Chinese Diplomacy: Can Pandas Mend Rare Earth Relationship With Japan?


Once again China is getting creative with its diplomatic relations. The country is turning to cute animals, loaning a pair of pandas to Japan, hoping to ease tensions that arose when a fishing boat drifted into contested waters. That debate led to China halting rare earth exports to Japan. Perhaps pandas are exactly what the strained relationship needs now.

China is also spreading the animal love with its neighboring BRIC giant, Russia, in the form of the country’s first trans-border nature reserve, which will host bears and boars, among other creatures.

This isn’t the first time the Chinese have made such gestures. In 1972, they pawned off a couple of pandas and improved diplomatic relations between themselves and Japan.

The tactic seems to work: Japan reciprocated the current kind treatment–they decked out the All Nippon Airways flight that brought the furry critters over with panda logos and panda-wearing flight attendants. The government even laid out a red carpet for the guests. Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo–the pandas’ new home–received a $1.1 million renovation, including under-floor heating, a sandbox, and a playground.

Over in Russia, the new 321,000-acre reserve will be split between the Russians and the Chinese and expands upon an already-existing space–the Simonovsky natural reserve–located on the Russian side.The expanse covers rivers, islands, and land, and will help preserve the area’s rich biodiversity and wild animals.

“Heihe City and the Amur’s capital city Blagoveshchensk are separated by the Amur River (Heilong River in Chinese). We share the same river, and now we will make joint efforts to protect the resources in the reserve,” said Ofitserov Vasily, deputy chief of Amur’s natural resources department.

The clear winner here is Japan. How long before they’re back to their rare earth-guzzling ways?

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[Image: Flickr user vincentraal]JN