The founding of the People’s Republic of China ended the history of foreign plundering of giant pandas. As friendly ambassadors, 23 giant pandas were sent as state gifts to nine countries from 1953 to 1982. The key movements were:
In 1957, giant panda Ping Ping was sent to the former Soviet Union, the first sent overseas as a state gift; in 1959, An An followed suit.
Between 1965 and 1980, five giant pandas, including Dan Dan, Sang Xing, and Ling Ling, were sent to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In April 1972, a couple of giant pandas, Ling Ling and Xing Xing, were sent to the United States.
In October 1972, Lan Lan and Kang Kang were sent to Japan, but the female, Lan Lan, died in 1979. In 1980, another female, Huan Huan was sent. But, in the same year, the male, Kang Kang, died, and was replaced by Fei Fei in 1982. Fei Fei is the last giant panda sent overseas as present by the Chinese government.
In December 1973, Yan Yan and Li Li were sent to France.
In April 1974, Jia Jia and Jing Jing were sent to Britain.
In December 1974, Tiantian and Baobao were sent to Germany.
In September 1975, Ying Ying and Bei Bei were sent to Mexico.
In September 1978, Shao Shao and Qiang Qiang were sent to Spain.
In addition, an Austrian animal businessman exchanged three giraffes, two rhinoceroses and other animals, including hippo, zebra, with Beijing Zoo for a female giant panda in 1958. The panda, Ji Ji, lived in London Zoo later, but died in 1972. From that moment, the Chinese government prohibited the transaction and exchange of giant panda, and the animal became a priceless treasure in the world.
Up to 1992, those 23 giant pandas have produced eight offspring, including five in Mexico, two in Tokyo, and one in Madrid. Meanwhile, 15 giant pandas in the above list have died, but eight remain. Whether an overseas giant panda population can be set up depends on those “gift” pandas and their descendants.
In the 1990’s, the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and China Zoological Association reached an agreement with the International Wildlife Conservation Agency to loan giant pandas in pairs to overseas countries for 10 years for cooperative research with Chinese scientists; these pandas and their offspring remain the property of China during the loan period; annual fees of US$ 1 million should be paid to China.
Pairs of giant pandas have been sent since the project came into effect to Kobe in Japan in 1994, Seoul in South Korea in 1995, and San Diego and Atlanta in the United States in 1996 and 1999 respectively. Among them, Shi Shi and Bai Yun in the San Diego Zoo produced a baby on August 21, 1999. Mr. Li Zhaoxing, former Chinese Ambassador in the United States, named it “Hua Mei” meant China-American. It played a critical role in improving the relationship between China and the United States. In December 2000, giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived at the Washington National Zoo. Mei Xiang, two and a half years old, a female whose name means "beautiful fragrance," and Tian Tian, three and a half years old, a male whose name means "more and more," were taken to zoo on a Federal Express flight dubbed "Panda One." Mei Xiang and Tian Tian were born at the Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, in south China’s Sichuan Province. Under a deal meant to foster conservation, the center will loan the pandas to the zoo for 10 years for US$10 million.