A different view outside Washington
Updated: 2013-10-25 07:04
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
Since moving to Washington in January, I have followed closely what the White House, Congress and the leading think tanks say about China and US-China relations. The comments by senior administration officials about issues such as cyber security and tension on the Korean Peninsula and maritime territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas are frequently red hot.
There is no doubt that the US capital is not just a major source of news and events, it's also where people are extremely good at spinning the news.
So a trip early this week to the Midwestern state of Iowa to cover the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of ties between Iowa and Hebei province was a welcome change and shows how the focus should be on different topics, those at the sub-national or people-to-people level.
The enthusiasm for more cooperation exhibited by both Iowans and the some 200 folks from Hebei that attended the occasion was obvious during the visits to schools such as Drake University, and businesses such as Hy-Line International, a genetics company that raises and sells chickens globally, or touring the Kimberley farms, which sell one in every four rows of soybeans to China.
You can tell that everyone feels that by working together the potential for mutual benefits is boundless. This is certainly the message that came from Governor Terry Branstad, Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins and business leaders.
Sarah Lande, now 75, hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Muscatine back in 1985 when Xi was a county leader in Hebei province, and she was clearly a star in the week's people-to-people diplomacy, playing host, sharing stories and talking about how to mobilize the people of the two countries to make the relationship better. So a "Friendship Ambassador" medal for her from the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries on Tuesday night was well deserved.
While Iowa's relationship with China has received a boost from last year's visit by then-Vice-President Xi, the desire for more cooperation and exchanges with China is also evident in other states and at other sub-national levels.
We have seen more US governors visiting China, as well as more US students studying in China as part of the 100,000 Strong Initiative. In Muscatine, Iowa, I was glad to briefly chat with Mayor Hopkins' 16-year-old granddaughter Addison, who has studied Chinese for nearly two years. She visited China this summer with 15 other Muscatine students.
Such opportunities clearly did not exist back in 1998 when I stayed with farmers and a local newspaper publisher in Minnesota.
Chinese business leaders, tourists, students and officials are also coming to the US in droves. Chinese students in US colleges and universities numbered more than 194,000 during the 2011-12 academic year, accounting for a quarter of the students from other countries.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, 100 million Chinese will travel overseas in 2015, a forecast originally made for 2020. Many of them want to travel in the US and shop in the US, despite the fact that the poor manners of some Chinese tourists has been in media spotlight lately.
Leaders of the two nations have clearly realized that exploring sub-national relations is an effective way to increase practical cooperation when they are facing tough challenges on other fronts.
Back in January 2011, then-Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a memorandum of understanding to support the establishment of a US-China Governors Forum. Since then the forum has met every year to promote sub-national ties.
The fourth China-US High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchanges, to be held in Washington in November, will also be a boost for relations between the two countries. Xi called for deeper sub-national cooperation in his congratulatory letter to the 30th anniversary of Hebei-Iowa sister state ties.
Quite a few people remain deeply concerned about possible rivalry between the US and China. There is no doubt that the best way to dismiss such concerns is deepening cooperation and exchanges at sub-national and people-to-people levels to enhance mutual trust.
The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily 10/25/2013 page8)