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Utah building stronger ties with China

By May Zhou and Zhang Yu'an in Salt Lake City, Utah | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-22 09:41
US state Senator Jacob Anderegg. [Photo by Zhang Yu'an]

State Senator Anderegg confident of taking relationship to a higher level

Many Utah business leaders and legislators are strong advocates for a close relationship with China, so much so that US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, during a visit to the state in July, commented that other states would benefit by following Utah's example.

One of Utah's legislators with close ties to China is state senator Jacob Anderegg, who also has strong personal ties with China.

In 2005, Anderegg spent time at two universities in China as part of his master's degree program.

Speaking about his time in China, he said: "I was amazed how normal it was. The Chinese are very loving, very kind and were very gracious to us. They are very smart and inquisitive, too. I told my wife then that I felt like we are in the United States."

In Shanghai, Anderegg and his wife visited an elementary school where some students were from the neighboring orphanage.

"The 5-year-old kids put on performances for us. We also did a service project to improve the playground. I started to play with some of the kids and had fun," Anderegg said.

The Republican senator said he took away something else from that experience. "It was a strong feeling I had; I felt something that said: 'You have children here.' Later, I found my wife felt the same thing separately," he said.

As a result, in 2011, the Andereggs returned to China and adopted a 23-month-old girl from Zhengzhou, Henan province. Two years later in 2013, they adopted a 2-year-old girl from Zhoukou, also in Henan province.

Explaining why they adopted two children from China, he said: "We did enough research to know that if you adopt from a different culture, it's really beneficial that someone else in the family looks like them, experiences a lot of the same things they experience," Anderegg said. "If you adopt only one, their transition into teenage years can be very hard. They (the two girls) are like sisters now, and I think they will be a great comfort to each other."

Anderegg has three biological children and calls his family a "part-Chinese family". "They are our daughters for sure, but they are daughters of China, too. When they get a little older, I will take them to tour and get to know China."

In 2012, Anderegg was elected to the Utah House of Representatives. And in 2014, he won a seat in the state Senate. As a member of Utah legislators' International Trade Relations Committee, his involvement with China extended into his official capacity, and he sought to strengthen the state's ties with China.

In 2017, Anderegg and scores of Utah officials visited China to promote the bilateral relationship.

"We were in Liaoning province. And I could not believe the number of power plants built there. We counted 17 new power plants. It's a testament to me that this huge middle class of China is coming of age, from now to the next 20-30 years. Where is the world economy to go? It will not be US dominated," said Anderegg.

Between 2005 and 2017, China's modes of transportation were transformed. "In 2005, most people had bicycles; in 2017, most people had cars. I could not believe the traffic," he said, pointing to another indicator of China's economic growth.

Utah has many links with China as it is one of the top import sources and export destinations for the state.

According to Anderegg, Utah sells about 40,000 tons of hay to China every day.

In addition, Hong Kong-based shipping carrier Orient Overseas Container Line - one of the world's largest shipping companies - recently opened an office in South Jordan near Salt Lake City.

"China played a key role in Utah's railway construction; 30 percent of the labor force for the railway came from China. And now Utah is trying to set up an inland port and trying to be a global hub for trade. And China again will play a key role," he said.

More prominent, however, is Utah's educational and cultural exchanges with China, Anderegg said. Almost every major university in Utah has 3,000 to 4,000 Chinese students. And the state has the most and best dual-language immersion programs in the country, and Chinese immersion students accounted for more than half of that.

Anderegg is also proud of Utah's dual-language programs. "Within the next five to 10 years, when these students are headed to college and graduating, our ability to have an even closer relationship with China will be unparalleled because we have Chinese-language capability on a very technical level. We are preparing our next generation to have the ability to have a much stronger relationship with China and other countries," he said.

Anderegg said the relationships at the subgovernmental level are vital. "Those bridges and partnerships which we build between Utah and China, with people's congresses and the provincial governments, are vital for the long-term interests of Utah. And they will ultimately benefit the country as well," Anderegg said.

Speaking about the trade friction between the US and China, Anderegg said that it makes no sense to cut trade ties with China. "I don't think either China or the US is really served by allowing this to continue for very long. I don't think it's in either country's long-term interest to have an adversarial relationship.

"If we were to lose all the goods and services we receive from China, like cutting it out 100 percent right now, that would devastate our economy as well as China's economy. That does not make any sense," Anderegg said.

Anderegg is hopeful and optimistic about the future of relations between his state and China.

"It (the relationship) will be a much longer-term one. I am very excited about continuing to develop this relationship and strengthening ties even more," said Anderegg, referring to the Utah state government's planned visit to China next year.

 

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