The curse of the pandas

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

In the 1970's, any world leader who was given a pair of pandas by China, in a strange coincidence, fell from power.

PETALING JAYA: The practice of China giving a pair of giant pandas as diplomatic gifts to other countries have existed since the Tang Dynasty when Empress Wu Zetian gave a pair to the Japanese emperor.

This is called Panda Diplomacy and it was revived by China in the mind 1950′s.

A Political and Economic Dictionary of East Asia by Susan Pares records that world leaders who were given pandas in the 1970′s somehow fell from power.

Of the most famous recipients of the giant pandas was President Richard Nixon who was given a pair by China during a visit in 1972. Two years later, Nixon stepped down as US president after the Watergate scandals was exposed.

He was given Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing.

In 1974, Prime Minister of Britain Edward Heath visited China a few months previously and requested for two pandas. China gifted Heath with Chia Chia and Ching Ching.

Heath failed to secure his re-election for his second term in 1974 due to a series of miners’ strikes and was promptly booted out from his post as Leader of the Conservative Party in 1975.

The third unfortunate leader to fall into this strange happening was Prime Minister of Japan Kakuei Tanaka who was given Lan Lan and Kang Kang in 1971.

He too, soon fell from power in 1974 after he was discovered to have accepted $1.8 million (RM5.8 million) bribe from the US Aerospace company Lockheed Corporation for the sale of an aircraft.

Finally, also embroiled in the Lockheed bribery scandals, was Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. He was one of the co-founders of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1961 whose use of pandas on its international logo was what made pandas famous.

Adding injury to insult, Berhard also produced a BBC film called Very Important Pandas in 1976 which brought the strange coincidences to light.

On that very same year, Berhard was found guilty of accepting bribes and was stripped of his title and uniform as prince and was forced to resign.

China stopped using Panda Diplomacy in 1984, and instead began offering pandas to other nations on ten-year loans.

Malaysia received pandas Fu Wa and Feng Yi from China, today.


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