Panda Diplomacy #TIL
📷: Le Le at his 2nd birthday party. Happy belated (two-rrific) birthday! 🙂 (MWR)
#TIL that China’s panda diplomacy dates all the way back to the Tang Dynasty in the seventh century. Used to engender goodwill with public audiences around the world, these roly-poly superstars are part of China’s soft power push. Gifting pandas became a more regular practice from the 1950s, as China sought to position itself in the modern world. Notable moments in panda diplomacy include gifting panda Ping Ping in 1957 to the Soviet Union, the first nation to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC.
From the early 1980s however, with their own panda numbers under threat, the Chinese government shifted from gifting to loaning pandas to nations on a 10-year renewable basis. Hosts must meet strict requirements when it comes to the care and accommodation of the panda pairs, while also paying up to US$1 million per year for the privilege. There’s also an additional substantial fee levied for any panda cubs born during the loan period, and panda cubs must be returned within the first four years to join China’s national breeding programme. When the Chiang Mai Zoo’s panda Lin Hui - a resident there since 2003 - died in Apr 2023, the outpouring of grief appeared to outweigh the US$435,000 insurance payout Thailand owed to China under the terms of its loan.
In Singapore, giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia created quite a bit of buzz when they first arrived from Chengdu on 6 Sep 2021 on a 10-year loan from China. The loan, announced in 2009, was to mark 20 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and China.
After a few years of trying, the panda pair welcomed their first-born, Le Le, on the morning of 14 Aug 2021. Birthing a panda cub is no easy feat: pandas have very short periods of fertility and the process is complicated. For Singapore, it took years of scientific skill and partnership with the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Panda. Under the initial agreement with China, the panda pair were due to return home in 2022, but it was announced on 2 Sep 2022 that Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s stay in Singapore has been extended for another five years till 2027, though Le Le the cub’s return date is still in discussion.
The rare birth of this giant panda cub – the first in Singapore — is an important milestone in China-Singapore diplomatic relations. Singaporeans can feel proud that this precious addition to the dwindling population of giant pandas was born on our shores.
#PandasInSG #Pandas #GiantPanda #LeLe #KaiKai #JiaJia #Singapore #WildLifeSG #MandaiWildlifeReserve