MWCA President, Dr. Galal Walker Stresses China as Part of the American Experience

Dr. Walker delivers guest speech at the Chinese New Year Gala organized by the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce on January 28, 2011

To read this speech in Mandarin, please click the link to your right.

I want to thank the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce for including me in this tremendous event.

I have recently assumed the role of president of the Midwest US-China Association and have been reviewing the major community efforts to attract Chinese interest and business across the throughout the United States. Cincinnati is surely ahead of the game and I am eager to learn more about you and your organization.

My task tonight is to be a guest speaker. According to sentiments shared by both Americans (Guests, like Fish begin to smell after three days) and Chinese (?????,?????), there is a limited tolerance for guests. But the tolerance is radically more limited for guest speakers. So, I shall keep this brief, despite my every instinct as a professor and my enthusiasm for the topic.

I simply want to make one point: China is going to be part of American life from now on and whoever realizes this with rational policy, reasonable relationships, and calculated actions will have a significant advantage. This applies to regions, institutions, and individuals.

My job takes me to China for about 10% of my year. On my last trip I spent a month there and returned right before the elections. Although I have encountered a wide range of American attitudes toward China in my work, I was surprised by the negative role assigned to China in the television advertisements I encountered on my return.

In these ads, China is assumed to be the reason jobs are lost and America's prestige is at risk. If anyone seeking public office works for US-China trade or encourages improved relations or exchanges, his or her loyalty and concern for our well-being is impugned.

For anyone wanting to avoid the troublesome complications of the recession, the debacle of our financial establishment, and the consequences of globalization, China is a convenient detour around reality and a cover for some basic American insecurities. For those who miss the clear divisions of the Cold War, China offers a ready scapegoat for our own problems and a chance to bemoan someone else's emergence as an economic success.

The whining about China's successes has dubious long-term benefits. For those of us who are not surprised that China is emerging as a great power that is having a growing impact on American lives, the advantages of a developing accommodation between our two nations are obvious. While acknowledging that there is a competitive challenge, we can see that the threat is far less significant?than the chances of opportunities and growth.
To get to those advantages, we need to nudge the tenor of the American public discourse on China toward a win-win relationship where the successes of one side can be seen to be a win for the other. China and the US are both interested in developing opportunities and promoting growth.
So, we have to find a way to go from "whining" to "winning"-aside, that is, from dropping an "h" and adding an "n".

Let me take a few minutes to talk about what we are doing to this end and what we could do going forward.

China is the fastest growing export market for Ohio and most of the rest of the American Midwest. And that seems likely to continue. But with concerted effort to establish extensive relations in China, we should be able to grow this market far beyond the present rate of growth.
If we develop a strategy of appealing to a broader Chinese audience, the emerging Chinese business and middle-class of China can provide a steady traffic of visitors and potential investors to our state(s). When they see the advantages of knowing more about Midwestern life, we will be able to convince them to become more a part of it.

The education of Americans about China is a good start. While it has a long history as a significant part of human experience and now constitutes about 1/5 of the human presence on the planet, China has not been and is not now a significant part of American education. For Americans to have a rational relationship with China, we have to create a significant presence for Chinese language and culture in our education.

We are making some significant strides in this direction in Ohio. The Chinese Flagship program at Ohio State is routinely conducting high-level training of young Americans in Chinese language and culture with the goal of achieving the ability to work in a variety of fields in China and in Chinese-in agriculture, in marketing, in biochemistry. After they have gained the language and culture expertise, internships in Chinese organizations across the country have given them the opportunity to learn how Chinese organizations actually get work done.

To know Chinese people, Americans have to know Chinese people in their organizations.

The result is the placement of young Americans in China-related jobs in both the US and China. If we want to expand our contacts in the different fields that serve economic growth, we will need to dramatically grow the pool of people who can readily do business in China and the US-people from both the US in China who can easily work together in a wide range of undertaking.

We are making some progress in getting Chinese language instruction into Ohio schools.? In the 2005-2006 school year, there were 8 schools or districts offering Chinese instruction in our state. In 2010-2011 we have 117 public schools or districts regularly offering Chinese instruction-that is going from about 300 students to over 15,000 in five years. That's an increase of 50 times. In the 21st Century, Chinese and China studies will become a mainstream element in American education. An advantage will go to the regions that make the first moves in that direction.

Ohio has the potential to quickly develop a special relationship with the Chinese-speaking world-the fastest growing economic area on earth. But, we must be purposeful if we are to do this.

Chicago gives us the best example of how this is to be done. Chicago political leaders have been visitors to China and have been receiving visitors from China for decades. Over 12,000 public school students are in Chinese language classes. This month, the president of China chose to visit Chicago as the only city outside Washington and headlined a large gathering of Chinese and American business and government leaders. This certainly has to be seen as the consequence of a long-term relationship.
It will not surprise anyone here to mention that Midwestern states, including Ohio, are facing negative budgets and are not now looking for opportunities to invest in approaches to China similar to those of Chicago.
It is however a worth our efforts to raise the possibility of a regional approach to developing an appeal to China for investment and trade. For example, the Midwest US-China Association is formed based on the twelve states of the Midwest Governors' Association. Currently, the amount of exports to China from these 12 Midwestern states is less than each of the West Coast states of California and Washington. Although China-bound exports are increasing at a significant rate, it is clear that there is plenty of room for improvement.

Taken as a region, these twelve states have huge assets in education, business, technology, and culture. If we can find ways to work together, guided by the idea that we can benefit the more people and institutions by benefiting the entire region, our problem will not be the lack of resources but rather the best way to utilize our resources.

As many people in this room can verify, the Midwest has many features that can appeal to the increasingly prosperous and increasingly numerous Chinese in the commercial sectors of China's society.

Midwesterners and Chinese share many values. The core of American higher education and research can be found here, and the fundamental need for sustained economic development is found both throughout the Midwest and in China outside the mega-cities.

Collectively as a region we can develop the resources to efficiently accommodate interest from China and to direct interest from our states toward China. This regional approach could prove to be both less expensive and more effective than the current situation where twelve different states each deal with the opportunities that come their way.
By strategically bringing Chinese groups here and sending American groups there with proper preparation and knowledgeable guides and by training Chinese and Americans to work with each other, we can build the broad-based relationships and skills to do business together in critical areas of commerce, culture, and education.

For example, we can build on the successful internship programs like the one at OSU and build cadres of managers and researchers who can give us the capacity.

By paying attention to developing reciprocal programs-programs that meet the needs of both sides, we can set about learning to meet the needs of the both the Midwest and China and make US-China relations another facet of Midwestern culture.

Finally, we need to work to bring Chinese-American communities throughout the Midwest into a prominent role in the relationship. Chinese-American communities can play an expanded role in the life of major Midwestern metropolitan areas, learning how to form a bridge between China and Chinese and the rest of our communities.

I have noticed their increased involvement in local education and politics and I suggest that be speeded up. By preserving Chinese language and culture within their own communities and by learning how to extend relationships into our cities and regions, Chinese-Americans are providing the United States with a valuable resource that will only become more valuable as we go farther into the 21st Century.