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BEIJING, August 24, Chinadaily -- A new international initiative celebrating China's giant panda conservation and research efforts was officially inaugurated on August 24, 2018 in Beijing.

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The "China Giant Panda International Culture Week" celebrates the beloved cultural envoy for the role it has played in foreign exchange programs and in global environmental cooperation.

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Zhang Jianlong, administrator of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, hands over the archives of "Meng Meng" and "Jiao Jiao" to Andreas Knieriem, director of Zoo Berlin. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Gifts of giant pandas to foreign zoos marked some of the first cultural exchanges between China and the western world in the 1970s – known as "panda diplomacy" – and research and breeding has since extended worldwide to 22 zoos in 17 countries.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Li Chunliang, vice administrator of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, said the event extends a philosophy of "peace, development, cooperation and mutually beneficial relationships with the world".

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Austria's Ambassador to China Fritz Stift notes that pandas have been the most popular attraction at the Vienna Zoo since a pair was loaned in 2003. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Austria's Ambassador to China, Fritz Stift, said: "Pandas are a symbol of friendship between Austria and China."

Stift noted that giant pandas have been the most popular attraction at Vienna Zoo since a pair was loaned in 2003. Four years later the first panda conceived naturally in Europe was born. Two more cubs followed in 2010 and 2013, followed by twins in 2016 – the first in the world raised without human assistance.

"Austria also would like to continue contributing to this great endeavor in the future," he added. "We hope our success story of raising panda cubs can be continued."

Panda Week features a public exhibition from August 23-26 (free entry, 8am-9pm) at The China Millennium Monument telling the multi-faceted story of the panda through photos, film, television, virtual reality, research exhibits, works of art and cultural and creative products.

International involvement is encouraged for the inaugural event themed, "Panda Culture, Shared around the World".

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To help panda lovers around the world better understand the species, Cui Baohua, deputy chairman of Sichuan Provincial Political Consultative Conference, announced that Sichuan will launch a recruitment campaign for "Panda Culture Global Promotion Envoys", inviting 100 from around the world to visit Sichuan over the next five years.

A Chinese Giant Panda International Design Competition was also launched, inviting designers from around the world to create "a unique cultural image" and international symbol for the species.

• State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry (SAEPF) under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic

• Institute for Regional Development (IRD)

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