Look no further than the encouraging rhetoric about pandas.
Xi, who called the giant panda bears “envoys of friendship” between China and the United States, said during a Wednesday speech in front of business leaders that giant pandas might be coming back to California soon. He said China was prepared to “continue our cooperation on panda protection with the U.S.,” and said he intended to do his best to “meet the wishes of the Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples.”
Specifically, Xi suggested his country may send pandas back to the San Diego Zoo, but didn’t divulge any details about when a transfer might happen. His remarks come just days after three pandas were sent back to China from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Those bears were on loan from China, and negotiations to reach an extension on the loan have gone nowhere, according to the Associated Press, marking another sign of fractured relations between the two countries.
But this week, after meeting with Biden on (technically) more important matters, Xi seemed to motion toward a diplomatic olive branch: pandas.
“I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to send them off,” Xi said of the three pandas returned from Washington, D.C. “I also learned San Diego Zoo and the Californian people very much look forward to welcoming pandas back.”
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“It was a surprise part of President Xi’s speech last night to the US-China Business Council, in the middle of his speech — of course, we were all listening with headphones and translation — it sounded to us like he was offering to send pandas to the San Diego Zoo,” she said. “I know the governor chatted about it with him after, but I think it’s a conversation that’s happening.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the city’s “obsession” with pandas began in 1987, when two were sent there for a six-month period. The outlet reported that 3.8 million people visited the zoo that year. The last giant panda at the zoo was shipped off in 2019, the outlet reported, and with the departure of the three bears from the National Zoo, there are only four remaining giant pandas in the U.S., all at a zoo in Atlanta.