Pandas can be dangerous if provoked

It’s interesting that the behaviour of pandas quite accurately mimics their country of origin. China is ostensibly opposed to colonialism and interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, but hypersensitive and emotional when provoked.

China’s proposed loan of two pandas to Singapore has turned out to be quite a diplomatic coup for them — and probably a commercial coup for the Singapore Zoo. It has made it to the headlines in local media, invited a letter to the press from a Singaporean gushing over the communist state’s gesture, and one local was quoted in the papers as saying that her “liking for China definitely went up a few notches”.

While I agree that this was a nice gesture by the Chinese government and speaks well of the state of bilateral ties, it would also be prudent not to get completely bowled over by this.

To most people, pandas are very docile and cute. As one netizen wrote, the fact that it is usually depicted reclining peacefully eating bamboo, as opposed to hunting, adds to its image of innocence. Although giant pandas are often assumed to be harmless because of their apparent cuddly appearance, they have been known to attack humans, usually out of irritation rather than predatory behaviour. Like most animals, female pandas are also very territorial.

It’s interesting that the behaviour of pandas quite accurately mimics the government of their country of origin. China is ostensibly opposed to colonialism and interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, but hypersensitive and emotional when provoked — think Taiwan and the Yasukuni Shrine visits. They claim to be undergoing a “peaceful rise”, but have thousands of missiles pointed at Taiwan, which they have promised to reclaim eventually, by force if necessary.

China has also used its panda diplomacy to send a message to other countries. Late last year, China gave a pair of pandas to Taiwan and named them Tuan Tuan (团团) and Yuan Yuan (圆圆) — meaning “reunion” — in obvious reference to their desire to reunify Taiwan with the mainland.

It remains to be seen what China will name the pandas that they loan to Singapore. Perhaps Xiong Xiong (兄兄) and Di Di (弟弟) — “brothers” in Chinese — to stir up ethnic (or ethnocentric) sentiments of Chinese Singaporeans?

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

9 thoughts on “Pandas can be dangerous if provoked”

  1. The term used is “loan” and not “gift”.

    What does that mean?

    When someone lends you something, he expects that it be returned in a future date (in this case, 10 years) and in good condition.

    Sometimes a loan may also entails a certain fee or rent, like DVD loan, which has to be paid first before one can collect the loaned item.

    And if the loaned item/s happen to get damaged, then a certain amount of compensation is expected from the borrower.

    What will happen if the two pandas die before the 10-year period?

    What if the two pandas give birth to a baby panda when under Singapore’s custody? Which country can claim the baby panda?

  2. Actually (and I checked with the zoo on this), we get to decide what they will be named. Not sure if this has been the case for all the pandas they have given/loaned out, but a giant panda cub born in Chiang Mai Zoo will be named by the public.

  3. You can be sure the PRCians have all the nitty gritty details figured out…

    Pandas are notorious for their inability to reproduce, especially in captivity. I’m sure if we get lucky and get a cub while they are here, they already have an agreement in place- the cub is on loan too and will be headed back at the end of the loan period.

    As for unexpected death, I think the trainers/handlers will be held accountable… unless of course it is something beyond their control or they did not receive the cooperation they needed from the Singapore Zoo.

    BTW, the Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan pair in Taipei was named by the public in PRC. (It should have been named by the public in Taiwan, who would probably name them Tai2 Tai2 and Du2 Du2, where Tai Du is short for “Taiwan independence”.)

    I wonder if PAP will let Singaporeans name the pandas… we might get Jing Jing and Ying Ying, where Jing Ying = elites if we left it to the bureaucrats; And Ah Beng and Ah Lian if we left it to the public.


    As for the “loan”, it is very consistent with their “Panda diplomacy”, which started as far back as the Tang dynasty. China’s foreign policy has typically been that of “goodwill” and “diplomacy” first, economic and military options later. This is most evident during the Ming dynasty, where Cheng Ho went sailing around in “treasure boats” with gifts to other sovereign states to win their respect, and of course, the intent to trade.

    But MM Lee’s comment about the need for a BoP remains: in this century, they NEED oil to keep going and force IS an option.

    We should gain in terms of tourist numbers as it gives would be visitors another reason to visit Singapore- to see the pandas… along the lines of “feed the jackpot machines in our casinos while your kids feast with the pandas in the zoo… at your own risk!”

    We probably need to give something back… heaven knows what that is. Perhaps another power station?

  4. I think the reason for the “loan” is because pandas are endangered species and are not allowed to be traded. They could be given to Taiwan because the UN recognises Taiwan as being part of China, so that was an internal transfer.

    Words and Meanings – My view is that if the pandas give birth, we should get to keep the offspring (provided the separation doesn’t cause any negative effects for the pandas).

    Nic – Thanks for finding that out. But I don’t recall any instance in the past where the public had a say in naming our animals.

    Old Friend – What’s BoP?

  5. “Actually (and I checked with the zoo on this), we get to decide what they will be named.”

    Yes, they decide, but still they decide with diplomacy with respect to China’s wish. In other words, they are nothing but China’s puppet. It could be similar case where the Pappy will say that ShittyTimes is independent of political interference but yet political masters and MIW influence the content of ShittyNews.

  6. BoP: Balance of Power

    China gave Japan a panda back then (1990s?)… albeit in exchange for a panda borned in Japan. I think he was called Ling Ling or something. I am pretty sure Japan owned the panda, until he died relatively recently.

  7. Pandas may be provoked to die early if some stupid PAP Minister was to raise the question as to whether they are expected to have their meals in an air conditioned hawker centre, foodcourt or restaurant.

    And worse still if Transport Ministry forget to air freight their special diet to Singapore in time for their meals, who is going to be made responsible or accountable for the loan ?

    Are we going to run to US to enlist their help ?

Comments are closed.