Xi gives Biden bear hug: Chinese president offers to give U.S. pandas

Xi gives Biden bear hug: Chinese president offers to give U.S. pandas

November 16, 2023

Xi gives Biden a bear hug: Chinese president offers to give U.S. PANDAS after high-stakes meeting in San Francisco – so what else did they achieve?

  • ‘We are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation,’ Xi said
  • U.S. only has four panda bears after Washington DC Zoo returned theirs
  • U.S. and China also came to agreement  on fentanyl

Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled Beijing will send new pandas to the United States soon, making the pronouncement after his day-long summit with President Joe Biden.

The pandas may be the most visible deliverable of the high-stakes meeting, although the White House also pointed to China’s agreement to crack down on fentanyl production and resume military-to-military communications.

Xi didn’t say where the pandas would end up – Washington D.C.’s National Zoo returned its pair to China last week – but it is looking like the new bears may end up in California, where Xi is attending a summit hosted by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

‘We are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation, and do our best to meet the wishes of the Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples,’ Xi said Wednesday evening during a dinner speech with business leaders.

Chinese President Xi Jinping indicated he would send more pandas to the United States – above he walks with President Joe Biden

The U.S. only has four pandas after Washington D.C.’s bears (above) returned to China

Xi suggested the pandas would most likely to come to California, probably the San Diego Zoo, which has previously hosted bears.

‘We obviously appreciated having them here,’ White House spokesman John Kirby said Thursday morning of the pandas. 

‘And we respect the sovereign decision that China made to move some of the pandas and, should the decision made by the PRC to restore some of the pandas, we would welcome that.’

Pandas have become a symbol of diplomacy for China, who originally gifted two bears to the United States in 1972, ahead of the normalization of relations.

Beijing continued to loan pands to the United States and other countries but the bears are on a strict lease program and ultimately return to China.

The National Zoo’s three giant pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub Xiao Qi Ji, eight days ago began their long trip to China. After their departure, only four pandas are left in the United States, in the Atlanta Zoo.

‘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 in his speech. He added that he learned the San Diego Zoo and people in California ‘very much look forward to welcoming pandas back.’

The Chinese leader addressed business leaders after his four hour meeting with Biden on the outskirts of San Francisco.

The bears will be loaded into specially designed crates for the 19-hour journey by van and plane to Chengdu, China

While some tensions remain, particularly over Taiwan, Washington and Beijing managed to reopen relations that had become strained over the last year, particularly after a Chinese spy balloon drifted over the United States and was ulimtately shot down by U.S. forces.

‘We’re back to direct, open clear direct communication on a direct basis,’ Biden said after the meeting. 

But Biden also later said he had not changed his view that Xi is a dictator.

‘Well, look, he is. I mean, he’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is a communist country,’ Biden said.

But Biden and Xi agreed China would stem the export of items related to the production of the opioid fentanyl, a leading cause of deaths in the United States.

‘It’s going to save lives,’ Biden said, adding he appreciated Xi’s ‘commitment’ on the issue.

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