Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

‘VIP’ Chinese Pandas arrive for new life in France [AFP]

Chinese public diplomacy: Pandas as agents of diplomacy and proxies for international relations.

And now, the French get a piece of panda action despite repeatedly ‘hurting the feelings’ the Chinese in recent times. Threatening to snub the Beijing Olympics, the disturbance of the Paris leg of the torch relay by pro-Tibetan militants, and the making of the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen come to mind.

Panda diplomacy has existed as far back as the 7th century AD with Tang dynasty Empress Wu Zetian sending a pair to the Japanese emperor. One thing not reported here is that the Pandas are not ‘given’ for an indefinite period. They’re typically on ten year loans with a standard loan fee of $1m and a provision that any offspring during the loan are property of the PRC.

For more, check out Pat Nixon and Panda Diplomacy.

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‘VIP’ Chinese Pandas arrive for new life in France
Source – Yahoo News, published Jan 16, 2012

PARIS (AFP) – Two Chinese pandas got a red-carpet welcome Sunday when they arrived in Paris for a new life in a country zoo after Beijing put aside its differences with France and extended the hand of bear diplomacy.

The giant black and white bears — dubbed Very Important Pandas by the French media — arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport from Sichuan province in the “Panda Express”, a Boeing 777 specially decorated with a panda motif.

China’s ambassador to Paris, a French member of parliament and zoo staff were on hand to greet them before the pair were whisked off in a truck with a police escort to their new home among the chateaux of the Loire valley.

Huan Huan (Happy) and Yuan Zi (Chubby) are the first pandas sent to France since 1973, when Yen Yen — who lived till 2000 — was given to then president Georges Pompidou along with another panda, which died shortly after arriving.

The latest furry ambassadors, specially selected for their breeding potential by their keepers in the city of Chengdu, are bound for Beauval zoo for a 10-year stay among the 4,600 other animals living there.

But the French public will have to wait until February 11 to get their first glimpse of the bears in their specially built 2.5 hectare (six acre) enclosure adorned with Chinese-style pagodas and marble lion statues.

“They enjoyed the trip, they ate a lot. They are starting to learn French and I am sure they will make lots more progress,” joked Chinese amabassador Kong Quan, adding that the bears were a symbol of French-Chinese friendship.

The three-year-old pandas were provided with toys and 50 kilos of fruit and bamboo to keep them occupied during the 11-hour flight, the transport company said.

The bear loan was sealed after years of top-level negotiations between China and France.

Relations between the two states have been strained in recent years by a series of events such as disturbance of the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay by pro-Tibet militants before the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

Beijing was also angered when France made Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen.

A deal on the endangered animals, famous for their reluctance to breed, was to have been announced at the G20 summit in the French resort of Cannes in November, but had to be delayed due to the eurozone crisis.

China is famed for its “panda diplomacy”, using the bears as diplomatic gifts to other countries. Just 1,600 remain in the wild in China, with some 300 others in captivity worldwide — mostly in China.

David Algranti, who was named a “pambassador” in 2010 and spent several weeks as the bears’ official guardian in Chengdu, was one of a handful of people given privileged access to the quarantined pandas.

“France is lucky to be getting these two, they are particularly lovable, and very good-looking,” he said. “Huan Huan sticks out her tongue a lot and Yuan Zi loves to climb, he’s quite sporty.”


Filed under: AFP, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Culture, European Union, France, Government & Policy, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, Panda Diplomacy, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Tourism

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