China / Across America

Seattle looks forward to Xi visit: SF consul general

By Jiu Jinshan (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-09-18 11:12

Seattle, which will be the first stop on President Xi Jinping's US state visit, has a longstanding history with China that has developed into a thriving trade relationship, Luo Linquan, Chinese consul general in San Francisco, said at a press conference on Thursday.

Luo pointed out that in 1979, Seattle was the last stop on then-Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping's visit to the US, while 36 years later, Seattle has been chosen again, this time by Xi.

Xi's visit "will help enhance trust and reduce misgivings and will focus on cooperation. It will be a people-first and future-oriented visit. This visit serves as a historic opportunity for China and the United States to review the past, examine the present and chart the course for the future. We believe this visit will open up new prospects and create new sources of growth for China-US cooperation".

Luo pointed out that since diplomatic ties were established 36 years ago, two-way trade has grown to $555 billion, and mutual investment had increased from about zero to more than $120 billion. Annual personnel exchanges have increased significantly. A total of 4.3 million trips were made by Chinese and Americans across the Pacific Ocean last year, increasing from thousands per year in 1979.

Today, every 17 minutes there is a flight taking off either in China for the US or vice-versa, while in the past there were only a few flights between the two counties every week. Since the first group of 52 students from China to study abroad in the US 10 days after the publishing of the joint communiqu on establishing diplomatic relations of the two countries in 1978, more than 1.46 million Chinese students have studied in the US, Luo said.

"It is fair to say that the progress of China-US relations in the past 36 years has input immense positive power to the peace and development of the Asia-Pacific region as well as the whole world," Luo said.

He noted that both the state of Washington and the city of Seattle attach great importance to Xi's visit.

The two US senators and 10 US congressional representatives from the state of Washington have jointly written to Xi to welcome him.

The Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the Boeing CEO Dennis A. Muilenburg, Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz and Microsoft founder Bill Gates all have sent invitation letters to Xi.

Inslee launched a welcoming committee chaired by former governors Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, in a recent interview with Chinese media, also expressed his expectations for the visit.

Luo said the Chinese community on the West Coast "fervently looks forward to this visit. Together with Chinese communities in other parts of the US, they have established a preparatory committee to welcome President Xi and are proud of getting involved in such a historic visit".

"The state of Washington is the gateway to Asia and China of the US and has close political, economic and cultural links with China," Luo said. "Not long after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1979, the Chinese cargo ship Liulinhai sailed to the port of Seattle, marking the end of a history of 30 years without shipping services between China and the US."

Luo said that in 1982, the state of Washington established a friendly province/state relationship with Sichuan province. The state opened its first representative office in Shanghai in 1996 and a second one in Guangzhou eight years later.

There are three pairs of friendly cities between the state of Washington and China: Seattle and Chongqing, Olympia and Nanchang, and Tacoma and Fuzhou.

"Economic cooperation is even more closer than the political one," Luo said. "I have two number ones to share with you. One is that the state of Washington's exports to China ranks No.1 among all 50 US states, and the other is that China is currently Washington state's No. 1 destination of exports."

The Seattle Times reported on Sept 10 that Washington state's exports to China reached $21 billion in 2014, accounting for 23 percent of its total goods export.

Luo pointed out that many large enterprises from Washington state have invested in China.

"For the young generations in major Chinese cities, traveling on a Boeing aircraft, using Microsoft software and drinking Starbucks coffee has been a normal state of life," Luo said. Microsoft opened its Beijing office in 1992, and Microsoft (China) Company Ltd now employs more than 1500 personnel. Starbucks has opened more than 1,700 stores in China, making China Starbucks' second-largest market.

Amazon purchased China's for around $75 million. Costco now sells food and medical products through under Alibaba Group to Chinese consumers.

According to statistics from Rhodium Group, from 2000 to 2014, China had 33 direct investments in Washington state worth $210 million, involving aviation, electronics, energy, technology and real estate.

In the first half of 2015, there were two new Chinese investments worth $29 million. By the end of June 2015, there have been 25 Chinese enterprises and other organizations in the state, with a total investment of $138 million, employing 64 Chinese staff members and 235 local workers.

Luo said that cultural exchanges also are progressing steadily. Besides the direct flight from Seattle to Beijing, another direct flight from Seattle to Shanghai was launched in June this year by Hainan Airlines.

In 2014, airline passengers between the two countries reached 6.13 million - an average of 17,000 per day.

"More and more, Chinese tourists come to know and love Seattle," Luo said. "In 2014, more than 100,000 Chinese visitors arrived in Seattle, accounting for 5 percent of the total Chinese visitors to the US. For the first time in history, China surpassed Japan and became the largest origin of foreign tourists for Seattle."

In 2015, the Confucius Institute of the state of Washington celebrated its fifth anniversary. In the past five years, more and more American students have studied and grasped the language of Chinese.

"I believe this institute will have a bright future in the path of facilitating Chinese language study and disseminating Chinese culture," Luo said.

"History has proved again and again that for our two countries, cooperation benefits both while conflicts hurts both," he said.

The author is a writer based in San Francisco.

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