swipe to turn pages 

Editor’s Note October 2023

Panda Diplomacy: The World’s Cutest Ambassadors

The frosty U.S. and China decoupling talk is getting real as pandas are getting recalled from zoos across the country and across the world.

It’s called “panda diplomacy” and it’s thought to have started as early as the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century when Empress Wu Zeitan sent a pair of bears (believed to be pandas) to Japan. This Chinese policy of sending pandas as diplomat gifts was revived in 1941, on the eve of the United States entering World War II, when Beijing sent two cuddly black-and-whites to the Bronx Zoo as a “thank you” gift. Chairman Mao frequently engaged in panda diplomacy in the 1950s, sending bears as gifts to China’s communist allies (such as North Korea and the Soviet Union). Two months after Richard Nixon’s landmark trip to China in 1972, which ended 25 years of isolation and tension between the United States and the People’s Republic, the president and his wife, Pat, greeted the adorable 18-month-old pair named Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling. This gift from Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai created a nationwide “Panda-Monium, and the two celebrities received over 20,000 visitors on their first day on display at Washington DC Zoo. This exchange was seen as so successful it inspired British Prime Minister Edward Heath to ask for a panda loan during his 1974 visit to China. Chia-Chia and Ching-Ching arrived at their new digs, the London Zoo, a few weeks later. The tradition saw a significant shift in 1984 when China amended its panda protocols. Moving forward, the animals would only be sent out on 10-year loans, would require payment of a standard annual fee (for the U.S. it was $1 million) and decreed that all cubs birthed from loaned pandas were Chinese citizens, regardless of place of birth. The U.S., in turn, shifted its acceptance policy in 1998, only allowing a panda to reside in the States if more than half of its annual fee was given to conservation efforts for wild pandas and their habitats. In 2008, a devastating earthquake rippled across China’s Sichuan province, destroying 67 percent of China’s wild panda habitats. With its largest and most prestigious conservation center destroyed, China needed to find foster homes for all 60 of its surviving residents. This natural disaster, combined with what appeared to be another shift in panda policy (China now said they would only send pandas to countries for breeding and biological research), caused some to note that China’s loans seemed to be coinciding with trade deals for valuable resources and technology. Was there a panda payoff underway? For example, the Edinburgh Zoo received two pandas in 2011 (the first to arrive in the United Kingdom in 17 years). Shortly after the exchange, however, trade deals were signed between the two nations for salmon, renewable energy technology and Lan Rover vehicles. Norway (who had recently given the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo) lost its long-standing salmon deal with China. Despite the new established goals of biological research and reproduction, Hong Kong received two pandas in 2007 as a gift to mark the 10th anniversary of the handover from British rule. But this was considered an exception to the rule, a gift between brothers. Being entrusted with these adorable, vulnerable (downgraded from “endangered” in 2016) creatures can symbolize the blossoming of new international friendships. The tragic and mind-boggling loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 exacerbated tensions between China and Malaysia. The long-planned arrival of Feng Yi and Fu Wa in 2014 (two months after MH370 went missing) was seen as healing the relationship between two grieving nations after China had openly chastised Malaysia for how they handled the disaster. China isn’t playing coy about its panda diplomacy. In fact, the Chinese ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai wrote in a 2013 op-ed published in the Washington Post, “there are actually two Chinese ambassadors in Washington: me and the panda cub at the National Zoo.” So, as they are all recalled for veiled ‘end of lease’ and other such reason, where to now for East verses West relations and what will be the impact be on New Zealand?

click to share!

or copy this link:


continue reading…

elocal Digital Edition – October 2023 (#270)

elocal Digital Edition
October 2023 (#270)

more from elocal

Sepio Insurance Management

elocal magazine December 2023

Callander Construction

elocal magazine December 2023

Editor’s Note November 2023

Change doesn’t necessarily start from the top

Editor’s Note December 2023

An Enduring Message of Peace in The Face of Growing World Conflict.

Recipe - Christmas Tree Cheese Board

elocal magazine December 2023

© 2023 elocal Limited