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Xiplomacy: Chinese president corresponds with Belgian zookeeper over pandas, friendship

Updated: June 26, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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BRUSSELS, June 24 (Xinhua) -- The lush magnolia tree in the Chinese Garden of Pairi Daiza Zoo in Belgium symbolizes the friendship between China and Belgium. In front of the tree flourishing in the midsummer sunshine, Eric Domb received a reply letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this week via the Chinese Embassy in Belgium.

Xi said in the letter to Domb, chairman and founder of Pairi Daiza Zoo, that he is confident Domb and other friendly personages will continue to sow the seeds of friendship, attract more people, not least those of the younger generation, to actively participate in the cause of friendship so as to make new contributions to advancing China-Belgium and China-Europe relations.

Domb wrote to Xi in early June, recalling the moment of Xi's visit to the zoo in 2014 and briefing Xi the latest development of the zoo.

"I did not expect to get Xi's reply at all," Domb told Xinhua, "Your president is one of the busiest men in the world. It is really a mark of special feeling to answer in such a short period of time. It is nearly as important as the contents of this letter."

In March 2014 during his state visit to Belgium, Xi and Belgian King Philippe along with their spouses inaugurated the Panda House in the zoo. They planted the purple flowering magnolia tree. Xi said in his reply letter that he is glad to learn that the tree has blossomed and the two giant pandas, as China's "friendship envoys," are also growing up.

The magnolia tree stands in the center of the Chinese Garden of the zoo, about 200 meters away from the Panda House. Looking from the hill of the Chinese Garden -- which covers an area of 4.5 hectares -- a curved bridge comes into view, full of greenery and chirping birds.

Domb invited craftsmen to create a landscape design featuring a small waterfall. On the stone road leading down the mountain to the Panda House stands an archway, engraved on which are three Chinese characters "Zhong Guo Meng" -- the Chinese Dream.

Domb recalled that when visiting here in 2014, the Chinese president shared much knowledge of Chinese gardens, from which Domb learned tremendously. Domb visited China more than 20 times and was amazed by its great landscapes and exquisite garden art.

Xi's letter has strengthened his confidence to constantly improve this garden, and he will continue to introduce the Chinese cultural concepts of "harmony between man and nature" and "harmony and symbiosis" to visitors of the zoo.

Domb wrote to Xi on the seventh birthday of the giant panda Tian Bao. He told Xi that China's giant pandas have been well taken care of in Belgium and have given birth to their offspring.

Giant pandas Xing Hui, translated as "Shining Star," and Hao Hao, translated as "The Kind One," came to Belgium in February 2014 and have lived in the zoo's Panda House. In June 2016, Hao Hao gave birth to a male cub Tian Bao, whose name means "Treasure of Heaven," and in August 2019 gave birth to twins Bao Di and Bao Mei, translated as "Little Brother of Tian Bao" and "Little Sister of Tian Bao." Now the Pairi Daiza Zoo has five giant pandas.

Xi said in his letter to Domb that China is actively promoting Chinese modernization that features harmonious coexistence between man and nature and carrying out major biodiversity conservation projects. A large number of endangered species have been under effective protection with giant pandas thereby having been downgraded from endangered species to vulnerable ones.

China's commitment to a high-quality development path that prioritizes ecological conservation and features a green and low-carbon mode will provide more opportunities for the world and make a greater contribution to human progress, Xi said.

Domb said both Belgium and China are committed to protecting biodiversity. People continue to invest in the conservation of rare species and the living environment they depend on, which has improved the entire ecosystem and indirectly protects more species. "It is a work benefiting the future of mankind."

"Friendship is something you have to work on all the time. It's not one shot," Domb expressed in his letter his fidelity to friendship not only with China but also with the Chinese people.

Xi said in his letter that the development of China-Belgium relations cannot be achieved without the long-term efforts and selfless dedication of friendly personages from all walks of life in both countries.

When Domb began to build a Chinese Garden 17 years ago, he invited some craftsmen from China in a bid to display the genuine Chinese culture, and they became Domb's good friends.

"Encouraging normal people like me and other people to (forge) friendships is, I think, one of the solutions for a peaceful world working together to make the world greener and more hospitable for all kinds of life," said Domb. 

Editor: Li Shimeng