O, how I wish I could write about pandas,
Cute, bamboo-shoot-eating, black and white pandas.
Furry and cuddly like overgrown teddy bears,
Roly and poly in singles or mating pairs.

Pawns in the game of First World foreign policy,
Used to help leverage trade and diplomacy.
Putting a happy face on China’s image, while
Hiding a genocide under a panda’s smile.

Pandas are peaceful and sweet beyond question;
Masking Red China’s external aggression,
Blatant internal domestic oppression—
Pandas provide an effective digression.

Pictures of pandas displayed with a flair.
Even in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square,
Hong Kong has pandas on loan to its zoo,
Visit the Spratleys, no doubt they’re there, too.

Sadly, if pandas were Uyghurs, Tibetans,
Falun Gong, Muslims, or practicing Christians;
Rather than hailed as a mark of distinction,
Pandas would find themselves marked for extinction.

Pandas when seen as a PRC scheme
Turn out to be not as cute as they seem.
Sinister symbols of China’s delusion;
Used to project a slick PR illusion.



James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse.

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10 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    Red China knows that there are millions of airhead Westerners whose brains cease to function when they see pictures of cute little animals. So naturally panda images are quite useful in the corporate hype for Chinese totalitarianism. If they could purchase the rights from Disney, China would be featuring Winnie the Pooh as an advertising prop for the New Silk Road.

  2. Cynthia Erlandson

    Well said, and I think the dactylic meter works well for the mood of this poem. Just an idea, but maybe you could do a second version of it that exploits the fact that, in real life, in spite of their cute faces, pandas can be pretty aggressive.

  3. Jeff Eardley

    Mr Tweedie, you have the knack of educating, entertaining and disturbing, all at the same time. I had to look up the Spratleys. (I assumed they were an aristocratic family on first reading.) I always enjoy your poetry but this one hits the bullseye, goes through the target and continues its trajectory into the realm of genius. I can never look a panda in the eye after this, particularly one who eats, shoots and leaves. A most enjoyable read, thank you.


    This is a great poem — the bouncy rhythm and the almost Seussian repeated references to pandas — something we normally think of as sweet and cuddly being horrifically misused by the Party as a cover for its crimes — creates a real emotional wallop. By the end the sense of innocence betrayed is palpable. Well done!

  5. Margaret Coats

    Recall the two pandas born in Berlin in 2019? The mother was from China, on loan to Germany as part of Chinese soft diplomacy. There was also an agreement that the babies would be returned to China after 2 to 4 years. But of course, they needed names, and the German press and public strongly favored “Hong” and “Kong.” Germans also calculated that if the baby pandas bore these names even unofficially, the Chinese might prefer to leave them in Germany. A little diplomatic push-back from German media, who were taking a strong interest in the Hong Kong protests at the time. Best wishes to you, James, in doing the same with this poem.

  6. James A. Tweedie

    Thanks to all of you for your words of approbation.

    “Eats, shoots, and leaves.” I haven’t heard that one in a long while! LOL

    “(H)its the bullseye, goes through the target and continues its trajectory into the realm of genius.” A line of prose that, if it had a color, would be purple!

    All the best as the week rolls on through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Black Saturday Vigil, and the “third day” sunrise-sunlit empty tomb–“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” What an amazing question! With an even more amazing answer!

  7. Paul Freeman

    Back in the day I used to think of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund, not World Wrestling Federation) whenever I saw a panda – they’re the mascot of the conservationist organisation. Now I mostly think of Jack Black the comedian who voiced the character Po in Kung-Fu Panda, since it was one of my kids’ favourite films and I’ve seen it so often.

    The Nixon-era Panda Diplomacy was a bit before my time.

    Thanks for giving a new spin on the panda, James. Humorous in part, poignant and enlightening in others, your poem says much.


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