September 27 - October 4, 2009
SLC Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Delegation
Left to right: Representative Steve Harrelson, Arkansas; Senator Mark Norris, Tennessee; Speaker Robbie Wills, Arkansas; He Yafei, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, China; Speaker Jim Tucker, Louisiana; Speaker Seth Hammett, Alabama; Speaker Ron Richard, Missouri; and President Pro Tempore Charles J. Colgan, Virginia
A delegation of presiding officers from The Council of State Governments' Southern Legislative Conference recently traveled to China at the invitation of the Chinese government. The SLC delegation’s visit to China was sponsored by the Hong-Kong-based China-U.S. Exchange Foundation and organized by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC). The China-U.S. Exchange Foundation has sponsored a number of delegations from the United States to China and, most recently, in May 2009, arranged for a group of American journalists to travel to a number of Chinese cities to gain first-hand insights into China’s economic and social development. The goal of the Foundation is to help Americans across many spectrums gain a deeper understanding of the environmental, economic, social and political developments in China.
The SLC delegation to China included Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark S. Norris, SLC chair elect and delegation leader; Alabama House Speaker Seth Hammett; Arkansas House Speaker Robbie Wills; Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker; Missouri House Speaker Ron Richard; Virginia Senate President Pro Tempore Charles J. Colgan; and Arkansas House Majority Leader Steve Harrelson. Colleen Cousineau, SLC executive director, and Sujit CanagaRetna, SLC senior fiscal analyst, staffed the delegation.
The SLC delegation was hosted to a breakfast briefing by Mr. Tung Chee Hwa, the founding chairman of the China – United States Exchange Foundation. Mr. Tung served as the first chief executive of Hong Kong (1997 to 2005) in the aftermath of the transfer of the island from Britain to China in 1997. Mr. Tung is a senior statesman in the Chinese political establishment with extensive experience interacting with political figures at the highest level in both China and the United States over a period of some four decades. According to Mr. Tung, “the China – United States relationship is the single most important bilateral relationship in the 21st century.” The discussion covered a wide array of topics ranging from international trade to intellectual property to political reforms to investment.
- The SLC delegation then met with Mr. He Yafei, China’s Vice Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some of the important points that surfaced during the dialogue at this meeting were the following: “China supports a more balanced trade relationship with the United States; China seeks more high-tech exports (for civilian purposes) from the United States; and SLC economic development officials need to focus more on educating Chinese investors on specific rules and regulations in the states.”
- Madame Li Xiaolin, Vice President of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), hosted the SLC delegation to a luncheon banquet. During remarks made at this event, Madame Li reiterated the importance of the China – United States relationship and acknowledged how honored she was to host the premier delegation of SLC presiding officers in China.
- The SLC delegation visited the Great Wall of China, one of the ancient wonders of the world.
- The SLC delegation was among the invited guests to the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, an impressive spectacle that was not open to the general public. The delegation gathered several hours before the parade began at Tiananmen Square to witness the vast display of Chinese military power, including 52 weapons systems, 151 warplane flyovers, 12 intercontinental-range missiles, and a new missile, the Dongfeng 21-C, along with thousands of marching troops. The military display was followed by a long procession of floats, each highlighting a Chinese province’s characteristics or one of China’s accomplishments (space program, high-speed rail, etc.).
- In the evening, the SLC delegation returned to Tiananmen Square to witness a carefully calibrated and very colorful cultural celebration followed by a stunning fireworks display, all centered on celebrating China’s progress in the past 60 years.
- The delegation flew to Shanghai and was taken on a guided tour highlighting the city’s extraordinary progress in terms of infrastructure. The tour also included a riverboat cruise focusing on efforts by the city to expand its waterfront capacity both in terms of its commercial and tourist potential.
- The SLC delegation met with Dr. Yang Jiemian, President of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, and senior officials at the Institute. The Institute, founded in 1960, has a fine national and international reputation as a think tank and the discussions between the SLC delegation and Institute officials covered a broad range of topics of bilateral interest.
- The SLC delegation then toured the Expo 2010 headquarters and received a briefing on the preparations for this historic event next year. While the Expo 2010 will be held in Shanghai, China, in the grand tradition of international fairs and expositions, the theme of the exposition will be Better City – Better Life. Officials informed us that the event will reinforce Shanghai's new status as a major economic and cultural center and generate the largest number of visitors in the history of world's fairs in terms of gross numbers.
- Individual SLC presiding officers held meetings with officials from their economic development agencies and American companies from their home states operating in China.
- The SLC delegation rode the Maglev train from the Longyang Road station in Pudong to Pudong/Shanghai International Airport, a distance of 30 kilometers, or 18.6 miles. Several presiding officers on the SLC delegation commented that the ride on the Shanghai Maglev Train ranked very high among the highlights of the trip. The world’s first commercial high-speed maglev line opened to the public on January 1, 2004. While the train can reach a maximum normal operation speed of 431 kilometers per hour (268 miles per hour), during the SLC delegation’s ride, the train reached a speed of 301 kilometers per hour, or 187 miles per hour.