A ‘fluffy’ display of friendship: China will send more pandas to the US

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China will send new pandas to the United Statesdescribing them as “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American people.”

“We are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States in panda conservation and do our best to satisfy the wishes of Californians to deepen friendly ties between our two peoples,” Xi said Wednesday during a dinner with business leaders.

The gesture came at the end of a day in which Xi and President Joe Biden held their first face-to-face meeting in a year and pledged to try to reduce tensions. Xi did not share additional details on when or where they could be provided. pandasbut seemed to suggest that The next pair of pandas is most likely to arrive in California, probably San Diego.

Pandas have long been the symbol of US-China friendship since Beijing gifted a pair of pandas to Washington’s National Zoo in 1972, before the normalization of bilateral relations. Beijing later loaned the pandas to other U.S. zoos, and Proceeds went to panda conservation programs.

The three giant pandas at the National Zoo, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their puppy Xiao Qi Ji, began their long trip to China eight days ago. After his departure, only four pandas remain in the United States, at Zoo Atlanta.

“I was told that many Americans, especially children, were very reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas and went to the zoo to see them off,” Xi said in his speech. She added that she learned that the San Diego Zoo and people in California “look forward to welcoming the pandas back.”

Xi is in California to attend a summit of Indo-Pacific leaders and for his meeting with Biden. She did not mention pandas during her public comments earlier in the day while he met with Biden.

When bilateral relations began to sour in recent years, Members of the Chinese public began demanding the return of the giant pandas. Unproven accusations that U.S. zoos mistreated pandas, known as China’s “national treasure,” flooded China’s social media.

But relations showed signs of stabilization when Xi traveled to San Francisco to meet with Biden. The two men met for about four hours Wednesday at the picturesque Filoli Historic House and Garden, where they agreed to cooperate in the fight against narcotics, resume high-level military communications and expand people-to-people exchanges.

The National Zoo’s exchange agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association was scheduled to expire in early December and negotiations to renew or extend the agreement did not produce results.

The San Diego Zoo returned its pandas in 2019, and the last bear at the Memphis, Tennessee, zoo went home earlier this year.