A Special Chinese Diplomat: The Giant Panda

By Zhongyi Christina Su

Bao Bao, the giant panda born in the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, will depart for China in the beginning of 2017. Mei Lun and Mei Huan, the twin giant pandas born three years ago at Atlanta’s zoo, arrived at Chengdu, China, on Nov. 3, 2016.

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, all cubs born at the zoo move to China by the time they turn 4 years old as part of the zoo’s cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA). Bao Bao will turn 4 on Aug. 23, 2017.

“Bao Bao is very special to us at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo,” said Brandie Smith, associate director of animal care sciences, in a statement issued by the National Zoo. “She was the first surviving cub born at the zoo since 2005. She’s captured the hearts of people all over the world who watched her grow up on the panda cams, and she has been an ambassador for conservation. We are sad to see her go, but excited for the contributions she is going to continue to make to the global giant panda population.”

Bao Bao was born at 5:32 p.m. Aug. 23, 2013, at the zoo’s David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. Peng Liyuan and Michelle Obama, the first ladies of China and the United States, posted videos welcoming Bao Bao and praising panda diplomacy.

A giant panda at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

A giant panda at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan noted that the pandas “symbolize the loving care of the Chinese and American people and the friendship between them. May the friendship between the Chinese and American people grow even stronger.”

“After decades of close collaboration with our Chinese partners, these remarkable animals stand as a symbol of the growing connections between our two countries,” First Lady Michelle Obama told the Wall Street Journal.

Cui Tiankai, China’s Ambassador to the United States, wrote in an article published in the Washington Post, that: “Many people don’t realize it, but there are actually two Chinese ambassadors in Washington: me and the panda cub at the National Zoo.”

Four zoos across the United States are homes for giant pandas today. The arrival of these diplomats successfully conquered the hearts of many Americans. In the United States, a zoo with a panda will have a strong popularity. Over the years, pandas not only brought happiness to countless Americans, but the big bears also provided a bridge for Sino-U.S. cooperation in a complex and changing environment.

Known as “panda diplomacy,” China has been sending its pandas as gifts to other countries as a sign of friendship. Chinese media outlets state that there are 42 pandas living abroad, including in the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Austria, and Belgium. Before the 1980s, the giant pandas were mainly regarded as gifts. Now, they also shoulder the task of cooperation between countries doing scientific research. According to CCTV News, China established long-term research cooperation with 17 zoos in 12 countries.

According to the U.S.- China Policy Foundation, pandas are part of Chinese diplomatic efforts to improve soft power and ties with key countries. The pandas are a part of efforts to advance bilateral relations.

“I think Bei Bei told us one thing: Family is very important,” said Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo, in The Washington Post. Bei Bei, who is now 1-year-old, is another panda living in the National Zoo. “Americans, Chinese realize family is important and friendships are important, and it’s our friendship that will cause us to be successful for future generations.”

The pandas have become China’s best diplomats. No matter where the pandas go to live, they carry the world’s imagination with them about China, and they help to transcend national boundaries.

Photograph by Zhongyi Christina Su

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Bee Stings May Be Miracle Cure

By Ibrahim Alkhayal

Alternative medicine often comes up with new and creative healing processes. A method being tried in Palestine uses the bee sting, called apitherapy.

Rateb Samour, known as Abo Ibrahim, is a Palestinian beekeeper and agriculture engineer in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah. For about 13 years, he has devoted all his time to studying and developing an alternative medicine treatments out of bee products, according to Reuters.

Although he is not a physician and never studied medicine, he believes in his treatment. Ibrahim treats about 250 patients daily. Their illnesses range from hair loss to cerebral palsy and cancer, says The Jerusalem Post.

“We had people with 7.3 million viruses in one centimeter of their blood. After around four months of bee treatment, it was negative,” Ibrahim told The Jerusalem Post. “Of course, this is unbelievable. Not only with bee’s stings but also with bee products on a specific schedule. Thank God, many cases were completely healed.”

The 58-year-old Palestinian knows the exact point where bees should sting his patient. A person might have thought that a single encounter with a bee is enough, but people undergoing apitherapy may get stung 80 times a day or more, said the Health Day News.

The treatment uses bee venom discharge. When the bee is near the patient’s body, it starts to excrete chemicals that include healthy and natural antibiotics, including cortisone and antihistamines. It is 10 times more powerful and effective than pharmaceuticals, Palestine Today explains.

Ibrahim demanded that the Palestinian Ministry of Health look at apitherapy as a type of scientific medicine and not just an alternative medicine. He calls on Palestinian universities and researchers to adopt a course that focuses on bees, according to Palestine Today

Health Day News, a website that provides health news, acknowledges that some doctors, particularly in Eastern Europe, have reported using injections of bee venom to treat rheumatoid arthritis successfully. Moreover, bee venom has been used as a treatment in East Asia since at least the second century BCE, according to Discover Magazine.

Apitherapy uses all bee-related products, including honey and propolis – or bee glue used to build hives – and venom. Apitherapy is a painful treatment but it could be the cure for many illnesses. Let’s hope that the bees show compassion when they sting people to make them feel better.

Photograph courtesy of Pixabay through Creative Commons

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One More Border to Cross

By Marquise Nichols

Mexico has an immigration problem. This is not a new issue, but the recent overwhelming influx of new immigrants into the country has many concerned.  According to U.S. News & World Report, over 4,479 migrants have entered through Mexico’s Tapachula immigration center in just three days.

A majority of these immigrants are of African and Asian descent , who are traveling
through Central America and Mexico to get to the United States to  seek  asylum. Unlike other countries, Mexico is more lenient with its  immigration laws, which soon might change given the present circumstances.  Nina Lakhani  of  The Guardian explains “that these migrants can obtain a  temporary travel document which allows them to continue unimpeded to the U.S. border since Mexico has no deportation agreements with their countries.”

The country is now feeling the full effect of Mexico’s  lenient immigration policies. Officials are trying their the best to combat the issue, even setting up shelters, Alex Pfeifer reported in The Daily Caller. Despite the immigrants’  long trek to seek refuge,  Socorro Flores, undersecretary of Latin America and the Caribbean for the Mexican Foreign Ministry, told El Universal  that “many of them will have to return to their countries.”

It’s a situation that some politicians in the United States cite as ironic, given the recent
ongoing political dilemma of illegal Mexican immigrants in America. Despite the U.S. government’s own immigration debacle, Reuters  reports that U.S. border patrol officers are working closely with  Mexican immigration officers on implementing  a stricter  policy on who they let in due to concerns of the recent “string of Islamic State-inspired attacks in the West and the surge in Syrian refugees fleeing that country’s civil war.”


Although many are skeptical of the incoming strangers, a wave of Mexican citizens have come out to offer food, shelter and support to the misplaced. “They’re really lovely people who need our help during their difficult situation,” Janeth Aguilar of Tijuana told KPBS news. “We come every day. We bring them candy, food, we were with them for a little while. Yesterday, they braided my whole head of hair.”

Some of the Mexicans have been so welcoming towards the immigrants that many have opted to stay in Mexico instead of traveling to America and risk being sent back to their countries . How long the immigrants will be able to stay is still unclear.

Photograph by Geraint Rowland courtesy of Flickr


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Duterte’s Actions May Cause Economic Woes

By Marina Mangie

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s rule may become the cause of economic issues in the Philippines if he continues his present path of volatile leadership.

The most popular parts of Duterte’s presidential platform were his promises to fight government corruption, as well as crime. This includes a war on drugs, an effort by law enforcement to fight narcotics trafficking and abuse in the Philippines. Encouraged by Duterte’s promises, the war on drugs has become a rash of extrajudicial killings by the Filipino police.

Thousands of Filipinos have died since June 2016, when Duterte took office. The youngest victim was a 5-year-old girl named Danica May Garcia, who died as two men on motorcycles shot at her grandfather, according to The Washington Post, because he was a suspected drug dealer.

The United Nations has raised concerns about human rights abuses in the Philippines following its review of the country’s policies on Sept. 28 and 29.

The violence, which has turned many drug users and dealers against each other in an effort to protect themselves, has drawn negative attention from the international community, and this may have economic consequences for the Philippines.

Phillipines President Rodrigo R. Duterte shows a diagram of the connection of high-level drug syndicates operating in the country.

Philippines President Rodrigo R. Duterte shows a diagram of the connection of high-level drug syndicates operating in the country.

The U.S. government may rescind $6.7 million in law enforcement aid to the Philippines if the nation does not agree to abide by the terms the U.S. government has set. These terms are namely that the funds must be used in a way that is compliant with U.S. legal standards. This means that the U.S. government will not allow the money to be used to support the extrajudicial killings that Duterte has encouraged.

Other economic concerns come in the form of a nervousness on the part of foreign investors. The Philippine peso has dropped against the U.S. dollar 3.6 percent this month, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Philippines is popular for foreign investment because of its high rate of economic growth. And foreign investors contribute to most of the major industries that make up the Filipino economy, the Journal wrote.

While there is a law that prevents foreigners from owning or leasing local farmland, transnational corporations are very involved in the Philippines agribusiness, according to U.S. Army-sponsored research.

Duterte has just passed his first 100 days in office. His presidential controversies already include cancelled meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama after Duterte cursed Obama out in front of a gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders, and growing concern over Duterte’s attempts to deepen ties with China.

The foreign investment community will likely be watching his next moves to see if they should put their money elsewhere.

Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

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China’s First Lady Enhances Soft Power

By Zhongyi Christina Su

Peng Liyuan, 54, known as “Mama Peng” by many Chinese children, is a successful singer and performing artist. Her songs, including Zhumulangma, People from Our Village and In the Field of Hope, are so popular that many foreigners know how to sing them. Liyuan earned a master’s degree in traditional ethnic music in China, and she is also the president of the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Art. But most importantly, she is the wife of the current Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

When President Xi joined the standing committee of the Politburo in 2007, Peng was more famous than he was. According to The Economist, the U.S. media used a humorous way to introduce him, saying, “Who is Xi Jinping? He’s Peng Liyuan’s husband.”

Peng has gradually become a significant symbol of China. Since 2013, as the first lady, Peng has joined President Xi Jinping’s on his visit to Russia and other countries. These visits not only resulted in great acclaim in China, even the foreign media find that they want to report on her as an expression of her popularity. 

“In her role as first lady on the itinerary in Moscow, Peng Liyuan is exhibiting China’s soft power,” said Wang Fan, head of the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, told The Telegraph. “As a singer and artist and a long-term advocate for poverty relief and other causes, Peng has an excellent public image.”

peng_liyuanHow does Peng shape her image through the media? To what extent does this image, as soft power, help China to show itself more confidently in front of the whole world? Unlike China’s former first ladies who rarely appeared in public, Peng’s popularity has boosted China’s soft power, said the state-run Global Times, “Peng’s graceful performance and inspiring speeches delivered abroad could send the message out soundly and profoundly that the representative of Chinese mothers cares for orphans in Russia and elsewhere, and that China is committed to working with others for world peace and development.”

According to The Telegraph, Shen Dingli, a professor of International Relations at Shanghai’s Fudan University, said the first lady, who has also been compared to American First Ladies Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama and Britain’s Princess Kate Middleton, could be instrumental in showing the world China’s attractiveness.

“She is talented. She is presentable. She shows respect to others and expresses the desire to work harmoniously together,” he said in the Telegraph story. “The first lady has a graceful way of presenting the ways in which China is attractive.”

Many people comment on Peng’s facial expressions, behaviors, and speech. Even her traditional dressing style is discussed widely, which to some extent also promotes Chinese designs and cultural image abroad. The Telegraph called her “a master in the art of diplomatic dressing,” describing the blue silk coat-dress she wore in Buckingham Palace as “the height of restrained elegance.”

For the diplomatic performance of China’s first lady, some media sites have said she is both elegant and glamorous. CNBC reported that according to research by Renmin University of China, Peng’s “elegant manners” and participation in various charitable events could enhance China’s soft power and temper fears stemming from its economic ascent.

Peng is also involved in public welfare issues. She is the “goodwill ambassador” of the World Health Organization, raising awareness of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS prevention. Peng has been concerned about AIDS orphans for almost a decade, according to Sina, In early 2006, Peng accepted the invitation of the Ministry of Health to become a volunteer to help prevent AIDS. Since then, she has been helping the AIDS orphans. “In recent years, helping them become the focus of my life,” said Peng Liyuan.

According to CNBC, Zhou Jiali, a researcher from China Foreign Affairs University, said that most foreign media now see Peng Liyuan as a positive factor raising China’s image. Transformed from the queen of singers to China’s first lady, her image, of being elegant and confident, has successfully created her distinctive “Chinese style of positive energy.”

Photograph by Angélica Rivera de Peña courtesy of Wiki Commons

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