Department or Program

Environmental Studies


In this thesis I will first discuss how China has shaped the Western view of pandas and how because of this they are able to use pandas in international diplomacy all in the name of conservation. This will be covered in the first chapter and will be divided into five parts. Part one will discuss the history of the panda and mentions of it in ancient China. In part two I will detail the reasons as to why the giant panda was chosen to be the new face of China and how it became the modern symbol of conservation. Part three of chapter one will go over details of the panda conservation programs including the amount of money spent on panda conservation and the returns that this form of conservation brings to those who fund it and participate in it. Part four will discuss the Chinese monopoly on the panda as a species and a unique example of a challenge to this that will soon end. Finally, in part five I will deconstruct the image of the panda that China has built to be exported to the West. Then in chapter 2, I will cover the Western perspectives and construction of the giant panda to help understand how the West has helped to perpetuate the use of panda diplomacy. I will begin chapter two with part one which will focus on an attempt by a Chinese artist to bridge the cultural gap of the panda between China and the West through paintings and social media. Part two will discuss the beginnings of the Western infatuation with the giant panda. In part three of chapter two I will look at and analyze representations of the panda in Western media and film. In part four, I will cover the use of panda diplomacy by the Chinese state and the Western response to it. The final section of chapter two will touch on the use of pandas on social media by Chinese government officials to create a softener perception of China in the eyes of the West. I will conclude this thesis with some thoughts about the panda and various ways it relates to both China and the West. I will also ask some questions about the future of the giant panda and panda diplomacy, and try to answer them based on my knowledge of world affairs. By the end of this thesis I hope to help the reader better understand the connection between panda conservation, Chinese politics, and Western consumption of the panda. I will explore these connections by analyzing a mix of scholarly articles, primary sources from news outlets, panda research centers and social media, and several movies along with other forms of on screen media. The dates of these sources range from recently in the 21st century to several thousand years ago.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Tyler Harper

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


Available to Bates community via local IP address or Bates login.