Friday, May 9, 2008

Even a nice positive gesture can be politicized

By China Watcher

The announcement by the Chinese government to lease two pandas to Japan, to fulfill a personal request from the Japanese Premier during the Sino-Japan summit in Tokyo, was not even spared the negative political leanings by certain Western and Japanese media.

Western media reported that the Tokyo's Ueno Zoo has been flooded with calls to refuse the offer by the Chinese President fearing that the money from the lease would fund Beijing's clampdown in Tibet. The rental rate, though undecided, but based on previous dealings is about US$1.0 million a year per animal.

The anti-China Tokyo Governor’s is not in favor of the acquisition of the two popular animals, a replacement for Ling Ling which died of a heart attack two weeks ago. Chinese and Japanese officials will hold talks to sort out the arrangements.

A few Japanese nationalists claimed that Japan is kowtowing to China by making themselves so low as though they need the Pandas for survival. They even put posters against the transfer on walls at the zoo.

Earlier in the week, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), a non government organization based in the West, appealed to Japan not to accept the animals on grounds that it would be miserable as it is confined within walls. Further, the animals are endangered and should not be traded as commodities.

First, I observed that the few groups of Japanese objections were bordering on hysterical level and also, very narrow minded in their reasoning. The payment of the money will go to a special fund to preserve the natural habitat of the panda in Sichuan (plus surrounding areas) and for research activities to boost the population of these animals. Anyway, US$2.0 million per year cannot do much to quell the rebellion in Tibet. It is not even enough to educate the many Tibetans who are still backward. The Chinese government does not need this meager sum if they wanted to suppress the Tibetan people, as claimed. For the ignorant complainant, the Chinese government has almost US$1.5 trillion in reserves.

Second, the offer of the pandas is a symbolic and sincere gesture of friendship on the part of the Chinese government to the Japanese people. The mere offer was made at the request of the Japanese Premier for a replacement of one such popular animal which has died. If the Japanese choose not to read this simple message as a hand of friendship, then it is sad that they do not want to be a friend. First-tier countries friendly to China like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have indicated that they also wanted the cute and lovable animals in their zoo but so far the Chinese government has not given it due consideration. Maybe the Chinese government should consider offering to such friendly countries which I think would be appreciated much more.

Finally, I do not see the reason for PETA objections. There are many animals in captivity – even endangered and critical species – kept in more deplorable conditions whereby PETA was silent. Pandas are also kept in the zoos in the US and other places but PETA choose to make its noise in this particular lease arrangement. Perhaps PETA volunteers would be better off and, most effective, by not wearing anything parading on the streets of New York, Paris or Sydney supporting a “No Fur” campaign.

It is simply amazing to hear such political and anti-China intonations from a simple gesture promoting friendship which can even be twisted to serve a hidden political agenda whenever it hinges on matters touching China. With a well coordinated campaign by the many anti-Chinese activists, readers must be prepared and ready to hear more negative remarks concerning China in the future especially those coming from the West.

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