National Zoo hopes China trade war won't affect DC's pandas
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After media reports emerged suggesting that the trade war between the Trump administration and the Chinese government could cause the Smithsonian National Zoo to lose its beloved pandas, zoo officials said they are hopeful that China will allow Washington, D.C., to keep its panda program going.

The pandas are technically owned by China, but they are on a lease to the National Zoo for Americans to also enjoy the animals. Mei Xiang, a female panda at the zoo, and Tian Tian, a male, are both on an extended 20-year lease from China. 

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But the lease on the pandas is up in December of 2020, and Bei Bei, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian’s 4-year-old panda cub at the zoo, will be gone in the next few months to return to China for a breeding program. These are the zoo’s only pandas. 

Two of the zoo’s cubs have also been shipped to China in the last few years, according to The Washington Post.

The zoo said it is hopeful the pandas will remain, but it has not started discussions with the Chinese about Mei Xiang and Tian Tian’s lease.

Zoo spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson said in a statement to The Hill that the National Zoo has not "started discussions for the next agreement" and that their current focus is "preparing to send Bei Bei to China."

"I’d like clarify that we’ve had 47 incredibly successful years of partnering with our Chinese colleagues, China Wildlife and Conservation Association, and our current agreement is through Dec. 7, 2020. Our giant panda conservation program is all based on science plans that both our scientists and their Chinese counterparts create and implement together," Baker-Masson said. 

The Post reported that the collaboration between China and America has been healthy for the vulnerable species.

The pandas have long been a symbol of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China. Former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama to donate 0K to Girls Opportunity Alliance Fund Julia Roberts, Michelle Obama traveling to Southeast Asia for Girls Opportunity Alliance Michelle Obama shares 'Happy Thanksgiving' message with photo of family MORE and the first lady of China, Peng Liyuan, attended the naming of a panda cub in 2015. Former first lady Patricia Nixon told then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai how much she liked the pandas in 1972.

Updated at 12:35 p.m.