A delegation to Chongqing slated for March

By Scott Heinlein and Sandy Marvinney
For Northwest Asian Weekly

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People around the Renmin Plaza in downtown Chongqing (Photo provided by Scott Heinlein)

In the works is a business, civic, and cultural delegation to Chongqing, Seattle’s sister city, a booming metropolis on the Yangtze River and the gateway to southwest China. The March 18–23 program, “Seattle Week in Chongqing,” reciprocates a May 2011 visit by a Chongqing delegation to celebrate the opening of the Seattle Chinese Garden’s “Knowing the Spring Courtyard.”As for who might lead the delegation, the City of Seattle has said that Seattle Mayor McGinn has expressed an interest in visiting China, but did not confirm McGinn’s involvement.*

One of the largest metropolitan jurisdictions in the world, Chongqing is of strategic importance to the Chinese government’s Western Development Policy and has received billions of dollars in investment for infrastructure expansion. Chongqing’s Liangjiang New Area is only the third such state-level economic zone in China, after Shanghai’s Pudong and Tianjing’s Binhai New Area.

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The recently completed Seattle Garden in Chongqing, part of the China International Garden Expo. (Photo provided by Scott Heinlein)

Set in a dramatic mountain and river landscape, and with a skyline of neon-lit glass-faced towers and an extensive light-rail system, the city is often called the “Shanghai of inland China,” an increasingly powerful “dragon’s tail” to the “dragon’s head” at the coastal terminus of the Yangtze.

“We are excited [for] the delegation for Seattle Week and that Mayor Huang Qifan will be our official host in Chongqing,” said Jonathan Geiger, president of the Seattle Chinese Garden. “Chongqing has long been an important cultural exchange partner for Seattle. Now, we have organized this high-level March delegation to put a spotlight on Chongqing’s great location and the opportunities for Seattle area companies seeking direct access to China’s interior.”

Mayor Huang Qifan is an important figure in Chinese politics. In his previous position as vice mayor of Shanghai, he was a key force behind building the Pudong New Area. In Chongqing, he is responsible for construction of the Liangjiang New Area. The city is taking a lead in developing new Chinese models for permanently resettling rural residents in urban areas and employing them in the industrial sector.

This policy depends heavily on building new housing and transportation infrastructure, and growing the consumer middle class, another reason Seattle companies will want to explore selling their products and services in Chongqing.  Major U.S. companies with a presence there include Ford, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Robbins Company (another long-time Seattle business), Briggs and Stratton, and of course, Starbucks in the consumer service sector.

Two delegation program components

The delegation program will have two distinct daytime components and constituencies, business and culture/education, with several joint evening events. Cultural understanding and friendship are gateways to doing business, a driving principle behind establishing the sister city relationship in 1983 and the vision to build a five-acre, Chongqing-designed Chinese garden in Seattle, with in-kind Chongqing government donations totaling more than $1 million to date.

The program for those interested in business will focus on the unique opportunities available as a result of the “New Area” trade zone status, site visits, breakfast briefings on best practices, and lessons learned by Washington State and U.S. companies, with years of experience doing business in Chongqing.

The program for those interested in culture, education, and Chinese gardens will have a full schedule of visits to key sites of cultural interest, schools and universities, and the 8th China-Chongqing International Garden Expo, showcasing more than 70 gardens from around China and the world, including a Northwest garden designed by Seattle-based Jones & Jones Architecture.

Delegates will have the option to join a week-long post-Chongqing tour (March 23–30) to explore the gardens, temples, antiquities, and beautiful scenic areas of Sichuan, Washington state’s sister province. The tour will conclude with several optional days in Beijing.

“Joining a delegation … is an exceptional opportunity for all participants,” Geiger said.

“Chongqing’s leaders are eager to welcome us and extend the highest level of hospitality and programming for both business and cultural groups … . And there’s no better time to visit the Dragon’s Tail than in the Year of the Dragon.”  (end)

To see the business itinerary or cultural/education itinerary and information on participating in Seattle Week in Chongqing, visit the Garden’s website at www.seattlechinesegarden.org. Prospective business delegates may also contact Scott Heinlein at heinlein@wachinacenter.com. Prospective cultural/educational delegates may contact Sandy Marvinney at sandymar2@comcast.net. Prompt inquires and registration are advised.

*Editor’s note:  The original version of this story stated that Mayor McGinn was confirmed to lead the delegation to Chongqing. However, the mayor’s office followed-up on the story and said the mayor’s role has not been confirmed. We’ve amended quotes and sentences in the story to reflect this.

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