The new international initiative was officially inaugurated at The China Millennium Monument in Beijing.
'Panda Week' is in future scheduled on the environmental calendar as a biennial international celebration of China's 60 years of conservation efforts saving the icon of vulnerable species.
The Giant Panda has since become a beloved cultural envoy representing friendly Chinese foreign exchanges and global environmental cooperation.
Gifts of giant pandas to foreign zoos marked some of the first cultural exchanges between China and the western world in the 1970s -- known as "panda diplomacy" -- and research and breeding has since extended worldwide to 22 zoos in 17 countries.
Continuing this theme as a global ambassador, 'Chinese Giant Panda International Cultural Week' extends a philosophy of "peace, development, cooperation and mutually beneficial relationships" to the world", said Mr. Li Chunliang, Vice Administrator of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration at the opening ceremony.
"The Giant Panda is revered as a "living fossil" and "China's national treasure", a flagship species of global biodiversity, as well as a unique national and cultural symbol," he said.
"China has always attached great importance to their conservation and protection, and President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stressed that more efforts need to be made to strengthen the protection and restoration of their panda habitats, scientific research and personnel training to promote rejuvenation of the wild population.
"This fully reflects China's confidence and determination to boost ecological protection, laying a solid foundation and guidance for the protection and management of Giant Pandas."
He said habitat protection has since extended to 67 reserves through Sichuan and neighboring Northern provinces Shaanxi and Gansu -- with key ecological projects including forest resources protection, returning farmland to forests and grasslands, wildlife protection and natural reserve construction.
"We have also made great efforts to reinforce the construction of wildlife protection laws, artificial breeding and releasing giant pandas to the wild," he said. Key research in rare animal protection biology has meanwhile brought "important scientific and technological breakthroughs" including nearly 100 national patents "driving the research on giant panda protection to a higher level, enabling effective conservation".
As a result, the wild population has "gradually restored" to 1,864 individuals, along with 518 in captivity worldwide, this represents "a healthy, dynamic and sustainable species".
In addition, he said a pilot project for a "Giant Panda National Park" with an area of 27,000 square kilometers has been launched, "opening a new chapter for the conservation of Giant pandas".
The park will cover three times the area of Yellowstone National Park in the US, with major ecological projects including construction of reserves, ex-situ protection and release of giant pandas to the wild, focused on solving the problems of fragmented habitats and isolated genes.
Last but not least, he said China will promote panda culture globally through "peace, friendliness, green and sharing" with scientific and international exchanges "headlined by Chinese characteristics, spirits and wisdom, leading the world to raise people's awareness of ecological civilization".
"The Giant panda is a messenger of peace and a symbol of friendship," he added. "Panda culture is an important part of Chinese traditional culture, promoting China's philosophies of international peace, development, cooperation and mutually beneficial relationships."
"We have made great efforts and accumulated a wealth of experience in the conservation and protection of giant pandas as well as related cultural exchanges and cooperation.
"We are willing to make joint efforts with the international community to protect giant pandas and promote panda culture, and make a positive contribution to building a community of a shared future for mankind while enhancing international peace and development!"
Austria's Ambassador to China, His Excellency Dr. Fritz Stift, said: "Pandas are a symbol of friendship between Austria and China. I would like to congratulate the National Forestry and Grassland Administration for its great success in protecting Giant Pandas.
He noted that Giant Pandas have been the most popular attraction at Vienna Zoo since a pair was loaned in 2003. Four years later the first Panda conceived naturally in Europe was born. Two more cubs followed in 2010 and 2013, followed by twins in 2016 -- the first in the world raised without human assistance.
"Austria also would like to continue contributing to this great endeavor in the future," he added. "We hope our success story of raising Panda cubs can be continued."
'Panda Week' features a public exhibition from August 23-26 (free entry, 8am-9pm) at The China Millennium Monument telling the multi-faceted story of the panda through photos, film, television, virtual reality, research exhibits, works of art and cultural and creative products.
A 'First Day Cover' of postage stamps presses the message home nationwide and abroad.
With the inaugural event themed 'Panda Culture, Shared Around the World', international involvement is also encouraged with a Chinese Giant Panda Promotional Agreement.
To help panda lovers around the world better understand the species and learn more about panda culture, Mr. Cui Baohua, Deputy Chairman of Sichuan Provincial Political Consultative Conference, announced that Sichuan will launch a recruitment campaign for "Panda Culture Global Promotion Envoys", inviting 100 from around the world to visit Sichuan over the next five years.
He added: "China Giant Panda International Culture Week will be a great platform that helps promote scientific research and protection of Giant pandas in Sichuan, as well as ecological civilization construction, opening-up international cooperation. It will be an important bridge that fosters cultural exchanges and friendships between Sichuan and the world."
"It showcases China's great achievements in multiple aspects, including conservation and research of giant pandas, international exchanges and cooperation, and ecological civilization construction".
"This event will certainly enhance exchanges and friendships between China and other countries, and promote sharing of Chinese culture with the world," he said.
Known as the "Land of Abundance" and "Hometown of Giant Pandas", he said Sichuan Province has been at the forefront of protecting the species with natural forest protection, returning farmland to forests and grasslands, wild fauna and flora protection, natural reserve construction and scientific research.
"The Giant panda has become the most dynamic and most promising wildlife tourism brand in Sichuan, and most charming 'business card' for Sichuan and even China in international cultural exchanges," he added.
A Chinese Giant Panda International Design Competition was also launched, inviting designers from around the world to create "a unique cultural image" and international symbol for the species.
The invitation extends until December 31, 2018 with the winning design revealed in 2019 for global promotion.
"We hope this campaign will convene global inspiration and strength of cultural and artistic creation, helping promote the sharing of panda culture with the world," said Mr. Jing Shuiqing, Vice President, China Intercontinental Communication Center (CICC), which promotes international exchanges and Chinese culture.
"The Giant Panda is gentle and adorable in the eyes of people all over the world, and a "business card of China" with worldwide popularity," he said. "It symbolizes gentleness, friendliness, sustainability and sharing in Chinese culture, resonating with the philosophies of respect for life, harmony between human and nature and sustainable development."
'China Giant Panda International Culture Week' is supported by the State Council Information Office, organized by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, and the Provincial People's Governments of Sichuan, Shanxi and Gansu, the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda and CICC.
China's Giant Panda Conservation
Native to south-central China, the Giant Panda was on the brink of extinction from deforestation of its natural habitat of bamboo forest and poaching until conservation efforts formally began in 1958 with the establishment of Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan.
Wild population estimates vary, with latest estimates of steady growth reaching 1,864 individuals along with 518 in captivity worldwide -- representing a healthy, sustainable breeding population.
While strengthening protection and preservation of wild Giant Pandas, research centres including the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and Shanxi Louguantai Giant Panda Rescue Center continue advancing scientific research into breeding in captivity.
As well as loss of habitat, the Giant Panda's survival has been additionally hindered by a curious lack of libido, brief breeding season, low fertility and poor survival rate of cubs.
To increase their interest in procreating, some research centres have even tried inspiring their sex-drive with a version of Viagra, and showing them the equivalent of adult movies -- with film of other pandas mating.
"After nearly 40 years of hard work, the number of artificially bred Giant Pandas is now steadily on the rise," said Mr. Yang Chao, Director of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Management of National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
"As the technique for artificial breeding becomes more sophisticated, the number of captive Giant Pandas is reproducing at a faster rate."
China has so far bred 63 Giant Panda cubs through artificial insemination, with 58 surviving. "By the end of 2017, the captive Giant Panda population reached 518, achieving basic self-sustainment," said Director Yang.
As a result of conservation success, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reclassified the species in 2016 from endangered, meaning threatened with extinction, to 'conservational-reliant vulnerable', indicating population recovery with conservation support.
As the National Forestry Administration of China continues to reinforce conservation efforts for one of the worlds most adored and protected rare animals, the Giant Panda is one of the few species with its natural habitat designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries covering seven natural reserves were inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 2006.
China is now embarking on amalgamating and extending reserves in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu under a Giant Panda National Park protecting 70% of its habitat and 86% of the wild population.
The park will cover 27,134 square kilometres, three times the area of Yellowstone National Park in the US.
By spanning three provinces, it aims to encourage migration of the species to strengthen its gene pool.
As most of the area is mountainous where residents are poor, it will also enable local governments to alleviate poverty.
A fund of at least 10 billion yuan (US$1.57 billion) will finance a variety of poverty alleviation projects from 2018 to 2023. The programme includes financial assistance, charity foundation, disaster relief, community education, tourism development and ecological construction.
Qumu Shiha, head of a national park working group, called the initiative a "big step to building a moderately well-off society" in the region.
"It will help mobilize the efforts of the whole society into protecting giant pandas, promoting harmony between nature and humans, and exploring a new model to combining environmental protection, financing, poverty reduction and charity care."
He described the vision as a "model for ecological development and social development globally."