Welcome to the Boeing Panda House
What's the ideal way to demonstrate the strong bond between the United States and China?
March 2, 2000
Less than two weeks after U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators agreed on November 15 to permit China’s entry into the WTO, the National Zoo’s last remaining giant panda, Hsing-Hsing, was euthanized because of poor health. No matter how great the animal’s suffering, it would have augured poorly for the future of U.S.-Chinese relations had the panda been put to death before the WTO agreement was in place.
With the cold war long over, China and the United States are finally taking stock of each other as they really are — huge economic markets.
Hsing-Hsing and his mate, Ling-Ling, who passed away back in 1992, were given to the National Zoo by the Chinese government in 1972. The gift of two rare giant pandas was China’s show of gratitude for President Nixon having officially recognized the government of Mainland China — and, of course, shunning the other Chinese government in Taiwan.
For much of Hsing-Hsing’s 28-year life, the U.S.-China alliance was based on political convenience — a counterbalance to each nation’s uneasy relationship with the Soviet Union. But now, with the cold war long over, China and the United States are finally sizing each other up for what they really are — huge economic markets.
Already, the prospect of an economically powerful China has many U.S. politicians nervous. Neo-protectionists such as Pat Buchanan envision whole sectors of the U.S. industrial base suddenly vanishing into China. Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush has said that the United States should no longer regard China as a “strategic partner” — but as a “competitor.”
The Chinese seem to have taken this new era of economic competition to heart. China wants the National Zoo to cough up $8 million over ten years for a new pair of pandas, far higher than the $2.5 million the Zoo has offered.
But, with corporate sponsorship of sports teams and stadiums so common these days, there is an easy solution. The U.S. companies that pushed and prodded for China’s entry into the WTO could pony up the money for a new pair of pandas, and tourists from all over could soon be taking snapshots of the “Kodak Pandas” as they romp and play in the National Zoo’s new “Boeing Panda Research Station.”