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Panda Diplomacy Could Still Have a Future

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The fur balls is perhaps coming again to Washington and San Diego.

Xi Jinping, China’s chief, stated in a speech on Wednesday night time that his nation’s finest diplomats, big pandas, would possibly quickly return to zoos within the United States which have just lately despatched bears again to their homeland.

“We are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation, and do our best to meet the wishes of the Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples,” he advised a gathering of principally enterprise executives at a dinner in San Francisco.

Mr. Xi identified that the pandas are “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.”

Panda-monium gripped the United States final week when the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington despatched its two getting older grownup pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, or “Little Miracle,” again to China on a 19-hour FedEx flight, the Panda Express.

Police escorts rode alongside the crate-laden vans to Dulles International Airport, with all of the pomp of a presidential convoy zipping round Washington.

The bears had been accompanied on the flight by 220 kilos of bamboo, a veterinarian and two zookeepers.

The pandas had been due to return to China by early December due to the expiration of a three-year pandemic-era extension to a collection of agreements between the National Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association, the zoo’s companion in China.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived in Washington in 2000, after the deaths of two pandas given to the zoo as a present in April 1972 following the historic go to of President Richard M. Nixon and his spouse, Patricia, to Beijing. (Over dinner, Mrs. Nixon advised China’s premier, Zhou Enlai, how a lot she cherished pandas.)

The zoo initially paid $1 million per yr to host Mei Xiang and Tian Tian however renegotiated that to $500,000 per yr after the primary decade.

Mei Xiang gave beginning to Xiao Qi Ji in August 2020. It was her fourth surviving cub to be born in Washington. Each beginning happened after scientists rigorously monitored her ovulation cycle and did synthetic insemination.

Once the zoo introduced the pandas can be leaving by mid-November, followers started touring a whole bunch or hundreds of miles to catch a glimpse of them. Some had been watching the bears every day on-line through the zoo’s so-called panda cam.

“I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas, and went to the zoo to see them off,” Mr. Xi stated on Wednesday.

At the National Zoo, the large panda enclosures within the Asia Trail space now sit empty, and lots of guests go as an alternative to see the neighboring purple pandas, small fuzzy creatures that resemble raccoons. The big pandas are a kind of bear.

The San Diego Zoo despatched its two pandas again in 2019, and the Memphis Zoo despatched a panda again this April. Mr. Xi stated he had discovered that the San Diego Zoo and residents of California “very much look forward to welcoming pandas back.”

Zoo Atlanta now has the one big pandas within the United States — dad and mom and twin cubs — however they’re anticipated to return to China subsequent yr.

Those zoos are the 4 establishments within the United States which have persistently hosted pandas over the many years. Each negotiates contracts with certainly one of two conservation teams in China. The pandas primarily come from the Wolong National Nature Reserve within the misty mountains of Sichuan Province, the place about 150 pandas reside, chewing on bamboo for a dozen or extra hours a day.

Given the rising tensions between the United States and China in recent times, many Americans have puzzled whether or not geopolitics has spurred Chinese officers to ask for the pandas again. But National Zoo officers and scientists stated every of their three pandas was at an age when the bears needs to be returning.

Officials on the National Zoo stated in interviews earlier than the departure on Nov. 8 that they deliberate to begin talks quickly to attempt to get their Chinese companion to ship pandas again to the zoo. But the officers stated they’d no intention of asking Mr. Biden or the State Department to weigh in with China. A zoo spokeswoman stated they’d no touch upon Mr. Xi’s remarks.

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