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Messengers of Friendship
China Today
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Messengers of Friendship

Over 2,000 years ago, silk was the symblol of China; 1,000 ago, porcelain was the symblol of China; 500 years ago, tea was the symblol of China; today, with human beings’ increasing awarness in ecological preservation, the giant panda has become a symblol of China.

In 1869, the French naturalist Armand David discovered the giant panda in Ya’an, and since then, the flagship species of biodiversity conservation has since stepped onto the world stage.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, “panda diplomacy” has deepened the friendship between China and the rest of the world. By the 1980s, 24 giant pandas had been sent abroad as a national gift, thus becoming envoys of peace and friendship, 18 of which were from Ya’an, making this city a veritable “home to giant pandas as national gifts.”

Chi Chi, the model of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) logo and flag, was from Ya’an. The mascot of the 1990 Beijing Asian Games Pan Pan was based on Ba Si, a giant panda from Ya’an. Ya’an accounts for more than 50 percent of the core land area of the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, which was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006. Nearly 40 percent of the area of Ya’an is included in the Giant Panda National Park, which extends from Sichuan to Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

During the more than 150 years after the giant panda was discovered, the species has become a shining star in the world with its innate magical charm and irreplaceable multiple values, known as “diplomatic giant panda,” “ecological giant panda,” “cultural giant panda” and “economic giant panda.”

Habitat fragmentation poses a threat to the survival and reproduction of giant pandas. The best way to protect giant pandas is to let them live freely in nature.

China has established a natural reserve system with national parks as the main body. In addition to maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the natural ecosystem, the country has also made efforts to strengthen habitat ecological restoration and corridor construction, connect the fragmented habitats, open up the channel of giant panda gene exchange, and increase the variety of gene exchange, so as to ensure the normal growth of giant panda population. Additionally, there is strict control over human activity in the Giant Panda National Park to preserve its original wilderness, allowing the giant panda and another 8,000 endangered animals and plants to live in the original state.

China is home to giant pandas, but they also belong to the world. A panda homeland should be co-constructed by the world and panda culture should be shared arocss the world. The goal is to build a comprehensive platform for cooperation across all regions, cities, and fields with a global perspective and a holistic approach, further promoting scientific research, protection, development and exchange of giant pandas. Panda stories should be told in an innovative manner, so that the culture of the giant panda, which has characteristics of typical Chinese culture, can reach a broader audience.

Human beings and giant pandas share the same Earth. To protect giant pandas is to protect human beings themselves. The government of Ya’an has put forward a new idea of building an ecological pattern by expanding the control space of national parks to surrounding towns and communities, building tourism towns with panda characteristics, and guiding local people to moderately developing eco-tourism around their communities.

Additionally, the local government has promoted eco-tourism and giant panda-related cultural and creative industries, while paying equal attention to protection and development. A harmonious coexistence between man and nature can be achieved only if giant pandas live safely and community residents live and work in peace within the giant panda habitats.

Ya’an is promoting the high-quality construction of an important destination of giant panda cultural tourism. In giant panda habitats, the traditional production and lifestyle of the native inhabitants are changing, the quality of residents’ life is improving, and the “national treasures” are expanding their living space. The Giant Panda National Park is becoming even more beautiful, and the harmony between human beings and nature is being formed.

GAO FUHUA is a senior reporter with Ya’an Daily.

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