If you haven’t already heard, the three pandas have been residents of the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., which has ended more than 50 years of showcasing pandas at the zoo.
The loan of the pandas is part of a program where pandas have been delighting audiences all over the world since the 1970s under the Nixon administration, and has been part of a diplomatic and cultural exchange between China, often referred to as “Panda Diplomacy.”
The question I have is now that nearly all of the pandas have been transported back to China, particularly when relations between the U.S. and China have been somewhat rocky over the past few years, what should we call this program now—“Panda Discord”?
If this is China’s way of somehow punishing or disrespecting the U.S., my concern is the panda’s return to China is the start of a slippery slope. What if this panda incident leads to some sort of cultural retaliation from the U.S.?
I mean, there’s a lot to choose from. Much of U.S. pop culture is wildly popular in China. Taylor Swift has over 100 music videos and hundreds of pages of live performances uploaded to YouKou, China’s version of YouTube. On my last trip to Shanghai, walking along the famous Bund, I stopped at a local Häagen-Dazs for a scoop of ice cream, which is promoted in various Chinese ads by actor Bradley Cooper. NBA football is a major fan favorite throughout China.
What happens if Taylor suddenly closes up shop in China? How will the China populace get their fill of songs describing her latest romantic adventures? What if Häagen-Dazs stops selling ice cream? No more scoops of butter pecan? Will China be able to survive only on condensed milk over shaved ice?
And what would we do with Disneyland Shanghai? What would we do, move it all back and set up shop in Disneyland Little Rock, Arkansas? If we really have to do it, maybe we can compromise, we’ll take back Pirates of the Caribbean and Buzz Lightyear’s Planet Rescue, but in return, we’ll ship out “It’s A Small World” to you as a replacement. How’s that for diplomacy?
Then what would China do in retaliation? All of a sudden, China’s up in arms about having “It’s a Small World” foisted upon them, they start getting serious.
No more iPhones or iPads. Both of those are made in China. You wouldn’t be reading this right now because right at this moment, I’d have to rush out and buy a PC if I was going to meet my deadline for this column.
No, no…it’s just not worth it. China needs their ice cream and the Pirates of the Caribbean and we need our iPhones and iPads. It turns out that the Smithsonian National Zoo is renovating their panda exhibit in the hopes that China will send a new pair of pandas in the future. Let’s hope that Panda diplomacy is alive and well, especially now that China’s President Xi is visiting with President Biden.
Here’s a thought. If we really want to engage in panda diplomacy, we can do a trade. For every panda China sends to the U.S., we’ll open up one Panda Express in China! A panda for a panda!
Hmm…just as a backup, Black Friday is just around the corner. Maybe there’ll be a sale on PCs.