China’s President Xi Jinping announced on Wednesday that his country will send new pandas to the United States as a gesture of friendship and cooperation, amid the ongoing tensions and challenges between the two nations.
Xi made the announcement during his visit to San Francisco, where he met with local officials and business leaders. He said that China hopes that the giant pandas can continue to serve as a bridge of friendship between the two peoples.
The announcement came as the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, is preparing to send back its three pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Xiao Qi Ji, to China, as their loan agreement expires this month. The zoo has been hosting pandas since 1972, when the first pair, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, arrived as a gift from China following President Richard Nixon’s historic visit.
The panda program between the US and China has been a source of scientific research and public education for more than 50 years, with many breakthroughs in panda biology, behavior, and conservation. The zoo’s pandas have also attracted millions of visitors and fans, both online and offline, who have followed their lives and milestones.
However, the future of the panda diplomacy is uncertain, as both countries have different views on the conservation and management of the endangered species. China considers pandas as its national treasure and a symbol of its soft power, while the US sees pandas as ambassadors of wildlife and biodiversity.
The US-China panda diplomacy has also faced challenges in recent years due to political tensions, trade disputes, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which have strained the relations and cooperation between the two countries.
Some experts and observers have expressed their hope that the panda diplomacy can help ease the conflicts and foster mutual understanding between the US and China, as it has done in the past.
“Pandas are not just cute. They are also a symbol of the complex and evolving relationship between the United States and China.”
– Chinese president signals more pandas will be coming to the United States, ABC News, 11/16/2023
– U.S.-China Panda Diplomacy: A Farewell to Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Xiao Qi Ji, BNN, 11/11/2023
– As ‘panda diplomacy’ ends, will US get giant pandas back?, NewsNation, 11/09/2023
– Diplomatic Panda-Monium! The Fuzzy Face of U.S.-China Relations, US-China Perception Monitor, 11/07/2023