The giant panda cub born 101 days ago at the National Zoo officially has a name. At just three-months-old, Bao Bao is already preparing for her future role as the symbol of cooperation between her official home and adopted country.
For over four decades, so-called panda diplomacy has come to symbolize the often tense relationship between the United States and China, but with a young and healthy panda about to enter adolescence, the future couldn't be brighter.
After receiving over 123,000 votes from the public, the giant panda cub's name was finally revealed. The naming ceremony was held exactly 100 days after the panda cub's birth, which is an important milestone in her Chinese homeland.
However, Bao-Bao, whose name means precious or treasure in Chinese, is not just destined for life as the zoo's number one attraction. It's her diplomatic role that carries far more weight.
Like the pandas that arrived before her, Bao Bao is on loan from the Chinese government. Among the rarest animals in the world, the first pandas were given to the zoo to commemorate President Nixon’s 1972 visit.
It was first lady Pat Nixon who jump-started what later became known as “panda diplomacy.”
“I think they're adorable, endearing creatures,” she said in 1972. “I'm so glad to have them here cause in this day and age we need a little joy.”
Yet, from the start, maintaining a panda population in the U.S. proved to be difficult. In 41 years, Bao Bao is only the second panda cub to survive past infancy.
In a videotaped address, the first lady of China described them as “national treasures” and said “many people love baby pandas as they love their own children.”
In a separate message, first lady Michelle Obama said that Bao Bao is an example of how the two countries can successfully work together.
“After decades of close collaboration with our Chinese partners, these remarkable animals stand as symbol of the growing connection between our two countries,” she said.
At just over three months old, the zoo's "Panda Cam" shows that Bao Bao has only started to explore the world outside, but for those waiting to catch a real-life glimpse, officials say it won't be until January that the panda cub will be ready for her first public appearance.