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Some exchanges don't need governments' permission to continue

By Chang Jun | Updated: 2018-09-12 23:09

West Coast states differ in many ways from Washington DC – the weather, the lifestyles, and more importantly, the attitude toward solving disagreements like trade friction with other nations.

Momentum remains strong in terms of exchanges and collaborations with China in various fields, be it culture, innovation or tackling difficult climate change problems. Opinion leaders, industry insiders and policymakers from China and states on the West Coast are making serious efforts to sustain mutually beneficial relationships.

"I'm optimistic about the future," said Jin Lan, a longtime business consultant in Portland, Oregon. "Many people of vision are working together to bring the trade talks back onto the right track."

In August, six Oregon representatives in the US Congress wrote a joint letter to the US trade representative, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Commerce, asking the US government to "engage with China to level the playing field for our Oregon farmers and therefore help their industry thrive".

The industry referred to in the letter is hazelnut farming and processing, said Lan. Among Oregon's 225 local agricultural commodities, hazelnuts rank 11th and contribute $100 million to the state's economy.

Oregon hazelnuts account for 99 percent of the total national commercial production, with nearly 800 families growing the crop on 67,000 acres of farmland.

Two years ago, farmers in Willamette and Umpqua valleys in western Oregon chose to plant a species of hazelnut that caters to the Chinese market.

"The shell is bigger with more room between shell and kernel, so Chinese consumers can easily crack the shell open," explained Larry George, CEO of the Northwest Hazelnut Co. "This small industry has a major economic impact on rural communities."

To cease the stagnation and have the bilateral relationship resume with vigor and vitality, "people need to restart talking to each other", said George, emphasizing that constant and consistent communication is what resolves disputes.

Indeed, technology and innovation circles understand the importance of two-way exchanges. On Sept 5, about 1,200 startups from across the world gathered in San Francisco to showcase their disruptive technologies at the annual Tech Crunch conference.

Spanning more than 14 categories, including financial technology, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence, these pioneers enlisted unicorns from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Heycoins, Origami Labs and Zoom Offices, all headquartered in Hong Kong, shared their enthusiasm for learning from their American counterparts, and responsibility-driven goals – to make the world a better place for everyone.

Kevin Wong, founder and CEO of Origami Labs, said their voice-powered smart ring Orii is a product that will benefit the hearing impaired.

"The ring sends sounds as vibrations through the finger, which go directly into the ear when the finger is placed next to it, and the user can hear them," said Wong, adding the invention was dedicated to his father, who lost his hearing at the age of 13.

"The US has tech gurus and leading innovators that I admire so much," said Eddie Rong, who established his money-conversion startup Heycoins at the age of 23 and plans to penetrate the international market. "The potential in financial tech is huge, so let the conversation begin."

Xiao Xiayong, culture consul at the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, is a strong believer in people-to-people exchanges. "Culture plays an indispensable role in propelling trust, understanding and friendship," he said. "It's the fifth consecutive year we unveiled the Across the Pacific – China Arts Festival in 2014."

At the opening ceremony of the China Arts Festival on Sept 7, Conway Jones, honorary chairman of the Golden Gate International Children's and Youth Choral Festival, said he's "always believed that art is the catalyst to diplomacy. Through music and cultural events, we as people can understand each other."

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