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The Ghost of Panda's Past:

The departure of pandas across America should concern policymakers and American citizens as this is a sign of panda diplomacy becoming but a distant memory.


大熊猫, or better known as the giant panda. These black and white bears are not just cute stuffed animal toys nor animals to gawk at in zoos. Rather, these bears are a symbol of China’s rich culture and history. One would say these bears are the top diplomats of China’s rich culture and society, thus coining the term “panda diplomacy.” Despite the high popularity these creatures have with the public, the clock is ticking away until the giant pandas have to be returned to China. As early as 1936 through the end of 2024, four American zoos have had the privilege of being the homes to giant pandas. Millions of visitors, memories, and dollars have been invested in the main attraction; however, the zoos are now allowing for their contracts with Beijing to expire and return the pandas to China. The United States, nor any other country, own the giant Pandas; rather, China leases them around the world, the base price being one million dollars a year. If the pandas reproduce, another $400,000 is added to this price, and then add the price of the zoo maintenance for the pandas such as the space, food, medical care, resulting in a pretty high total cost. Beyond the high cost, the departure of pandas across America should concern policymakers and American citizens as this is a sign of panda diplomacy becoming a distant memory.


Panda at the Atlanta Zoo. Credit: Megan Litz

In the best interests of China, allowing the giant pandas to stay in the United States could retain the last ounce of “good graces” in American society and culture.

By taking away the “top Chinese diplomats,” aka the giant pandas, this would only further the strained tensions between the US and China. The United States must also fight for the pandas to stay in its borders because while the CCP may be considered an adversary, the country of China, its culture, and its people are not. China is a large country with a long history and loss of people which gives it its strength and should be respected and recognized across the world just like any other nation. The problem is that the people do not get to dictate how their government makes its domestic and foreign policy decisions, including whether or not to allow for the pandas to remain in other countries. Bottom line, these pandas are the last prominent remnant of China in American culture with panda diplomacy becoming but a distant memory. //


Megan Litz

 

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