A delegation of chamber of commerce officials from cities in Sichuan Province, Washington’s official cultural and commercial sibling in southwestern China, was yet another reminder of a powerful truth. In the opening sentence of “The Post-American World,” journalist Fareed Zakaria noted “This is not a book about the demise of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.”
The Friday morning session at Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce headquarters was hosted by the World Affairs Council of Seattle, the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle and the Washington State China Relations Council. The five Sichuan delegates were greeted by the China council’s new CEO Kristi Heim, and other local and state trade officials.
Washington state and Sichuan province have had a sister-state-province relationship since the 1980s. Seattle and Chongqing have had a sister-city bond for decades.
I don’t think we in this country truly get the nature of the competition we are up against, and the benefits we enjoy with China’s prosperity. Washington leads the U.S. with $14 billion in exports to China. A bounty to be nurtured and encouraged to grow.
The revelation for me – OK, shocking reminder – came in a presentation called, with perhaps a bit of errant linguistic candor, a “propaganda film of Sichuan Province.”
These cities are booming. I was in Chengdu 20 years ago. I visited again about five years later. I was amazed then at the change. Friday morning I about flopped out of my chair.
Chengdu is now home to more than 1,000 U.S. companies, including General Electric, Intel, Texas Instruments and nearly 30 Walmart stores. The population tops 14 million. The Chengdu skyline makes Seattle look like Fargo, N.D.
The cities of Nanchong, population 7.5 million; Bazhong, population 4 million; and Luzhou, population 5 million; and Guangyuan, population 3 million; are eager to show off their highways, waterways, container terminals, airports, rail lines, manufacturing facilities and training centers. They are working it, and they are selling what they have to offer to Volvo and Damco.
Even discounting a predictable measure of hyperbole and unvarnished promotion, they have a lot to offer, and the message is getting through.
In the meantime we have a bumbling Congress and cheapskate state Legislature that will not invest in infrastructure, as our roads crumble, bridges fail, transit is threatened and commercial truckers sit in traffic because of an ancient Columbia River bridge on Interstate-5.
We sit still at our peril. The rest of the world is on the move, without us. Every lawmaker in Olympia needs to sign up for a trade mission.