Communist Chinese Panda Diplomacy Returns to San Diego Zoo

Communist Chinese Panda Diplomacy Returns to San Diego Zoo

A giant panda celebrates its second birthday in San Diego on Aug. 19, 2005. (Y Galindo/Zooilogical Society of San Diego via Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 2/28/2024


Panda diplomacy is back, this time at the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. A reminder: They’re not gifts, but loans. China will still own them and charge an estimated $1 million a year, plus $500,000 for any cubs born.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said, “We expect the new round of cooperation can further enrich research results on vulnerable species like the giant panda, promote people-to-people exchanges and enhance friendship between people.” That’s as reported in the Global Times, an English language propaganda outfit close to the Chinese Communist Party.
The paper added: “The new round of research will focus on the prevention and control of major diseases for giant pandas, the protection of habitats and wild populations, the enhancement of investigation and monitoring capabilities, and the support for the construction of the China Giant Panda National Park. These efforts will establish an international academic exchange platform to promote exchanges in the protection of flagship species and umbrella species. They will also promote people-to-people exchanges between China and foreign countries, enhancing friendship between the peoples of all nations.
“Ensuring a healthy and safe giant panda population abroad is the most important premise and foundation for international cooperation.”
It’s all supposedly about international friendship and working together.

1972: The Beginning of Panda Diplomacy

A little background. In February 1972, President Richard Nixon traveled to communist China for his summit with Chairman Mao Zedong, the founder of the murderous communist regime. At a banquet in Beijing, First Lady Pat Nixon said to Premier Zhou Enlai of the pandas, “Aren’t they cute? I love them.” The No. 2 in the regime said, “I’ll give you some.”
In April, Mrs. Nixon celebrated the bears coming to Washington with a special ceremony. Every action of Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing was celebrated. People mourned every time one of their five cubs died. Although later, different pandas did give birth at the zoo.
I saw the pandamania first hand. That June, when I turned 17, my family took a summer vacation from Michigan to Washington, D.C. The whole city was gaga, with panda banners everywhere boasting their new home at the National Zoo. As the Washington Post headlined in 2022, “Giant pandas came to the zoo 50 years ago and changed D.C. forever.”
It was a brilliant communist propaganda triumph for a simple reason: As Mrs. Nixon enthused, pandas are really, really cute. Children clamor for them like teddy bears.
AP’s worshipful headline was typical of the new pandamania: “Black and white and adored all over. China pledges pair of pandas for San Diego Zoo.” The story: “China for the first time in more than two decades is sending pandas to the United States to the delight of the San Diego Zoo, which is preparing to receive a pair that could include a female descendent of Bai Yun and Gao Gao, two of the zoo’s former residents that were among the most reproductively successful panda mates in captivity.
“The China Wildlife Conservation Association said Thursday it also signed agreements with the zoo in the Spanish capital of Madrid, and is in talks with zoos in Washington, D.C., and Vienna, quelling fears that Beijing was ending its historic panda diplomacy with Western nations due to diplomatic tensions.”

Pandas and Tariffs

Tensions had been rising between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, trade, and other issues until dictator Xi Jinping met for a summit with President Biden last November. As I reported in The Epoch Times, “APEC Summit: Biden, Xi Agreement Will Not Stop Spiking Fentanyl Deaths.”
What better way to butter up Americans than sending more pandas? Doing so obviously also helps the president’s election efforts. He’s having enough trouble globally with the Ukraine War and conflicts in the Middle East, especially the Israel-Hamas War. He needs to cool things down.
But let’s also look at real policies involving China and the United States, as our country tries to claw back some of the industrial capacity shipped to them.
To counter that, CNN on Jan. 26 reported Mr. Biden has kept in place tariffs former President Donald Trump imposed in 2018, but eased in 2020 after a summit with Mr. Xi. But now, Mr. Trump is promising to increase tariffs to 10 percent overall, and perhaps double that for China, if voters put him back in the White House.
Establishment figures are attacking the Trump proposal. Doyle McManus wrote Feb. 26 in the Los Angeles Times, “If Donald Trump becomes president again, one of his first moves will take money out of your pocket just as a tax hike would.”
However, he and other critics didn’t note Mr. Trump likely would enact tax cuts in other areas to counteract the higher tariffs. This is not a new idea.
When Pat Buchanan was running for president in the 1990s, none other than supply-side taxcutter Jude Wanniski said such a swap would be ok. He wrote to Mr. Buchanan in 1997: “In your presidential campaign last year, you no doubt remember that I gave you a modicum of intellectual support for your idea of modestly raising tariffs and at the same time cutting income-tax and capgains [capital gains] in the U.S. Not that I advocated the idea, only that I was willing to tell journalists who asked, that your plan would not damage the economy.”
The government has to raise revenue somehow to pay for its enormous spending programs. While a huge tariff increase of 50 percent would slam the economy, one of 10 percent would not—provided taxes were cut. Indeed, for most of America’s existence, for federal revenue it depended on tariffs and selling land, not the income tax.
An income tax was imposed during the Civil War, but ended after. The income tax then was enacted only in 1913 with the horrible Sixteenth Amendment. Shifting somewhat away from the income tax back to tariffs, if done prudently, would be a reasonable reform. Whether such a reform is a good idea ought to be debated, not thrown away without discussion.
China, of course, doesn’t want higher tariffs. It enjoys the status quo and wants to reduce the recent tariffs and make sure there are no new tariffs.

Conclusion: Pandas Are Cute, but Beware of China

This is an incredibly dangerous period for America. As sending weapons and ammunition to both Ukraine and Israel has shown, U.S. industrial capacity just isn’t up to the job of replenishment. Real Clear Defense reported in January: “The United States military is severely short on high-end and artillery munitions at a crucial and strategic moment.”
That’s aside from the current debate over sending another $60 billion in aid to Kyiv. There just isn’t enough ammo to send them because many of the factories were sent to China.
Nobody wants war. But this is where a capable president, backed by ample arms supplies, could negotiate peace through strength. Instead, Beijing is being given every advantage.
Rome had bread and circuses to distract the people. The Chinese Communist Party’s version for Americans is sending us cheap stuff for Walmart shelves and pandas.
John Seiler

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is

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