Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

The Role of Animal Diplomacy in the Political World

Animals have a long history of being used as symbols of power and diplomacy. This work focuses on several examples of animal diplomacy across the world. It is a well-known fact that pet ownership can have positive effect on humans, but is this the case when it comes to politics? Well, it seems that many people believe animals can actually contribute to the development of good international relations.

For instance, ‘Panda Diplomacy’ is very popular worldwide. This type of Chinese diplomacy dates back to the seventh century, when Empress Wu Zetian sent a pair of pandas as a gift to the Japanese emperor. Since the end of the Second World War to the early 1980s, the Republic of China “gave 23 pandas to nine different countries[1]”. One of the most recent examples of ‘Panda Diplomacy’ happened in 2014 when a pair of pandas (Ms. Feng Yi and Mr. Fu Wa) were sent from China to Malaysia on a diplomatic mission. The aim of the mission was “to cement the relationship between the two states and help them get past the considerable trauma caused to that relationship by the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370”[2]. ‘Panda Diplomacy’ is generally seen as a huge success because of its attractiveness to the public. Pandas are very peaceful animals so perhaps this is the reason so many countries are happy to receive them and accept them as a symbol of good relationship between China and the host state.

Another example of animal diplomacy is the so called ‘Koala Diplomacy’ which took place at the G20 meeting in 2014. Of course the initiative came from Australia which is the motherland for koalas. Interestingly, “most of the world leaders were captured hugging away, even those who had threatened each other verbally weeks and days before. The White House made a dad pun that got 70,000 likes and rising. US and Chinese media ignored the policies and loved the wildlife”[3].

Looking back in 2012 there was another type of animal diplomacy known as ‘Puppy Diplomacy’. The Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received a puppy (black terrier) from his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. “The puppy was presented as the two countries signed trade agreements worth about $20 billion, including a pact to allow the tapping of new Venezuelan oilfields by the state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft”[4]. So, once again animal diplomacy proved to have a positive impact. In fact, Vladimir Putin himself has been a target of puppy diplomacy by Bulgaria. In 2010 the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov gave to Putin a Bulgarian shepherd dog, which later proved to be one of his favourite pets. Indeed this was done while Pr. Putin was in Bulgaria to sign a gas pipeline deal.[5]

These are only a few of the many animal diplomacy examples, but the important thing is that they prove that soft power is important and can have positive impact, especially when animals are involved. Meanwhile the practice of animal diplomacy continues at present and hopefully will continue in future.

[1] Alleyne R., A history of Panda Diplomacy, the Telegrapg,published 10 January 2011, accessed 09.05.2015 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/8251089/A-history-of-Panda-Diplomacy.html

[2] Taylor A., China, Malaysia and the weird world of panda diplomacy, the Washington Post, published 14 May 2014, accessed 09.05.2015 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/05/21/china-malaysia-and-the-weird-world-of-panda-diplomacy/

[3] Rimmer S., Koala diplomacy: Australian soft power saves the day at G20, The Conversation, published 17 November 2014, accessed 09.05.2015  http://theconversation.com/koala-diplomacy-australian-soft-power-saves-the-day-at-g20-34147

[4] Boehler P., Puppy Diplomacy: Venezuela’s Chavez Receives a New Pet from Vladimir Putin, Time, published 29 September 2012, accessed 09.05.2015 http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/09/29/puppy-diplomacy-venezuelas-chavez-receives-a-new-pet-from-vladimir-putin/

[5]Vladimir Putin given a puppy during trip to Bulgaria, The Telegraph, published 16 November 2010, accessed 09.05.2015   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/8135952/Vladimir-Putin-given-a-puppy-during-trip-to-Bulgaria.html

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