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Pandas Once Again Crucial in U.S.-China Relations

Posted on Dec 3, 2013

Proving again that being a first lady of a P5+1 nation is a heady role indeed, with all the outfit-matching and advanced-degree-downplaying and whatnot, two top spouses from a pair of uneasy superpower bedfellow countries just took up a diplomatic tradition inaugurated by Pat Nixon.

That would be “Panda Diplomacy.” Let’s let CNN walk us through the history to give this latest moment the full force of its import:

So-called “Panda Diplomacy” between the U.S. and China began in the 1970s, after U.S. President Richard Nixon’s landmark visit to China.

“Mrs. Nixon told Chinese Premier Zhou how much she enjoyed seeing the pandas at a Chinese zoo,” Obama says in the YouTube video, “and on the spot the premier offered a pair of pandas to the people of the United States.”


So, on Dec. 1, Peng Liyuan, first lady of the People’s Republic of China, and her American analogue, Michelle Obama, gave Panda Diplomacy a sorely needed reboot by commemorating the 100th day in the extrauterine life of Bao Bao, the miracle giant panda cub born at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Little Bao Bao, whose gender was still unknown at press time, represents a joint effort between the U.S. and China, and thus, as Michelle Obama explains below, functions “as a symbol of the growing connections between our two countries.”

“Many people love baby pandas as they love their own children,” Peng Liyuan cheerfully (and somewhat alarmingly) alleges in her own tribute video below.

Soft-focus power, expertly wielded.

—Posted by Kasia Anderson


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