Panda Will Return To San Diego Zoo As China Plans To Resumes Popular Diplomatic Gesture

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Topline
San Diego Zoo is preparing to receive a new pair of giant pandas from China later this year, the Associated Press reported, as Beijing prepares to resume a key symbolic diplomatic gesture dubbed “panda diplomacy,” which had taken a back seat in recent years amid growing U.S.-China tensions.
File photo of giant panda Mei Sheng celebrating his birthday at the San Diego Zoo in 2005. Getty Images
Key Facts
Citing San Diego Zoo officials, the AP reported that if all documentation and other requirements go through as planned, the pandas will arrive at the California Zoo later this summer. The zoo said it expects to receive two pandas, one male and one female. The last pandas that lived at the San Diego Zoo were sent back to China in 2019.
News Peg
The number of pandas living in U.S. zoos has dwindled over the past few years amid growing tensions between Beijing and Washington. Both the Memphis Zoo and the National Zoo in Washington D.C. returned their pandas to China last year after their loan agreement to host the animals expired. At present, only four pandas remain in the United States, all in Zoo Atlanta, whose loan agreement is set to expire later this year.
Crucial Quote
Speaking at an event in San Francisco during his U.S. visit last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping said: “Pandas have long been envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples. We are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation.”
Key Background
The first Pandas were sent to the U.S. from China in 1972 after a thawing of the relationship between the two countries following President Richard Nixon’s visit. This “panda diplomacy” grew over the next few decades with Beijing lending out more pandas to zoos across the world, usually on 10-year-long contracts. Tensions between the U.S. and China and the recent departure of many pandas from American zoos led to speculation that China may be reeling back its panda diplomacy efforts with the U.S. But during his visit to San Francisco last year, Xi hinted that the San Diego Zoo may once again get to host the endangered bear. He said: “I also learned that the San Diego Zoo and the Californians very much look forward to welcoming pandas back” and said his government intends to do its best to “meet the wishes of the Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples.”
Further Reading
China plans to send San Diego Zoo more pandas this year, reigniting its panda diplomacy (Associated Press)
Chinese President Hints Pandas May Return To U.S. (Forbes)
Timeline Giant Pandas at San Diego Zoo (NBC San Diego)

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