China-Taiwan Reunification? Not Tonight. I've Got a Headache.

Perhaps Yuan Yuan and Tuan Tuan weren't the right names. But that's what the Chinese government named a male and a female panda it loaned to Taiwan two years ago.

Like everything between the mainland and Taiwan, the decision was political: the two names, when combined, mean "reunion" in Chinese. The hope was that the two would form a union, so to speak, to create a little bundle of reunion that would bring the two 'frenemy' countries closer together. But according to today's China Daily, Yuan Yuan and Tuan Tuan's courtship has proved a miserable failure.

"Tuan Tuan shows more interest in bamboo roots than a female panda," Panda expert Zhang Hemin told the Daily.

According to the article, "zoo keepers have tried to arouse Tuan Tuan's 'lustfulness' by repeatedly having him listen to recorded noise of a female panda in heat," but poor Tuan Tuan fell asleep. Frustrated, experts from the mainland flew to Taipei this week to artificially inseminate Yuan Yuan with Tuan Tuan's sperm. If it's successful, their cubs would be the first pandas born in Taiwan.

But is all this trouble an omen for the reunification of Taiwan and China? As a former freelance reporter in Chengdu, panda capital of China, I've reported my share of panda stories. I can attest to how difficult it is for panda breeders to get these overgrown fuzzballs to mate. This is, of course, one of the reasons this species is close to extinction. But in this case, you've got a backdrop of two major global powers trying to sort out their differences, decades of threats and negotiations, and a potential step towards peace for all mankind....that's a lot of pressure to put on a panda.


Dispatch from China: Pandas and the Rural Economy
Managing editor George Judson reports from Panda country in China's rural city of Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province where poor residents are struggling keep up with China's roaring economy. View a slideshow.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.
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        First of all, since this article was posted in February I would like to know if the insemination was successful or not? The first birth of panda bear cubs as you mention would be a huge attraction for the emerging economy that is Taiwan. Secondly, this form of non confrontational  negotiation technique is very Chinese. Do you believe reunification will occur if mainland China continues this form of negotiation? Do you believe reunification is beneficial for either of the two parties involved? Either economically or socially? 

Very clever diplomatic move by China! Who can resist cute pandas? I think it's a step in the right direction.China is making an effort to perhaps create a friendly relationship with Taiwan.Hopefully the pandas will eventually have cubs and all will be well.

Few years ago, I had read about an article talked about how Panda diploma is the worst strategy ever. The article discussed about how China requested charging the large amount of money behind the panda diploma, including food, supplies and panda doctor, which no one really knows if the zoo can afford it or not. Regardless that is true or not, KMT for sure wound take the Panda, because they need further negotiations with China in the future. We can see that later on we can flight directly to China and Taiwan, more business restrictions are gone and taking advantage on each other. I personally do not think a cub will affect any political issues that discuss between Taiwan and China as long as both panda is still in Taiwan.

I agree with the other comments, that this is a step in the right direction for improving relations between Taiwan and China. Even if the reunification is a long way away, at least they are in dialogue. I wonder how seriously the Chinese or Taiwanese take this bad omen?

Even though the Pandas are not mating the significance of the pandas as a gift a couple years ago has shown the progress being made between the two countries. Since that time they have opened up direct flights going between the mainland and Taiwan. Before you would first have to go through HK or another country. Taiwan needs China to include them or they will be left behind.

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