Wednesday, October 10, 2001

A bicultural professional--divided loyalty or best of both worlds?

Speech: Silicon Valley Chinese Engineers Association Annual Conferenc, October 6, 2001

Despite recent tragic events, we are lucky to be living in America. This is a country of generosity, in space and in spirit. This is a country that has room for everyone and anyone. Anyone with the desire and the drive has the opportunity to succeed here in America. As previous speakers have already recounted, nowhere exemplifies this fact more than here in Silicon Valley.

According to latest U.S. census figures, more than one out of four persons living in Santa Clara County is an Asian American and one out of every fourteen is a Chinese American. Walk through any high tech company in Silicon Valley, and one would meet engineers, managers and executives from all over the world. If America is the land of opportunity, then Silicon Valley the source where opportunities originate.

Silicon Valley is the living proof that diversity is the strength of America. All of us that live and work in Silicon Valley have become to varying degrees multicultural professionals. We have to develop multicultural sensitivities in order to communicate with each other, to work as effective teams and therefore to be successful. Tragically, it is the lack of diversity and cultural sensitivity that kept our intelligence gathering agencies from detecting and preventing the recent acts of terrorism but that’s a topic of discussion for another day.

Today however, I would like to talk about the merit of being a bicultural professional rather than multicultural. More specifically, I would like to talk about being a professional person that takes advantage of being a Chinese and at the same time being an American.

In 1978, more than twenty years ago, I joined Chase Manhattan Bank to help American corporations do business in China, thus making use of my Chinese background as well as my consulting experience and my technical education. At that time, China was just opening its doors to the west and I took the job with Chase Bank with a sense of adventure and it did not occur to me that being bicultural could serve as a basis for a professional career. In fact, many people I met in China and not a few in the U.S. had trouble understanding what a person with a doctorate degree in polymer science was doing in an intermediary role of uncertain calling.

Today is very different. China has become the sixth largest economy in the world, the only major trillion-dollar economy expected to double within ten years, and has become a major trading partner of the U.S. and of California. Today opportunities abound for those who can move comfortably and get things done on both sides of the Pacific and who can function as a bridge between the east and west.

For the twenty some odd years that I have been going back and forth to China, I find certain practices and ways of doing of things essential to a successful career. One is that I take careful notes. Basically it is never a good idea to rely solely on one’s memory on important matters, such as your wedding anniversary, but it is even more important when you know you are jet lagged. When you are jet-lagged, it is amazing as to how easy it is to get order of events, people seen, nature of discussion and decisions made all mixed up just a few weeks after it all took place.

Another important characteristic is careful and active listening, or listening with empathy. This means listening in such a way that the speaker feels assured that he/she is being understood, not feeling the pressure from a listener who is anxious to interrupt and get a word in. An active listener is learning from the conversation and meeting, absorbing and digesting and understanding. Most of us leave a lot on the table because we have never paid enough attention to becoming a good listener. Active listening is a part of effective communication.

To be an effective listener in a cross cultural situation is even more challenging because it requires the person to be constantly switching the contextual background. A Chinese may be saying certain things that have certain significance while an American might be saying similar things but mean quite something different. A bicultural person has to have the ability to put the remarks in context and be able to explain one side to the other.

There are many occasions when I have been called upon to assist with the interpreting between Chinese officials and American business executives. My command of the Chinese language is never good enough for me to be a professional interpreter. But ironically, because I cannot be a word for word interpreter, I concentrate on making sure that the meaning and intent is accurately conveyed. For this, I get expressions of appreciation from both sides of the conversation.

To be a truly bicultural person is someone who can explain what one side is saying in the context such that the other person from the other culture can understand it. To be honest, I think I am pretty good at this and I do it naturally and do not really think about what I am doing. In that environment, my brain is constantly switching back and forth from the Chinese context to the American context, to the point that I am not even aware of what I am doing.

While I take a great deal of satisfaction in being able to help bridge the cultural gap between the Chinese attitude and the American one, sometimes the line seems blurred between explaining a position and taking a position. Sometimes one has to be able to distinguish between explaining China’s policy versus defending China’s policy. As an American citizen, I have an interest in helping Americans understand China’s policy, but I am not sure that I should be in any way defending China’s policy and be labeled an apologist for China.

For example, China has been criticized for their one child policy and their sometimes rather draconian ways of enforcing such a policy. I would point to the alternative, namely without the policy there would be 300 million more Chinese today than there already are. Certainly, I would not defend or even try to explain the extreme lengths some officials in the countryside have gone to enforce the one-child policy.

On the matter of protection of intellectual property, I would explain to my American client that this is a big headache and needs serious attention. I might indicate that lack of respect for software is part of Asian culture endemic throughout Asia, that solution will take a long time and require not only enforcement and prosecution but a great deal of education to promote understanding and respect. Again I would not defend or even condone piracy. In fact every chance I get when I am in China I would point out that protection of IP is in China’s self interest and is crucial to China developing a serious software industry.

China, of course, has been severely castigated over their so-called human rights record. Usually, this matter does not come up in my business assignments but does come up when the overall bilateral relationship is the issue. Again, I do not feel that it is my duty to defend China’s practices, especially since I have no way of gaining enough expertise to say anything authoritative about many of the practices. What I can say and have said to my American clients and political leaders is that human right condition in China is better now than ever in recent history. I have on occasion while in China with my clients and as we stroll along the Shanghai Bund to quietly ask first time visitors if the China they see is what they expected. Did China seem like a police state to them as portrayed by the American media? Of course, I have no respect for those individuals who go the other extreme, i.e., those who fabricate and distort the situation in China to increase bilateral tension in order to make a living from it.

In explaining China, it’s important to avoid using the party line from China for the simple reason that words from China tend to be doctrinaire and sounds more like slogans than are persuasive. For example, I think it is less persuasive to label the Falun Gong a dangerous evil cult, than it is to describe some of the teachings of their founder. Such concepts as levitation, power of spinning wheel to ward off bodily harm, and sickness as punishment for sins that cannot be cured by medication do a lot more to show the cult aspects of this movement than all the name calling.

As a member of the Committee of 100, I am very proud to be part of the team who has been engaged in preparing and updating a position paper on the U.S. China relations, entitled “Seeking common grounds while respecting differences.” We’ve been issuing this paper about every two years and the intended audience for this paper is The White House and Congress. In this paper we claim the advantage of bicultural perspective in pointing out that China is different from the U.S. in many ways. We encourage frequent interactions between government leaders to promote understanding and mutual respect. We argued that hectoring and lecturing and making highly public demands of China to modify their behavior to suit our American standard is not productive and not useful. Every year, we organize a conference and part of the program is to promote greater understanding between our land of origin and our adopted country. [Next year this conference will be held in San Jose and I look forward to seeing you there.]

As a bicultural person, I also devote efforts the other way, that is helping China better understand America. In the days of late 70s and early 80s, my efforts were mainly trying to convince people in China that the streets of America are not paved with gold and that everybody works hard for the admittedly high standard of living. That the image of a matronly woman in fur walking down 5th Avenue of New York with a poodle wearing a cute cashmere sweater and dainty booties does not typify America.

Today, I don’t have to do that anymore. China has largely caught up and in general understands the U.S. better than the other way around. Now, we talk about high tech development and ways of attracting foreign investments. Everybody is interested in the secrets of Silicon Valley’s success. Every chance I get, I explained that Silicon Valley’s success is in the people. When they ask what should the government do to create another Silicon Valley. My answer is that the government should do nothing other than creating an open environment. How to create a venture capital industry to breed successful high tech start-ups? I say first get the stock market up to international standards, let the market conditions, rather the government, decide on who should go public and who should not and do not limit how much windfall profit a venture capital firm can make on a successful investment. Of course to really attract foreign capital and venture capitalists the Renminbi needs to be freely convertible.

Of course, we Americans love to think that democracy is the best form of government and the right one for everybody. I happen to think a democratic government is one that I would prefer to live under but I do not presume to think that it necessarily is the only form of government nor necessarily the best one under all circumstances. In any case, I do not believe unsolicited lectures on the superiority of democracy is a very effective way to convincing anyone. One the other hand, when appropriate I wouldn’t mind explaining to my friends from China about the concept of democracy by using actual real life situations.

Let me give you an example. A few years ago, I was driving some visitors from China along route 280. Suddenly, I had an idea and pull into a rest area that featured a real ugly sculpture of Father Junipero Serra. “See this garden and flowers in this rest area,” I said to my visitors, “That’s the work of a homeless priest.” I then told them the story of this priest who was homeless and spent his time beautifying the rest area and sleeping there. The authorities found out about it and wanted to evict him. The public found out about what the authorities planned to do and raised uproar in sympathy with the homeless priest. In face of the public pressure, the authorities relented and allowed the priest to stay. Somebody, I don’t know who, even provided the priest with a small camper trailer so that he did not have to sleep in a tent anymore. Today if you go by this rest area you will see even more elaborate garden as well as the camper in the back. End of a beautiful story.

Why did I tell the story? Because of its human interest and because it is a good illustration of the benefits of a democracy where public opinion counts. In my view, telling the story is a way of making some points without being obnoxious about it.

Hopefully I have demonstrated and convince you that in acting as a bridge between China and America, in speaking about China to help Americe better understand China, you do not have to defend China. For sure, you should not feel any sense of divided loyalty. As a citizen of this country, you owe your allegiance to the United States. Period. This is not negotiable. As we know well from the recent experiences of Wen Ho Lee, there will be plenty of people that will suspect you of divided loyalty anyway. You must not give them cause and you must fight back when they discriminate and practice racial profiling.

As I alluded to at the beginning of my presentation, to be a bicultural person is to have the best of both worlds. As China grows in preeminence on the world stage, there will be a growing need for people that can communicate, facilitate and motivate on both sides of the Pacific. But the opportunities are even broader than just those that can go back and forth.

China is now actively recruiting those that have been trained and working in the U.S. to go back to China, much like Taiwan did about 10-15 years ago. Why? Because these people have the kind of training, experience, skill set and mindset and network of contacts of value to China. When China completes their reform of the securities market and open up the venture capital market and make the Renminbi convertible, the trickle of people returning to China to live and work there would become a torrent.

Opportunities in Silicon Valley are also growing for the bicultural person as well. For every new ethnic shopping center that opens means more jobs from chefs and waiters to clerks and shop owners to managers and small business operators.

The venture capital industry used to be virtually an all white business. Thanks to more and more high tech companies successfully started up by Chinese American and other Asian American entrepreneurs, the VC firms now realized that they are the ones missing out on deal flow if they do not have some partners who can interact with the Asian American founders.

Same with us here at Deloitte & Touche. We recognize the opportunity to serve increasing number of companies founded by Chinese American entrepreneurs as well as companies coming to Silicon Valley from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Thus we have formed Chinese Services Group with bi-lingual and bi-cultural members to provide an array of services.

My friends, we are facing tough tough times right now. When it’s the gloomiest, it’s most difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But inevitably the economy will turn the corner. The long-term future for Silicon Valley, for China and for those of us that can live and work in both environments is bright and exciting. I wish all of you the best for the coming era, an era where multiculturalism and multilateralism will triumph.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Dichotomy in Perceptions of the U.S.-China Relations

Based on a speech given at the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, on September 13, 2001.

When I was first asked to speak at the Commonwealth Club, the spy plane incident was still fresh on my mind and I had been pondering for a long while over the toughening of stances the U.S. and China were each showing to the other side. How much was substance and how much was due to differences in style, I wondered. Since that time, both sides have found ways to soften their positions. Secretary Colin Powell’s visit to Beijing, which took place just shortly before Congressman Mike Honda and his delegation went to China, was widely regarded by the Chinese leaders to be hugely successful—more favorably regarded, I would venture to guess, than his trip might be regarded in Washington.

The theme of my talk is to differentiate and contrast the views of China as proposed by its critics in America’s mainstream and mine, a Chinese American. I hope to at least point out that some of the criticisms suffer from ignorance and lack of knowledge of China’s culture and attitudes.

The spy plane incident

The mid-air collision between an U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese jet took place on April 1, certainly a cruel April Fool’s hoax if there ever was one, and the initial response from the Bush Administration was to demand the immediate return of the plane and the personnel and China’s reply was to demand an official apology from the U.S. It took days before Secretary Powell and President Bush expressed concern and regret over the possible loss of the life of the Chinese pilot. The crew and rest of the surveillance team came back to the U.S. to a heroes welcome some 11 days after the accident. Eleven days do not seem like too big a deal now in retrospect, but at the time every daily delay was a bid deal in the media and with the folks in Washington.

The spy plane incident is just one example of how the perspective can be so different between that of the Bush Administration and me, a Chinese American. The initial tone of the Bush Administration was strictly a legalistic one, a position based on international law. To wit, we were over international waters, we did no wrong, we are entitled to fly over there and we are entitled to have our plane and crew back. My reaction was hey wait a minute how about some words of regret over the loss of a life? I had the opportunity to go on CNN on the following Saturday, a week later, and I tried to offer some “shoe-on-the-other-foot” perspective. What if the plane that went down was ours and the Chinese surveillance had to force land in New Jersey? Are they entitled to leave right way or wouldn’t we want to detain them long enough to really find out what happened? While in detention would we serve them hamburgers or would we serve them steak? The Americans, I understand, were treated to the best the Chinese had to offer and got their big Mac only after they got back to the US of A.

There are those in the Bush Administration where human relationships do not enter their thinking. Didn’t matter if our crew was treated with the best under the circumstances. Didn’t matter, as we found out later on, that apparently the other Chinese pilot actually guide the stricken American plane to the airstrip and thus avoided having to ditch at sea. As far as these people are concerned, China is going to be the next evil empire whether China likes it or not.

Debate over WTO and Olympics 2008

With that attitude, there were resistance on China entering WTO and same parties questioned whether China “ deserved” to host the Olympics. The resistance to China entering the WTO melted away when the economic implications were made clear to the nay Sayers. Let me simply raise the question, namely how can we have a world trade organization if the largest country and the 6th largest economy—and the only trillion dollar economy expected to double in ten years—is excluded?

Those opposed to China hosting the Olympics followed similar line of reasoning. Namely, why should a country with such a “horrible human rights record” be rewarded with the hosting of this event? Whether China has such an unimagined human rights policy and whether such criticism is steeped with a heavy dose of hypocrisy is a subject for another day, though I have written a chapter on this subject for a book Prof. Ling-chi Wang is putting together. Let me simply point out that to even raise the question on whether China deserves to host the Olympics is to put this issue on a certain presumption that in itself deserves examination. Who do the Olympics belong to? Is it just to member nations of the West or is the most populous nation in the world entitled to a fair stake? Should the right to host be based on human rights? If so, on whose criteria of human rights? Thank goodness, Beijing has been given the right to host Olympics 2008, thus freeing us of years of rancor and bitterness and this discussion is now moot.

Multilateralism vs. unilateralism

Perhaps this is the place to pause and take a look at unilateralism vs. multilateralism. The recent despicable terrorist attack on New York and Washington suggests that there is a price to be paid for being the most powerful nation in the world and this cost is dear. Furthermore, the attack confirms the notion that not even the most powerful nation can stop those bent on destruction and terrorism. All of this should suggest that unilateralism (i.e., we are the most powerful nation and we can call the shots) is not a workable approach. Only by working with all other nations of like mind, will we have any chance of stopping and heading off future acts of terrorism. We can’t possibly exist as a fortress standing alone; we need to be part of the worldwide community. We need the sympathy and empathy and cooperation of everybody in the world if we are to have any hope of stopping this kind of horror. And, it probably doesn’t take a genius to conclude that a missile defense system of any kind is irrelevant to preventing this kind of disaster in the future.

Changing to unilateralism of a different kind, I would like to contrast how American mainstream look at Taiwan and how differently most Chinese Americans look at the same subject. The U.S. foreign policy rests on the premise that democracy is good, any country that practices democracy has to be on the right. Thus Taiwan becomes America’s Asian model of democracy. Chinese Americans look at Taiwan more closely and sees a different picture.

A Chinese American view of Taiwan

We see tradeoffs as price of democracy. Public security in Taiwan has perceptibly suffered when Taiwan became a many-voiced society rather than one under martial law. Open accusations of corruption in the form of black gold politics help brought down the KMT, the party that had been in power for over 50 years. Gangsters ran openly for office and assassinate other public figures that got in their way.

One item of good news was the orderly transition of government, after the most recent presidential election, from the KMT to the DPP, but that was almost the end of good news. While the previous administration demonstrated their ineptitude in dealing with a debilitating earthquake, the new one treated the people to live TV where they watch with horror while four workers stranded by rising flood water were eventually swept away to their death as contending agencies bickered over who should go to their rescue. The stock market has plunged to less than half of its high. Unemployment rose to new high and for 2001 Taiwan faced its first economic contraction in 26 years.

In the meantime, it became increasingly obvious that Taiwan’s economy is intricately and irreversibly tied to the mainland. Anywhere between 500,000 to 1 million Taiwanese now live and work on the mainland. Young professionals in Taiwan now believe their career path runs through Shanghai. In fact the hottest selling books in Taipei all dealt with living and working in Shanghai. According to most recent polls, about one-third of the population are now in favor of reunification with the mainland, which represents a tripling of the favorable sentiment compare to when Chen Shui-bian first assume power. All of this should be telling our political leaders that the sentiment towards independence on the island is nowhere as fervent as it might imply if we only listen to the noises from the Chinese American communities in New York, or Cupertino or Orange County.

I am a member of the committee in the Committee of 100 preparing a white paper for President George Bush to brief him on his October trip to China. My particular contribution is to argue that it is in our American interest to get the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to sit down and talk rather than supplying Taiwan with weapons. Because by talking about defending Taiwan, we are guilty of misleading them into a false sense of the extent of American commitment.

Reprehensible role of Lee Teng-hui

Of courses, thanks to Singapore’s role as an intermediary, government representatives of Taipei and Beijing sat down to talk as early as 1992. They even came to agreement on some issues and by 1993, it really look like they were making good progress towards resolution. Then Lee Teng-hui, then president of Taiwan stepped in. To this day, I am not sure the American public or politicians fully appreciate the sabotage job he did on the developing relationship.

American mainstream think of Lee Teng-hui as Chinese or perhaps as a Taiwan Chinese. Actually we Chinese Americans have come to know him as a true Japanese. His first language, the one he speaks with his wife at home, is Japanese. His older brother was killed during the war fighting for the Japanese and his name is in fact posted in the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The same controversial shrine that house the names of known war criminals. Given his Japanese roots, then his action becomes understandable. He has publicly pooh-poohed the occurrence of Rape of Nanjing and does not feel that Japan should apologize for their conduct of World War II atrocities. He has written a book on the merits of dividing China into roughly seven equal parts, Taiwan being one of the parts. He has privately admitted in one-on-one interviews to Japanese journalists that his love and loyalty is to Japan.

It has become increasingly clear to Chinese Americans, at least, that Lee Teng-hui does not have Taiwan’s best interest at heart. Not only has he sabotaged the budding cross strait relationship but also he has cleverly splintered the heretofore-dominant KMT into many factions and so weakened the control that the opposition party was able to gain control and succeed him as president with less than 40% of the popular vote. How much of this is known and familiar to Washington? What do you think?

Contrasting celebrations of the U.S Japanese Friendship Treaty

Last weekend in San Francisco, we saw a happening that closely mirrors the dichotomy of views between mainstream American and those of Chinese Americans. I am referring to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Japanese Friendship Treaty. Our government to this day is quite willing to forget and overlook the many atrocities committed by the Japanese soldiers during World War II--the massacres, rapes, looting and arson, the brutalization of women, the live dissection and amputation of innocent civilians as experiments without anesthetics and the slavery of POWs, including American POWs. Our government justified the cover-up 50 years ago on the basis that we do not want Japan to go communist, a tenuous thesis at best. What can be the cause for our government’s complicity today? Why is it so difficult for our government to point out to Japan’s government that until they formally apologize and atone for their past, Japan can never be fully trusted and accepted by their neighbors in Asia?

The one remarkable sight I saw Saturday was that while Colin Powell and foreign minister Tanaka and other high ranking officials from both sides were celebrating the anniversary inside the War Memorial Opera House, noisy demonstrations were being held across the streets flanking the building. Young old, male female, Asian and non-Asian former American POWs stood shoulder to shoulder loudly demanding that Japan apologize. There were flags from Korea and the Philippines mixed with the PRC flag and Taiwan flag. This is the first time I have seen Chinese Americans holding aloft and waving both the Taiwan flag and the PRC flag. Except for Lee Teng-hui, all Chinese stand together on this issue.

Hours in front of the TV watching the replay of the collapsing World Trade Towers until the incredulous brain finally accepts the horror as grim reality makes it a challenge to think deeply about this or any other issue. However, in the ensuing counter offensive against terrorism, the bilateral U.S.-China relationship will be important and will inevitably be transformed. Hopefully we will see enlightened leadership from both countries working together to forge a united front against the terrorists. For those seeking the next evil empire, we have found it and it is not China.

Monday, September 3, 2001

Congressman Mike Honda Visits China

In August 2001, a bi-partisan group of California legislators were invited to visit China as part of the initiative to promote greater bi-lateral and mutual understanding. At the planning stage of this trip, Mike Honda was a member of the State Assembly. By the time of the actual trip, Honda had won the Congressional election to represent the 15th Congressional District, encompassing much of the fabled Silicon Valley. Thus Mike became the senior member and the leader of the delegation. I was a member of the entourage from the private sector that went on this trip and took the following notes of the trip.

Monday, August 6, 2001

Morning starts with a quick tour through the Forbidden City, the imperial palace of China that has become China’s national (and largest) museum. Thanks to actor Roger Moore, the voice on the audio tour, everyone in the group--which quickly strung out into a loose caravan--learns something of the palace and life in the former days of imperial splendor. Roger spoke of one overindulgent and roving Emperor who chose a different concubine every night until he did himself in.

At the end of the tour, we then board our bus for a short ride to the Great Hall of the People, the huge building on the western edge of the Tiananmen Square, for a reception hosted by Mr. Zeng Jianhui, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the National People’s Congress. We were received in the Hong Kong Hall, which features a photomural of the spectacular night scene of the Hong Kong harbor. Most notable from this stop is the pro forma group photo with Mr. Zeng and a pro forma delivery, in my opinion, of a genuine official blah blah blah.

For lunch, we were then taken to a nearby new Radisson’s State Guest Hotel hosted by Tian Zengpei, chairman of foreign affairs committee of CPPCC (national committee of the Chinese people’s political consultative conference). The group awaiting us included former Ambassadors to Canada, United Nations, and Egypt, a former vice minister of foreign affairs, a nationally famous dancer and Wang Lin Xue, a painter who specializes in traditional Chinese paintings of bamboo.

There is more substance to this conversation. Tian said China’s GDP reached $1 trillion last year and is expected to continue to grow at 7% per year, which means it will double by next decade. China’s national priority is to develop China’s western region with a 50-year strategy.

Tian reviewed the U.S. China relations as one plagued by misinformation from the media on such issues as human rights, Tibet, Taiwan, religious freedom, etc. He welcomes American friends and legislators to visit and see for themselves. “Last year, U.S. Congress enacted some 70 resolutions relating to China, many were without foundation. Why not talk to us, come visit, so as to avoid future such resolutions based on false premises?” Tian did not wish to delay lunch and thus time did not permit any discussion on Taiwan, except that the U.S. should continue to adhere to principles of the 3 communiqu├ęs.

On behalf Zhenxie (CPPCC), he wished for more visitors to promote understanding and for visitors to come more often. “Go to more places, not just the prosperous places. Visitors should also see backward, poor regions for a more comprehensive understanding of China.”

After lunch instead of going across town to our hotel, we stayed at the Radisson to rest. Otherwise, we would have spent the entire break on the bus, traffic being as congested as it gets in Beijing. Yang Hong Ji, deputy mayor from Nanchang was a surprised presenter on the merits of investing in his city, the Jiangxi provincial capital. (Jiangxi, hardly far west of China, is next to coastal provinces but decidedly less prosperous.) Alas, his presentation, typical of many presentations from Chinese delegations we see in the U.S., could have been for any city in China and did not really spell out the comparative advantages of Nanchang.

The entire group then was driven to the art studio of artist Wang (Lin Xue) accompanied by the artist and his wife, Li Lin. His studio was located nearby inside the grounds of Diaoyutai, the government’s state guesthouse. On the walls of his studio were photos of many heads of state that visited his studio. He didn’t have to say anything to let us know that he is considered a living national treasure. He presented Mike a bamboo painting to commemorate the visit. He and his wife spent a good part of each year in the U.S. and greeted a number of the delegation warmly as old friends. Among their familiar friends were Anita and Gordon Chan.

The next meeting took place at the office of CPPCC hosted by vice chairman Wang Wen Yuan. He said China’s desire for peace could be understood just from the world’s disastrous experience from the past two world wars. He cited premier Zhou En Lai urging that misunderstandings between China and U.S. are natural. The solution is to have more frequent exchanges, look for more common ground, expand common interests and let differences be. Deng Xiaoping, he told us, frequently expressed confidence in future generations counting on them to solve problems that befuddle the present.

Wang expected China to enter the WTO by year-end and become even further integrated into the world economy. China will be developing the western region and China wishes to invite and encourage more outside participation in this endeavor.

Wang suggested that the U.S. try looking from the other side’s perspective and see the big gap that still exists between China and the U.S. The U.S. does not understand China’s policies. For example, had China not imposed a population control policy over the recent 20 some years, there would have been 300 million more people in today’s population—more than the 260 million for all of the U.S.

China is slightly bigger than the U.S. in landmass, by about 300,000 sq km. China’s population is larger by about 1 billion. In terms of population density, the U.S. has 30 persons per sq km while China has 130. However, if this is normalized to the amount of arable land, the density becomes 35/ sq km in the U.S. vs. 700 for China. (Imagine 20 persons in the U.S. for every one that exists today.)

One of the consequences of China entering the WTO is the need to help China’s agriculture sector. The farmers can’t compete in the world market because they lack the economy of scale. China’s auto industry is also not competitive (because it is highly fragmented). “China needs to work out ways to help them in reasonable and equitable manner,” he said.

China treats other countries all the same regardless of the size of the other country but based on actual reality. (By implication, China’s policy is not based on ideology or demagoguery.) “For the U.S. to “look at China as a threat makes no sense,” he said. Instead, look at how hard the Chinese people are working to develop their economy. No other country more than China needs a secure and stable peaceful environment.

The last activity of this long day was to drive north towards Beijing’s academic district and Zhong Guan Cun (ZGC), China’s hope for answer to Silicon Valley. The host was the Legend Group, a spin-off from the Academy of Computer Sciences and the hands down success story of ZGC with annual revenue in excess of $3 billion. After a tour of the Legend modern but empty offices since we arrived after working hours, we then retired to the Legend’s own dining room on the premises for a multi-course banquet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2001

Most of the party went to the Great Wall and lunch enroute to the Summer Palace where Ellen Corbett made her first of many to come purchases. The vendor at Summer Palace took advantage of the crush of tourists to give Ellen a brand new 50 ruble Russian note as change. It is safe to assume that this note is worth nowhere near the 50-renminbi change owed her. But Ellen got her value talking about it and planning to give it to her son as a unique souvenir.

Mike did not go sightseeing but elected to meet American companies in Beijing including Hewlett Packard and other companies organized by the U.S. Information Technology Office. (I did not go with Mike.)

All the different groups reconvened at Kempinski Hotel in late afternoon and left for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. MFA, the equivalent of the U.S. State Department, is now housed in a spectacular modern building with a multi-ethnic and mythic mural on the lobby facing the entry. Zhou Wenzhong, assistant minister, hosted this reception. Zhou had previously served a stint in the San Francisco Consulate (and returned to Washington in 2005 as the Ambassador from China).

First Zhou reported that Secretary Colin Powell’s visit to China has been very successful. Zhou believes the bilateral relations are on normal track again. The two countries have agreed to talk about human rights and to resume the joint military meetings. This is a winning relationship, beneficial to both sides.

That China will become a threat to the U.S. is a false notion. China is still a developing country, has a long ways to go and does not wish to be a threat to anyone. China’s goal is to continue to double its GDP every ten years so that by 2040-50, China will become mid-level developed and modern country. China wishes to be a force for peace and has no desire to be a super power.

Mike: "Relations building and confidence building is important and not just for economic reasons."

Zhou then said it is natural to disagree in certain matters. The key is how we handle the disagreements when they arise. Should be through dialogue and discussion based on mutual respect, look to benefit from the other’s experience and nobody’s perfect. Human rights have improved in China. Most people now enjoyed the right to subsistence and education, not always the case in China’s past. There is no one model to human rights but there should be many different models.

As one example of differences in points of view is the trade imbalance between China and the U.S. According to U.S. customs, the trade deficit was $80 billion but according to Chinese customs, only $30 billion. But it really doesn’t matter because bilateral trade will only grow and California will continue to play a major role in this.

Zhou would really like to meet members of the “blue team” to discuss how anyone can gain through conflict. The U.S. has already fought two wars in Asia and what did they gain aside from loss of lives? (First reported by Washington Post, the Blue Team is Washington-based and consisted mostly of extreme right wing Congressional staffers and other low profile individuals with China bashing as common interest. Their dangerous and provocative influence on U.S. foreign policy is too easily overlooked.)

What’s China’s education program, Elaine Alquist asked. Answer: In urban areas, education is compulsory for 9 years and 6 in rural areas. Unfortunately, dropout is a problem in poor rural areas. Project Hope was set up to help children of the poor stay in school. Contrary to the past, the government now encourages formation of private schools to supplement the public schools. Right now 30% of high school graduates go on to college and the goal is to get to 60%. Beijing has already reached 70%.

The Beijing office of Deloitte & Touche hosted dinner this evening. After dinner one bus went back to the hotel. Another group led by D.K. Lu went to nearby Wangfujing for a quick shopping foray and then rode the peddicab to Tiananmen Square. A third group walked through the Peking Hotel, Beijing’s first deluxe hotel that dates back to the early 20’s, enroute to Tiananmen Square. The latter two groups managed to converge at the square and came back together on the second bus.

Wednesday, August 8, 2001

This was a relatively easy day. We left the hotel bright and early in the morning for the airport and flew to Nanjing. By the time we checked into the Jinling Hotel it was almost time for lunch. In the afternoon, we went to visit Dr. Sun Yatsen’s Mausoleum and then the Nanjing Museum. At the Mausoleum we were to see as we have seen elsewhere throughout this trip the attention Jim Brulte and Walter Hammon attracted. Giggling children and sometimes adults would ask to have their pictures taken with either one. Jim because he towered over them and the full bearded Walter reminded them of a Karl Marx reincarnate.

Chen Huanyou, Chairman of the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Congress at another hotel a short distance away, hosted dinner.

Thursday, August 09, 2001

This morning began with a reception and meeting with Ji Yunshi, governor of Jiangsu province held at the Jinling Hotel. He mostly talked about the economic development of Jiangsu. Jiangsu is one of the most developed regions of China, number 2 in terms of enacting reform and its GDP has reached over $100 billion, contributing about 10% of the country’s GDP. In fact, Jiangsu more or less accounts for roughly 10% of China’s major economic indicators.

Jiangsu was one of the first to accept the principles of reform and benefit there from. For the most recent five years, the GDP has averaged an annual growth of 11.7% and the aim is to continue to grow at 10% per year for the next 5 years. Jiangsu was one of the first to open to foreign trade and export last year reached $46 billion. Jiangsu attracted about 20% of China’s foreign direct investments (FDI) and 30% of province’s tax revenue came from foreign investments.

As for Jiangsu’s sister relationship with the U.S., there are 4565 enterprises and joint ventures in Jiangsu, U.S. investments representing $ 8 billion investment out of a total of $36 FDI invested in Jiangsu.* Of the 63 projects over $10 million, 50 are from the U.S. and of those, 5 are over $100 million. Average size of the U.S. investment is around $23 million--higher than any other country. Japanese investments are also quite successful as also are investments from Taiwan.

Trade with the U.S. reached $6.5 billion; export at $5 billion made U.S. second largest market while import at $1.5 billion ranked U.S. at 4th largest.

We were the 4th official delegation from California to visit Jiangsu since 1999, the governor noted.

After the meeting, we were herded into the adjoining room for a surprised signing ceremony between Justin Tin and Kenneth Yee and city of Xuzhou on a memorandum of understanding over a dental clinic for Xuzhou. Customary banner, floral displays and a healthy contingent from Xuzhou were awaiting us. While they signed, Mike and Jim hovered to provide photogenic backdrop to the affair. The group then filed out of the conference room for the bus to get back to the next scheduled event.

Zhu Chengshan, curator of Nanjing Massacre Museum, was on hand to greet us. This museum was dedicated in 1987, a memorial dedicated to the memories of 300,000 victims massacred by the invading Japanese troops in the winter of 1937. This was a sobering experience.

The museum in a park like setting, consisted of concrete pillars, stone pebble covered grounds and sprinkling of black and white granite blocks, each describing one of the Japanese atrocities committed in and around the Nanjing area. There was a wall of names a la the U.S. Vietnam War Memorial, except in this case there was only a paltry list of known victims, most being unnamed and unknown.

The walk leads to an enclosure where excavation exposes random stacks of human remains to the visitors’ view, the museum being located on one of the execution grounds used by the imperial Japanese troops. At the entry and exit of this enclosure are leis of multi-colored, paper-folded cranes hanging on the walls. These are offerings left by visiting school children of Japan as a sign of regret and respect. From the record of leis, some schools seem to make this sojourn an annual event.

Next to the massacre grounds is a pond where many bodies were thrown. This pond has long since disappeared and skeletons that have been excavated are numbered and labeled and the mounds are protected by a glass enclosure. Next came photo exhibits before entering the museum itself. The museum displayed photos, weapons, documents and other physical evidence of the “Rape of Nanjing.” Mike and members of the group signed the museum register at the exit. The delegation’s visit to this museum occurred just about a week before the Japanese prime minister was to make his controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

Lunch back at the hotel featured steak or grilled salmon in case anyone missed an old fashioned western meal. Trouble was that the entrees arrived at snails pace thus delayed our timely departure for Suzhou. There was a Caucasian matre’d hovering around us and became the recipients of our disgruntled complaints. We found out that he was a student in hotel management from Purdue University working in Jinling for 5 months on an exchange program.

On our way to Suzhou, we made a brief stop at the northern part of the Nanjing city walls, very well preserved from the Ming dynasty and opposite to the direction of the Japanese invasion, hence still intact. Ms. Wang, our guide in Nanjing, told us more than once that the wall was so durable because the bricks bore the names of the brick maker. Failure of the bricks to perform was punishable by death. The short climb to the top of the wall was rewarded with a view of the nearby lake and a spectacular Buddhist nunnery with golden yellow walls and slate tile roofs. We arrived in Suzhou by bus just in time for shower, change of clothes and dinner.

At dinner hosted by Huang Jundu, chairman of Standing Committee of Suzhou People’s Congress, I sat next to Zhang Xue a deputy of Foreign affairs department. His formal training is Japanese and he personally sees 30 to 40 delegations from Japan every year. Suzhou is very much in Japan’s culture and lore.

Zhang said Suzhou is no. 7 in China in contributor to GDP and no. 1 in Jiangsu. Now a population of more than 1.5 million inside city proper, all the narrow streets of yore have been widened and thus losing some of the charm of this ancient city.

Some surprised guests joined this dinner--Larry and Celia Lee, the parent-in-laws of Washington governor Gary Locke. They recently bought a place in Shanghai and happened to be visiting Suzhou. Another unexpected guest was a Ms. Wang who then invited the party to a karaoke where we were her guests while many of the women folks bought and were fitted for various apparel. The karaoke party for some ran into the wee hours of the morning.

Friday, August 10, 2001

We left early in the morning for China Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), which is east of the old Suzhou. Deputy Barry Yang, deputy CEO of the park, greeted us and provided the briefing.

Suzhou, a 2500-year-old city, is known as a “village of fish and rice and a paradise on earth.” Suzhou is one of top ten contributing cities to China’s economy. Contracted FDI in Suzhou by end of 2000 reached $42.2 billion and $20.3 has actually been invested. Of the global 500, 76 have invested in Suzhou. In terms of GDP, the six ahead of Suzhou are Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Chongqing, all much larger than Suzhou. Per cap GDP reached $9,300 in 2000.

SIP is one of thousands of development parks located inside China but is the only one that is a JV with the Singapore government, begun in 1994. The JV went from 65/35 Singapore to 35/65 where Suzhou now holds the controlling interest. Wang Jun Hua, deputy mayor of Suzhou is now the CEO of SIP. As of July 2001, FDI contracted reached $9.8 billion with $4.3 utilized. Approximately 25% is from the U.S., 47.9% is in electronics and electrical related, > 90% is in high tech and > 90% is wholly foreign owned. SIP made $7.5 million in profit in the first year since the change in ownership structure, making up for the losses of the last 3 years. They have plans to go public.

SIP is also the only part in China with nine different underground piping so that there is no above ground wires and pipes. Unlike Shanghai’s experience in recent monsoon downpour, Suzhou has no flooding problem. With Lake Taihu nearby, Suzhou also has no lack of water. The sewage treatment set-up is advanced with ability to handle all manner of wastewater. The park offers dual redundant power supply to guard against interruption. The park has ready built factories in various configurations for instant occupation. Customs is located inside the park and can handle everything within the park.

The park has built 6010 residential units, 3360 more are under construction and 7750 have been sold. Average sales price is $250 per sq. meter. There is a lake, Jinji Hu, inside the park. Seven different recreational sites along the lake are built, under construction or in the plans.

Key to the SIP turn around: they learned that the park cannot do without the local government support and cannot function solely on commercial basis. Cost of SIP land was fixed while price of competitive land elsewhere was going down. By reversing ownership, local government can give all kinds of support including price concession, tax grants, etc. There is a workforce of 28000 inside the park, about 2-300 expats.

Solectron in SIP

Kent Chen, Vice President & General Manager of Solectron China greeted and made the presentation. He started the SIP facility and it now produces over $50 million worth of products in one month. Solectron now has 76 sites in the world. The first site in Asia was in Malaysia and now has 11 facilities in Asia. Solectron’s business mission is to help MNC’s grow in China.


Dickin Cheung, managing director, greeted the group and made the opening presentation. Total investment in this facility, which assembles and tests integrated circuits, is $108 million. At full capacity, this facility will employ 1500, currently it is at 700. Start-up of every line at this facility has been on time and successful. Katherine of his staff talked about AMD employee’s participation in Project Hope, a national charity designed to help educate the poor.

Chen Deming, Party Secretary of Suzhou City, hosted lunch back at the Gloria Plaza Hotel. He was the first and only official that greeted the group with a PowerPoint presentation. The presentation largely covered information already covered by others. (Chen received post graduate training at Harvard and became the Minister of Commerce in 2007.)

After lunch, the group went to Garden of the Master of the Nets, a World Heritage site, and the Suzhou Embroidery Institute. Exiting from the Institute, Mike was recognized by the kids of three generations of a Chinese American family visiting from Los Altos Hills. Mike signed autographs and had his picture taken with this family.

On the way to Shanghai via the Nanjing-Shanghai toll way, traffic came to halt due to an overturned bus on a rain-slicked road. Thanks to police escort, which we had throughout our stay in Jiangsu (but not in Beijing or Shanghai), we created a third lane out of the two-lane road. The skills of our driver were impressive as he weaved our coach around other buses and trucks. We lost about 40 minutes because of the accident. Could have been hours, had the escort not been with us.

Sha Lin, Vice Chairman of Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress, hosted the dinner in Shanghai. Everybody lugged his or her carry-ons into the Old Jinjiang Hotel and bid farewell to our bus from Nanjing. From here on the group is back to two minibuses, one unofficially for Republicans and sympathizers and the other for the Democrats and their followers. This sorting of guests was not an organized effort among a most congenial group, and must have been a matter of natural inclination.

Saturday, August 11, 2001

First stop was to Fang Yuan Digital, a Sino-Korean-American JV making the loader mechanism for the DVD player. The American partner is DVS based in San Jose, who owns a majority interest in the Korean firm and together own the controlling interest of Fang Yuan.

Mike, Meri, Jeffrey and I skipped the plant tour to visit, a B2B company based in San Francisco and Shanghai. Upon leaving MeetChina for lunch being hosted by Allbright and arranged by Katherine Schiffler, Shanghai based director of California Trade & Commerce Agency, Jeffrey found that the group left at DVS had gone back to the Shangri-la Hotel in Pudong instead of proceeding direct to lunch. Thanks to a few frantic cell phone calls, most of the group was rounded up and re-convene at the Cypress Hotel, site of the former Sasson Park. Allbright has 27 partners and a staff of over 150 and considers itself the largest law firm in China.

After lunch some of the women slipped away for some serious shopping. We got to the Shanghai Art Museum in time for a quick one plus hour tour of this internationally renowned museum. On the way to the venue for dinner hosted by DVS, the two minibuses dropped off the shoppers for some frantic bargain hunting while the buses circle the blocks. After we returned to Shangri-la after dinner, some went on to PuJ’s, located at the Jin Mao, Shanghai’s 88-story skyscraper, for some discoing.

Sunday, August 12, 2001

After checking out of the hotel, the group went to the former Chinese quarters of Shanghai where Yu Garden, city god temple (Chenghuangmiao), and all kinds of shops beckoned. Most of the group did not want to spend the precious time touring Yu Garden nor the temple but devoted the time to last opportunity of shopping. The Shanghai bureau of China Daily, again arranged by Katherine Schiffler, hosted lunch. After lunch, some went for a stroll on the section of Nanjing Road that has become a pedestrian mall, while others went—what else—shopping.
Most of the notes were written within one week of the visit. Some notes were added after this report was posted on the blog.

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

China and Taiwan Closer Than You Think - Arms Sales Will Subvert Reconciliation

Pacific News Service, George Koo, Posted: Apr 17, 2001

Editor's Note: Long considered warring states, China and Taiwan are actually moving closer to one another on cultural, economic and even political fronts. U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will jeopardize this process of reconciliation, leaving Taiwan more, rather than less, secure in the decade ahead.

The Bush administration must now decide whether or not to sell arms to Taiwan, a choice that will affect U.S.-China relations far more than any effects of the spy plane incident.

Those who favor selling the most advanced weapon systems to Taiwan say they would make that country more secure. In reality, just the opposite is true.

Taiwan is already the world's second largest arms buyer to Saudi Arabia -- spending about $3 billion per year. Its ability to inflict damage on any invader is sufficient to ensure that such action would not to be taken lightly.

In any event, no such conflict is imminent, as Beijing has stated it will turn to armed intervention only if Taiwan declares independence.

This is highly unlikely for a number of reasons. For one thing, a majority of the people on Taiwan do not favor independence from the mainland. On the contrary, recent polls show the numbers favoring reunification are actually increasing. The majority still prefer the status quo -- but even "status quo" means the two sides moving closer together.

The two cannot be considered warring states. Half a million Taiwanese now live and work on the mainland. The career paths of many young Taiwanese now pass through Shanghai, Kunshan, Tongguan -- or wherever a new office or factory goes up on the mainland.

Taiwanese-owned restaurants, shops and factories employ more than three percent of the mainland workforce.

And when Taiwanese leave their island for vacations, more than half go to the mainland.

Two-way trade across the strait reached $25 billion in 1999, roughly four to one in Taiwan's favor. In most years Taiwan's surplus from trade with China more than covers the deficit Taiwan tallies with the rest of the world. This is not insignificant when you consider that the island's economy is export-driven.

Vocal advocates of independence for Taiwan are a distinct minority -- no more than 15 percent, according to polls, and the number is declining because people from both sides are more integrated than ever.

Chen Shui-bian was elected president last year with less than 40 percent of the popular vote under an existing constitution that recognizes Taiwan as a part of China. He ran on a clean government pledge -- had he advocated independence, he would have lost.

Since the election, the rhetoric from both sides has been increasingly conciliatory. Most observers believe that prospects for reopening cross strait talks and negotiations, begun in 1992, are more favorable than ever.

Despite China's placement of missiles, actual military conflagration across the strait could only come as a last resort, triggered by declaration of independence by Taiwan and/or overt military provocation by the U.S.

Sales of Aegis system or theater missile defense (TMD) system could well constitute such a provocation.

The United States has stood by a consistent "One-China" policy for three decades. Sale of destroyers equipped with the Aegis replaces that policy for a virtually irrevocable military alliance with Taiwan. This is precisely the kind of interference China could not tolerate or ignore, and exactly the excuse Taiwan needs to avoid negotiating with Beijing.

Sale of advanced military weapons could lead the protagonists to think that Washington supports Taipei's resistance to negotiate and that the U.S. stands ready to put the lives of its own military personnel on the line over the cross strait dispute.

Instead of promoting an arms race, Washington should encourage the two sides to resume the cross strait negotiations. In the decade since those talks began, the wealth gap between Taiwan and the mainland has narrowed and the synergy of the two sides working together becomes increasingly evident.

Washington can do its part by not adding any fuel to the fire. The Bush administration should declare that the U.S. stands ready to support any peaceful reconciliation worked out by the two sides.

Historically, culturally, ethnically and linguistically, Taiwan is a part of China. Most of the people in Taiwan think of themselves as Chinese, identify with the people on the mainland and recognize that their destiny lies in being part of China. Washington, by merely relying on the "One-China" policy and not selling arms, will add immeasurably to the momentum towards reconciliation.

Thursday, March 22, 2001

Commentary for Pacific Time, KQED, 88.5 FM

In preparing to meet with Vice Premier Qian Qichen from Beijing, President George W. Bush and his administration is facing a major challenge in foreign policy. Since the outcome of the administration’s handling of this bi-lateral relationship could mean the difference between peace or war, stability or strife, economic growth or stagnation, a lot is at stake. And, no issue is more sensitive and explosive than whither Taiwan.

Historically, culturally, ethnically and linguistically, Taiwan has always been a part of China. Today, approximately half a million professionals and executives from Taiwan are living and working on the mainland, some are even employed as senior executives in mainland firms. Taiwan investments already employ over 3% of the mainland workforce and increasing. Every year more than 30% of Taiwan’s population leave the island for a vacation; about half of them head for the mainland. Cultural affinity and ethnic roots account for the economic ties and recreational pilgrimage. [Everywhere on the mainland, one can see Taiwan influence from eating places to entertainment palaces to electronic factories.]* The synergy across the Taiwan strait is palpable. At the people to people level, there exists a common desire for a peaceful resolution.

For America to now sell advanced weapons or a theatre missle defense system to Taiwan is exactly the wrongheaded thing to do. Such actions would rachet up the cross strait tension, destroy the on-going harmony and ruin any chance for a peaceful reconciliation. Taiwan is already the second largest arms buyer in the world. As is, she is plenty equiped to deter any temptation towards a lose-lose military solution.

The people of Taiwan and the mainland need the space and quietude to resolve their differences. The U.S. cannot dictate the outcome, not even act as a mediator across the straits. As in any family squabble, the best approach is for the U.S. to “leave the room" and let the two sides reach settlement without outside interference, all the while insist that the ultimate resolution must be a peaceful one.

Needless to say this suggested approach by the Bush administration will take courage but will win the eternal gratitude of all the people of the world.

Historically, culturally, ethnically and linguistically, Taiwan has always been a part of China. During the height of the presidential election last year, a poll of Taiwanese revealed that only 2.5% wanted independence right away and 15% sooner or later.

Today, approximately half a million professionals and executives from Taiwan are living and working on the mainland, some are even employed as senior executives in mainland firms.

Taiwan businesses already employ over 3% of the mainland workforce..and more join every day.

Half of all Taiwanese who go off the island for holidays go to the mainland.

The synergy across the Taiwan strait is palpable at the people to people level.

For America to now sell advanced weapons or a theatre missle defense system to Taiwan is exactly the wrongheaded thing to do. It would rachet up the cross strait tension, destroy harmony and ruin any chance for a peaceful reconciliation.

Further, Taiwan is already the second largest arms buyer in the world.

So it is well-equipped to deter any Chinese temptation to try a military solution.

The people of Taiwan and the mainland need the space and quiet to resolve their differences. The U.S. cannot dictate the outcome, not even act as a mediator across the straits.

As in any family squabble, the best approach is for the U.S. to "leave the room", and let the two sides reach settlement without outside interference. All Washington can do is make it clear that any solution must be peaceful.

For Pacific Time, I'm George Koo