Panda huggers and dragon slayers
Posted by Tim JohnsonFri Jun 27, 4:54 AM ET
In U.S. policymaking circles, there are two terms used as shorthand to describe the views of analysts of Chinese contemporary affairs.
On one side are the panda huggers. As a national symbol of China, pandas represent the cute and cuddly side of the Middle Kingdom. Panda huggers are those who want to embrace China, pulling it closer to the orbit of the West with greater trade and engagement. Panda huggers view the sophistication of many Chinese senior officials, believing that vast differences in core political beliefs can be set aside for cooperation, trade and engagement that mutually benefits both sides.
Dragon slayers, on the other hand, are deeply distrustful of China’s long-term intentions. They generally focus on China’s military build-up, and say its opacity is cause for alarm. Every new spy case uncovered in the United States – and there are many – causes them to lose sleep. They wonder what the message is when, as in mid-2005, Chinese PLA Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu tells Western journalists that China is prepared to lose every city east of Xian in a nuclear tit-for-tat exchange with the United States that would be triggered by U.S. intervention in any war between the mainland and Taiwan.
I bring this up because after years living in China, I see how simplistic these terms are. The Bush administration Cabinet has people that could be considered panda huggers and others who could be considered dragon slayers. The terms tend to pigeon hole rather than shed light.
Moreover, pandas are not all that gentle, and dragons may not be all that bad.
And that brings me to the painful tale of Li Suhua. Ms. Li, a native of Henan province, moved to the beautiful city of Suzhou and went to the city zoo on June 22. At her side were her husband and her child.
According to a story on the People’s Net website (only available in Chinese), Ms. Li and her family went to the panda pavilion, which was under construction. They could view the pandas from there. But seeing an employees’ door open, and wanting to get closer to a panda, and even pet one, they went inside.
That was mistake number one.
Inside the employee area was Susu, a 25-year-old panda. By panda standards, 25 is old. The natural lifespan of a panda is 30 years. What happened next is not totally clear. But when Ms. Li emerged from the zoo, she was missing part of her right thumb. Susu bit it off.
That’s Ms. Li in her recovery bed, recovering from her tangle with a panda.
Maybe she was never a panda hugger to begin with. Maybe she was trying to give the panda the finger.