In an incredibly informative report for Vox, writer Dara Lind explains the concept of “Panda Diplomacy” and how these beautiful Ailuropodae have become an integral form of currency to the financial and international concerns of China. Lind uses the example of Bao Bao, a giant panda who was sent back to China, despite the fact that she was born in the United States.
China has given pandas to foreign powers long before the 20th century, but the most current iteration of panda diplomacy began in the 1950s with its gifting of Ping Ping and An An to the Soviet Union. Today, pandas are no longer gifted, but rather loaned to other countries, particularly those with which China wants to develop and strengthen relations. Not only are pandas an iconic symbol of China and its culture, they also act as diplomats in China’s global political strategy.