China’s Panda Diplomacy

News Excerpt:

The China Wildlife Conservation Authority has signed cooperation agreements to loan a pair of giant pandas to San Diego (USA) and Madrid (Spain). It is also in talks with zoos in Washington D.C. and Vienna, Austria.

About Giant Panda:

  • Habitat:
    • Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests of southwest China.
    • They must eat 26 to 84 pounds of bamboo every day, depending on which part of the bamboo they are eating. They are excellent tree climbers.
  • Scientific name:
    • Ailuropoda melanoleuca
  • IUCN Status:
    • Vulnerable
  • Population:
    • 1,864 in the wild
  • Height:
    • Adults can grow to more than four feet.
  • It appears in the logo of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
  • Breeding facts:
    • Giant pandas reach sexual maturity at 5.5 to 6.5 years.
    • The mating season is in spring between March and May.
    • Gestation takes from 95-160 days.
    • Pandas normally give birth to single young. Twins seem to be born more frequently in captivity, when artificial insemination is used.
    • The reproductive rate is about 1 cub every 2 years.
  • Birth facts:
    • A newborn panda cub weighs just 90-130 g.
    • A cub is just 1/900th the size of its mother - one of the smallest newborn mammals relative to its mother's size.
    • Pandas are dependent on their mothers for the first few months of their lives and are fully weaned at 8 to 9 months.
    • A panda's average life span in the wild is 14-20 years. But they can live up to 30 years in captivity.
  • Adult facts:
    • Giant pandas are generally solitary.
    • Encounters are rare outside the brief mating season, but pandas communicate with each other fairly often, mostly through vocalization and scent marking.
    • While roaming their territories, they mark their routes by spraying urine, clawing tree trunks, and rubbing against objects.

What is panda diplomacy?

  • Giant pandas are native to central China, particularly the Yangtze River basin. The Chinese government gifts or loans these endemic pandas to other countries as a symbol of friendship or soft diplomacy, hence the phrase “panda diplomacy.”

How did panda diplomacy become popular?

  • Although panda diplomacy essentially picked up in the mid-to-late 20th century, some experts believe that a version of it existed as early as during the Tang Dynasty (7th - 10th century).
  • There are multiple records of China gifting or donating pandas to countries like the U.S., the U.K., France, and Japan, but 1972 is often believed to be the start of modern panda diplomacy when, under Mao Zedong’s rule, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai gifted giant pandas to America following U.S. President Richard Nixon’s state visit.
  • China stopped gifting pandas in the early 1980s and instead started loaning them at a fee of around $1 million per year.
    • Conditions to lend pandas may also include other requirements, like building facilities for their care and agreements to return offspring to China.

More than just soft diplomacy?

  • In 2013, the University of Oxford conducted a study that concluded that deals under panda diplomacy could “herald environmental implications over the long term.”
    • This deal was overseen by China’s deputy premier while negotiating contracts valued at £2.6 billion across various sectors, such as petrochemical and renewable energy technology, salmon meat, and Land Rovers.
    • They cited the example of Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, which received its first pair of pandas in 2011.
    • The study also noted that panda deals with Canada, France, and Australia coincided with these countries’ uranium deals and contracts with China.

Book A Free Counseling Session