China 2010

Shanghai - January 15, 2010
Part 1

We are up for our final day and it will be a long one. This morning we have breakfast with the American Chamber of Commerce to hear their views on business here. I will then do a press conference with journalists and head to tour a local school. We will then have lunch with Municipal People’s Congress (MPC) officials. Finally we will tour the World Expo site which we have been hearing about since we landed in China. We saw parts of it last night driving in and it is enormous!

Part 2

Our last day in China started with the American Chamber of Commerce breakfast. We had an excellent conversation on future opportunities and challenges for American businesses in China. We discussed the situation surrounding Google threatening to pull out of China and its potential impact on businesses. We also talked about many of the businesses’ desire for the US to make progress on investments in new green energy jobs because they have seen China move ahead very rapidly in this area.

We then spoke with members of the press including the Associated Press and Fox. To my surprise they had been reading my blog!

Hands down, my favorite event was attending a school in Shanghai. The school was for 6 to 11 year olds and there were over 1,400 students. We were entertained by a class playing folk music, young girls performing a dance, and a robotics class. Senator Burris even joined a group of young boys playing basketball! We also saw young children reciting English and learning how to write cursive. Very hard to do! I was shocked to learn they don't heat the schools. They were surprised we even asked about it! I pushed them on the fact that only boys take robotics - girls "paint and dance."

Part 3

Later in the day we had lunch with the Shanghai MPC Vice Chairman Hu Wei, who we had a great conversation with about Shanghai. We talked about the infrastructure investments in Shanghai – the city has invested nearly $4 billion just on transportation infrastructure in preparation for the expo - and their education system. It was a great chance to talk about partnerships and collaborations and I enjoyed his insights.

We then traveled to a state building on gorgeous grounds that used to be the Shanghai home of Mao. We met with the MPC Secretary Yu Zhenghsheng and were the first US delegation ever to have a meeting with him. He was very hospitable and told us a great deal about Shanghai's preparations for the Expo.

We then went to the Expo sight. What an amazing venture. The sight is enormous. They expect 70 million attendees from May through October of this year. Many of the expo buildings are already up. As a comparison, the Seattle World’s Fair that I remember going to as a child hosted 10 million people! Clearly this will be an amazing experience for people from all around the world.

Part 4

As we end this trip and head back home there is much I want to share about how China is growing and changing. It’s clear they have transitioned into a major player on the world stage and that presents them with difficult and important choices. It was also fascinating to hear the new....the discussions about emerging industries in clean energy, along-side the old ...their policies on indigenous innovation

For both sides this has been - most importantly - a chance to meet face-to-face. We met earlier this week as strangers but through long days of both official and personal dialogue we will be departing as friends.

Over the last four days, I have been able to meet with a range of local and national leaders. We have agreed and we have disagreed. We have made headway and we have begun discussions on new challenges in the growing relationship between our two countries. But most importantly we have made a personal connection, and the next time we meet we will have a mutual understanding and respect for one another. And that is always the best place to be.

~ Patty
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Beijing Day 2 - January 14, 2010
Part One

We woke up early up early Thursday morning and watched as CNN international continued to show the devastating pictures and video from Haiti. The suffering there is truly heartbreaking and my thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Haiti, Haitian-Americans who are struggling with the loss of life, and families in Washington state who are working to get in touch with their loved ones. I also want to commend the countless Washingtonians who are opening up their pocketbooks or preparing to lend their personal expertise to help the disaster relief efforts.

Here in China things continue to be very busy with the news that Google may pull out of China. We had heard whispers of that yesterday but no one was officially commenting to us.

One thing that was clear throughout every official visit yesterday was how important face-to-face meetings are. The Chinese leaders I met with repeatedly mentioned how important President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s visits have been.

The Senators joining me on this trip have been impressive throughout. I was glad to have Senator Bond, who is the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speak up forcefully on our concerns regarding Iran and North Korea. Senator Burris, a former Attorney General in Illinois, was extremely helpful in adding his expertise regarding piracy.

Another favorite moment of mine this week was when Mr. Lu Yongxiang was explaining that he self taught himself English so he wasn't proficient, but had learned German in school. Senator Burris who had participated in an exchange program in Hamburg immediately began a dialogue with him in their shared language...German.

Today I am looking forward to a meeting we will have with women in China about their role in government and later this afternoon I head to Shanghai. It will be another busy day!

Part Two

This morning we had a very interesting meeting with Madame Meng, Vice Chair of the All-China Women’s Federation. She described to us her organizations work to promote women in top level positions, work on educating young girls, and focus women particularly in rural areas on preventative health care for breast cancer and other issues. I was impressed with the respect and level of attention being paid to issues like domestic violence and human trafficking. Ms. Meng said there was much work to be done and we had a really good exchange. I hope she will be able to travel to DC one day to meet the women in the US Senate.

We then met with the Former Chair of the IPG, Mr. Wu Bangguo. I knew him from previous visits. He expressed his desire that the US renew its commitment to the IPG. He and Senators Inouye and Stevens started the IPG in 2004. He asked that I convey his regards. We then had lunch with him and other former members. I must admit a 10 course lunch is beyond my ability to comprehend. Fortunately we spent a great deal of time chatting about Shanghai, the upcoming Expo, and the meetings and issues important to both our delegations rather than trying to eat it all!

We then headed to the airport to start the two hour flight to Shanghai.

I leave Beijing feeling that a lot has changed since my first trip, the traffic has increased dramatically, Americans are not a rarity here anymore, and many factories have left the city. But the people still truly value their relationship with the U.S. It is our responsibility to keep that relationship going.

Part Three

We arrived in Shanghai late due to a delay leaving Beijing. We were met at the airport by officials from Shanghai and boarded a bus to head to the dinner with local officials. We had an interesting discussion during dinner that covered everything from our health care debate, to their one-child policy, to how they wrote their budget.

Shanghai is nothing like Beijing. Beijing is a very old traditional city. Shanghai is neon lights and 18 million people. It’s quite a transition in a day!

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s schedule as we will be having breakfast with American business leaders and visiting a Chinese school.

~ Patty

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Beijing - January 13, 2010
Part 1

We woke up early here in Beijing. The clock says 4 AM but I am not sure what time my body is on. Regardless, I am glad to have some quiet time to think about the days meetings that lie ahead. Driving through Tiananmen Square

Our meetings with our counterparts today will shine a light on many of the opportunities and challenges that the U.S. and China are confronted with.

Mr. Lu Yongxiang who leads the Chinese delegation will chair the morning meeting. I will chair the afternoon session. We will address many issues including our concerns regarding China's trade policies, enforcement of intellectual party rights, and economic policy.

I anticipate that the Chinese will express their frustrations and unhappiness over the U.S. decision to approve the sale of weapons to Taiwan, and some of our trade and economic policies.

There's no doubt we share many common goals. I'm eager to discuss how we can partner to create new energy solutions, lessen our dependence on imported oil and establish new, clean energy economies.

As I get ready this morning to Chair this Inter-Parliamentary meeting I remind myself that words matter. Today’s meetings will not resolve our conflicts but hopefully they will allow us to better understand one another. Today I will begin my remarks with a famous Chinese Proverb that says "a journey of a thousand "li" begins with a single step". I hope these meetings will represent an important step forward in the improvement of the U.S. - China relationship.

Part 2

Today our delegation traveled to the Great Hall of the People to kick off Discussion With Other Members of the Inter-Parliamentary Groupthe official Inter-Parliamentary Group (IPG) session with our counterparts of the National People’s Congress (NPC). The morning session was hosted by the China delegates and focused largely on foreign policy.

As the head of the U.S. delegation, I chaired the afternoon's session which largely focused on a wide range of economic and trade issues. This is the second IPG session I have attended in China, in addition to attending IPG meetings in Washington, DC. One thing that I have noticed is that the tone is much different than in the past. Previously discussions were more relaxed. Today we had intense and much more passionate exchanges. A key issue for the Chinese was weapons sales to Taiwan.

We raised the need for continued engagement with North Korea and Iran as well as protection of intellectual property. We also raised issues relating to the development of new, clean energy technology, climate change and trade policies including how the Chinese indigenous innovation policies are hurting American companies and ultimately hurting innovation. Passions ran high on both sides.

On some issues there was clear disagreement and we agreed to disagree. One area where we all agreed was on the importance of placing greater emphasis onGreeting Li Zhaoxing, Chairman of the National People's Congress 
Foreign Affairs Committee cultural and student exchanges between our two countries. We discussed how to use the IPG forum to make progress on that issue.

We left the sessions in agreement that at the end of the day the continued cooperation and partnership between our countries is more important than ever and that dialogue and open discussions are the only way we could make progress toward narrowing our differences.
Next we will go to the Great Hall of the People to meet with the Chairman of the NPC, Wu Bangguo.

I am struck that as open as our conversations between legislators were today, there is a long path forward on some of the difficult issues we face. And in the end I believe that our conversations were productive and serve as a positive step forward between our countries.

Part 3

After a short break we went back to the Great Hall of the People where we met with Chairman Wu Bangguo. He expressed his strong feeling that it was very important that even though we have disagreements that we continue to meet and talk and work to narrow our differences.

We then had an opportunity to meet with a senior official from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China, China’s equivalent to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to have an in depth discussion around our aerospace interests and how we can improve coordination and partnership. With Members of the National People's Congress

We then were hosted by the Chinese for our official state dinner. I was seated between Mr. Lu Yongxiang, my counterpart who serves as the Chinese Chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group, and Mr. Cao Weizhou, Deputy Secretary General of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. We talked about establishing strong ties between our two delegations and he asked me many questions about how I work to serve Washington State in Washington, DC. He was amazed that I commuted between Washington state and Washington, DC every week to do my job. He had difficulty grasping the concept of being responsible for communicating with and representing 6.5 million people.

As Chair of the delegation I joined my counterpart in toasting our two countries.

Looking back on today’s discussion, I believe the dialogue was productive and helps build on a foundation of partnership that is important as we confront challenges in the future between the US and China.

~ Patty

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Arriving in China - Day Two - January 12, 2010

Part 1

We left Anchorage this morning before the sun came up (9:30 AM and still dark!) and headed to our first stop, Yokota Air Force Base in Japan to refuel. Our flight time is 8 hours and we will not get to our final destination in Beijing (another 3 plus hours of flight time) until 11 PM PST. We cross the international date line. For us it will be Tuesday at 4 PM PST when we land in China.

Part 2

We arrived at the Yokota Air Force Base in Japan to refuel in the snow! They tell us the weather is very rare for this time of year. While in Japan, we met with officials from the U.S. Embassy led by James Zumwalt, the Deputy Chief of Mission who briefed us on the new government in Japan and the state of the country’s relationship with China. I also had the opportunity to bring up the issue of parental abductions as we have been working with several American fathers who have been denied access to their children. It was a good discussion. Mr Zumwalt also emphasized the need for educational and cultural exchanges and said how much they benefited both countries.

We then left the base and after being de-iced took off at 1:15 pm (8:15 pm PST) for Beijing!

Part 3

This has been one very long day. After being greeted at the airport officially and checking in to our hotel, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman hosted us for an informal dinner at his residence with a number of different American businesses. Representatives from Microsoft, Fluke Electronics and Motorola gave us presentations on many of the opportunities and challenges their businesses face in China. It is now 4:15 AM back in Washington state and it has been a long day of travel, but we are already engaged in interesting and critical discussions about our economic links to China. We are all ready to go back and get some sleep before tomorrow’s meetings.

~ Patty

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Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska - January 11, 2010

We arrived at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska from Washington D.C. at about 2 PM on Sunday. We were met by Lieutenant General Dana Touring the Port of AnchorageAtkins, Commander of the Alaskan Command, and his wife Laura who hosted a briefing on Elmendorf and its importance to the region and nation. I was really pleased to hear their Wounded Warriors Unit was up and running well and that they were making strong preparations for their returning Stryker Brigade members.

Alaska Senator Mark Begich then joined us and we met with officials from the Port of Anchorage and were briefed on port operations. Several business and community leaders discussed their busy port activities and its position as a major hub between Asia, the lower 48 states and Europe. We toured the Port in the bitter cold but it was certainly worth getting an in-depth look at this critical trade link with China and all of Asia.

Lt. General Atkins hosted our delegation for dinner in his home on the base. It is actually the same home that President Nixon hosted the first meeting with Japanese Emperor Hirohito after WWII. We had a lively conversation ranging from the need for icebreakers for our Coast Guard, to options to open the Northwest Passage for Commerce, to the capabilities of Elmendorf Air Force Base, to where the best place to fish is. And we were entertained by a group of Airmen who sing for the community. They each had served all over the world in various capacities for the Air Force. They were a great reminder for us of the great talent in our services!

Headed tomorrow to Beijing! 

~ Patty

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Heading to China by Way of Alaska - Saturday, January 9, 2010
Dear Friends,

Today I begin an intense 5 day trip to China as I lead a Senate delegation to the U.S.-China Inter-Parliamentary Group (IPG) meeting. As all of you know, this is a very busy time. Congress will come back to session next week to face the hard work of finishing health insurance reform and getting a bill to the President’s desk. Also in the New Year we will be focused on rebuilding our economy and creating jobs while working to shrink our mounting budget deficit. These are not easy tasks.

But as we focus on the challenges facing our nation at home, we can’t forget that we live in a global economy. And that the success of our nation and the strength of our economy is closely tied to our trading partners abroad – importantly, China.

China has overtaken Japan as America’s third largest export market, and it has moved ahead of Canada as our largest source of our imports. Simply put, we need to pay attention to the jobs that are created and saved by our trade policies and agreements with China today.

And to me, just as important as these agreements and policies, are the relationships we build between our two governments. That’s why I was pleased to be appointed to chair the IPG to help work for stronger trade and intergovernmental relations with China. Given Washington state’s status as the most trade dependent state in the nation, I know that the way we connect with our counterparts in China is key to the success of our state.

I was fortunate to take part in an IPG delegation trip to China in 2006 where I met with many top Chinese officials and stressed our state's interest in issues we agree on and disagree on, from human rights to the environment, from trade to energy policy. As important as the discussions are, the opportunity to get to know Chinese leaders on a personal basis is just as important to our future relations.

The first time I went to China in 1997, Chinese leaders told me about meeting Senator Warren Magnuson and how much that meant to them as they purchased Boeing planes for decades to follow. But the most important experience I had during that trip was when a tragedy occurred in my own family. My father passed away unexpectedly and I was called home immediately. I will always remember how the Chinese Embassy sent a delegation to my hotel room to express their country's sympathy for my loss. That meeting led to a longtime friendship with Mr. Yang Jiechi which continues today. Mr. Jiechi is now Minister of Foreign Affairs and I look forward to seeing him again during this trip.

In this age of global technology and communication we often forget how important it is to really get to know people face to face. I know well that when you take the time to listen and understand other people's issues and concerns, that is the basis of a relationship that brings important understanding in the future. I look forward to continuing to listen and learn from our Chinese counterparts, and to bring to their attention the critical issues and priorities of our nation. My goal is to let them know that even in these difficult and challenging times, we believe it is important to take the time to have a dialogue with our counterparts across the ocean in China.

I am hoping to blog at the end of each of our days in the coming week to give you a personal view of my travels, my meetings and both what I learn and what I convey to our counterparts and to give you some personal insight. As we leave Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska to begin our briefings I look forward to letting you know how it goes!

~ Patty

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