Taiwan and China Bond Over Baseball, Pandas

The warming relations between Taiwan and the mainland were evident Friday as the two sides met for an Olympics baseball match in the Chinese capital.

In an a spectacularly suspenseful game during which the "Go Taiwan!" cheers were as loud as those for "Go China!," the teams remained tied at the bottom of the 9th inning. The game lasted until the 12th inning when China--which had been considered the weaker team--won 8-7.

Lin Che-Hsuan of Taiwan is caught stealing as third baseman Sun Wei of China makes the tag in the third inning of the baseball game at the Olympic Games, Aug. 15. (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

The cheerful public display at the Olympics set the stage for paved the way for two important announcements today regarding cross-straits relations.

A Taiwanese diplomat said that Taiwan, for the first time since 1992, will not bid for United Nations membership this year. The statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Andrew Hsia said that the island instead will seek representation in U.N. agencies and that this proposal is "milder and more feasible" than the previous efforts.

Separately, Taiwanese officials announced that they were preparing to accept a pair of giant pandas that China offered as a gesture of good will.

The bears, whose names Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan together mean "unite," were first offered to Taiwan in 2006, but then-president Chen Shui-bian declined. China has claimed Taiwan as part of its own country since the country's civil war ended in 1949 and has threatened to use force if it tries to break away.

Chen's successor Ma Ying-jeou took office in late May after campaigning on a pro-China platform. Since then, Ma has worked towards friendlier relations, helping introduce the first direct China-Taiwan flights, allowing more Chinese tourists to visit the island and doing away with some controls in outbound investments to China.

Taiwanese officials have said that later this month Ma will fly to an island group close to the mainland and give a speech of "historical significance" during which he will talk about "rapprochement and peace." They have declined to give further details.

--Ariana Eunjung Cha

August 15, 2008; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Postmark Beijing
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Ariana Eunjung Cha decides to give China a break.

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