Panda Diplomacy: Throw In A Few Bears

category: > Features, > History Now/Then

written by: Jaap Proost

GIANT pandas are cute and friendly. Giant pandas only live in the People’s Republic of China. Put the two together and it isn’t surprising that the loveable bamboo eaters are a symbol of China’s friendly face. So if something goes sour between China and another country, panda bears are sent overseas to smooth things over. Giving the animals as a present to other countries to warm bilateral ties even has a name: panda diplomacy.


Most pandas are going to Japan. The two countries have a long history of conflicts. Last February two pandas, Xiannu and Bili, arrived at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. The two came in effort calm things down after a territorial dispute over some small islands. It was not the first time giant pandas from the mainland made a trip to Japan. Ever since the Tang Dynasty (625-705) the Chinese are sending panda bears as acts of goodwill to their neighbor. In 1972 the arrival of a pair of bears was the beginning of a panda craze in Japan. This craze resulted in countless forms of merchandise and an animated film called Panda! Go, Panda!, written by the famous director Hayao Miyazaki.


Another famous example of panda diplomacy is the two pandas that the Nixon’s brought home in the seventies after a visit to Mao.


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