's goodwill. Here we have an example of "soft power", as it might be said in today's social sciences jargon, at its most calculating and crudest.

Yet the panda transfer that takes place this week is a special one, for the recipient is Taiwan. And the idea that Beijing would be donating not just one, but a pair, of giant pandas to the people of Taiwan – still less that Taiwan would graciously have accepted – would have seemed not so very long ago verging on the delusional. Indeed, the prospect of a Taiwanese plane flying to a Chinese city for any purpose at all, least of all for collecting a couple of pandas, would itself have been almost unthinkable.

Amid the ever-deepening gloom around the world, however, the quiet rapprochement that has developed recently between China and Taiwan offers a rare flicker of hope. Regarded even last year as one of the most likely flashpoints for starting a Third World War, the dispute between Beijing and Taipei has dragged out for almost 60 years, with fluctuating degrees of tension.

Not only had this conflict started to look almost as intractable as the Middle East, but the conjunction of a United States more inclined to resort to armed force and a richer, more confident China, with aircraft carriers and a manned space programme, seemed to bode ill for any improvement in Beijing-Taipei relations. All this changed in May, however, when Taiwan inaugurated Ma Ying-jeou, a President committed to improving relations with China.

Since then, progress has been rapid. High-level visitors from both sides have crossed the Straits for the first time since 1949. Just last week, Taiwan and China began direct commercial flights, along with new shipping routes and postal links. China is also to welcome Taiwanese investors.

None of this means that reunification is in prospect – even though China has hopefully given the pandas names that, together, mean "unite". It does, however, mean that there may be one less point of friction in the world at the start of 2009, and for that, at least, we should be grateful.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world