If Alexander Downer does decide to run for the post of Adelaide’s lord mayor, his campaign will surely benefit from the impending arrival in the city of Wang Wang and Fu Ni. Li Desheng, deputy chief of China’s Wolong Nature Reserve, has just returned from South Australia after checking on the progress of the construction of the exhibit at Adelaide Zoo, which will be the home of the pair of giant pandas for the next decade.
He has proclaimed that everything is in readiness for the departure of the pair at the end of their quarantine period, which began on October 21 in the Bifengxia base at the Wolong Nature Reserve in Ya’an, Sichuan province.
It should be noted that this panda diplomacy owes nothing to the efforts of our Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. It followed intensive negotiations in September 2007 at a meeting between President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister John Howard before that year’s Asia-Pacific summit.
Then foreign minister Downer found time during his negotiations over whether Howard should be replaced as Liberal leader before the impending federal election to ensure that Adelaide was chosen as the host city.