Chinese president signals more pandas will be coming to the United States

by Ethan Kim
Sino-American relations

Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a significant gesture, announced late Wednesday that China intends to send additional pandas to the United States, emphasizing their role as “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.”

During a dinner speech with business leaders, President Xi expressed China’s readiness to continue collaborating with the United States on panda conservation, aiming to strengthen the bonds between the two nations, particularly addressing the desires of Californians.

While specific details regarding the timing and location of this panda exchange were not disclosed, President Xi hinted that the next pair of pandas is likely destined for California, possibly San Diego.

Pandas have symbolized the enduring friendship between the United States and China since 1972 when Beijing generously gifted a pair to the National Zoo in Washington, preceding the normalization of bilateral relations. Subsequently, China loaned pandas to other U.S. zoos, with the proceeds contributing to panda conservation efforts.

Recent developments saw three giant pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and their cub Xiao Qi Ji, embarking on their journey back to China from the National Zoo just eight days ago. Consequently, only four pandas remain in the United States, all residing in the Atlanta Zoo.

In his speech, President Xi noted the reluctance of many Americans, especially children, to bid farewell to the pandas, reflecting the special connection they share with these iconic animals. He also acknowledged the anticipation of the San Diego Zoo and the people of California in welcoming pandas once more.

President Xi’s visit to California, where he attended a summit of Indo-Pacific leaders and met with President Joe Biden, did not initially include mention of pandas in his public remarks earlier in the day.

Recent years witnessed a strain in bilateral relations, with Chinese citizens calling for the return of giant pandas amid unverified claims of mistreatment of these cherished creatures in U.S. zoos. However, signs of reconciliation emerged as President Xi and President Biden met in San Francisco, engaging in productive discussions spanning four hours. They pledged cooperation on anti-narcotics efforts, the resumption of high-level military communications, and the expansion of people-to-people exchanges.

The National Zoo’s exchange agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, originally set to expire in early December, faced challenges in renewal or extension negotiations. In 2019, the San Diego Zoo returned its pandas, and this year saw the last panda from the Memphis, Tennessee, zoo returning to China.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Panda Diplomacy

Q: What is the significance of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement regarding pandas in the United States?

A: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement signifies the continuation of “panda diplomacy” as a means of strengthening the friendship between China and the United States. Pandas have long been regarded as symbols of goodwill and cooperation between the two nations.

Q: Are there specific details provided about when and where the new pandas will be sent to the United States?

A: President Xi did not offer specific details about the timing or location of the pandas’ arrival in the United States. However, he suggested that California, possibly San Diego, is a likely destination for the next pair of pandas.

Q: What is the historical context of pandas in U.S.-China relations?

A: Pandas have played a significant role in U.S.-China relations since 1972 when China gifted a pair of pandas to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. This gesture preceded the normalization of bilateral relations and marked the beginning of panda diplomacy. China has since loaned pandas to other U.S. zoos, with proceeds supporting panda conservation programs.

Q: How many pandas currently reside in the United States, and what prompted their departure?

A: As of now, only four pandas remain in the United States, all located in the Atlanta Zoo. The departure of three giant pandas from the National Zoo to China was prompted by a decision to return them as part of panda conservation efforts.

Q: How did the recent meeting between President Xi and President Biden impact U.S.-China relations and the panda exchange?

A: The meeting between President Xi and President Biden in San Francisco yielded positive outcomes, with both leaders pledging to reduce tensions and cooperate on various fronts, including anti-narcotics efforts. While pandas were not initially discussed, this meeting marked a step towards stabilizing bilateral relations, which could have implications for future panda exchanges.

Q: What led to the demand for the return of giant pandas by the Chinese public in recent years?

A: The demand for the return of giant pandas by the Chinese public in recent years was influenced by unverified allegations that U.S. zoos mistreated these animals, considered China’s “national treasure.” These concerns were amplified on Chinese social media.

Q: Is there information about the status of the exchange agreement between the National Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association?

A: The exchange agreement between the National Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association was set to expire in early December, and negotiations to renew or extend the deal did not produce results, as of the information available.

Q: Which U.S. zoos have previously returned pandas to China?

A: The San Diego Zoo returned its pandas to China in 2019, and the last panda from the Memphis, Tennessee, zoo also went back to China earlier this year.

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More about Panda Diplomacy

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PandaFanatic November 16, 2023 - 9:22 am

Pandas, so cute, we miss them!

ZooLover November 16, 2023 - 9:39 am

San Diego, pandas come? Exciting!

EconGeek November 16, 2023 - 11:19 am

Pandas bring $$ for conservation, good!

SeriousObserver November 16, 2023 - 12:44 pm

Xi Jinping talk panda, but when? where?

CryptoKing November 16, 2023 - 1:25 pm

Crypto not in article, why talk pandas?

PolicyWonk November 16, 2023 - 4:44 pm

Biden, Xi talk pandas & politics, strange mix.

HistoryBuff November 16, 2023 - 11:58 pm

Panda diplomacy, history lesson, interesting!

JohnDoe November 17, 2023 - 1:41 am

Oh wow, pandas back in the US? Cool!

WordJumble November 17, 2023 - 3:30 am

3 pandas left in US, me sad!

InfoSeeker November 17, 2023 - 6:31 am

What’s panda exchange deal status? Unclear!


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