Harper succeeds where Trudeau failed in ‘panda diplomacy’

Andy Radia

History, particularly the story of the Trojan horse, has taught us to be wary of gifts from other countries.

But a gift we're expecting from an economic super power has created some international excitement.

According to a story in the Globe and Mail, China is about send Canada two panda bears.

"In a clear sign that relations between Beijing and Ottawa are as warm as ever despite the chill of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first three years in office, a pair of giant pandas — the offering that has long been a sign of goodwill in China's international dealings - are destined for the Toronto zoo," notes the article.

"Panda diplomacy" has been used to symbolize China's desire for better ties with foreign powers since the seventh century, when the Tang Dynasty sent a pair of the bamboo-munching bears to Japan. The warm-and-fuzzy tactic was revived by the Communist Party leadership in recent decades, most famously when Mao Zedong gifted Richard Nixon with a pair of pandas for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. President's breakthrough trip to China in 1972."

According to the Globe, Canada has never before received panda diplomats from China, though not for lack of effort.

Prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who made his inaugural trip to Beijing in 1973, badly wanted to bring home a pair of the bears to show his trip had been a success.

Trudeau went so as far as to deliver four beavers to China in hopes of provoking an exchange but to no avail.

The official announcement of the panda transfer is expected to happen next week when Prime Minister Harper leads a delegation to China.

While details of the trip have not yet been released, it's been reported that Harper will sign a handful of broad-strokes trade and investment-co-operation agreements during the five-day, three-city trip to the Middle Kingdom.

One of the regions on his itinerary is the Chongqing area, which is home to a panda preservation centre.

According to the National Post, three Canadian zoos — in Calgary, Toronto and Granby, Que. — would collectively "adopt" the two giant pandas.