San Francisco/Beijing, Nov 16 (EFE).- China’s President Xi Jingping indicated on Wednesday that Beijing is willing to send new pandas to the United States where only four remain following the recent return of three from Washington zoo.
Mei Xiang, one of the Washington DC’s three giant pandas, stares out of her shipping crate as she is loaded onto a special FedEx flight, at Dulles International Airport for their 19-hour flight to Beijing, China, in Dulles, Virginia, USA, 08 November 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/JIM LO SCALZO
Xi was speaking during a dinner with prominent American businessmen in San Francisco, where he had met with his US counterpart, Joe Biden, hours earlier on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“We are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation and do our best to meet the wishes of the Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples,” said Xi.
The gesture came after three giant pandas that lived in Washington DC’s Smithsonian National Zoo – Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub Xiao Qi Ji – were returned to China on Nov. 10 to the Wolong National Nature Reserve in the central province of Sichuan.
The agreement between the Smithsonian and China stipulated that Mei Xiang and Tian Tian had to return to China in their old age, while any cubs born abroad belong to Beijing and must also be sent to the Asian giant when they are between the ages of 2-4 years.
“I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas, and went to the zoo to see them off,” Xi said.
The president also appeared to suggest that new pandas could be sent to California.
Xi said that he had learned that “San Diego Zoo and the Californians very much look forward to welcoming pandas back,” and described the bears as “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.”
Following the return of the pandas from Washington, only four remain in the US, at Atlanta Zoo in Georgia. The two youngest will leave at the beginning of next year and the two eldest at the end of the year.
The situation led some observers to suggest the possible dismantling of panda diplomacy, which China began in the late 1950s, although it was not until 1972 when the first pandas were given to the US after a visit to Beijing by then-president Richard Nixon. EFE