SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco is on the shortlist of contenders to receive a panda from China, according to sources. The news comes as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi promised several days ago that giant pandas could return to California by the end of the year.
In a letter provided to ABC7 News, dated Dec. 1, 2023, Mayor London Breed wrote to China's president Xi Jinping that, upon the conclusion of APEC 2023, she wanted to "grow our friendship to greatly benefit our youth and to continue our joint efforts on panda conservation." She suggested a partnership with the San Francisco Zoo to host the Giant Pandas. The letter reveals how Breed first made the panda request to Xi while bidding him farewell on the tarmac as he departed from the week at APEC.
Multiple sources close to the panda effort confirm to ABC7 News anchor Dion Lim that San Diego was also in the running for a possible panda. However, given the relationships that were built and strengthened during APEC, it is believed San Francisco has the advantage.
A statement from the mayor's office reads: "Seizing every opportunity to make San Francisco shine has always been one of Mayor Breed's top priorities. The Mayor began speaking to the Chinese government to advocate for this valuable opportunity for months prior to APEC. She also utilized every interaction with representatives from the Chinese government during APEC to discuss the matter further, leading to her direct ask to President Xi Jinping as she was bidding him farewell on the SFO tarmac."
Panda diplomacy began in the 1970s, during President Richard Nixon's administration, after he visited China.
The news of San Francisco possibly landing a panda from China comes after the end of a 50-year conservation program with the Chinese government expired in November. Zoos across the nation, including the National Zoo in Washington DC, have had to return their pandas as a result.
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