Birth of two pandas in France: is China benefiting from “panda diplomacy”?

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The birth of two pandas this Monday at Beauval Zoo is good news for the conservation of the species. Huang Huan, a female on loan from China, has given birth to three pandas since her arrival. Events long used by China as diplomatic tools.

When they are born, they are not very big and not necessarily very beautiful… but in a few months the world will only look at them. This Monday, August 2, two pandas were born at the Beauval Zoo in the Loir-et-Cher. Born to the world by Huang Huang, a woman provided by France to China, the twins weighed only 149 and 128 grams at birth. The weights are inversely proportional to the diplomatic position held by the pandas for the Middle Kingdom until recently.

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Panda twins born at Tokyo Zoo.

In 2016, according to the independent organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the panda went from “endangered” to “vulnerable”. With the joyful announcement of the birth of two Beauvals, China is at the forefront of the international stage and may want to capitalize on this renewed sympathy: a strategy called “panda diplomacy” that Beijing has used frequently since the 1970s.

“Business in question”

“It helps divert attention from the big problems coming from China,” deciphers Valerie Niquet, French geopolitics scholar and China specialist, for Midi Sending. “Not only pandas come from there. There are also viruses that have dramatic consequences for the entire planet. So it’s clear that talking about panda cubs serves both China’s economic interests regarding these zoos and an aspect of Chinese diplomacy that should be kinder, but I’m not sure it’s as effective today as it once was,” admits Valerie Nike, “to be in the past.”

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Canada: Two zoo pandas sent back to China due to coronavirus

For François Godmann, Advisor for Asia at the Montaigne Institute contacted Midi Sending, the use of this animal for economic and political purposes is no longer very relevant. “There was a long period during which zoos fought for pandas,” the adviser explains. “For China, it was a source of income, because lending to a panda is very expensive: a million dollars per animal and per year. But this is a business.” this is being questioned because in the wild the panda is evolving again and the species is now well protected,” he confirms. Today, only 1,864 specimens live in the wild in China, but this figure has increased by 17% in 10 years.

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Phase 5: Since the 2000s, this has been a real soft power tool. According to sources, the ships are being leased to countries chosen by Beijing for $1 million per panda per year.
Reserves are also multiplied in ud83cudde8ud83cuddf3 to protect the species. pic.twitter.com/70jZJPwi3B

— Antoine Bondaz (@AntoineBondaz) August 2, 2021

Today’s Diversified Diplomacy

From a diplomatic point of view, the strategy of creating a good image created by pandas has outlived its time. “This panda diplomacy on the part of China was very important in the 1970s, in particular, to establish rapprochement with the United States and Japan in 1972,” emphasizes Antoine Bonda, a China specialist at the Foundation for Strategic Studies. But this diplomacy was aimed only at developed countries. However, this is not very characteristic of today’s Chinese diplomatic efforts, which are diverse and interested in developing countries, ”he confirms.

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Phase 2: 1970s, convergence phase. China donated ud83cuddfaud83cuddf8 and ud83cuddefud83cuddf5 in 1972, then ud83cuddecud83cudde7 and ud83cudde9ud83cuddea in 1974.

It is First Lady Pat Nixon who welcomes the fruits of the agreement reached after her husband’s historic 1971 visit to Beijing. pic.twitter.com/rMRIfH9aX0

— Antoine Bondaz (@AntoineBondaz) August 2, 2021

For the researcher, the political and diplomatic turn of the Middle Empire, which has become a leading economic competitor on a global level, falls on the 2010s: “The potential for deepening relations is mainly with developing countries for several reasons: they are sometimes less suspicious, development aid leverage and commercial contributions are more important, and they can’t necessarily afford not to improve their relationship with China, the researcher lists. These are growing markets.”

Thus, China no longer needs the sympathy capital of polar and black bears. Therefore, it is better to take advantage of those pandas that are currently present in our zoos. Beijing may soon refuse to provide new samples.

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