In a few short weeks, the giant panda bears at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. will be catching a ride on a custom built-out FEDEX 777F plane – dubbed the “Panda Express” – back to China. The China Wildlife Conservation research lease/contract on the family of three giant pandas – Mei Xiang (25 year old female), Tian Tian (26 year old male) and Xiao Qi Ji (3 year old) – has expired, and the People’s Republic of China is pointedly not renewing this lease due to deteriorating relations with the United States.
The China Wildlife Conservation has already collected other pandas from San Diego and Memphis zoos – with the last panda bears in Atlanta scheduled for departure early next year. In addition, China will snatch up its precious pandas from Edinburgh in the United Kingdom in December…as the PRC slowly continues to collect the endangered species back from zoos of “unfriendly” parties. Australia is next on the block, but no decision has yet been finalized.
With only approximately 1,900 of the bears left in the wild – in southeast China and the Tibetan plateau – and 600 in captivity, these scarce animals have proven to be rare tokens of Chinese diplomatic goodwill. The presence of giant pandas at any zoo facility typically boosted attendance and fundraising astronomically to the tune of millions of dollars. These funds provided an important lifeline to zoos during times of fiscal hardship, with the pandas themselves entertaining tens of thousands of visitors, pumping vast sums into local economies.
By next year, the United States will be panda free, the first time since 1972, when two pandas were gifted to First Lady Patricia Nixon. The story goes as she visited China with President Richard Nixon on his historic trip, she commented on how much she was fond of panda bears. The Chinese premier at the time, Zhou, replied, “I will give you some.” Nixon gave the Chinese a pair of oxen. After preparing, the bears arrived with much hype about “Panda Diplomacy” to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Wa D.C. After many years, the male and female pandas failed to mate and sadly died in captivity – but the Chinese replaced the pandas in 2000. The “new” pandas, who are returning to China, sired a male panda – Xiao – who is also scheduled to depart due to the expired lease. This lease was, in part, designed to study and enhance the mating habits of the pandas, who, even though their habitat is threatened in China, also typically do not mate when the females ovulate. This lends to the extreme problem of the bears being so rare and on the constant verge of extinction. But, true to Chinese form, rather than renew the leases globally with allied Western countries that could benefit the species, the cancellation looks to another spiteful act by the PRC at a very petty, but important, level.
Or is it?
From the abysmal “Alaska Summit” hastily thrown together by all accounts by Secretary of State’s Atony Blinker’s staff at the dawn of the Biden presidency, this administration consistently trips over itself in in ineptitude in dealing with the PRC. Whether a ham-handed or weak “show of force” or tepid statements on U.S. resolve in the Pacific region – China does not take the Biden administration seriously at any level. This is evident at Chinese representatives already being dismissive of any Biden/Xi future meetings, indicating they will not be productive.
Currently, while the administration and legacy media are flailing to force the new speaker of the House, Johnson, and his Republican Conference – and many in the Democrat caucus – to combine Israeli/Ukrainian aid packages and seek aid to Taiwan simultaneously as war rages in the Middle East – the pandas are still scheduled to catch a plane. While it may seem cute (flying pandas!) the underlying and extreme failure of this administration and its NGO proxies to secure a small diplomatic symbolic “win” of maintaining something so integral to the U.S.–Chinese dialogue is astonishing.
This critical failure shows what a colossal dysfunctional state department Chinese apparatus is at play. At the very least, deputy assistant secretaries, section heads, Smithsonian staff and White House personnel involved in this mess should be dismissed or reprimanded. It should not go unpunished or unnoticed. This serious failure to maintain a modicum of civility with the Chinese people by maintaining goodwill by using “Panda Diplomacy” is yet another failure of the Biden administration’s team to allow things to fester and spill out into crisis that could be avoided through simple acts. This is certainly one of them.
As war rages rages in the Middle East, the current diplomatic corps needs to remember that little things matter, and even the simplest of agreements can prevent future conflicts by creating mutual beneficial dialogue – even about panda bears.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of American Liberty News.