http://english.ourpanda.com/ 2013-06-28 00:00:38
Panda Diplomacy is China 's use of giant pandas as diplomatic gifts to other countries.
The practice existed as far back as the Tang Dynasty , when Empress Wu Zetian sent a pair of pandas to the Japanese emperor.
The People's Republic of China revived panda diplomacy in the 1950s and has become known in recent decades for this practice. From 1958 to 1982, China gave 23 pandas to nine different countries.One highlight of panda diplomacy was the Chinese government's gift of two pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, to the United States in 1972 after President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China. Upon the pandas' arrival in April 1972, First Lady Pat Nixon donated the pandas to the National Zoo in Washington D.C., where she welcomed them in an official ceremony. Over twenty thousand people visited the pandas the first day they were on display, and an estimated 1.1 million visitors came to see them the first year they were in the United States.The pandas were wildly popular and China's gift was seen as an enormous diplomatic success, evidence of China's eagerness to establish official relations with the U.S.It was so successful that British Prime Minister Edward Heath asked for pandas for the United Kingdom during a visit to China in 1974. Chia-Chia and Ching-Ching therefore arrived at the London Zoo a few weeks later.
By 1984, however, pandas were no longer used purely as agents of diplomacy. Instead, China began to offer pandas to other nations only on ten-year loans. The standard loan terms include a fee of up to US$1,000,000 per year and a provision that any cubs born during the loan be the property of the People's Republic of China. Since 1998, because of a World Wildlife Fund lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows a U.S. zoo to import a panda only if the zoo can ensure that China will channel more than half of its loan fee into conservation efforts for wild pandas and their habitat.
Pandas have become important diplomatic symbols, not only to China. In a visit by Hu Jintao to Japan in May 2008, China announced the loan of two pandas to Japan. The President was quoted as saying "Giant pandas are very popular among the Japanese, and they are a symbol of the friendly ties between Japan and China."Actions that other countries take with pandas are often seen as laden with meaning.