Building a US-China Bridge

What would inspire three mayors and a judge from the southern U.S. to take a 3,600-mile road trip after flying the most indirect route for cost reasons to China?

The answer can be summed up as passion to improve their citizens’ way of life. In May this year, these passionate public officials traveled over 23,000 miles in eight days, eight Chinese cities and participated in 34 meetings, of which 3,600 miles were within the road trip in China alone.

During their road trip, they met with senior government officials, executives of some of the top companies in China, visited factories and technology innovation centers. Most importantly, they promoted their communities and made friends.

They are bridge builders and we believe this is one of many trips they will be making to China. As a result, many new friends from China will visit their communities in the coming months and years.

Clearly, China manufacturing is no longer to be considered only as a low cost manufacturing hub. We have seen some of the world’s most modern facilities and new technology that we would very much like to have in our community.

-- Sheldon Day ( 谢尔登 • 戴 ), mayor of Thomasville, Alabama.

Our business relationship, prior to this trip, has been reliant on the news stories we read about each of our countries. This trip provided us the opportunity to bridge the communication gap and to make the first steps toward developing meaningful relationships -- business and personal.

-- Jill Swain ( 吉尔 • 斯旺 ), mayor of Huntersville, North Carolina.

The reception we received was incredible, each meeting was more than a courtesy discussion. Businesses were curious about our communities and anxious to introduce their businesses to us. Some are already in the process of looking to locate in the United States. For my city, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the needs of these companies and learn how we might meet those needs.

-- Mike Schmitz ( 麦克施密茨 ), mayor of Dothan, Alabama.

We have been in discussions with at least one manufacturer for most of the past year. While I saw again the many opportunities for US communities like ours, I think we are making progress on reaching an agreement with at least one company to build in our community. For me, it was another meeting with someone who has become a friend.

-- Greg Norris ( 格雷格 • 诺里斯 ), chairman of the Monroe County, Alabama Commission.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 August 2013 15:32

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Right Time

The Time to Realize the Full Potential in U.S.-China Ralation is NOW

Against the backdrop of all sorts of noise emits the fear of Chinese domination to national security interest.

A dramatic new era in cooperative U.S.-China relations quietly emerged in recent weeks, highlighted by the historic summit meeting in early June between U.S. President Barack Obama and newly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The consensus from political leaders, policy makers, and investors from both countries is that after 40 years of methodical political and diplomatic rapprochement, the two countries have steered their relations steadily forward — culminating in a historic merging of their economic interest. In shedding the adversaries of the past, both sides are now poised to work as partners to fully take advantage of the mutual benefits offered in an amicable relationship. 
Chinese President Xi Jinping and the U.S. President Barack ObamaAt SoZo, we believe that this will become the new normal ( 新常态 ) for U.S.- China relations. As a result, now is the right time for direct Chinese investment into the U.S., resulting in the country’s benefiting from China’s economic growth. There is plenty of enthusiasm from both sides; alongside unprecedented political support from the highest levels in Beijing and Washington to the grassroots and local governments in both countries.

A Historical Turning Point
Billboard in MoroevilleWhile attending the Asia Society Awards Dinner in Washington in June, we heard Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai ( 崔天凯 ) calling the presidential summit “unprecedented” and that a new power relationship between the two countries had become apparent based on “strategic mutual trust, common interests of China and the U.S., and deepening exchanges and cooperation.”

Cui referred to the two nations simultaneously reaching new phases of development, focused not only on common interests but “[effectively managed] differences.” In addition, he acknowledged the mutual advantages of “long- term healthy and stable development.”

Ambassador Cui was not alone in his positive analysis of the historic new era between the great economies of the world's largest developing country and the largest developed country.

Hon. Mr. C. H. Tung meeting with Southern Mayors and SoZo GroupIn one of a series of corollary meetings, we have sat down with C.H. Tung, one of the top economic policy advisors to President Xi and Vice Chair of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee. He emphasized that the two nations had reached an unprecedented historical turning point in bilateral relations; allowing the two countries to implement policies and programs that encourage the grassroots to seize the opportunity to work together in taking advantage of this crucial historical moment. Consequently, the full potential of the U.S. - China relationship can be explored. The emphasis is FULL POTENTIAL ( 全部潜力 ).

Engaging at All Levels
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former head of the U.S. National Security Council, is quoted in an interview: “[we] are the #1 and #2 economic powers in the world. There is a tendency to look at the difficulties of other side with a certain quiet smile and say ‘it is a too bad for them but good for us.’ We have to get rid of this kind of thinking. The fact of the matter is if America doesn’t do well, China will have increasing difficulties. And it is true both ways.”

This newsletter will share the complete interview video with Brzezinski in the coming issue.

Is it a walk in the park for US economic developers then? Certainly not! Neither is true for Chinese investors to the U.S., or U.S. investors to China. Huge culture and business gaps remain. But now is the time, given all the support, the bridge can be built.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 August 2013 15:10

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Right People

Since time is not as important as place, and place not as important as people, we need the right people to bridge the gap between U.S. and China.

Mayor Schemitz of Dothan and Raymond Cheng of SoZo Group announce the selection of the City of Dothan to host the first U.S.-China Manufacturing Symposium in November 2013Thousands of passionate and competent individuals are involved in building this bridge. But due to the dynamics of both markets and countries, in addition to the rapid changes in China, we don’t believe that there is one set of blueprint or one school of architecture. We are grateful that we are able to meet and consult the top architects in this bridge building exercise; they are all enthusiastic, experienced, accessible and willing to share. We will feature two to three individuals in every issue of our newsletter.

In this issue, we will introduce the Hon. C.H. Tung and H.E. Mr. Francisco Sánchez.

Mr. C.H. Tung ( 董建华 ) is the Vice Chairman of China People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee (CPPCC), one of the highest advisory bodies in the Chinese government. He is also known to be the first Hong Kong Chief Executive.

Mr. Francisco Sánchez is the Under Secretary for International Trade in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Hon. Mr. C. H. Tung
As one of the most sought after experts on U.S.- China relations, 75-year- young C.H. Tung spends his days meeting with visitors. His days are long; most people who know Mr. Tung well will suggest he refrains from sleep. The meetings are not simply photo-ops — rather, Mr. Tung delivers heady advices on China.

If we can package conservations with Mr. Tung as a product offering, it will be an international bestseller. We met with Mr. Tung on many occasions, and his company is fast becoming a must for our U.S. delegations visiting China.

Mayor Swain from Huntersville, North Carolina wrote on her Facebook page: “During a rainstorm, we met with the Vice Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee to discuss the good and bad of relations between the U.S. and China. Hon. C. H. Tung is a kind and wise man. All my preconceived notions about
a Communist were dismissed today. We hear the media's [sensationalist] stories about China and they hear the same about the U.S. And yet there is so much to gain for both and so many ways we can work together....”

Mr. Tung also told all the mayors to be careful and do their due diligence well in China as the market is extremely complicated.

He then offered to introduce us to a good friend of his in Nanjing, who turned out to be H.E. Zheng Zeguang, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs in China.

It is this kind of frankness, willingness to share, and help that will ultimately bridge the gap and help us realize the “full potential” ( 全部潜 力 ): a phrase and concept we learned from Mr. Tung.

H.E. Mr. Francisco Sánchez
Breaking the cultural gap ( 文化鸿沟 ) by hugging. Yes, hugs, have you ever been hugged by an Under Secretary of Commerce? You may not think much of this, however, in the Chinese culture, this is not a norm but done right, it breaks down barrier.

Breakfast with Under Secretary Fancisco Sánchez on Lamma Island, Hong KongAccessibility, effectiveness, warmth and senior officials don’t usually go together. We met Mr. Sánchez at APBO 2013, a must-attend conference for economic developments in Los Angeles. Not only Mr. Sánchez seems to remember names and faces well, he also seems to be everywhere. From our encounter at APBO in LA, we are able to meet with Mr. Sánchez in many occasions, in different cities and countries — exemplifying the adage “right time, right place”. He was able to be in Hong Kong to join us at the start of the southern mayors’ tour of China, this time in Think Asia, Think Hong Kong and so on.

On his recent trip to Hong Kong, Mr. Sánchez joined us on a boat trip to one of the outlaying islands for a local breakfast. The conversation during breakfast was frank, open and full of advice. Mr. Sánchez finds the term “American Exceptionalism” offensive and is determined to bridge the gap and change the view. We believe with his experience, accomplishments and ability to charm just about anyone, he may just do that.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 August 2013 15:28

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Right Place

Chinese philosopher Mencius’ wisdom spoke of the importance of having the right terrain to win a war. As discussed in earlier articles we do not subscribe to win-lose thinking. Rather, we are taking the advice from leaders like the Hon. C.H.Tung to find a way to develop the “full potential”.

We have been looking for the right place—or terrain—to contribute towards this goal. After two long years of searching, we have realized that there is no single place that is best suited to launch our initiatives. There is no contiguous space, but rather a group of states, small towns and pockets of Washington and Beijing, that form the foundations of the bridges.

The area we chose include the southern states ( 南部州 ) and rural towns of United States, the fast developing second tier cities in China, and of course Beijing and Washington.

The Southern States in the U.S. — in particular some of the small rural towns, from Thomasville, AL to Monroeville, AL, from Huntersville ( 亨特斯维尔 ), NC to Dothan, AL — have all exhibited their desire, will and capabilities to welcome Chinese investment, more importantly, through their genuine friendship,changing minds and changing habits to start the bridge building process.

The fast-developing cities such as Nanjing, and rural towns of Bazhong ( 巴中 ),  Langzhong ( 阆中 ) and Nanchong ( 南充 ) in Sichuan province have all exhibited similar sentiments, and have in fact attempted one-upmanship in welcoming U.S. delegation.

We have many gratifying examples—too many to write in this newsletter—but here are some interesting tidbits:

The accessibility of leadership of both countries from a spectrum of parties: Washington and Beijing, state and federal delegations, local government on both sides. We will feature some of these amazing leaders in the Right People section.

In order to welcome Chinese guests during the Alabama China Partnership Symposium (A SoZo event), the town of Monroeville, AL, put up billboards along the highways. Signs were placed outside businesses to welcome Chinese delegates. In addition to printing their local newspaper in Chinese, these efforts are setting new benchmarks for all future conferences.

Private individuals contributed significantly as well. Examples include generous grants given by Sybil H. Smith Charitable Trust, Mr. George Landegger’s ( 乔治 • 兰蒂格 ) endless contributions which funded the premiere of To Kill a Mockingbird in Hong Kong and the teaching of Chinese in rural Alabama.

The mayors and probate judge of four southern towns recently embarked on a 3,600-mile road trip in China. The welcome they received was unprecedented. More information is available in later article “roadtrip” on page 17.

Beyond Southern Hospitality. People of Monroeville showing their gratutdeThese are just some of the examples of why these places are the “right place” to launch our initiatives. The cultural and communication gap between U.S. and China is huge, often wearing, and at times discouraging. However, we find energy and inspiration from progress, result, and various small gestures along the way. Such circumstances are demonstrated in Mayor Sheldon Day’s hiring of a carpenter to produce large wooden lazy-susans in the luncheon welcoming of the Chinese delegation. Another example sees our Chinese guests hugging our U.S. guests, complete with a “Roll- Tide” from the son of one of our Chinese guests — a near- universal greeting from the University of Alabama.

To witness these interactions in person is to know we are on the right path.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 August 2013 15:17

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Alabama China Partnership Symposium

Alabama China Partnership Symposium


The Alabama China Partnership Symposium is a creative people-to-people forum organized by SoZo Group in early 2012. SoZo held two symposiums, both in the quaint but historic community of Monroeville, Alabama. The events promoted American-Chinese political and commercial exchanges designed to facilitate both increased trade opportunities as well as direct investment from China to the U.S. Both events received rave reviews and international media coverage in North America, Asia, and Europe.

Welcome banner at the Alabama Southern Community CollegeRepresentatives from businesses in the U.S. and China were able to learn from some of the world’s leading economists, diplomats, and government leaders who had and have first hand experience in the early development and current status of the U.S.-China relationship. Ambassador Nicholas Platt shared a personal film documenting the steps leading to the early meetings between then U.S. President Richard Nixon and Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong. Former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who led efforts to normalize the relationship between China and the U.S., provided insightful comments about the maturing relationship, and the political and economic interdependence of the two countries. Internationally renowned economists Nouriel Roubini and Chandran Nair ( 钱德兰 • 奈尔 ) each outlined the current state of the world economy and the favorable conditions for international investment. Top ranking government officials, including Governor of the State of Alabama Robert Bentley, U.S. Senator and Ranking Member on the Senate Budget Committee Jeff Sessions, and U.S. Congressman Jo Bonner ( 祖 • 邦纳 ), personally welcomed Chinese guests to their home state and discussed Alabama’s unique success in recruiting 400 international businesses from over 30 countries. Leaders of Chinese businesses also attended, including the President of China Telecom North American Company, Chairman and CEO of ZTE USA, Inc., managing partners from some of China’s leading law firms, and another 300 representatives of Chinese enterprises from the mainland.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 August 2013 15:35

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