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China ends the practice of panda diplomacy

LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images After 1,300 years, China has decided it will no longer engage in “panda diplomacy” by giving away its giant pandas in order to improve its relations with foreign countries. “We will only be conducting research with foreign countries,” a state forestry administration spokesman said. It appears that the last panda “gift” was ...

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LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images

After 1,300 years, China has decided it will no longer engage in “panda diplomacy” by giving away its giant pandas in order to improve its relations with foreign countries.

“We will only be conducting research with foreign countries,” a state forestry administration spokesman said. It appears that the last panda “gift” was made to Hong Kong to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the island’s handover to China.

The policy change is likely to add to China’s fattening wallet. Now, the country will rent out its adorable black-and-white furballs for as much as $1 million a year on 10-year leases—with a bonus if the panda gives birth.

This could be a good thing. Given the explicit research and conservation aim of the new program, we may see more accountability for what happens to pandas after they go abroad. Plus, it won’t affect the recent APEC deal between Australia and China to bring two giant pandas to Australia’s Adelaide Zoo, which will be part of China’s 10-year lease program. Adelaide Zoo chief executive Chris West believes the high cost of leasing pandas is “perfectly understandable.” He adds, “Our interest as a zoo has been to support pandas in the wild, and any contribution that is made will do that.” If zoos and nature reserves are willing to pay the price, it’s likely they’ll want to protect their cuddly investments as carefully as possible.

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