OK, this title may be a little misleading. China hasn’t miraculously found a way to power the nation with pandas running on giant hamster wheels. Instead, they are trading their beloved animals for uranium to be used in their nuclear power initiatives. It’s hard to say which statement is actually more unbelievable, but China has been leveraging these cuddly creatures for decades.
In the early 70s, 24 panda “goodwill ambassadors” were gifted to the former Soviet Union, UK, North Korea and the USA by Mao Zedong for diplomatic reasons. Then later in the 80’s, in an effort to open up its economy, China was renting pandas on a monthly basis for $100k. This effort was quickly put to an end by conservationists, which forced China to extend these loan periods and put a bigger emphasis on research and study. In more recent years the price tags on these black and white bundles of joy have gone up dramatically.
A pair of pandas each, were given to France, Canada and Australia for uranium and an annual fee of around $1M. In 2011 Scotland received a pair for Edinburgh Zoo after a multi-million dollar agreement for salmon, petrochemical and renewable energy technology. Thailand and Singapore are now waiting for their pandas in the mail after signing free trade agreements with China.
Keep in mind that all pandas, no matter where they are currently located or even born, are property of China. The US learned this the hard way after President Obama met with the Dalai Lama in 2010. Shortly after, 2 american born panda babies were recalled back to the motherland. There are currently around 50 pandas on loan to zoos around the world, which keeps the demand for these creatures high, and maintain their weight as bargaining chips for Chinese government. It seems like pandas are China’s number one commodity and show no signs of devaluing.