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Chamber: Better bilateral relations better for business

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-12-10 23:30
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A desire for improved China-US relations was a sentiment shared by attendees of a business gathering in Houston on Friday.

About 300 people, mostly American and Chinese business executives, attended the third annual gala and award ceremony of the China General Chamber of Commerce (CGCC)-Houston.

Li Qiangmin, consul general of China in Houston, and David Firestein, president of the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations and executive director at the China Public Policy Center at the University of Texas at Austin, paid tribute to the late US president in their speeches, noting his steady support for China-US relations.

Discussing with the audience the agreement reached at the G20 Summit recently between President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump, Li emphasized that China-US relations have developed substantially, despite twists and turns.

“Facts have proven that cooperation is the best option for both sides, and win-win can lead to a better future. A sound China-US relationship serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples,” Li said.

Firestein said that the current low point of US-China relationship might be rooted in a sense of fear and the loss of confidence in the US.

“This fear, [and] lack of or reduced confidence, is causing the US to retreat from the most treasured values such as limited government, free trade, openness to investment and exchange of ideas including students,” Firestein said.

“It seems to me that when the history of this period is written, it may turn out that through our own actions we do more damage to the US than China has ever done; that’s a concern I have,” he said.

Firestein called for people to demonstrate the vision of George H.W. Bush, who had farsightedness and understood that the headlines of today don’t necessarily define the future relationship of tomorrow.

Citing history that America’s strong allies the UK, Germany and Italy once were at war with the US, Firestein said people should not feel despondent about the current situation.

“Despite everything, we have much in common, and (should) work together. As we go forward, the business communities in the US and China are going to have to lead the way to get the relationship back on track for both to prosper and benefit from it,” he told the executives.

According to Cui Guanglei, chairman of the CGCC-Houston, more than 220 Chinese companies have investments in the southern US. “The total Chinese investment exceeds $20 billion, with more than 5,000 jobs created,” he said.

One such Chinese company, GD Copper America in Alabama, is featured in the documentary film Better Angels, which was screened before the gala. In a panel discussion afterward, the speakers agreed that better understanding is needed to produce better relations.

GD Copper America General Manager Dong Shunde shared his experiences working in Alabama.

“Through our work, we realized that often the conflicts between Chinese and Americans stem from misunderstanding. For example, Americans often find Chinese loud. That’s because we are passionate about what we are doing.

“Sometimes Americans think Chinese often change their ways of doing things. We have to help them understand that we keep coming up with different solutions to solve a problem. We got along better after explaining why we act certain ways,” Dong said.

The director Malcolm Clarke said that making the film was a journey of discovery, and he has much admiration for what China has achieved in the last 30 to 40 years.

However, China needs to make itself better understood by the world, according to Clarke.

“The Hollywood movies, TV, free press — they are all practiced and polished in telling US stories. Everybody in the world knows something about America,” Clarke explained.

“I have a gentle criticism about China; it’s that China really does need to tell its own stories better.”

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