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US Congressmen head to China to study new reforms

By Chen Weihua in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2014-03-14 15:01

US Congressman Rick Larsen is leaving for his ninth trip to China on Saturday, but this time on crutches.

The Democrat House member from Washington State is still healing from a broken ankle.

Larsen, co-chair of the House US-China Working Group, will be joined on the week-long trip by three other House members: Charles Boustany, a Louisiana Republican who co-chairs the working group; Kenny Marchant, a Republican from Texas; and Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois.

The group will also include two Congressional staff members from Larsen's and Boustany's offices as well as Fordham Law School professor Carl Minzner, a specialist on China's legal system.

The National Committee on US-China Relations is hosting the March 16-23 trip, taking the group to Beijing, Xi'an and Guangzhou. Committee President Steve Orlins is already in China.

Larsen said the trip's goal is to understand the role of the economic reforms that have been announced since the Third Plenum.

"From the United States' perspective, understanding the economic reform proposed and how it relates to the US-China economic relationship is very important and will have an impact on US policy and US economic policy toward China," Larsen told China Daily on Thursday.

In Beijing, the group will meet top Chinese officials to discuss and learn about China's economic reforms. In Xi'an they will visit the aerospace manufacturing industry.

"I am mainly driving that part of the agenda because I want to understand better the role and future of Chinese aviation industry," said Larsen, smiling and looking back at a Boeing plane model in one corner of his office in the House Rayburn Building. "I think the Chinese government expects aviation industry to be a major part of its growing economy in the future."

China is one of the largest customers for Boeing, which has nearly half of its 170,000 employees based in the Washington state.

To Larsen, the trip to Guangzhou in South China, a trailblazer of China's economic reform in the past decades, will help the group understand how economic reform will work in a place that is far from Beijing.

Larsen said he already has received positive messages about China's economic reforms since the Third Plenum, citing Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is personally heading the comprehensive economic reform leadership office.

"I think he is trying to be in control of promoting and pressing for economic reform, which the new Chinese leadership sees as important for China's future economic growth," said the 48-year-old.

But Larsen pointed out that the challenge for China has been implementation.

"It's one thing to read about it. It's another thing to see it," said Larsen, who is in his seventh term in Congress since 2000.

Besides meeting Chinese officials and lawmakers, the US Congressional delegation will also meet Chinese business leaders to learn how the economic reforms will affect them and how they are going to use the reforms to help job creation in China.

The group will also meet with US companies doing businesses in China and also meet people in the financial industry. Financial reform has been a priority in China's next economic reform program.

Larsen said he and Boustany will brief Senators Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, and Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, after returning from China. The two Senators have been planning to form a Senate China working group this fall.

Larsen and Kirk, a House member who became a Senator in 2010, set up the House US-China Working Group in 2005 in wake of the failed acquisition of California-based Unocal by China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) in a bid to educate members of Congress about China-related issues.

The trip by the group in the coming week was originally scheduled for last September but was canceled due to the federal government's partial shutdown.

Larsen believes that with the Third Plenum concluded and now the National People's Congress sessions ended, the timing is probably better. "All the steps that have been taking place now are for Chinese leadership to start reform," said Larsen.

All of Larsen's trips to China have all been about business. He has not yet taken a leisure trip there with his wife, but he said he is looking forward to such an opportunity.

"That shows how dedicated I'm on this (US-China) relationship. I'm going to China on crutches," said Larsen, laughing.

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