WSCRC proud of record of promoting ties between Washington state and China
By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
When the United States formally established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1979, Washington state already had a formal relationship with it. Today, China is the state’s leading trading partner and principal export market for items like aircraft parts and agricultural products.
In 1972, the Civil Aviation Administration of China ordered 10 Boeing 707s. The agency changed the source of the country’s aircraft from the Soviet Union to Washington state and, later, Europe.
Boeing delivered its first airplane to China in May 1973. Washington state expanded relations with China in 1979. It began with the visit of then-Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping.
In April of that year, Seattle’s seaport reputation as the “Gateway to the Orient” was renewed as the M.V. Liulinhai — a Chinese cargo ship operated by the China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company — arrived under much fanfare at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 91. The 637-foot ship became the first one to enter a U.S. port in 30 years. After it was loaded with 37,000 metric tons of corn from the Midwest, it headed back home.
In late 1979, the Washington State China Relations Council (WSCRC) — a nonprofit business association — formed to promote stronger commercial, educational, and cultural relations between Washington state and China. Bob Kapp became its first president.
Joseph Borich, WSCRC’s president for the last 12 years and former U.S. consul general in Shanghai from 1994 to 1997, says the association started “to have available a storehouse of knowledge, of experience in dealing with China.”
It has about 110 members, including such companies as Microsoft, Boeing, and Weyerhaeuser.
He also pointed out that Stan Barer was one of the council’s chief organizers who continues to serve on its board of directors.
Barer, according to Borich, is “responsible for many other pioneering efforts in the restoration of U.S.–China relations and, in particular, in driving the relationship between the state of Washington and China, going even back before 1979.”
In the last 30 years, the WSCRC has earned the reputation as being an important resource to Washington state. When it began, “not many people knew a lot about China and fewer still knew how to go about the process of becoming involved with China as a business or in an educational exchange or whatever because there wasn’t very much of this going on prior to 1979,” Borich said.
Its proudest accomplishments include successful trade missions by port promotion and business delegations. Besides gaining positive media coverage, Borich said, “[They] also have helped to strengthen the fundamental ties between Washington and China.”
Gov. Dixie Lee Ray led the first mission to China in September 1979. Borich recalls accompanying Gov. Gary Locke on his first trade mission to China as governor in 1997.
Borich says another proud accomplishment during his tenure is Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Seattle in April 2006. “Hu gave an important speech on U.S. economic relations with a great deal of positive comment about the importance of Washington state in those commercial relations,” he said.
It consolidated “a very positive view of Seattle and Washington state in the minds of the rank and file Chinese,” he added. China now has a population of 1.3 billion.
Borich points out that the most challenging issues for the association included the most recent global economic crisis and the pirating of intellectual property in China.
As for the future, Borich says the WSCRC will continue its effort to help reduce global warming through the U.S. China Clean Energy Forum, one focused on clean and renewable energy. “Between the two countries, half of the world’s energy is consumed and, roughly, half of the world’s greenhouse gases are emitted,” he said.
He also said the WSCRC will focus on making Washington state as “more of a destination for economic and academic pursuits and cultural exchange” for China. He looks to China as a source of investments for the state.
“The more contact there is between the people of China and the people of the United States, the better the environment becomes for a constructive and engaged relationship that benefits both countries,” said Borich.
The WSCRC’s annual banquet and 30th anniversary gala will feature Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr., the longest serving U.S. ambassador to China from 2001 to 2009, as its keynote speaker. ♦
For more information about the WSCRC’s annual banquet and 30th Anniversary Gala on Sept. 24, visit www.wscrc.org.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.