Pandas in SG: Get ready for the backlash

Pandas are cute. But when the two giant pandas from China land in Singapore, I predict that there will be an online backlash against their arrival. Their arrival timing couldn’t be worse, given the general online sentiment against foreigners (especially PRCs).

Pandas are notoriously expensive things. So expensive, that US zoos typically lose money on them. Our pandas are going to be displayed along with other sights at the upcoming River Safari attraction, a new park that costs about $180m. Because pandas need cool weather, they will be in a large (1,500m2) air-conditioned environment that costs $8.6m to create and another bomb to upkeep. The pandas will also eat bamboo shoots specially grown from a 8000 sqm plantation. The pandas will only stay here for 10 years, returning to China afterwards.

So it’s not surprising if we read complaints about how the PAP is willing to spend more money and land on a pair of pandas than it is willing to spend on a pair of citizens. Given that the entrance fee to the River Safari is going to be about $28 to $30 pax, we’re going to hear accusations that the poor cannot get to see the pandas. Pandas who will be living a better life than themselves.

But here’s something I ask the reader to consider. The pandas were offered as a gift by China back in 2009 to celebrate 20 years of diplomatic relationships. Given China’s size and “face-loving” culture, would it have been possible for the govt to reject China without ruffling feathers?

My reading is that it would be very difficult to do so without slapping the Chinese in the face, especially when pandas are seen as important diplomatic symbols. Maybe it was the wiser choice to accept the pandas, and find a way to milk their rarity to recover their cost of upkeep (or at least a part of it).

A panda cub is seen playing at the Giant Panda Breeding Centre in Chengdu.

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About sgthinker

I'm a 40-year old Singaporean male, and this blog pens down my thoughts and feelings about Singapore's political happenings, government policies and society trends. I hope this blog will provide a moderate voice in the growing online debate about the state of Singapore's society. Some of the posts here won't be solely written by me, since there will be times when other writers are more eloquent at expressing their views, in which case I'll share their insights (along with my comments). The content on this blog is owned by me.If you wish to share or reproduce the content, please attribute it to this blog.
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8 Responses to Pandas in SG: Get ready for the backlash

  1. woo says:

    btw, the Reuters report you’ve quoted was wrong. other sources such as these: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1017535/1/.html
    http://conservation.wrs.com.sg/index09.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/zhongwen/simp/world/2009/11/091112_singapore_china.shtml
    all reported correctly that it is a loan. people like OldSingaporean are so ignorant that they will believe in whatever is written by bloggers.

  2. woo says:

    @sgthinker, you should come out and meet real people more often, instead of living in your virtual world all the time.

  3. sporescores says:

    wow ‘sgthinker’ you are out of touch with what people really think.

  4. Pete says:

    We had giant pandas before. This is not the first time.
    Back in 1990s, two were on loan to us for 3 months..I believe.
    So is ok not to give them “face” then, but not ok to reject them now?
    In my view, this is just one clever business way for China to raise & fund their research program in the pretext of diplomacy. If I have to “loan the parents”, at least have the decency to let us keep the “cubs” if we (the host country) can successfully breed the babies. That is only fair.
    What kind of short-end-of-stick type of unequal treaty is this?

  5. OldSingaporean says:

    And the gift becomes a 10-year loan? Did our government get screwed big time?

    • sgthinker says:

      I think anyone with a Panda is screwed =)
      But to be fair to PAP, at least they received equal treatment from China.

      According to wiki, “By 1984, however, pandas were no longer used purely as agents of diplomacy. Instead, China began to offer pandas to other nations only on ten-year loans. “

  6. Pingback: Daily SG: 6 Sep 2012 | The Singapore Daily

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