The United States is to be panda-free for the first time in 50 years, reports Bloomberg News, with the bears on loan to zoos here set to return them to China no later than next year.
Although both sides deny politics are at play, China has long used "Panda Diplomacy" to curry favor, reward friends and punish adversaries. And the loss of America's last pandas comes at a moment when ties between the U.S. and China have hit a historic low, with most avenues of cooperation cut off.
In the same vein, any hope that Washington will get new pandas rests on recent signs that ties might be getting a little better — or, at the very least, not getting worse.
"There's some significance to the fact that all of the pandas in the United States will be back in China by next year," said Elena Songster, a professor at Saint Mary's College of California and author of "Panda Nation," a book about China's panda policy. "They have a plan. They know what they're doing."
What's something adorable that you can only get in the U.S.A. that we could loan in return? How many Tom Hankses are there in the Captive Breeding Programme?