posted on Feb, 15 2004 @ 03:28 PM
If you read my first posting on this matter then you'll understand this next piece. Zee
China and Taiwan meet on diamond
Distrust reigns, but baseball opens a door
By Stephanie Hoo, Associated Press, 2/12/2004
TIANJIN, China -- Baseball, not politics, is on Jiao Yi's mind this week as his Tianjin Tigers journey to Taiwan for training.
"We need more practice games and to make more progress," said Jiao, who coaches the powerhouse of China's fledgling four-team league. "And we
heard that Taiwan was quite good at baseball."
It's rare for China to admit that its political nemesis is good at anything. While Taiwan is a feisty, self-ruling democracy, the Beijing government
insists that Taiwan is part of the Communist mainland but in denial.
China's leaders are especially worried about Taiwan's March 20 elections, and have warned that any moves toward formal independence could lead to
This hard-line attitude extends to sports. Since Beijing maintains that Taiwan isn't really a country, and many countries and international
organizations concur, Taiwan can't participate in the Olympics under its own flag and must instead parade under a neutral Olympics flag and call
itself "Chinese Taipei."
That hasn't stopped Tianjin's sports authority from sending its baseball players across the 100-mile strait that divides the rivals. The Tigers got
permission from both sides to train in Taiwan for 35 days, starting yesterday.
"I hope to absorb Taiwan's baseball experience," said pitcher Miao Yueqiu, who also plays on China's national team. "We can study and learn by
Much as pingpong diplomacy in the 1970s helped lay the groundwork for renewed US-China relations, baseball diplomacy and other low-level exchanges
bring together Chinese and Taiwanese.
Jiao bristles at the suggestion that his training trip means anything for cross-strait relations.
"Taiwan is a part of China, so you can't call it `baseball diplomacy,' " he said. He suggests "baseball learning exchange."
"Our life, our customs, our language are all the same," he said, recalling last year's trip. "Training in Taiwan suits us."
Few in China follow baseball, yet in Taiwan it's the top sport. The island's Little Leaguers won 17 world championships from 1969 to 1996.
In China, baseball is considered an intellectual game. It's also considered a game for developed countries, because of the money needed for equipment
and playing fields -- unlike the more egalitarian soccer.
"One can trace a country's development to baseball," Jiao said. "The United States is the best, and Taiwan learned from the United States more
Tom McCarthy, an American who is vice chairman of the Chinese Baseball League's organizing committee, said that when Taiwan's baseball officials
visit the mainland, the two sides "have very good rapport."
"These guys go out, eat and drink, and share stories," he said. "Politics is one thing, but business goes on, sports goes on. And I think that's
the way they approach it."
"As long as no Chinese Taipei flag is floating around," he added.
Li Lulu, an 18-year-old pitcher, started playing baseball as a youth because he enjoyed being part of a team. At first, he said, "I didn't
understand it, either. But the more I played, the more I liked it.
"Baseball uses your brain. The United States and Japan are better, but China, too, can learn something new."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company