SMS and Internet users vote on “Union” names for Taiwan-bound panda bears

During the Spring Festival gala on CCTV, viewers were asked to vote via SMS for the names for the pair of Pandas that the Chinese government has offered to Taiwan. Below are three news reports on the voting, followed by some critical comments from Chinese netizens:

From The Shanghai Daily:

Tuantuan and Yuanyuan are two most popular nicknames that mainland people want to dub the two pandas to be gifted to Taiwan, state media said.

Tuanyuan, the Chinese word, means reunion, which apparently expressed mainland people’s hope for the reunion between the mainland and the island.

Through the China Central Television’s collection, more than 50,000 pairs of nicknames have been proposed for the panda couple. Among them, Tuantuan and Yuanyuan are supported by most people.

(See also “Internet users go for ‘union’ names for Taiwan panda pair” from Xinhua.)

Name the Pandas via SMS, Fees Anger Users from Singapore’s United Morning Post (ËÅîÂêàÊó©Êä•) (translated by CDT):

This year’s CCTV Spring Festival Gala invited viewers to send SMS to name the pandas that are going to be presented to Taiwan. SMS senders, however, were not informed ahead of time that they would be charged an extra fee. This forced fee angered TV viewers, and they criticized CCTV for forcing them to pay.

The pandas were finally nick-named Tuantuan and Yuanyuan, coming from the Chinese words for “reunion”. CCTV received more than 100 million messages supporting the names. According to the agreement between CCTV and phone companies, CCTV will earn more than 100 million Yuan (~US$12 million).

The following are excerpts of two comments which appeared on mainland China’s cat898.com forum (both translated by CDT):

From baicaozhishui:

At the time of separation across the Taiwan Strait, “Tuantuan” and “Yuanyuan”, obviously meaning “reunion” and “reconciliation”, enforce the idea of a “united front” to Taiwan, where the main sentiment is for independence. The naming is likely to trigger a political storm across the strait. The nonpolitical pandas were painted with “reunion”, a highly political color. This apparently adds a faulty stroke to China’s previously artful panda strategy.



From Minzhuzougou:



If the mainland puts itself in Taiwan’s shoes, it will realize whether naming the pandas is worth it or not. Obviously,once the mainland decided the give them, the pandas became Taiwan’s “babies.” Even before the pandas land in Taiwan, they already became Taiwan’s property when the mainland made its offer. That means that although the pandas stay in the mainland, they are just residing as visitors. Taiwan has already owned their proprietary rights. Since they are already “Taiwanese”, they should certainly take orders from Taiwan. And their names are undoubtedly Taiwan’s business. Even if Taiwan names them as “Taitai” and “Dudu” [“Tai” = Taiwan, “Du” = Independence], mainland has no reason to oppose.

…Let’s cool down on this naming fever. The mainland government better keep out of it. And if the official media has nothing better to do, they can focus on the many weak and disadvantaged social groups. In my opinion, they are more precious than the pandas.

The last thing I want to emphasize is that no matter how pleasant or attractive the “nice names” from the “naming fever” are, what mainland should do at most is present those names to Taiwan, and leave Taiwan to make their decision. It will be highly unwise to meddle in Taiwan’s business by deciding the pandas’ names for them. If so, the pandas should not be sent to Taiwan, since this kind of offering will only end up in reproach.

And, finally, the words of Ms. Lung Ying-tai, a Taiwanese writer and former Culture Minister of Taipei, in her open letter to President Hu Jintao protesting the closure of Freezing Point weekly:

What I really want to say, Mr. Jintao, is that as a Taiwan person, I don’t care if Tuantuan and Yuanyuan come to Taipei or not, even though the panda bears are so lovely as to make people melt. But a Taiwan person like myself cares about the status of Freezing Point, just like many many Hong Kong persons care about the status of the arrested reporter Ching Cheong. If the “value self-identification” of China is interpreted and executed by a bunch of slave servants holding whips, canes and keys and if independent character and the spirit of freedom are attacked, disciplined and monitored, please ask just where is the starting point for us to talk about unification? There are conditions behind my emotions for China. There are many others who deeply love the earth of China without condition, but what can you offer them to talk about unification such that they won’t be scorned and cursed by others?

The important point is not Tuantuan and Yuanyuan, do you know that? The important point was never about the Democratic Progressive Party, do you understand?

The important point was about a tiny but concrete matter such as Freezing Point. I understand that you may not even know about the shutdown of Freezing Point, but you will end up bearing all the responsibility. Simply stated, Mr. Jintao, whether you allow the media to be independent, what attitude you adopt towards your own history, how you deal with the people … every little decision is tied to the word “civilization.” We have been through barbarity already, so we have to care about civilization.

February 3, 2006 8:17 PM
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