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Mixed response from Taiwan

By Jacky Hsu
Special to CNN

TAIWAN, Taipei -- In a mixed mood reflecting both expectation and fear, Taiwan on Friday offered a guarded welcome to Beijing winning the right to host the 2008 Olympics.

Expectation in a sense that there could be peace between the two in the lead up to the Games, and fear that the Chinese victory might deepen the already growing nationalism on the mainland, thus fueling their determination to take Taiwan back to its fold.

"We believe the Olympic spirit is a manifestation of mankind's lofty ideal of world peace," said Taiwan's Government Information Office Director Su Chen-ping.

"The government sincerely hopes that the mainland authorities will host the Olympic Games with this same spirit by pursuing world peace and abandoning the use of force in both the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

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Su's comments reflect the stance of President Chen Shui-bian's government which backed the Chinese bid mainly in the hope of securing peace with Beijing.

The emphasis on peace and a general lack of enthusiasm strayed from the originally earnest offer of support given to the Beijing bid by Chen in May last year.

Deputy-level officials from the Mainland Affairs Council and the National Sports Council were asked to join Su to brief the news media of the government's stance.

Shift of attitude

The chairperson of Taiwan's top mainland policy making body, Tsai In-wen, was absent while President Chen's office declined to say anything about the Chinese victory.

The shift of attitude is natural, analysts said.

"Beijing has poured cold water to President Chen's offer to support Beijing's Olympic bid," said political scientist Alex Lu Ya-li.

"It has refused to play Mr Chen's game and insisted on unifying the two sides under the 'one China, two systems' formula. The wishful thinking of using the Olympics to check Beijing does not work," Lu said.

Mainland Affairs Council Ms Tsai said on Thursday that Beijing's success might have an adverse impact as it could deepen nationalistic sentiments thus hindering democratic development in China.

Economic growth

"Some Western countries have expressed their worries about this issue," she said. "Nevertheless, no one can deny that Beijing's success is likely to stimulate economic growth in China, which is good for global development."

"It can also help ease pressure inside Beijing's ruling hierarchy," she said.

Taiwan's businessmen are all hopeful of a big money-making prospect lying ahead as Beijing has said it would award building and other contracts to Taiwan.

Overall, reaction from the general public is rather positive.

"It's great that China won the sponsorship right. I believe it can help reduce tension across the Taiwan Strait," said Amy Lin, a housewife and a supporter of Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

University student Chen Hsiao-wei literally jumped from his home sofa when he learned of the voting results through live TV broadcast.

"They got it, they got it," shouted Chen.

"Being Chinese, I of course hope China can host the 2008 Games. Politically, it's also good for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait."

• Beijing 2008
• International Olympic Committee

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