Pandas. So cute and cuddly, right? WRONG!
Well, they are stupidly cute, but they’re being used by the Chinese Communist Party in a way that is terribly wrong.
The CCP loans out pandas to zoos in countries that it wants to have a good relationship with. It’s part of a long-game PR stunt called “panda diplomacy.” Not only does it build the relationship, but the CCP also wants people to associate pandas with China. See, since pandas are cute and cuddly, so must be China! And by extension, the CCP must be lovable as well.
So there’s a very intentionally propaganda message behind all the pandas in foreign zoos around the world.
The modern day incarnation of this “panda diplomacy” began in the 1950s. China gave 23 pandas to 9 different countries in just three decades. The highest profile ones were the two Mao Zedong gave Richard Nixon after his historic visit to China in 1972. But then Chinese officials realized: Why give pandas as gifts when you can rent them out and make a profit?
So now other countries can rent a panda from China, with a maximum lease of 10 years. Plus, the zoo needs to pay the Chinese government $1,000,000 per year for each pair of pandas. Plus, if those pandas have a baby, the zoo has to pay the Chinese government a baby tax of $600,000—not including the expenses related to actually getting the pandas to breed. (And guess what? It’s really hard to get them to breed.) And if a panda dies in a zoo’s care, it has to pay the Chinese government a death fee of $400,000.
So the CCP wants you to love it, and is taking advantage of these poor, cute, cuddly creatures to make itself look good.