Mayor’s visit to China: From an Ambassador’s Perspective

A year ago, when Mayor Turner was leading a 72-member delegation to visit China, the largest delegation Houston ever had abroad, he declared that Houston and China have reached “a golden moment” of mutual economic advantage. The delegation visited China’s three first-tier cities, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing, which truly embarked on a new phase of relationship between China and Houston. Over the last year, not only economic ties are tightening, mutual understanding and friendship are also deepening, just to name a few:

The importance of economic and trade cooperation between the two sides can never be exaggerated. China has become the second largest trading partner of Houston. According to Greater Houston Partnership(GHP) research, from 2008 to 2017, trade between China and Houston averaged $13.8 billion annually, and has jumped to $18.8 billion in 2017. Forty-four Houston firms operate 114 subsidiary locations in China, including BMC Software, NetIQ and Universal Weather & Aviation. Roughly 114 Chinese firms have invested about 14 billion U.S. dollars in Houston, including Petrochina, Sinochem, and TPCO Enterprise. Just a month ago, the GHP led a delegation to China and participated in China’s first International Import Expo. At the opening ceremony, President Xi Jinping reaffirmed that China will broaden its opening-up, work toward greater opening in the agricultural, mining and manufacturing sectors, accelerate opening in such areas as telecommunications, education, medical service and culture. That means more opportunities for China and Houston to strengthen economic and trade ties, as Houston is so privileged for its goods and service industries. There are still lots of potentials to be tapped.

Cooperation regarding science and technology has been strengthened. In May, the 2018 U.S.—China Innovation and Investment Summit was held in Houston. During the summit, Houston and Suzhou, a Chinese city famous for both traditional Chinese culture and technological innovation, signed a memorandum to strengthen their economic and technological partnership. In November, the 2018 Final InnoStar Competition took place in Suzhou. Two Houston enterprises have won the Award of Best Business Model and the 2nd prize respectively. Openness and exchanges lead to advance of science and technology. Both China and Houston will benefit from scientific and technological exchanges and cooperation.

People-to-people, culture and education exchanges have been boosted. Air China has operated five non-stop flights per week between Houston and Beijing, and extended the flight via Houston to the Panama City. An estimated 100,000 travelers from China visited Houston last year, a city marked by its economic vitality, cultural diversity and inclusiveness. An average of $5,000 individual consumption per trip is anticipated.  In April, an art troupe of disabled Chinese performed in Houston and was greatly received by the Houston audience. In June, the “2018 Experience China –Cultural Exploration of West China in the United States” showcased the natural beauty, historical sites and places of interest, social and economic development of  west China to Houstonians. In October, dancers from Shanghai and Houston Dance of Asian America presented a joint performance “Splendid China XIII” at Miller Outdoor Theater. And what’s more, Houston has attracted an increasing number of Chinese students to pursue further academic studies. In fall 2018, more than 2000 Chinese students were enrolled at Rice University and the University of Houston. The increasing people-to-people, culture and education exchanges will inject more positive momentum into the practical cooperation between Houston and China.

In about one-month time, China and U.S. will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Despite twists and turns, China-U.S. relationship has kept an overall development over the years. The two sides have been conducting cooperation in various bilateral areas, maintaining close communication and coordination to tackle regional and international issues. Time has witnessed and will always prove that a sound and steady development of China-U.S. relations serves the fundamental interests of our two peoples, and meets the expectation of the international community. It is natural that differences do exist, and frictions may occur from time to time, but the key is to handle them in a constructive way and let the common interests outweigh the contradictions. Building a relationship featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation really keeps abreast with the times, and should deserve the two sides’ longstanding endeavor. President Xi and President Trump will meet with each other during the G20 Summit this week in Argentina. I believe the two presidents’ meeting will set the course of future China-U.S. relationship and it will promote mutual understanding when the China-U.S. relationship is at an important juncture.

Mayor Turner’s first visit to China has a huge profound influence for the future cooperation between Houston and China. Let the “golden moment” bear more concrete “golden fruits”for our two peoples.

by LI Qiangmin, Ambassador and Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Houston

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