Chinese President Xi Jinping suggested that China may send more pandas to the U.S. as a symbol of “friendship” during his meeting with President Joe Biden for the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) global trade summit in San Francisco.
The symbol of friendship: Pandas have symbolized the U.S.-China friendship since 1972. Xi mentioned Americans’ reluctance to say goodbye to the pandas and expressed China’s readiness to collaborate with the U.S. on panda conservation with the aim to strengthen the friendly ties between the two nations.
“I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas, and went to the zoo to see them off,” Xi said at the summit. “I also learned that the San Diego Zoo and the Californians very much look forward to welcoming pandas back.”
However, Xi did not specify the number of pandas or a timeline for their potential return.
The return of the pandas: Xi’s suggestion comes after the return of three giant pandas from the National Zoo in Washington to China on Nov. 8. The beloved pandas initially came to the zoo in 2000 as part of a research and breeding program, but the expiration for the agreement between the U.S. and China is set to expire in December.
Currently, only four giant pandas from the program remain in the U.S., with plans for them to also fly back to China by the age of four in 2024.
U.S-China talks: The gesture followed talks between Xi and Biden at the APEC forum, focusing on easing tensions between the two global powers. Xi emphasized China’s readiness to be a U.S. partner and rejected the perception of China as a threat, emphasizing cooperation and interactions.
“We should build more bridges and pave more roads for people-to-people interactions,” he said. “We must not erect barriers or create a chilling effect.”
The dinner also aimed to strengthen ties with American businesses as China struggles with an economic slowdown. However, some U.S. lawmakers criticized attendees, which included Apple CEO Tim Cook and FedEx CEO Raj Subramaniam, for overlooking China’s human rights record.