Panda Diplomacy: The Cutest Part of China’s Public Diplomacy

In: The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
Falk Hartig School of Media, Entertainment and Creative Arts, Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, QLD 4059 Australia

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In late 2011 and early 2012, the People’s Republic of China drew on its most unique diplomatic tool: the giant panda. Although this phenomenon is widely covered by the global media, the practice of panda diplomacy is only barely discussed in diplomatic or international relations studies. This article uses the most recent revival of this diplomatic practice for a closer analysis and locates it as a special version of animal diplomacy within the frame of public diplomacy. It first argues that panda diplomacy is — besides all the efforts to promote and support animal conservation and biological research — a political undertaking, which is symbolically used by the Chinese government to win hearts and minds in selected foreign countries. Second, it highlights an important aspect of some Chinese public diplomacy initiatives, namely China’s ability to integrate international partners in its attempts to shape its global image.

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