Pandamonium 2012: From China to Japan

Shin Shin with cub

I cannot disguise my excitement with the birth of the Giant Panda cub born this week at Ueno Zoo.  The new cub, whose sex is still unknown, was born to the very happy (well, let’s assume) parents, Shin Shin, the momma, and Ri Ri, the papa.  Now let’s think about this event from both a political and cultural perspective.  I first jumped to the conclusion that the Chinese government would want us to reach.  A Chinese spokesperson said, “The giant pandas are messengers of friendship. We hope that people-to-people sentiment and overall relations between China and Japan can be promoted because of the birth of the cub.” My immediate reaction was an enthusiastic yes.  Further, Shin Shin and Ri Ri were delivered to Tokyo just one month before 3.11.  What a powerful symbol of Japan’s renewal and rebirth with the first Giant Panda cub born at Ueno Zoo since 1988.  I do know that this birth will be a crowd pleaser and a tourist boon for Tokyo.

Ri Ri, new papa

On the other hand, when I use my more jaundiced political eye, this birth marks yet another achievement for China in its worldwide program of Rent-a-Panda.  According to my professor friend Gary Rawnsley of the University of Leeds, these panda “gifts” come at a high price, especially after cubs are born.  Dr. Rawnsley says that to rent a panda it costs a zoo up to 1 million dollars per Giant Panda and $500,000 for any cubs born to the rented pandas which automatically belong to China + the infrastructure costs. He adds, “It is a very expensive message of friendship.”  That said, Gary quickly realized my great enthusiasm for the birth of the baby cub and he added to my Facebook wall: “But they are still cute, and I still queued to see the pandas in Taipei zoo the last time I was there :).”

So do you have pandamonium?  Would you stand in a long line to congratulate the new parents?


17 thoughts on “Pandamonium 2012: From China to Japan

  1. Pandas are worth my standing in a long line. I like them. The newborn panda is dead now. The Ueno station was full of the panda’s franchise. What is the damage to the economy?

  2. Personally I am not that into the panda, but as a symbol of the Japan and China relationship, the panda plays a good role. The panda came to Japan to celebrate our rebuilding relationship and that panda produced a baby. That means enough time for panda to be matured has passed between Japan and China.
    Our relationship is not always friendly. Sometimes we have tense moments. But as neighbors I really hope we will succeed to cooperate well in the near future. Of course history is really meaningful and important. But I wish we could overcome our dark history and start to turn another page.

  3. You make a very good point here. The mainstream media (MSM) tend to exaggerate extremes, either good or bad. In the case of the panda birth, they exaggerated the good, what it would mean for Tokyo tourism and China-Japan relations. The press should have reported that as much excitement there was, it was still more likely that the newborn panda would not survive its birth in captivity. That is why it came as a shock to me when the panda died. I knew that it was rare for such births, but I did not know the high mortality rate statistic.

  4. I was so happy to hear that the baby panda was born! But also I heard that the baby died a few days after the baby was born. I was so sad to hear the news, but at the same time I was surprised to know that many shops near the zoo made a special menu to celebrate the newborn panda (like panda-shaped bread) because about 60% of the newborn panda die after a few days. So there was a high possibility that the baby would die. But many people, including journalists, did not mention this fact when the baby was born, and over celebrated. Because of that, many people became very sad when the baby died. Therefore, I think they should have mentioned we cannot be fully happy because there was still a high possibility that the baby would die soon.

  5. I agree with you, Sayaka. China’s offering costs too much and I think pandas are not worth it. In addition, Japan sent aid to China to build a facility to raise pandas through ODA in the past and we had paid a lot for protecting pandas already. I would appreciate if China had shown more consideration to what Japan did for the pandas and would be more thankful and expressive for that action.

  6. The loss of the baby panda cub just six days after his birth may raise these questions. Indeed, there are other ways of showing friendship between China and Japan. How about more cultural and educational exchange of persons between the two countries, not just the exchange of cute, furry creatures?

  7. After reading this article, one question came to mind: Why is the gift of a panda treated as showing friendship between Japan and China? The panda is a cute, popular animal, especially among children, but it costs tremendous money to get and raise it up. Moreover, because of difficulty in care and feeding, pandas often die in Japan, and China complains about it all the time. I say that there are other ways of friendship rather than giving pandas.

  8. I remember the controversy about paying too much money for renting Shin Shin and Ri Ri. Since then, I was in favor of renting panda for some reasons. Firstly, the pandas represent the friendship between Japan and China, so they make it easier for Japanese people to feel familiarity with China. They can also promote us to understand China more. Secondly, the pandas are one of the influences that improve Japanese economics. Since they are always in the spotlight and get attention from Japanese people, many visitors come and see them. People then spend some money on tickets, foods and transportation. From this point, pandas have a great economic effect. Anyway, I would like to see the lovely new cub.

  9. I also think pandas are absolutely cute and adorable. However, I doubt if they really work as “messengers of friendship.” Japanese people were excited when two pandas came to Japan last year. Many goods of panda were released and the Ueno Zoo was crowded with people. I do not know exactly how much it was, but it must have had a huge economic effect. And now we have newborn baby panda and again Japanese people are excited as much as or more than when two pandas came. The news about baby panda is on TV every day. However, people do not seem to be interested in the fact that we are renting them from China. The news I have seen which reminds us of China is not very positive. The Governor of Tokyo said we should name panda “Senkaku” and return it to China. I wonder who can imagine that pandas are “messengers of friendship” from that comment. I do not think many people have the idea of “pandas=messengers of friendship between China and Japan” in their mind when they see pandas. I like pandas and I am happy to see them in Tokyo. But still, I wonder whether it is worth paying that huge amount of money if people do not really pay attention to the relationship between China and Japan.

  10. I never knew that renting pandas cost this much so I was surprised to find out that pandas are an “expensive message of friendship.” However, I truly think that Japan should keep renting them because they are a symbol that Japan and China are maintaining their interaction with one another in a way besides foreign policy. Also, since pandas are a symbol of friendship, that friendship would disappear if pandas were no longer in Japanese zoos. I think pandas are the ones that are preventing major disputes between these two countries. I haven’t been to the Ueno zoo so I have yet to go, but when I do go, I bet the animal I would want to see the most would be the panda.:)

  11. I’m sure that animals make us happy when we talk about bright topics like the birth of the panda. We haven’t heard good news recently. When people watch the news about animals, we are somehow happy. I was surprised that the cost is so expensive. From the perspective of Japanese people, I think most of us have the same idea. But from the point of Chinese, they might have the opposite opinion. It might be because Chine needs to protect the pandas which are the symbol of the country. I heard that the number of pandas have been declining, so it costs a lot. (But I wonder how $500,000 is being used. ) Even though Japan needs to pay a vast sum of money, the bright news makes the county happy, and I think it is of much value.

  12. I do not have pandamonium, even though I think pandas are adorable. I had no idea about the fact that we were ‘renting’ this panda and the fee was a million dollars plus extra $500,000 for the baby. I do believe it’s nice to have a wide variety of species in zoos in order for people to be able to see them and in a way educate themselves on what a real panda looks and acts like, however, I am not sure if a panda would help boost the Japanese economy when we’re already spending so much to keep it. I think Japan needs to see that we really need to focus on reducing our growing national debt instead of finding small, yet costly, entertainment for people.

    Pandas may be nice to have, but after reading this article I honestly do not believe it’s worth the price even if it shows our friendship with China. I think we have different ways of showing our close relationships with China.

    P.S. They found out the Panda’s a boy!

  13. I have pandamonium, because the birth of the baby panda make people very happy. Its cute appearance gives energy to people who were looking for its birth. Since the sorrow from the devastating incident of 3.11 has been continuing to exist, this good news became an opportunity to give people some happiness. It made me very exited when I heard this news!

  14. I learned those Pandas symbolize a token of friendship between China and Japan in Japanese history class when I was in high school, but I didn’t even expect that Ueno Zoo pays a great amount of money to rent a panda from China. Considering the cost directly comes from the taxes, should we stop renting pandas and give them back to China? I don’t think so. I am sure that the zoo can make a lot of money from the tourists. It is also significant that children have opportunities to gaze at panda and experience excitement. They should not lose those opportunities. More importantly, we should not forget that back then it was a big step for Japan to receive a present from China after many difficulties and we do adore Panda.

  15. Well this gives me a whole new perspective on this. I agree with the sentiment of the Japanese people and the Ishihara Tokyo governor who question the economic costs associated with what is dubbed a friendship program. The pandas themselves seem caught in the middle of the politics of rent-a-panda.

  16. Shin Shin and Ri Ri are absolutely cute, as well as the baby;) However before they came to Ueno Zoo we had the problem of whether we should pay for that much money to rent a panda. Do we love them that much? We pay the money from our taxes. Ishihara Tokyo governor was against this Rent-a-Panda project and he said, “What kind of message of friendship is one that costs money? I think it is too expensive. The money comes from taxes. Do we want to see them that much?” A poll on this matter was conducted and the results showed that about 70% of people were against renting a panda. I guess people were more concerned about the economy than the pandas. Now we almost forgot this issue because of the earthquake and nuclear power plants.

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