Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Politics & Govt
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Published on April 19, 2024
SF Zoo to Welcome Giant Pandas; Mayor Breed's China Visit Ends in 'Panda Diplomacy'Source: Unsplash / Ilona Froehlich

Two pandas are packing their bags for the Bay Area as San Francisco Mayor London Breed announces the impending arrival of giant pandas to the city's zoo, a move marking a milestone in Sino-American relations. Breed, concluding a weeklong visit to China, has secured the first official giant panda residency for the city, a diplomatic move ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's upcoming visit to Beijing.

The pandas, that are China's cuddly ambassadors of goodwill known as 'Panda Diplomacy,' are expected to land in San Francisco next year in a move that Breed says reflects the deep cultural ties between China and the populous Chinese and Asian American Pacific Islander communities in the city, the revelatory plans unfold just days before Secretary Blinken's expected dalliance with Beijing diplomacy and serves as a tender gesture in the midst of taut trade talks and tech tussles. The Mayor Breed's office released an official statement noting "the opportunity to build a stronger, lasting relationship between China and San Francisco," cementing the initiative as more than a mere exchange of wildlife.

San Francisco's zoo last hosted pandas temporarily during the 1984 Olympic Games – a visit that quadrupled the zoo's attendance, demonstrating the immense draw of these rare creatures. The city is now preparing to welcome the pandas permanently and has begun preliminary planning for the panda enclosure, with engineers from both the San Francisco and Beijing zoos collaborating on designs, according to Mayor Breed's announcement on the city's news site. Moreover, a delegation from China's National Forestry and Grassland Administration and the China Wildlife Conservation Association is due to arrive in May to discuss the next steps toward creating a home fit for these envoys of friendship.

Breed's journey across China, from Hong Kong to Beijing, not only served to secure the panda deal but also leveraged the city's standing in crucial sectors such as artificial intelligence and electric vehicles and enhanced cooperation in areas strengthening the Chinese connection to San Francisco, she met with various Chinese officials including President Xi Jinping's diplomatic head, reaffirming Liu Jianchao's point that "The close relationship between China and San Francisco is a vivid portrayal of the close intermingling of interests between China and the US," as per details shared by the South China Morning Post. These recent exchanges, including high-profile communications and the planned visit of Blinken, suggest a slow yet hopeful reconciliation in an era where trade wars and tech disputes have become the norm.