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Watch: First Giant Panda Born in South Korea Departs for China, Leaving Thousands in Tears

Image by lzf via Depositphotos

Before enduring a send-off fit for a royal, Fu Bao, the first giant panda born in South Korea, gained immediate national interest — doubling the number of visitors to Everland theme park overnight.

Many residents knew the panda’s presence wouldn’t last forever due to China’s “panda diplomacy”, which entails loaning giant pandas to signify friendship or strengthen current relations. 

Image by leungchopan via Depositphotos

On April 3rd, 2024, Fu Bao’s residence across the border had ended, causing thousands to flood the streets, the sorry setting amplified by the moodiness of a grey and rainy sky. 

Drops weren’t only coming from the sky; attendees, too, cried; tears poured down their cheeks, eventually joining the puddle beneath them. It was a day of mourning. The public reaction was reminiscent of the death of a monarch — streets were filled, patriotism was abundant, and emotions ran high. 

YouTube video
South Koreans hold tearful farewell to beloved panda before her departure to China“, Source: Youtube, Uploaded: AP Archive

China’s Panda Diplomacy

Image by anekoho via Depositphotos

Deeply rooted in Chinese history, “panda diplomacy” originates from the astute Tang Dynasty, whose unforgiving reign covered three centuries (618 AD to 907 AD). 

Whether a token of goodwill or an attempt to strengthen relationships, China has been loaning or gifting pandas for thousands of years, using it to formulate allies, strengthen treaties, and promote a friendly public image. 

For the Chinese Government, loaning a panda goes far beyond the desire to establish bonds; they see it as an opportunity to showcase their nation’s national treasure — the Panda — with the hope of strengthening their public image.

Giant panda bear falls asleep during the rain in a forest after eating bamboo. Image by Sandermeertinsphoto via Depositphotos

Playful, cuddly, and charming, pandas’ innocence resonates with many, and China knows it. Albeit an animal, pandas like Fu Bao are an ambassador of Chinese culture and attempt to divert people’s attention from the country’s many ongoing public problems.

They see it as a chance for other nations to paint a prettier picture of their country, a moment to adore them as much as the furry animal they send their way. 

There are rumours that America’s San Diego Zoo is next in line to be a loaned giant panda. We’ll have to wait and see.

Chengdu, Sichuan, China. Image by DmitryRukhlenko via Depositphotos

It’s no coincidence that the number of visitors skyrocketed in South Korea, and I’m sure the San Diego Zoo will experience the same delight. Having carried out this act for thousands of years, its effectiveness in portraying a welcoming public image while attracting thousands of onlookers has been proven time and time again. It’s a win-win for both China and the chosen state. 

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Image by leungchopan via Depositphotos
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