Panda Diplomacy

Tai Shan at the National Zoo in 2009 He was the first giant panda born in the U.S. to survive more than a couple of days.

Tai Shan at the National Zoo in 2009.  He was the first giant panda born in the U.S. to live more than a few days.

by Anqi Hu

China is famous for its pandas.  But there are actually quite a few pandas in the United States if you’d like to see them.  And  people around the world can now watch the new baby girl born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. in August.   Panda Cam Is Back. 

So many people have tried to catch up on Mei Xiang and her daughter, that the Panda Cam server crashed soon after the government shutdown ended.  But 24 hours later, it was operational.

Back to our main story:  Most U.S. pandas don’t really live here, at least not permanently. Most of them are on extended vacations of sorts, since China still holds their ownership as part of a lucrative panda lending program.  Chinese Panda Program

The newest panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington will be 100 days old before she is formally named.  Her mother and father, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, had a son named Tai Shan in 2005. He was the first giant panda born in the U.S. to survive more than a couple of days.

Tai Shan quickly became a crowd favorite.   The original agreement between the U.S. and China was supposed to send Tai Shan back to China in 2007, when he was 2 years old.  However,  the public requested more time with the little guy and China agreed to extend Tai Shan’s stay for another two years, which allowed him to live in the U.S., when George W. Bush went to China for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In July 2009, Tai Shan’s trip was extended for another six months, by chance or intentionally, because Barack Obama visited China for the first time after he became president.

In January, 2010,  the two countries finally agreed that Tai Shan would ship off to his motherland before the Chinese new year. Once again the public tried to keep the little panda in Washington, but the Chinese government eventually recalled Tai Shan, right after a White House spokesman announced that president Obama was going to meet with the Dalai Lama.

Over the past 30 years, giant pandas have often worked as the most effective diplomats for China in the global market, especially when dealing with the U.S.  Certainly, as the new baby gets national attention, one can tell from Tai Shan’s journey that she is going to give us something more than entertainment.   Instead, the furry diplomat may provide deep insight on future U.S.- China relations.

(The photo of Tai Shan is from the Smithsonian Institution’s Flickr account and is in the public domain.

About Sharon Kornely

Semi-retired journalist, video producer and educator. Currently tutoring children and adults in American history and English.
This entry was posted in China, Civil Society, Cross-Cultural Communications, Culture, Diplomacy, Transparency International. Bookmark the permalink.

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