Evolution of “Panda Diplomacy”
Through those years, China’s relationship with other countries has strengthened thanks to its unconventional diplomatic tradition. However, China has revised its panda-giving tradition in the early 1980s.
In the said revision, the pandas will be sent as 10-year loans and the country-on-loan would require paying a yearly fee to China. In addition, all panda cubs born from the pandas-on-loan will be declared Chinese citizens regardless of the place of birth.
Pandas were listed as “endangered species” in the 1980s, which is why the country had decided to revise its unique tradition. Because of this, China’s efforts seem to have paid off. Recently, pandas have been promoted from “endangered” to “vulnerable”.
In 1998, the US also revised its acceptance policy. It states, only one panda will be allowed to stay in the country, given that more than half of its yearly standard fee will be given for panda conservation. Recently, more countries have received pandas as part of China’s diplomatic tradition, including Taiwan, Japan, Germany, and Scotland among a few.
Initially, the pandas were given as gifts. But due to China’s changed policy, most of the pandas given 1984 onwards were most likely pandas “on loan”. In addition, another purpose of the policy change regarding panda-giving is to have a trade-off with the other countries in exchange for the pandas.
For example, China was able to loan pandas with Canada and Australia in exchange for oil and minerals. France also got their pandas in exchange for a nuclear deal, while Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore signed free-trade agreements in exchange for pandas-on-loan.
China’s Strongest Diplomatic Icon
Pandas are cute – no doubt about it – and modern China has apparently seen an opportunity in dealing with foreign countries to get the resources they need. At the same time, the unusual diplomatic tradition has paved the way to preserve the depleting number of pandas in the wild. And, it was effective. Pandas will continue to be China’s strongest diplomatic icon while strengthening its relations with other countries and encouraging trade.