By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
While Washington state aims to beat the “other” Washington in hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Xi works extensively to distinguish himself from his predecessors in America.
Gary Locke, former governor and U.S. ambassador to China, described Washington state at the reception dinner for Xi, as “the real Washington, the better Washington.”
How did Washington state show the Chinese president that we are better than D. C.?
Locke said it was not his idea to invite Xi to make Seattle his first stop for his official U.S. visit. “Everybody (from our state) wants him to visit our state (after Xi announced that he’s coming to the U.S.). We are on the same page.”
After several months of planning, Locke, Christine Gregoire, Gov. Jay Inslee and several mayors including those from Everett, Tacoma, Redmond, and Seattle, brought together a team of organizations, business, and government, to make things happen for Xi’s two-day trip.
It was Xi who wanted to meet with other U.S. officials, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and other governors, during this trip. Xi didn’t want to make his visit just a local event. “He wanted to meet with state and (U.S) national officials,” said a staff member of Inslee.
Even Xi’s meeting with the Chinese community, it wasn’t just the local Chinese leaders, the 600+ attendees were from all over the country, from the West to the East Coast.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival in Everett Paine Airfield early Tuesday morning created a historical moment in US-China relations. Xi will be the fourth Chinese leader visiting the state since Premier Deng Xiaoping’s visit in 1979, President Jiang Xeming in 1993, and President Hu Jintao in 2006.
Xi had already signed an agreement with other U.S. governors to promote clean energy technology and economic development on the first day of his trip. He has an ambitious agenda for this trip, and he is prepared in his speech on how to win the public.
Chinese leaders have been comfortable with Washington state—our state doesn’t give hiccups to Chinese officials. D. C. did. During President Hu’s visit at the White House, embarrassing incidents happened when a Falun Gong member disrupted the event. Locke’s experience who had worked in both Washingtons (as governor, U.S. Secretary of Commerce) are familiar what it is needed to make Xi feel his stay in Seattle, was worthwhile.
The fact Chinese leaders picked Seattle as their first U.S. city to visit, “is significant,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray who was on red carpet greeting Xi. “Seattle is important in the global economy. It is a gate closer to China” compared to other U.S. cities. That’s what Seattle likes the Chinese to think.
Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft, also one of the special guests to greet Xi couldn’t contain his excitement even though he had met Xi in China before. He spoke to Xi in Mandarin, and reminded him to come to Microsoft on Wednesday. Xi responded, “Yes.”
“It’s still very exciting,” Shum said. “This is a rare opportunity to have.”
Mulvanny G2 Jerry Lee, another member of the state’s welcoming committee, said, “My first impression was that he was gentle and upbeat. He seem to be larger in person, when I shook his hand. Seattle weather was perfect upon his arrival. As a Chinese American, I was proud and honored to greet him.”
Boeing had put much effort in organizing the welcome for Xi. Compared to Hu’s arrival in 2006, it resulted in chaos between media and community groups, Xi’s visit was much more scripted and organized. Media were confined to another section. A separated, spacious tent was set up for special guests for breakfast and networking.
Despite China’s effort to keep Xi’s itinerary secret until last week, protesters Falun Gong and Taiwanese groups, were outside the airport in three separate intersections close to the airport. They were also present outside the Seattle Westin Hotel. To drum out protesters, pro-China forces also showed up right next to the protesters, carrying China’s flag outnumbering the protesters dressed in white t-shirt. At one point, you couldn’t distinguish whether they were pro and against China. (end)
Assunta Ng can be reached at email@example.com.