Q&A with new Chinese consul general in San Francisco

Published: Monday, Jun. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 10, 2013 - 6:30 am

President Obama and China's new president, Xi Jinping, held their first summit in Rancho Mirage this weekend, underscoring California's growing relationship to China, home to 1.35 billion people. More than 700,000 of them visited California last year.

China is California's biggest tourist market, said Brian Wright of Visit California, the state's official tourism site. "The number one thing they do is shop, then dine and sightsee. Fifity-five percent come for pleasure," Wright said. "We expect a million Chinese visitors a year by 2015." At least half will visit Northern California.

On Tuesday, the Chinese government is holding a reception in Sacramento celebrating Gov. Jerry Brown's recent trade mission to China. Brown returned with the promise of more than $1.5 billion in new Chinese investments that will create more than 10,000 new jobs in Northern California alone.

Brown's host will be the new Chinese Consul General in San Francisco, Yuan Nansheng, a career diplomat who has served in India, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Suriname.

Yuan, 59, was born in Yiyang, Hunan province, and got his master's in law and doctorate in philosophy from the School of International Studies at Beijing University, the Harvard of China. He was a university professor, a senior economic analyst and a captain of industry. "I was boss of import and export in China's Shenzhen special economic zone in 1992, and made a lot of money for my country," he said.

What's your take on the summit between the two presidents?

Both sides stressed the importance of the two countries' ties in a globalized economy. Each agreed to further intensify practical cooperation in economy, trade, investment, energy and the environment as well as people-to-people relationships. Our relationship now stands at a 'critical juncture,' in the words of President Xi.

The China-California relationship is also at a new starting point. China is willing to expand economic cooperation and two-way investment with California and strengthen cooperation with the state in such fields as clean energy, information technologies, infrastructure, construction and culture industries. China welcomes more imported goods from California.

President Xi said it's time to explore a "new type of great power relationship." What does that mean for California?

First of all, the two sides need to elevate the level of dialogue and mutual trust.

Secondly, to open a new horizon for pragmatic cooperation, Washington should take active steps to relax restrictions on hi-tech exports to China.

Thirdly, to create a new mode of interaction between major countries, the two sides need to maintain close coordination and collaboration on the Korean Peninsula, Afghanistan and other global hotspots, and work more closely on issues such as a crackdown on piracy and trans-national crimes, peacekeeping tasks, disaster relief, cyber security, climate change and space security.

Last, the two sides need to find a new way to manage their differences and actively foster a new type of military relations.

Obama responded actively to the proposal, saying he's willing to construct a new cooperation model with China based on mutual benefit and respect, to jointly meet various global challenges.

Gov. Brown led a 100-member delegation to China in April. What has been the impact?

Gov. Brown signed four memorandums of understanding with Chinese Ministries and local governments covering trade, investments and environmental protection. He officially opened California's first trade office in Shanghai, secured a $1.5 billion land development deal and confirmed a future Chinese electric bus factory in Lancaster. As he pointed out before leaving China, 'I think we all received more than we expected and maybe more than we deserved.' This is a good start for China-California all-around cooperation - there's a lot more to come.

How will President Xi's "Chinese Dream," play out in California?

By 2020, China's GDP and per capita income ($5,432 in 2011) will double. By the mid-21st century, China will be a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious.

As California seeks to reinvigorate its economy by entering emerging markets, China, with its fast-growing middle class and ever-expanding domestic demand,, will continue to be one of the most lucrative markets in the world. California's expertise in high technology and sustainable products is well-positioned to help China achieve its economic shifts outlined in the country's Five Year Plan.

What is the current relationship between California and China?

California exported nearly $14 billion to China in 2012, second to Washington among the 50 states. Last year, China exported $127.7 billion to California. Those numbers are both going up this year.

My Consulate has a registered list of 117 Chinese companies that have already set up offices or appointed representatives in Northern California. These companies include: finance, air transportation, IT, venture capital, restaurants, hotel, touring, real estate, apparel, pharmaceuticals, machinery, chemistry, logistics, new energy, forestry, winery, legal service, interpretation, railway & infrastructure, construction designing, mining and resource development. Among the biggest players are the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Bank of Communication, China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom, Huawei, China Youth Touring Service USA (CYTS), Tencent, Hanergy, Hanhai Investment.

What is the secret of China's success?

Reform and opening up is the core secret of our success. We have strived to embrace a global economy, free our mind and make comprehensive progess in poltical, social, economic and cultura spheres. The state-owned economy still exists, but China has carved out a distinctive path we call 'socialism with Chinese characteristics.' We ditched the dogma that the market economy is the preserve of capitalism and combined the 'invisible hand' or market forces with the 'visible hand' of government macro-management, taking advantage of the strength of both hands, unlocking immense productive potential.

What's was your reaction when you were posted to San Francisco?

I was going to paradise. Nice climate, blue sky, fresh air, green mountains, clear water, colorful life, warm hospitality. Yuan, my name, means money in Chinese, and living here makes me feel healthy, lucky and happy after being in Surinam, a small country of 500,000 people.

More than 160 years ago, many Chinese came to "Gold Mountain" in search of riches. San Francisco's still known as Gold Mountain today, since Northern California's been at the forefront of economicc growth, scientific progress, innovation, environmental protection and sustainability.

Call The Bee's Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072. Follow him on Twitter @stevemagagnini.

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