What will Hu Jintao's trip to America mean for diplomatic relations between the United States and China? What will it mean for the global economy? For human rights in the People's Republic? For the Sino-American arms race that may or may not be in the offing? It's too soon to answer any of these questions. But everybody rest easy: the pandas are staying put.
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the giant pandas who have been at Washington's National Zoo for 10 years, were granted a five-year extension this week. As Obama put it, the animals "will continue to dazzle children and visitors" through the end of 2015. The pandas were born in China, and are only on loan to the U.S.; as The Wall Street Journal explains, "Chinese pandas and their offspring always belong to China and must be returned eventually."
Does it matter that America got a new lease on China's pandas? The media sure seems to think so. Below, a sampling of panda-related commentary.
- This Is More Relevant Than You Might Think, explains Melinda Liu at The Daily Beast. "Nurturing these goofy, adorable, chubby--and endangered--creatures may not be as urgent a global priority as, say, shutting down North Korea's nukes," writes Liu. "But what's come to be called 'panda diplomacy' has been used by Chinese rulers to win allies overseas for a thousand years." Liu notes that when America first received a gift of Chinese pandas, during Richard Nixon's 1972 trip overseas, "the U.S. government was utterly unprepared for the uproar and adulation that erupted after the two animals arrived at the National Zoo."
- Good Job Staying Focused, Journalists Time's Adam Sorensen notes dryly that "China agrees to purchase $45 billion in American exports and the pandas get all the headlines."
Now we don't have to feel so bad about the $895.6-billion of US Government Debt held by China. We keep the pandas.
Jake Tapper of ABC News is one of those people who's just impossible to please:
forget the Falun Gong, Tibet and Liu Xiaobo....WE GOTZ PANDAS FOR 5 MORE YEARZ ZOMG. #seriouslypeoplecmon
Meanwhile, Larry Gwaltney looks for leverage:
@JonahNRO I say China forgives the loans or the pandas get it.
For conservative Twitter user Regulus de Leo, things aren't so funny: