OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
3:55 PM – Thursday, November 16, 2023
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced to American business moguls that Beijing will be sending pandas to American zoos.
On Wednesday evening, Xi said during a dinner speech with a number of U.S. business leaders that he plans to send more pandas to zoos across America, just a week after taking back three pandas from Washington D.C.’s National Zoo.
Xi indicated that he would be sending new pandas to the U.S. and called them “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.”
“We are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation, and do our best to meet the wishes of the Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples,” Xi announced during the dinner speech.
“I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas, and went to the zoo to see them off,” Xi added.
Wednesday’s dinner included U.S. business leaders such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Boeing CEO Stanley Deal, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, and Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day, according to a dinner program obtained by the press.
The Chinese president, who began his third five-year term in March, stated that the pandas would probably be sent to the San Diego Zoo in California, which is considered one of the best zoos in the U.S. and has hosted pandas in previous years.
“We obviously appreciated having them here,” White House spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday morning. “And we respect the sovereign decision that China made to move some of the pandas and, should the decision made by the PRC to restore some of the pandas, we would welcome that.”
Pandas have gradually become a representation of diplomacy for China, who initially gifted two pandas to the U.S. in 1972, before the relations became normalized.
Beijing has continued to lend pandas to the U.S. and additional countries, however, the bears are on a “strict lease program,” meaning that they eventually must return back to China based on a contract agreement.
Eight days ago, the three giant pandas at the National Zoo, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, started the long journey to China. Now, only four pandas remain in the U.S. at the Atlanta Zoo.
“I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas, and went to the zoo to see them off,” Xi said during his speech.
He added that he became aware that the San Diego Zoo and people in California “very much look forward to welcoming pandas back.”
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