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Bid to give panda a brand name stirs outcry

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2016-08-20 07:47

The possibility that the first panda born in Shanghai could be named after a well-known health product has generated an outcry online.

The female bear was born in the Shanghai Wild Animal Park on July 9, and the park has since launched a campaign asking the public to give her a name.

But web users found out that the maker of melatonin product Naobaijin has sponsored a TV commercial for the name-seeking campaign, leading to concerns that the panda could be named after the product if the company manipulates the campaign.

Bid to give panda a brand name stirs outcry

The first panda born in Shanghai will be named by the public in an online voting campaign. Lai Xinlin / For China Daily

Naobaijin is one of the best-known health product brands in China, with sales of 100 million yuan ($15 million) per month at its peak in the 1990s. The company says the product helps to improve sleep and boost the immune system. But it generated much controversy because of its publicity strategy of investing huge sums of money in TV commercials.

"If the panda could be named after Naobaijin, what if next time a condom producer sponsored the name-seeking campaign?" asked Pmz, a web user, on NetEase.

Shanghai Goldpartner Biotech Co, the maker of Naobaijin, said it would not manipulate the name-seeking campaign, adding that it would respect the opinion of the zoo and public regarding the final decision.

But the company "would be truly honored if China's national treasure could be named after one of our bestselling products", the company said in a written reply to China Daily.

Ni Li, spokeswoman for the Shanghai Wild Animal Park, said on Thursday that the zoo was unaware of the company's ads via Shanghai TV & Radio Station regarding the panda's naming.

But she did not rule out the possibility of the panda being named Naobaijin, "if netizens voting online want it to be".

Pandas' names usually have a meaning of some blessing when the animals are loaned as national gifts to other countries or regions, said Wu Kongju, a senior researcher with the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province.

During the visit to the United States by President Xi Jinping in September, first ladies Peng Liyuan and Michelle Obama jointly announced that the panda newly born in Washington, DC, was named Beibei, meaning both treasure and baby in Chinese.

In other cases, Wu said, breeders could name the animals in a more casual way after studying their parents, hometown or the weather conditions on the day of a panda's birth.

During the 2012 London Olympics, for example, a newborn panda was named Aoli'ao after its mother, Lili, and Olympics, the pronunciation of which coincides with Oreo, the famous cookie brand.

For the baby panda born in Shanghai, the zoo said it will pick 20 names given by netizens on the web or via social media before asking for a vote. The final result will be announced on Sept 9.

Popular names collected so far have included Nannan, a baby girl's nickname in the Shanghai dialect, and Husheng, which means born in Shanghai.

Huang Zhiling in Sichuan contributed to this story.

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