December 18, 2018
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France’s first lady baptizes Chinese panda in first official speech

Paris, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- The French first lady on Monday gave her first official speech during the baptism of a baby panda as part of a ceremony held at a zoo that was symbolic of diplomatic relations between the European nation and China.

The event was held at Beauval zoo, south of the capital Paris, weeks after President Emmanuel Macron undertook an official visit to Beijing.

Brigitte Macron revealed that the panda, which was born in France and had reached 100 days of age, was called Yuan Meng, meaning “dream come true.”

In an official speech seven months after her husband took the reins as president, the first lady said the panda represented “the fruit of a friendship, from someone who entrusts what they love the most to someone they know will look after it.”

She pointed out that France was the fourth European country after Austria, Belgium and Spain to become a birthplace for a baby panda.

As per tradition, the baby’s name was chosen by China’s first lady and accepted by its other "godmother," in this case Brigitte Macron.

Yuan Meng was sired by pandas lent to France in 2012 after a visit to the Asian country by then President Nicolas Sarkozy.

He was one of two babies born on Aug. 4, but the other did not survive.

There are 22 currently on loan around the world.

Beauval zoo pays 750,000 euros ($888,097) annually to a fund in China that safeguards the animals and had to carry out 5 million euros worth of renovations in order to provide a suitable space to host the pair.

Beijing uses the animals in diplomacy and lends them to countries depending on the strength of their bilateral relationship.

The approach has come to be known as Panda diplomacy.

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