U.S.-born panda cubs should belong to and stay at their birthplace, said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-N.C.), as she introduced an amendment that would prevent them from being sent to China.
“It’s high time the United States said ‘no’ to the Chinese Communist Party and its international propaganda campaign,” the congresswoman said in a Feb. 1 statement.
China has sent giant pandas as diplomatic gifts to foreign countries since 1941 and switched in the 1980s to payable loans concerning the dwindling numbers of the bears. Beijing later offered long-term loans of the adorable ambassadors, generally in pairs, at a current fee of $500,000 each, according to Mace. Yet the recipient country must agree to return the pandas, including their offspring—before they turn four for a breeding program—or their remains if they die.
“Whether born in the United States or in another country, pandas are considered the property of the Chinese government and must eventually return to China,” said the South Carolina lawmaker.
“Pandas born in the United States deserve to stay in our country,” Mace said.
Besides the rental fee, the panda loan agreements between the United States and China require the former to bear the cost of caring for each giant panda in its possession, including costly feed, maintenance, and breeding.
“For decades, China has tried to soften the image of the Chinese Communist government by ‘loaning’ pandas to zoos around the world,” Mace said, before outlining Beijing’s low human rights record to back her stance.
“The Chinese Communist Party is also an oppressive and odious regime, responsible for disasters ranging from the massacre at Tiananmen Square, to the COVID-19 fiasco from the Wuhan lab, and the ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs.”
Mace wants to include the amendment in the America COMPETES Act, a law to bolster the competitiveness of the United States over rivals such as China through innovation investment. She suggested seeking coordination with allies globally to establish collaborative giant panda breeding programs, according to the amendment.
China sees the once-endangered giant panda, native to south-central China, as its unique national animal. It has also designed the mascot of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics from the black-and-white bear—a giant panda wearing a spacesuit of ice—named Bing Dwen Dwen.
As of 2019, China had loaned giant pandas to roughly 22 zoos in 18 countries, including the National Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, and the Memphis Zoo in the United States.
The 17-month-old cub of Smithsonian’s National Zoo, named Xiao Qi Ji or “little miracle” in Chinese, will be handed over to China, with its parents, when it is three years old in December 2023.
The cub’s 23-year-old mother Mei Xiang is the oldest giant panda in the country, whose previous three surviving cubs were shipped to China.