There is no question, the world loves China’s giant pandas. The enigmatic, reserved herbivores evoke goodwill wherever they travel.

With numbers of wild giant pandas perilously low, though no longer endangered, the rare arrival of a giant panda cub, especially in captivity, is a much-celebrated event.

Last week’s announcement of a cub born to giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia—currently on loan from China to Singapore—is no exception, attracting the delight of many, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

As the first panda cub born in the Southeast Asian country, this new arrival serves as a timely reminder of China’s soft power reach.

Gifts with a unique significance

China’s panda diplomacy is nothing new. Gift-giving is quite normal in diplomatic practice.

Animals, particularly where they hold a unique national significance, have long been associated with the most famous diplomatic gifts over time. And in the context of winning hearts and minds, “cuteness” also matters. Australian koalas, also used for diplomatic impact, provide another popular example.

Please click here to read the full “People love pandas but what’s really behind China’s panda diplomacy?” article published at Channel News Asia, written by Griffith Asia Institute Director, Professor Caitlin Byrne.