Please Don't Politicise China's Friendly Pandas

Spokesperson of the Chinese Consulate General in Edinburgh wrote to the Scotsman in light of the disinformation about China’s pandas. The letter was published on the Scotsman Letters page on 26 August. The full text is as follows:

It is hard to believe that 300 years after witchcraft was ended in Scotland, the word “curse” is applied to serious matters such as panda protection cooperation.

Reading through the narrative of how the “panda curse” affected said world leaders, one would actually find these “examples” had nothing to do with pandas at all (“Is Nicola Sturgeon at risk of succumbing to the ‘curse’ of China’s panda diplomacy?”, 17 August ).

The giant panda symbolises friendship and peace. China provides pandas to other countries as a form of international collaboration on panda conservation, while trade or commercial interests have never been a factor for consideration. Currently, China is working with 22 zoos over 18 countries on panda research. The funds raised from cooperation have all been used for the conservation of endangered species. The partnership has led to tremendous progress towards understanding the biology of pandas, promoting public awareness of biodiversity conservation and people-to-people understanding.

The Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, host of the gift pandas to the US in 1972 and where Alastair Stewart says the “panda curse” began, has maintained half-century cooperation with China on panda conservation, and its director has hailed the cooperation as one of the greatest conservation successes in history.

Since Tian Tian and Yang Guang settled in Edinburgh Zoo, experts from China and Scotland have carried out multiple research projects, organised technical and personnel exchanges and supported public education campaigns like “Beyond the Panda”. The pandas have not only been a fantastic attraction, but an important part of efforts to save the threatened species.

Scotland is home to not just the UK’s only giant pandas but also the largest collection of Chinese plants cultivated outside China. The Chinese government values these scientific links with Scotland, and hopes both sides provide a good environment, naturally and socially, for the flourishing of these species.

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