Currently, it takes some time to respond to comments because I have some other things I have to prioritize.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Giant Panda - symbol of China?

In 1972, Japan and China normalized their diplomatic relationship. As tokens of friendship, the Communist Party of China gifted two giant pandas to Ueno Zoo in Tokyo.
The incident triggered what is called “panda boom” here in Japan and it’s no exaggeration that the media frantically broadcasted every single day of them.

CPC has utilized the giant panda as a diplomatic method (called “panda diplomacy”) to enhance international relationship.
When the two pandas were accepted by Japan, China was experiencing the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which hideously damaged China’s international reputation.
The two pandas, at least partially, worked out to improve Japanese people’s impression toward China.

Another two pandas arrived at Ueno Zoo on February 21, 2011. What is assumable is that the Communist Party of China has sensed Japanese people's deteriorated impression of China, and the government tried another "Panda Diplomacy" on Japan.

This time the situation is a little different. Japan will pay about 900,000 dollars to China annually, and it's 10 years long contract between Japan and China rather than a gift from China.
In case a panda dies during the ten years contract, Japan must compensate for the loss with some 550,000 dollars. If the couple of giant panda happen to give birth to babies, Japan must hand them over to China.
I wonder if this contract is financially viable.

Nowadays, the giant panda is internationally acknowledged as a Chinese national treasure, and it’s recognized as a symbol of China.

However, there are some noteworthy facts about the giant panda in relation to Tibet.
Do you know where most giant pandas live?
Qinling Mountains in the Southern part of Shaanxi province.
Southern area of Gansu Province.
Min Mountains in the northern area of Sichuan Province.
The giant panda is said to predominantly live in the areas given above.

These areas are regarded as China’s territory or at least CPC claims so. However, when Tibet was still a sovereign country, the areas were just around the boarder between China and Tibet. Some people insist that most giant pandas live in Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture which used to be a part of Tibet until 1955.

Location of Ngawa
Habitat of the giant panda
The exact habitat of the giant panda is out of my jurisdiction, but there’s no doubting the fact that the giant panda used to be populated in Tibet too.
As you can see in the map bellow, Tibet was gradually invaded by China finally to be conquered in 1965. What is now called “Tibet Autonomous Region” is just one region of Tibet that fought to the end against China.
The sequence of the invasion of Tibet

Name of the region Annexation Population Tibetan proportion
1. Tenzhu Tibetan Autonomous County 1950 220,000    29.87%
2. Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture 1953 640,000    51.44%
3. Muli Tibetan Autonomous County 1955 130,000    32.39%
4. Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous           Prefecture 1955 850,000    53.72%
5. Qinghai Province 1955 5,090,000    20.90%
6. Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture 1957 880,000    78.37%
7. Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture 1957 350,000    33.12%
8. Tibet Autonomous Region 1965 2,670,000    93.00%

The above picture and the data from

Taking into account of the historical facts, the acknowledgement of the giant panda solely as a Chinese national treasure is equivalent to the justification of the China’s past and ongoing invasion of Tibet.
I can not and should not deny that the giant panda is a Chinese national treasure, but we must recognize the panda as a Tibetan national treasure at the same time. Otherwise, we will indirectly contribute to the justification of China’s invasion of Tibet.


  1. Oh my gosh, i love Pandas! They are so cute, but i think using them in such a way is wrong. We had a similar incident that had us paying 1,000,000 dollars a year just to display two pandas in a zoo. If the Panda had babies they would also belong to China, and we would have to pay for them as well.

    Pandas are important to China, just as the bald eagle is to us, but charging so much money seems more of an insult than an attempt to improve relations. Panda bears came from more places than just China, it's well known that they used to live in Tibet and they should have a say with China on issues involving Pandas.

  2. Are you alright Mr Nasaki? I heard about the horrible tsunami that hit Japan and i worried if you got hurt :(

  3. i hope to see a panda and hold a baby panda... hope you are alright with the tsunami and all..

  4. I hear a lot of Japanese conservatives insist on panda's being exclusively Tibetan and I was doing some research on this. Thank you for a nuanced explanation. It's very much lacking in political discussions of all languages on the Internet.