Panda diplomacy

Panda diplomacy

Panda Diplomacy is a term used to describe China's use of Giant Pandas as diplomatic gifts to other countries. The practice existed as far back as the Tang Dynasty, when Empress Wu Zetian sent a pair of pandas to the Japanese emperor.Mark Magnier, [,0,1642183.story?page=1&coll=la-home-headlines Attack of the Pandas] , Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2006]

Pandas in Chinese Politics

The People's Republic of China revived panda diplomacy in the 1950s and has become known in recent decades for this practice. From 1958 to 1982, China gave 23 pandas to nine different countries.

One highlight of panda diplomacy was Chairman Mao Zedong's gift of two pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, to U.S. president Richard Nixon in 1972 after Nixon's historic visit to China. (Nixon responded by sending back a pair of musk oxen.) 20,000 people visited the pandas the first day they were on display at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. An estimated 1.1 millions visitors also came to see them the first year they were in the United States, although Nixon himself reportedly never visited them. The pandas proved to be wildly popular and China's gift was seen as an enormous diplomatic success. It proved to be so successful that British Prime Minister Edward Heath asked for pandas for the United Kingdom during a visit to China in 1974. As a result, Chia-Chia and Ching-Ching arrived at the London Zoo a few weeks later.

By the year 1984, however, pandas were no longer used purely as agents of diplomacy. Instead, China began to offer pandas to other nations only on 10-year loans. The standard loan terms include a fee of up to US$ 1,000,000 per year and a provision that any cubs born during the loan are the property of the People's Republic of China. Since 1998, due to a WWF lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only allows a U.S. zoo to import a panda if the zoo can ensure that China will channel more than half of its loan fee into conservation efforts for wild pandas and their habitat.

Pandas have become important diplomatic symbols; not only to China. In a visit by Hu Jintao to Japan in May 2008, China announced the loan of two Pandas to Japan. The President was quoted as saying "Giant pandas are very popular among the Japanese, and they are a symbol of the friendly ties between Japan and China." [cite web|author=AFP|url=|title= Chinese leader hails warming with Japan on rare visit|publisher= "Sydney Morning Herald"|date= May 7, 2008|accessdate=2008-07-15] Actions that other countries take with pandas are often seen as laden with meaning. For example, British diplomats worried that a 1964 transfer of a panda from a London zoo to Moscow would worsen Sino-Soviet relations. [Kate McGeown, [ China's panda ambassadors] , BBC News, May 3, 2005] In January 2006, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick was photographed hugging a 5-month-old panda cub during his visit to Sichuan Province. The image was widely broadcast by the Chinese media and was purportedly interpreted as a sign that Zoellick supported better relations between China and the United States. [Edward Cody, [ U.S. Envoy Engages in Panda Diplomacy] , Washington Post, January 26, 2006, p. A16]

Offer of Pandas to Taiwan in 2005

In 2005 mainland China offered two pandas (later named Tuantuan & Yuanyuan, meaning "Unity") to Taiwan (Republic of China) during opposition party leader Lien Chan's visit to China. While the idea was popular with the Taiwanese public, Taiwanese Prime Minister Frank Hsieh said his Democratic Progressive Party government was unlikely to accept because to do so would acknowledge the PRC's "one China" position. [Chris Hogg, [ Taiwan "unlikely" to want pandas] , BBC News, January 9, 2006] China maintains that because Taiwan is part of China, the pandas are a "domestic transfer" and the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species does not apply.

On March 31, 2006, Taiwan rejected the offer, with Deputy Director Lee Tao-sheng (李桃生) of the Agricultural Council explaining that Pandas, as endangered species are better left within their natural habitat and that the animals could not receive the required care on the subtropical island. [Xing Zhigang, [ Taiwan rejects offer of pandas] , China Daily, April 1, 2006, p. 1]

According to news reports, the government, under the newly elected KMT leadership, said in July 2008 that they would be willing to accept a gift of two four-year-old giant pandas. [cite web|url=| publisher= Times Online |date=July 4, 2008|title= Comment: Where airlines go, panda diplomacy may follow|author= Jane Macartney|accessdate=2008-07-15]

See also

* Chinese Sturgeon
* Ping Pong Diplomacy


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