The panda is much more than an animal associated with China. It has also been a vital diplomatic tool for the Communist government ever since Richard Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing in 1972. Today, there are 51 pandas in a dozen countries around the world which have been lent to foreign zoos. Since 1970 the population of wild pandas has nearly doubled. Yet it is only in captivity that they are currently assured long-term survival. Zhang Hemin, director of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, is trying to change that.