The return to "the homeland" of the panda Ya Ya from a zoo in Tennessee (USA) has rejoiced hundreds of thousands of Chinese, concerned about the state of health of the bear, which has become an unwitting protagonist of the growing hostility in recent years. times between China and the United States.
Ya Ya, born in Beijing in 2000, traveled to the Memphis Zoo at the age of three with the male Le Le, born in Shanghai, as part of a cooperation program between the Asian and North American countries.
The pandas became the stars of that enclosure, but at the beginning of last February the alarms went off when Le Le died suddenly and images were spread on social networks in which the bear was seen, to say the least, deteriorated.
China then sent a team of experts to determine the causes of the panda's death, while thousands of people began to show their concern on Chinese social networks, where campaigns to demand the return of Ya Ya multiplied.
The situation coincided with the increase in tensions between Beijing and Washington, which turned the panda bear -which apparently does not suffer from any disease- into a throwing weapon and a new reason for criticizing the US both in the networks and in some fiery editorials in the official Chinese press. The state of Ya Ya aroused interest to such an extent that his health and possible return became a regular question in recent weeks during the daily press conference of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
"Cooperation on the protection and research on giant pandas promotes animal protection, public education and people-to-people exchanges. China is willing to continue protecting threatened animals in projects with other countries, including the US. ", recently stopped Mao Ning, one of the spokespersons for that department. She also stated that Ya Ya was well cared for in Memphis and was "deeply loved" by the Americans.
The conciliatory tone of the official, however, is far from that maintained in recent weeks by the official newspaper Global Times, which somehow managed to relate bilateral tensions to the Ya Ya situation on several occasions in articles and editorials.
In a surprising plot twist, the newspaper published another editorial today accusing the US network CNN of "misinterpreting the attention that Ya Ya provokes in the Chinese population as a symbol of nationalism" and of affirming that "the Chinese media use pandas to promote anti-American sentiments".
"It's completely normal for the Chinese to worry about the panda, because Ya Ya is one of us," says Xu Liang, a professor of international relations at the Beijing University of International Studies. According to Xu, the "demonization" of China's so-called "panda diplomacy" reflects "the (Western's) need to suppress China in recent years."
"It is undeniable that pandas have always had a mission to promote peace and friendship. And this is what today's turbulent world needs to inject stability and certainty," the editorial concludes.
Whether due to nationalism, "animalism" or the tenderness that the adorable plantigrade arouses, the return of Ya Ya has caused euphoria in the Asian country.
The flight in which the bear was traveling, which will have to be quarantined for a month in Shanghai before traveling to the Beijing Zoo, was the most monitored on the specialized website FlightRadar and the number of people following the plane's trajectory grew as the aircraft moved. approached China. On board also arrived the body of Le Le, which the experts examined to better understand the metabolism of the elderly pandas.
Dozens of people came to the Pudong airport to receive Ya Ya and the tags on social networks about her return went viral: more than 130 million views when the animal "boarded" the return flight, 340 million in posts with the label "Let's receive Ya Ya online" and 520 million in which they announced the landing.
As for the future of the China-US collaboration. In terms of pandas, the main agency responsible for the issue in the Asian country is clear: "this cooperation has played a positive role in the preservation of endangered species and the promotion of friendship between the two countries." And it is that this bilateral program is one of the few areas of cooperation that have not suffered in recent times.
The first pair of pandas to travel outside of China was a gift from China to the United States to seal rapprochement following then-President Richard Nixon's historic visit to Beijing in 1972 to meet Mao Zedong.
According to the criteria of The Trust Project