China’s ‘friendly envoy’ panda makes US comeback in 3D

© Tyrone Siu
Chinese “panda diplomacy” seemingly made its way back to the US after a 28-year break when Basi, a panda from China’s eastern province – the oldest living in the world – made a “comeback” in a 3D cartoon screened at New York’s Times Square.

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The cartoon titled ‘Basi says hello to the world’ is taking over Times Square for 10 days from September 21 to September 30. 

© Heinz-Peter Bader

Basi is one of the most popular pandas in the world. She is also the world’s oldest panda, turning 35 in November, which is 130 in human years. She comes from China’s eastern Fujian province.

The famous panda attracted around 2.5 million visitors during her six-month international tour in 1987. Basi became known for her skills shooting a basket, riding bikes, performing acrobatics, and lifting a barbell. She received nicknames such as “Stunt Panda,” “Friendly Envoy,” and “Super Star,” and captured the attention of countries like Japan, France, and Canada.

© China Daily

Panda your way through diplomacy

“Panda diplomacy” is an actual term in China that was coined during the Cold War, when it was especially popular to send out panda ambassadors.

The oldest known panda envoys were sent out in 685 AD by Wu Zetian, a Chinese empress of the Tang Dynasty, to Japanese Emperor Temmu. 

For China, pandas represent peace, goodwill, and a chance to improve relations with the other countries.

© Stringer

Between 1949 and 1982 China sent 23 pandas to nine different countries as gifts. 

After that date, Chinese pandas have traveled abroad on a loan basis only. Currently there are 30 pandas enjoying visits in other countries such as Australia, Canada, Russia, Germany, Mexico, the US, France, and Spain.