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Panda Diplomacy

by on May 15, 2012

In 2011, Scotland became the most recent country to receive Chinese pandas as a sign of cooperation and friendship between the two states.

China’s use of pandas as tools of public diplomacy took its beginning as early as the 7th century when the country presented Japan with two of the animals. Panda diplomacy was revived in the 1950s and arguably reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s, with the most ground-breaking case of the practice taking place in 1972. As Mao Zedung met with Richard Nixon after 25 years of isolation between China and the United States during the Cold War, China gave the United States two pandas as a sign of goodwill and friendship ( and

Two years later, the Republic also presented the United Kingdom with two of the animals as the doors to the West were slowly being opened (

Subsequently, an array of states, such as Australia, Canada, following a series of trade agreements, and most recently Scotland, have received a pair of the furry Chinese diplomats (Zhu, 2010, 11, and

Even Taiwan, with which China has had an incredibly strained relationship, accepted two pandas in 2008, after initially having rejected the offer in 2006, as a symbol of diplomatic ties being mended between the countries (Zhu, 2010, 11.)

In this way, China has arguably made use of pandas as peace offerings, to mend and strengthen diplomatic relations, with both foreign states and publics, and promote interstate cooperation throughout the world.

Nowadays however, the pandas are no longer given away but offered on loan, as they are considered an endangered species with only 1600 left in the wild (

Between 1941 and 1982, China gave 23 pandas to nine different countries. 


Zhu, Z. (2010), China’s New Diplomacy – Rationale, Strategies and Significance, Ashgate Publishing Ltd., Surrey, England.

1,300 Years of Global Diplomacy Ends for China’s Giant Pandas (2007), the Guardian, accessed 10th May 2012.

A History of Panda Diplomacy (2011), the Telegraph, accessed 10th May 2012.

Harper in China: Pandas and More Trade Agreements (2012), the Star, accessed 10th May 2012.–harper-in-china-pandas-and-more-trade-agreements

Tian Tian and Yang Gyang the Giant Pandas Land in Scotland (2011), the Telegraph, accessed 10th May 2012.


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One Comment
  1. cal0265 permalink

    Very interesting account… I was not aware of this Chinese tradition. But can’t this also cause a negative impact in their image since pandas are almost extinct and not many measures have been implemented to stop their extinction?

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